Current Students: Academic Year 2017-2018


PRISCILA RODRIGUEZ, Cell and Molecular Biology
IMSD Mentor: Ricardo Zayas, Ph.D.

Rodrigue, Priscila
In May 2016, Priscila joined the IMSD program as a Cell and Molecular Biology major. She is working in the lab of Ricardo Zayas, Ph.D., where the freshwater planarian Schmidtea mediterranea is used as a model organism to study the underlying mechanisms of regeneration. Planarians are able to regrow all of its body tissues after injury or amputation due to pluripotent stem cells called neoblast. Priscila is exploring the potential overlap between SoxB1a and SoxB1b gene function. Priscila would like to obtain her Ph.D. in Cell and Molecular Biology, specifically in the area of immunology. Priscila hopes to study the relationship between viral infections and autoimmune disorders in order to better understand pathogenesis, disease progression and development of treatments.



ADAM PEREZ, Chemistry
IMSD Mentor: Christopher Harrison, Ph.D.

AdamPerez, IMSD Scholar

Adam Perez is a Chemistry major at SDSU, pursuing his B.S. Following graduation, he plans to pursue a doctorate in chemistry to become a university professor. His goal is to research and teach chemistry in a way that engages students. Dr. Christopher Harrison identified him as a top performer in his Analytical Chemistry course and invited Adam to work in his lab upon completion of the course. Their research addresses the use of performance enhancing drugs and the need for a quick, cost effective, and reliable method to analyze blood samples. The research has reinforced Adam’s resourcefulness and patience by optimizing his electricity capacitance detector to analyze solutions through electrophoresis.  Adam also tutors mathematics and chemistry for San Diego State University, Grossmont Community College, and his local community.

KYLE LOGAN, Chemistry
IMSD Mentor: Samuel Kassegne, Ph.D. and Diane Smith, Ph.D.

Kye Logan, Pre-IMSD Scholar, in lab

Kyle Logan is a pre-chemistry major and began the IMSD program in August of 2015. He works under the guidance of Dr. Samuel Kassegne, the graduate director of Bioengineering and professor of Mechanical engineering, exploring the roles polymers play in nanotechnology. Specifically, Kyle uses various investigative methods such as Nuclear Magnetic Resonance and spectroscopy to characterize the interface between polymers and semi-amorphous carbon. Kyle also works on the design, manufacture, and testing of multi site Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) devices used for the detection and stimulation of the central nervous system. Understanding the mechanisms by which polymers interface with various substances can help improve the efficiency and reliability of these fabricated neurosensors and other medical devices which opens up the possibility for new neuroscience to be developed and explored.

Prior to IMSD, Kyle worked in a broad range of technological and scientific areas. In his first year, Kyle was the project manager of San Diego State’s IEEE chapter. His leadership helped develop drones which filmed SDSU’s Rocket Project launch, a competitive hackathon, and began work on an electric car. Also, he was involved with Dr. Morris exploring creative ways of testing wave-particle duality. In 2013, Kyle worked with CleanWorld, the leading company in Anaerobic Digester technology, investigating methods of three dimensional flow visualization for Anaerobic digesters as well as means of solid state extraction from the system. In addition to his internship, Kyle was involved with Sierra Streams Institute collecting water samples from the Yuba River watershed and analyzing the chemical composition through spectroscopy to determine the health of the ecosystem. After exploring his passions and pursuing graduate studies in Chemistry, Kyle aims to further his curiosity regarding the material composition of the natural universe through his interdisciplinary approach to engineering and chemistry in nanoscience and technology.

TAMMY PHAM, Chemistry
IMSD Mentor: Diane Smith, Ph.D.

Tammy Pham, IMSD Scholar, Chemistry major

Tammy Pham is a chemistry major at San Diego State University and joined the IMSD program spring of 2017. She is currently working in an electrochemistry laboratory under the guidance of Dr. Smith. Tammy first joined Dr. Smith’s lab in fall of 2016 as an undergraduate. In the lab, she does cyclic voltammetry to see the electron transfer, proton transfer, and hydrogen bonding chemistry that happens within the molecule. Additionally, she adds different “guest” to see if the chemistry changes among the molecule. This allows her to predict the different mechanistic path that can happen. In addition, Tammy also mentors freshmen commuters as well as provide tutoring at San Diego State University. Tammy’s plan is to graduate in May of 2018 and pursue a Ph.D. in chemistry.  

IMSD Mentor: Douglas Grotjahn, Ph.D.

