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ELISS Fellows

ELISS Fellows are graduate and professional students selected through a competitive application process to participate in a 15-month leadership development experience. The fellows run a collaborative think tank that taps campus and community expertise around a real-world challenge.

ELISS Classes of 2014 and 2015

ELISS Class of 2016

Fellows and staff at the 2016 ELISS Leadership Development Workshop, near Seattle, WA. (From left to right. Row 1: Sasha Vega Alvarez, Mysha Clarke, Margaret Krebs, Melanie Roberts, Kasia Grzebyk, Nick Battista, MaryAm Ghadiri Khanaposhtani. Row 2: Joyell Arscott , Andrew George, Brian Langloss, Justin Lana, Robby Franceschini, John Wachen, Gaurav Mukherjee. Row 3: Shaili Jha, Kim Saviers, Nikki DeVille, Amber Habowski, Kaitlyn Casimo, Amy Dixit, Renske Erion)| ELISS

Joyell Arscott is a PhD candidate in Nursing at Duke University. She previously received a BS in Biology from Towson University. She later returned to school to obtain and Associates Degree in Science in Nursing from the Community College of Baltimore County and a BSN from University of Maryland, Baltimore. Over the past 12 years, Joyell has worked with at-risk and HIV-infected adolescents and young adults and their providers in various settings, which included schools, group homes, community clinics, and the prison system providing counseling services, linkage to care, and technical assistance. Her research interests include adolescent and young adult sexual and reproductive health, LGBTQ health, HIV/STI prevention, health disparities, and underserved populations. In her spare time Joyell enjoys working out, going to see off-Broadway shows, festivals, good food, and traveling around the world.

Nicholas (Nick) Battista is a mathematics PhD student and a trainee in the Integrative Vascular Biology program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He received his BS in Physics, BS in Applied Math, and MS in Applied and Computational Math from the Rochester Institute of Technology in 2010. His broad research interests include fluid-structure interaction problems, namely the underlying hemodynamics during cardiogenesis, vertical axis wind turbine design and placement, and aquatic locomotion and maneuverability, as well as comparative biomechanics, numerical analysis, and quantitative biology/math education research. He believes in this age of accelerated technological advancement and complex scientific issues driving schisms in politics, that a well-educated and well- informed public is imperative and hopes to use skills developed in ELISS to promote community outreach and bridge gaps.Outside the research world, he enjoys weight-training (and owns a small strongman gym), playing and recording music, backpacking, traveling, and cooking.

Kaitlyn Casimo is a PhD candidate in Neuroscience at the University of Washington. She earned her BA at Pomona College, where she studied neuroscience and minored in theater and psychology. Her current research focuses on changes in brain connectivity networks during learning of new motor skills, and the relationship between brain connectivity and skill level. She is also engaged in providing neuroscience education by professional scientists at Seattle-area schools and community centers. Kaitlyn is a longtime believer in interdisciplinary research, collaboration, and communication, and through ELISS hopes to encourage scientists to engage with broad issues. In her free time, she runs, writes, and volunteers at the Woodland Park Zoo.

Mysha Clarke is a Jamaican native pursuing her PhD in Forestry and Natural Resources at Purdue University. She received her BA from Kalamazoo College, Michigan with a major in Economics, minor in Spanish and concentration in Environmental Studies. Her doctoral study specializes in Natural Resources Social Sciences and the human dimensions of natural resource management. Mysha’s current research focuses on private landowners’ perception and decision making regarding invasive terrestrial plants in Indiana. A mixed methods approach is used for this study which includes open-ended semi-structured interviews and mailed surveys to various forestry professionals and private landowners in Indiana to identify and assess their perceptions, control methods, challenges and responsibilities of invasive plant management. She is very passionate about serving the community and working with diverse individuals to make society a better place for everyone. In her free time, Mysha enjoys spending time with her family, painting with water colors, hiking, reading, watching Netflix and Zumba dancing.

