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2015 Participants

Bill Diplas (Pathology) is an M.D./Ph.D. student currently in the second year of his Ph.D. training in Pathology. He conducts research on brain tumor genetics in the Laboratory of Oncogenomics under Dr. Hai Yan. Originally from Blacksburg, VA, Bill received his B.S. from Johns Hopkins University in biomedical engineering and worked as a research assistant at the Johns Hopkins Institute of Genetic Medicine. He then did biomaterials research at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland with funding from the Whitaker Fellowship. He entered the Medical Scientist Training Program at Duke in 2011 and plans to work in the field of oncology in the future.    

Sarah Diringer (Civil and Environmental Engineering) is a Ph.D. Candidate in Civil and Environmental Engineering focusing on mercury chemistry and low-cost mercury capture systems for developing countries. She is a Duke Global Health Doctoral Scholar working with Dr. William Pan on the effects on mercury from small-scale gold mining in Peru. Sarah currently chairs the Leadership Committee for the PhD Plus Professional Development Program, which is dedicated to providing effective professional development programs for Ph.D.s in engineering. Following graduation, Sarah plans to pursue a career in environmental consulting focused on providing high-quality information to industry stakeholders, government, and the public.

Tony Fuller (Medicine and Global Health) is currently a third year medical student and a second year M.S. student in Global Health. He grew up in Wisconsin and received his B.A. from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. His main research focus is expanding surgical/neurosurgical capacity in low resource settings; he recently spent five months in Uganda working on this topic. His future plan is to become a pediatric neurosurgeon splitting his time between domestic and international care. During his career Tony plans to use his diverse educational background to combat the complex challenges within the health sector.

Jessy Guler (Global Health) is a master’s student at the Duke Global Health Initiative where she is focusing her studies on global mental health and refugee health. Her current research involves the adaptation of an early autism parent-mediated intervention in a low-resource setting of South Africa. Originally from Florida, Jessy has spent several years extensively working with and researching diverse refugee populations that have been resettled to the US. Upon the completion of her degree, she hopes to continue her education by pursuing a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and is seeking to develop a career as a globetrotting researcher in both the clinical psychology and refugee studies fields. Her personal interests include analyzing and collecting critically acclaimed movies, attending rock concerts, traveling with friends, and going on adventures with her collie.

Amy Hafez (Molecular Genetics and Microbiology) is a third-year graduate student. She grew up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland where she also completed her B.S. at Salisbury University in 2010. After graduation, she attended Johns Hopkins University where she earned her M.S. in Biotechnology. In 2012 she enrolled at Duke to study host-pathogen interactions. Her research focuses on understanding the interplay between oncogenic viral infection and the human DNA damage response. In her spare time, she enjoys dancing (ballet, jazz, and contemporary) and traveling.

Shana Hall (Psychology and Neuroscience) earned her B.A. in International Studies from the University of California, San Diego. When she graduated, she realized she wanted to pursue a career working with and learning about people and began work at a non-profit helping people with disabilities obtain and maintain employment. Currently, she is a fifth year Ph.D. student studying cognitive neuroscience. Specifically, she is investigating the neural basis of involuntary memories and how these memories change in disorders that can affect memory, such as post-traumatic stress disorder. When she’s not working, Hall loves hanging out with her dog, playing the banjo, and learning about astronomy.

Javian Malcolm (Medical Physics) is finishing his master’s degree in Medical Physics at Duke and is in the application process to continue his graduate studies. Originally from Kingston Jamaica, he received his B.S. in Physics from the University of the West Indies. Malcolm is interested in channeling his passion for physics into a humanitarian mission. His research interests focus on applications of optical imaging to patient dosimetry and understanding cancer biology. In his leisure time, he enjoys anytime by the beach, playing piano, and a good game of soccer.

Chintan Oza, Ph.D. (Biomedical Engineering), is currently a Postdoctoral Associate at Duke. Originally from Gujarat, India, he received his bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Nirma Institute of Technology in Ahmedabad, India before immigrating to the US. Chintan obtained a master’s degree in Biomedical Engineering from Columbia University, NY and a Ph.D. degree in Biomedical Engineering from Drexel University, PA. His Ph.D. research involved investigating cortical plasticity and locomotor recovery associated with robotic rehabilitation after spinal cord injury in rodents. His postdoctoral research at Duke involves investigating neural mechanisms of deep brain stimulation for movement disorders through preclinical studies in rodents and clinical studies in Parkinson’s and Essential tremor patients. Chintan is passionate about science advocacy and outreach and is actively involved with the Society for Neuroscience–Triangle chapter. In his free time, Chintan listens to podcasts on science and religion, enjoys playing and watching cricket, Bollywood movies and music.     

