Bios

Current Students: Academic Year 2022-2023

BIOLOGY

ALPHER ASPIRAS, Biology (Cell & Molecular)

IMSD Mentor: Nicholas Shikuma, Ph.D.

Alpher Aspiras joined the IMSD program in the spring of 2022. He is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Biology with an emphasis in Cellular and Molecular Biology. As a research assistant at the Shikuma Lab, he studies to expand the scientific knowledge and diversify the tools available for genetic manipulation of marine bacteria. Primarily, to develop additional genetic tools to manipulate the phenotypes of marine microbes. After graduating from San Diego State University, he plans to further her education by pursuing a Ph.D. in Biomedical science.

 

KARINA PASTRANA, Biology
IMSD Mentor: Anca Segall, Ph.D.

Karina Pastrana joined the IMSD program in the Spring of 2022. She is a transfer student from San Diego Miramar College and is now in her last year of pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Biology. Before joining IMSD, Karina was an intern for the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) at the Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine (SCRM). At SCRM, she was using hIPSC derived hepatocytes to model the progression of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease in the PNPLA3 I148M risk variant genotype. She is currently working in Dr. Anca Segall’s lab, where she is participating in an exploratory research project that studies the gut microbiome and virome of patients with inflammatory bowel disease. The research project aims to further understand the gut microbiome and virome composition in patients with inflammatory bowel disease. After the completion of her bachelor’s degree, Karina will be pursuing a Ph.D. in Biomedical Science.

CHEMISTRY/BIOCHEMISTRY 

ADEN ALEMAYHU, Biochemistry

IMSD Mentor: Tom Huxford, PhD.

Aden Alemayhu joined the IMSD Program in Spring of 2022. She is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s of Science in Chemistry with an emphasis in Biochemistry and a minor in Sustainability. Prior to joining IMSD, she participated in UCI’s Chem-SURF program developing a project analyzing the crystallin proteins within the lenses of the local blackgill rockfish. Currently, she is working in the Huxford Lab analyzing the components of the IκB kinase complex. Her project is specializing in the NEMO protein, as she aims to express, purify, and characterize it through a variety of experimental techniques. She eventually hopes to pursue a Ph.D. in Biochemistry after completing her Bachelor’s Degree, specializing in protein structure and function.

GABRIELA “GABBY” CONTRERAS, Biochemistry

IMSD Mentor: Tom Huxford, PhD.

Gabriela “Gabby” Contreras joined the IMSD in the fall of 2022. She is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry with an emphasis in Biochemistry. Gabby is currently a member of the Huxford Structural Biology Lab since February 2022 and has been studying the maturation protein of the bacteriophage MS2 in a collaboration with the Garmann lab. The goal of the project, titled “Engineering MS2 Maturation Protein for RNA Structural Studies,” is to manipulate the already existing asymmetry present in the coat of MS2 in order to obtain higher-quality structures of the protein capsid itself. If successful, there is the possibility that the manipulated capsid could be used as a reference in which to determine the structure of other RNA structures. Following her graduation from San Diego State University in the winter of 2023, she plans to pursue a Ph.D. in Biochemistry or in Biomedical science, possibly in South Korea. 

RACHEL KHOURY, Chemistry
IMSD Mentor: Christal Sohl, Ph.D.

Rachel Khoury was accepted into the IMSD program in Fall 2021. She is currently undertaking a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry and is in her third year. Prior to joining the program, she assisted in daily product testing and development of skincare and cosmetics at Above Rinaldi Labs Inc. Currently, she is working in Dr. Christal Sohl’s biochemistry research lab where she is using steady-state kinetics to characterize the catalytic parameters of tumor-driving IDH1 mutants to better understand their tumorigenic role in patients. Following her graduation, Rachel plans on utilizing her passion for chemistry and biomedical research by pursuing a PhD in Pharmacology. She hopes to focus her graduate and post-graduate studies on pharmaceutics pertaining to women’s health issues and psychological disorders.

 

CHRISTINA RIVERA, Biochemistry

IMSD Mentor: Byron Purse, Ph.D.

Christina Rivera joined the IMSD program in the Fall of 2021. She is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Chemistry, with an emphasis in biochemistry, at San Diego State University. Prior to her acceptance into IMSD, she took part in a summer biochemistry REU program at Texas A&M University. There, she studied the inhibition of cancer cell growth through the use of polyphenolic phytochemicals flavonoids. She is currently mentored by Dr. Byron Purse and is learning more about current synthetic methodologies. After graduating from San Diego State University, she plans to further expand her education by pursuing a Ph.D. in organic chemistry.

 

VAYLE VERA CRUZ, Chemistry

IMSD Mentor: Andrew Cooksy, Ph.D.

Vayle was accepted into the IMSD program in Spring of 2022. She is currently pursuing a Bachelor of the Sciences in Chemistry. Vayle works in the Cooksy lab, and in collaboration with the Purse lab at SDSU. Her work involves computational analysis using Density Functional Theory to study the fluorescent nucleoside analogue ABN and its derivatives synthesized in the Purse lab. After she graduates from SDSU she intends to pursue a Ph.D in either Physical Chemistry or Computational Chemistry. She wants to pursue a career in drug discovery, or using her background in design to create a more intuitive and accessible software for computational analysis.

AUDREY WASHINGTON, Chemistry

IMSD Mentor: Jing Gu, Ph.D.