Esteban is currently working in Dr. Grotjahn’s lab where he is conducting organometallic chemistry research. Specifically, he is working to develop Z-alkene isomerization catalysts. There are not many effective and efficient catalysts of this sort. Synthesizing these catalysts will help in better understanding the mechanism by which these catalysts function. Doing so may enable us to efficiently synthesize a family of these catalysts, which is important since (Z) alkenes are present in the structures of an array of natural products and medicines, including Oximidine III and (+)- Peloruside, respectively.

Esteban is currently conducting this line of research to help one day synthesize novel anticancer agents as an MD/PhD educated cancer researcher and oncologist. Esteban hopes to be accepted into Stanford’s MD/PhD program, where he will conduct medicinal chemistry research in the field of cancer. His ultimate goal is to synthesize novel cancer treatments that are effective, safe, affordable, and accessible to anyone, especially those who are underrepresented and underprivileged, who needs them. 

IMSD Mentor: Jeffrey Gustafson, Ph.D.

Gregory joined the IMSD program in the Summer of 2017 and is currently working on his Bachelor’s degree in biochemistry at San Diego State University. He has previously worked in the Carrano group where he was trained in measuring Iodide concentrations of seawater via square wave stripping voltammetry. However, Greg soon found his passion in organic chemistry and joined the Gustafson group in January 2017. He is specifically working on a project that utilizes a cinchona alkaloid based catalyst to facilitate a nucleophilic dynamic kinetic resolution of biaryl naphthoquinones. Inspired by his work on asymmetric catalysis; Gregory plans to attend graduate school in pursuit of a Ph.D. in organic chemistry following his graduation in May 2018.

IMSD Mentor: Byron Purse, Ph.D.

I joined the IMSD program in the summer of 2017 and I am currently working towards my Bachelor’s degree in chemistry. I have been working in Dr. Purse’s lab for one year, mainly focusing on the supramolecular project. My project involves synthesizing a modified version of the pyrogallol[4]arene capsules, and most recently guest/host exchange studies with the Ball Mill method. Working in the Purse group has inspired me to pursue a PhD in organic chemistry after graduation in the spring of 2018.


IMSD Mentor: Claire Murphy, Ph.D.

Ilex Beltran-Najera, Psychology scholar

Ilex Beltran-Najera joined the IMSD program in July of 2016 as a Psychology major. Her research interests include learning about aging, memory, dementia, and exploring the umbrella of neurodegenerative diseases. She has been working under Dr. Claire Murphy in the Lifespan and Human Senses Lab where she has been analyzing correlations between the APOE4 allele, sensory perception, and Alzheimer’s Disease alongside graduate students. Her research includes implementation of Neuropsychological battery using standardized measures such as the Mini Mental State Exam, Dementia Rating Scale, and Odor/Color discrimination tasks along with electrophysiological assessment such as EEG recordings. In addition to conducting EEG recordings she has become proficient in fMRI data processing which has led to Ilex’s most recent research using imaging techniques from these fMRI scans to analyze correlations between the hunger and satiety hormones, Leptin and Ghrelin, and the role obesity plays in cognitive function/decline. By understanding Leptin and Ghrelin’s effects on the pleasure pathways of the brain we can analyze its roles in obesity, cognitive decline, and the possible progression of neurodegeneration leading to Alzheimer’s Disease.

Outside of school Ilex has been a volunteer and intern for Alzheimer’s San Diego since November of 2015 where she has become a part of the Alzheimer’s community volunteering on weekends and doing in-home visits for families during the week. She plans on graduating in Spring of 2018 and continuing her research with neurodegenerative diseases through a PhD in Psychology with an emphasis in Neuropsych. Her goal is to ultimately become a Neuropsychology professor and researcher or Clinical Neuropsychologist.

IMSD Mentor: Aaron J. Blashill, Ph.D.


Manuel Gonzales is a Psychology major who joined the IMSD program in February 2017. Manuel conducts research in Dr. Aaron J. Blashill’s Body Image, Sexuality and Health Lab (BISH). Manuel was placed in the BISH Lab through the joint SDSU/UCSD program, Creating Scientists Summer Program in Cancer Disparities given his research interests in, skin cancer prevention, Hispanic health, and high risk behaviors associated with skin cancer. He has previously examined the relationship between indoor tanning and depressive symptoms among Hispanic adolescents. Manuel is currently conducting research on ethnic differences in body image and eating pathology. Manuel hopes to pursue a PhD in clinical psychology in the near future.


ADRIAN RIVERA, Aerospace Engineering
IMSD Mentor: Satchi Venkataraman, Ph.D.