Nicole (Nikki) DeVille is a PhD student in the Program in Public Health in the Department of Population Health and Disease Prevention at University of California, Irvine. She received her BA in International Relations from Stanford University in 2012 and her MPH with a specialization in Epidemiology from University of Hawai’i at Manoa in 2014. Her broad research interests are chronic disease epidemiology in Pacific Islander and Indigenous populations, as well as, maternal and child health. She believes that an understanding of scientific and technical issues and political, economic, environmental, and social factors, as well as, an integrative approach to societal problems are necessary in order to increase public health capacity and improve public policy. In her spare time, Nikki enjoys playing/coaching rugby, listening to live music, reading, and traveling.

Amruta (Amy) Dixit is a fourth year doctoral candidate in Epidemiology and Public Health in the School of Social Ecology at University of California, Irvine. She received her BS in Biochemistry and Cell Biology from University of California San Diego and her MPH in Epidemiology from UC Irvine. Her research interests broadly include infectious disease epidemiology in the context of spatiotemporal and mathematical modeling. Happily, her dissertation happens to be about exactly those topics. Her research and work experience has taken her to Kenya and Thailand where she was able to engage with the community she was serving and see the impact of her and her team’s efforts firsthand. She is looking forward to emerging from the academic research bubble and contributing to bridging the gap between academia and scientific policy. When not at her computer, Amy enjoys cooking and baking, reading, traveling, hiking, and biking. She recently learned how to fish and is happy to regale you with the story of how she caught her first (and only fish).

Robert (Robby) Franceschini is a third year JD/MPH student at the University of Washington. He is primarily interested in tackling issues facing Medicaid policy, employer-sponsored insurance, bioethics in the health care system, and institutional health systems. He has worked with the National Health Law Program, advocating for the rights of Medi-Cal recipients, and with the nation’s largest medical-legal partnership in New York City, providing free legal services to sick low-income New Yorkers. Robby has also assisted in research for a legal environment assessment of PEPFAR partner countries in Africa and assisted in researching and copy editing papers from global bioethics conferences. Robby enjoys cooking, indoor cycling, and listening to NPR in his free time.

Andrew George is a fourth year PhD candidate in the Biology department at Duke University. He received his BS in Zoology with a concentration in Cell and Developmental Biology from Michigan State University in 2012. His doctoral research focuses on developmental biology using the sea urchin as a model system. He is working to understand the gene regulatory networks involved in starting from a single cell and developing into the diverse tissues of the body. He is also involved with the graduate and professional student council at Duke as the Director of Advocacy. In his spare time he enjoys brewing beer, running, hiking with his dog and playing almost any sport.

MaryAm Ghadiri Khanaposhtani is a third year PhD student at Purdue University. Her background is on environmental science and wildlife conservation. The focus of her current research is on informal learning and environmental education. She designs multi-modal curriculum for middle school and visually impaired students. Her passion is to motivate youth to nature and STEM through hands-on and inquiry-based activities. She is originally from Iran and came to U.S. for her PhD. Beside her academic life, she is a visual artist and nature is her big inspiration. She also works on national and international projects on effective communication through science and art. Her free time is filled with painting, cooking, and reading good books.

Kasia Grzebyk is a third year PhD student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she studies Environmental Science and Engineering in the Gillings School of Global Public Health. She is originally from New Jersey, but has lived on three different continents in the last ten years. She received her BS in Pharmacology from the University of California, Santa Barbara and her MS in Biology and Geography, with an Ecotoxicology specialization, from Jagiellonian University (Krakow, Poland). Her research interests lie in water quality engineering, and she is currently researching ways to tailor advanced filtration technologies to better suit water reuse applications. Kasia is passionate about global access to clean drinking water and, as such, endeavors to bridge the gap between water science and policy in the future. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, taking photographs, mountain biking, hiking, experimenting in the kitchen, and laughing at her failed kitchen experiments.

Amber Habowski is a second year Molecular Biology PhD student at the University of California, Irvine. Her thesis work is focused on identifying Wnt target genes that are RNA regulators in Colon Cancer. Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, she attended Seattle Pacific University for her undergrad where she was a double major in Biochemistry and Cellular/Molecular Biology. In her free time, she enjoys playing for the University Club soccer team, going to the beach, hiking and camping, and curling up with a good book.