Audrey joined the IMSD program Spring 2021. She is obtaining a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry with an emphasis in Biochemistry and minors in Interdisciplinary Studies. Audrey’s study interests lie in improving and designing materials that enhance the performance of energy storage and conversion devices, such as converting solar energy into H2 fuels, or reducing CO2 into more valuable chemicals (like carbon monoxide). She is currently mentored by Dr. Jing Gu and is learning how to modify silicon surfaces to reduce their reflectance and enhance their photocurrent generation. In the future, Audrey plans to achieve a PhD in materials science or chemistry.

FOODS & NUTRITION

CHELSIE MILLER, Foods & Nutrition
IMSD Mentor: Christal Sohl, Ph.D.

Chelsie was accepted into the IMSD program in Summer of 2021, following a semester in biochemistry with Dr. Sohl. She is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in foods and nutrition, with a minor in chemistry at San Diego State University (SDSU). Prior to her acceptance into the IMSD program, Chelsie did not have much experience in research and is taking this opportunity to learn as much as she can within the intersection of biochemistry and nutrition. This is a jumping off point for her research in which she will research the effects of prune extract on chondrosarcomas. Her goal is to successfully culture cells and extract phytochemicals from prunes to test the effects of such extract at different concentrations. The purpose of her research is to determine whether prune extract has an effect on cancerous bone cells. Following her graduation, Chelsie hopes to use her passion for biochemistry and apply her knowledge of nutrition by pursuing a Ph.D. in Nutritional Biochemistry.

PSYCHOLOGY

HAILEY ADNEY, Psychology and Microbiology

IMSD Mentor: Jillian Wiggins, Ph.D.

Hailey Adney joined the IMSD program in the spring of 2022. She is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Microbiology and Psychology, with minors in Statistics and Mathematics at San Diego State University (SDSU). Hailey has been working in Dr. Jillian Wiggin’s Translational Emotion Neuroscience and Development Laboratory (TEND Lab) since August 2021 and plans to continue work within this lab as part of the IMSD program. Within this lab, Hailey will focus her research on the development of social and emotional functioning in children and adolescents who have psychological disorders with a specific focus on treatment. Following her graduation, Hailey hopes to pursue a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology.

ELIZABETH FENELON, Psychology

IMSD Mentor: Kelsey Dickson, Ph.D.

Elizabeth Fenelon was accepted into the IMSD program during the Spring 2022 semester. She is in her third year, hoping to obtain a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Psychology. Her other involvements on campus include being the Vice President of Academic Excellence for Alpha Gamma Delta sorority, Director of Public Relations for Active Minds (she was also just recently appointed the Secretary for the 2022-2023 school year), Psi Chi scholar, and a new initiate of Mortar Board Senior Honor Society. Elizabeth’s psychological research interests include anxiety disorders, depression, and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), specifically in college-aged students. After graduating from SDSU, she hopes to enter a Ph.D. program for Clinical Psychology, where she will get to apply her research experience and knowledge.

EDUARDO HERNANDEZ MOZO, Psychology and Microbiology

IMSD Mentor: Aaron Blashill, Ph.D.

Eduardo Hernandez was accepted into the IMSD program in June 2021. He is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Microbiology and Psychology. Before entering into the program, Eduardo worked as a research assistant at South Bay Latino Research Center (SBLRC) under Dr. Linda Gallo where they researched preventative measures on decreasing cardiometabolic conditions and other comorbidities. He recently joined Dr. Aaron Blashill’s lab where he will focus his research on eating disorders, HIV prevention, and suicidality among sexual and ethnic minorities. Upon graduating in spring 2023, Eduardo hopes to be admitted into a Clinical Psychology Ph.D. program.

MEGAN KORHUMMEL, Psychology
IMSD Mentor: Vanessa Malcarne, Ph.D.

Megan Korhummel was accepted into the IMSD Program in the spring semester of 2022. She is in her third year pursuing a Bachelors of Arts degree in psychology. As a research assistant at the Chronic Illness Research Laboratory, she studies the quality of life and survivorship of children and adults with chronic illnesses, as well as cancer health disparities. With the guidance of her faculty mentor, Dr. Vanessa Malcarne, Megan has assisted in the development of a codebook for future medical use to describe benefit findings in children and adolescents with Craniofacial Conditions and their parents. Following her graduation, Megan hopes to apply her research experience and knowledge in behavioral and psychosocial understandings of health and illnesses by pursuing a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology. Her research interests include health disparities in marginalized populations and adjustments to chronic illnesses in children and adults.  

SPEECH, LANGUAGE, & HEARING SCIENCES

NATALIE KING-SHAW, Psychology and Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences
IMSD Mentor: Sonja Pruitt-Lord, Ph.D.

Natalie King-Shaw (she/her) was accepted into the IMSD Program in the summer of 2022. She is currently pursuing Bachelor of Arts degrees in Psychology and Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences with minors in Leadership and Spanish. Prior to joining the IMSD Program, Natalie founded the Black Lives Matter All the Time (BLMA) Research Collective in the summer of 2020. BLMA uses PhotoVoice, a method of participatory action research, to highlight the experiences of Black students attending predominantly white universities. Her experience as a Co-Principal Investigator and Creator for BLMA opened the door for her to join Dr. Sonja Pruitt-Lord’s Child Language Development, Disorders, and Disparities (ChiLD3) Lab in the Spring of 2021. As a Student Research Assistant in the ChiLD3  Lab, Natalie is working on a project with Dr. Pruitt-Lord to measure dialect density in a sample dataset to identify patterns between children of the same age who speak either Black Vernacular English or are Spanish-English bilinguals. Following her graduation, Natalie hopes to pursue a PhD in Communication Sciences and Disorders and complete her clinical training in Speech-Language Pathology. Natalie plans to focus her work as a Speech-Language Pathologist and researcher on culturally competent and affirming care for multidialectal and multilingual children of color. 

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