Adrian Rivera is a Aerospace Engineering Major and has been an IMSD scholar since the fall of 2016. His current research is on detection of damage in composite laminates using electrical topography. He is in charge of designing the test profiles and the circuit schematics to run compression tests on multi-directional carbon fiber laminates. This includes preparation of the composite materials with a chemical work-up and the installation of silver-epoxy electrodes.

Previous research, funded by the Office of Naval Research and Technology, was on bearing failure of composite laminate joints to better understand the life-cycles of F-16 composite parts. He facilitated in the testing of several joints on different bearing load fixtures, while also providing the microscopy imaging that identified the failure modes occurring in the composite joint Adrian also participated in the construction of SDSU Structures Lab fixture for testing Naval Battleship exterior hull panels. This fixture will open future research opportunities for both the Civil and Aerospace Engineering Departments in both the government and private sectors.

BRIANNA MANNS, Mechanical Engineering
IMSD Mentor: Parag Katira, Ph.D.


Brianna is working the lab of Parag Katira, Ph.D. as a Mechanical Engineering student. She began working in Dr. Katira’s lab as a pre-IMSD student in May 2016. The main focus of his lab is mathematical modeling biological systems. Brianna’s work focuses on spatial and temporal control of motor protein activity and testing the precision that these motors have to move at a certain rate. Matlab is used to model the motor proteins and this simulation is used to predict different outcomes of the proteins if different conditions exist in the system. She tested the spacing of myosin heads and how this affected the velocity and displacement of the proteins. Brianna is taking her experience from research and the IMSD program to try to obtain a Ph.D. is Bioengineering. She has a passion for figuring out how biological systems work the way they do and for solving problems using mathematical modeling.

SHANE WITSELL, Electrical Engineering
IMSD Mentor: Reza Sabzehgar, PhD

Shane Witsell, BEP Scholar, by Engineering building

Shane Witsell is a Electrical Engineering major and began the IMSD program in August 2015. He is currently working in Dr. Sam Kessegne’s Micro Electromechanical Systems Laboratory (MEMS) in the Department of Mechanical Engineering investigating the detection of various electro-chemical interactions in both the brain and spinal cord . Specifically, Shane is working on  the design, fabrication, and testing of multi site Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) devices used for the detection and stimulation of the central nervous system specifically 5Ht detection in the spinal cord. Shane is also specialized in the lithography fabrication and coventorware design methods of these chips as well as the electrochemical and electrophysiological detection uses of said devices.

    In the past, Shane has worked on a wide range of projects in various disciplines of neuroscience and electrical engineering. As the Vice President of The San Diego State Student Chapter of The Institute of Electronic and Electrical Engineers Shane has been involved in various projects such as: The formation of Aztec Aeronautical Integrated Robotics (AIR), Director Assistant for the first bi-anual hackathon. Shane is also the Vice President of The San Diego State University Student Chapter of The Engineers Without Borders, where under the leadership of Donovan Giger he is an ongoing member of the humanitarian projects working in Nicaragua, Agua Fira, and Mesa Grande. Shane strides to further his curiosity regarding the electrical interactions and uses of the both the micro and macroscopic worlds with his innovative approach to engineering, science, and technology.


KRISTINE DINH, Statistics with emphasis in Actuarial Science, Minor in Interdisciplinary Studies
IMSD Mentors: Giang Thuy Pham, Ph.D. and Chii-Dean Lin, Ph.D.

Kristine DInh, Stats Major, IMSD

Kristine Dinh joined the IMSD program in Spring 2017 as a statistics major. She is currently working at Dr. Pham Giang’s Bilingual Development in context lab to investigate language development among bilingual children, especially children who primarily speak Vietnamese and Spanish and learning English in their early childhood. Kristine uses a Dynamic Systems to examine interactions between first and second languages, cognitive, and social systems across timescales and ability and disability levels. She works particularly in assisting Dr. Pham to create new examination tasks that are available in other languages but Vietnamese, transcribe children’s audio, and collect data by giving children language tasks and interviewing parents. Through IMSD, it is possible for me to explore interdisciplinary projects between Speech Language Hearing Sciences and Math/Statistics. She looks forwards to work with Dr. Chii-Dean Lin in his statistics lab to focus more on longitudinal data analysis, statistical computing, and statistical methods in clinical trials.

Kristine has taken leadership position in both on campus and the community. She is a sophomore SURGE mentor who assists sophomores at SDSU with significant important information and resources needed during the sophomore year. She also volunteers to teach Vietnamese and Catechism and serves as a youth leader at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church every weekend.

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