Shaili Jha graduated from Rutgers University in 2012 with a dual degree in cell biology & neuroscience and psychology. Currently, she is a 4th year neurobiology PhD student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Shaili is interested in understanding the dynamics of early typical and atypical human brain development. Specifically, she is using neuroimaging techniques to determine how genetic and environmental factors shape brain structure during prenatal and early postnatal life. Outside of the lab, Shaili is an active member of the neurobiology curriculum and is passionate about mentoring. Her interests involve reading, traveling, cooking (especially Indian food), and watching scary movies.

Justin Lana is currently a second year PhD student in the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University. He received his BS in Biopsychology and History at Nebraska Wesleyan University in 2007 and a MSc in Global Health from Duke University in 2012. Before returning to Duke in 2014 to begin his doctoral studies, Justin spent 14 months working as a technical advisor for the South Sudan Guinea Worm Eradication Program supported by The Carter Center. Justin’s research interests surround water and vector-borne tropical diseases. He is particularly interested in the environmental and occupational drivers of neglected tropical diseases. Justin’s dissertation will focus on the effect of mining and deforestation on the epidemiology of cutaneous leishmaniasis in the Peruvian Amazon.

Brian Langloss is currently a PhD candidate in the chemistry department at Duke University. His research focuses on the synthesis and characterization of novel nanomaterials and their uses in biological imaging and radiation detection. Brian received his BS in chemistry from the University of California, Riverside in 2010. Afterwards, he worked in the R&D department of SDC Technologies, a chemical coatings company based in Irvine, California. Brian moved to North Carolina in 2012 to start graduate school and has since adopted an adorable puppy named Lyra. His hobbies include hiking with his dog, brewing beer, playing soccer and pretending to learn how to garden.

Gaurav Mukherjee is a Washington Research Foundation Innovation Graduate Fellow in the Mechanical Engineering PhD program at the University of Washington. He received his BE in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Pune, India in 2010 and his MS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Cincinnati, Ohio in 2014. His broad research interests are in human augmentation engineering, and his current research focuses on improving hand function in individuals with motor impairments as a result of neurological injuries such as cerebral palsy, stroke and spinal cord injury. He is driven by the need to improve domestic and global access to improved healthcare and scientific education, and believes that improving the communication between experts in science and in public policy is key to addressing these challenges. In his spare time, Gaurav enjoys hiking, biking, traveling, photography and reading.

Kimberly Saviers is a doctoral student at the Birck Nanotechnology Center at Purdue University. She graduated summa cum laude with a BS in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Akron. Her research is focused on manufacturing of nanomaterials. Although these materials have proven useful for applications such as biosensors and energy storage devices, they are only produced in very small quantities. The ability to manufacture nanomaterials in large quantities will drive down their cost and enable commercial use. Her underlying motivation is to understand the broad topic of “energy” from many different angles including nascent research, practical implementation, environmental repercussion, and governmental policy. Kimberly contemplates these topics while she is outside running, stubbornly braving Midwest winters, and serving as a science advisor to her first-grade niece.

Sasha M. Vega Alvarez is a PhD candidate in the Purdue University Interdisciplinary Life Science Program (PULSe). She received a BS and a MS in Biology from the University of Puerto Rico Mayagüez, with a master’s thesis on the development of a versatile in vivo method for nanomaterial toxicity assessment. At Purdue University, Sasha works in a translational neurotrauma laboratory. She works with animal models of spinal cord and traumatic brain injuries in hopes of understanding injury progression, behavioral deficits and treatment options. She has vast experience with interdisciplinary collaborations within academia and saw in ELISS the opportunity to take it one step further. In addition to conducting high-impact translational research, she participates in mentoring, community outreach and service programs. As an ELISS fellow, she hopes to serve as a link between the surrounding community and academics while becoming an advocate for public health and scientific research and education. In her spare time Sasha loves sharing her Puerto Rican culture with others and engaging in discussions about the current socioeconomical situation of the island.

John Wachen is a PhD student in Policy, Leadership, and School Improvement in the School of Education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Prior to beginning his doctoral studies, John worked at the Community College Research Center at Teachers College, Columbia University. His research interests include education policy development and implementation, applications of improvement science to education, access to postsecondary education, and the intersection of education policy and political science. His current projects include framing of high-stakes testing in media coverage, data use and classroom instruction, and the implementation of PDSA cycles in school districts. John enjoys exploring new restaurants, NYC, craft beers, traveling, and live music.