Allison Phillips (Environment) is currently a first-year Ph.D. student in the Integrated Toxicology and Environmental Health Program. Originally from the Pacific Northwest, she earned a B.S. in Biochemistry from the University of Puget Sound. Before moving to Durham, Alli spent a season working at Alta Ski Area in Utah and a year working at SomaLogic, a biotech startup company in Boulder, CO. Her Ph.D. work focuses on the toxicology of flame retardants and other consumer products. In her free time, Alli enjoys hiking and backpacking, skiing, reading, and hanging out with her cat, Sidney Vicious.

Courtnea Rainey (Psychology and Neuroscience) has over ten years of experience promoting student learning in nonprofit, government, and university settings. She leverages her experience in cognitive neuroscience research, educational programming, and college teaching to implement more effective learning experiences for students. Rainey has worked with students of many ages and academic backgrounds, but specializes in supporting students in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. She is currently a Ph.D. candidate in the Psychology & Neuroscience department at Duke and holds a B.S. in Biochemistry from Spelman College as well as a M.A. in Psychology (cognitive neuroscience of motivation and learning) from Duke.               

Jana Schaich Borg, Ph.D. (Psychiatry), is a Postdoctoral Associate in the Laboratory for Psychiatric Neuroengineering and MADLAB in the Department of Psychiatry and Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke. Hailing from the northeast, she received her B.A. in Philosophy of Neuroscience from Dartmouth College. After four years studying moral decision-making and behavior in psychopaths, she crossed the country to complete her Ph.D. in Neuroscience at Stanford University, where she developed new ways to study social decision-making and empathy in rodents. Jana’s current work uses diverse kinds of Big Data from both human and animal participants to understand social behavior. She hopes to use the insights gleaned from this research to develop interventions to decrease violence and improve social relationships in family, clinical, business, and political settings. As a result of her experiences trying to solve problems that cross disciplines and sectors, Jana has become a passionate advocate for programs that integrate the insights of academia, business, and public policy to implement innovative technology- and science-based solutions for societal problems. When she is not in lab or looking at pictures of her days studying dolphin cognition, Jana can be found hiking or singing Bon Jovi, preferably simultaneously in the White Mountains of New England.

Silvia Serrano (Romance Studies) is a third year Ph.D. student in the Spanish and Latin American Literatures program at Duke. In her research, she has explored the work by Colombian musician and actor Jorge Velosa and the representation of campesino communities from the cundiboyacense highlands of Colombia found in his narratives. Currently, she plans to further explore the relationship between literature, music, and cultural resistance in 19th and 20th century Colombia. Silvia holds a B.A. in Communications Studies from Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, Bogotá, Colombia, and an M.A. in Interdisciplinary Humanities from The Pennsylvania State University, Harrisburg. In her free time, Silvia enjoys spending time with family and friends, dining out, watching movies, swimming, practicing Tai Chi, and meditating.               

Jen Shen (Public Policy Studies) is a third-year Ph.D. student with a concentration in economics. She studies international policies and interventions that can affect the health and economic outcomes of mothers and children in low-income countries. She is especially interested in whether current international efforts to improve reproductive health are reducing unwanted pregnancies and increasing human capital investments in children. Beyond her research, Jen is passionate about connecting individuals across disciplines and sectors to collaborate on projects that serve the broader community. In the Spring of 2013, she helped start the Duke Interdisciplinary Social Innovators, a graduate student group that provides free consulting services to nonprofits. When she’s not doing work at coffee shops, she likes to travel, take amateur street photography, and keep tabs on female comedians.

Yuqian Shi (Biochemistry) is a fourth-year Ph.D. student. His research focuses on the molecular mechanisms of human DNA mismatch repair and fungal protein post-translational modifications, which are utilized to design and develop novel drugs. Originally from China, he received a B.S. in Biochemistry from Hong Kong University of Science and Technology with minors in Bioengineering, Biology, and Mathematics. In his spare time, Yuqian enjoys reading, traveling, hiking, Asian martial arts (karate, kickboxing, judo and kendo), and traditional archery.            

Kathryn Porter Starr, Ph.D. (Center for the Study of Aging and Human Development), earned her M.S. and Ph.D. in Nutrition and a Graduate Certificate in Gerontology from the University of Georgia. Her dissertation focused on identifying modifiable risk factors related to obesity in low-income, minority older adults. Dr. Starr recently completed a NIH postdoctoral fellowship and is continuing her research as an Advanced Geriatric Fellow working under the mentorship of Dr. Connie Bales. Her research focuses on meal-based protein supplementation and weight reduction in frail, obese older adults with the objective of protecting lean muscle mass while improving physical function and muscle quality. Dr. Starr is the recipient of the Achievement Rewards for College Scientists.

Zhaohui Wang, Ph.D. (Pathology) is currently a Postdoctoral Associate in the Pathology department at Duke. He obtained his Ph.D. in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry at the Beijing Institute of Genomics, Chinese Academy of Sciences in 2013. After that, he joined The Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center at Duke. His research focuses on identifying the genetic alterations in brain tumors that may serve as therapeutic targets. He wants to find a cure for brain tumors and make some contributions to the field of cancer research. In his spare time, Zhaohui enjoys playing tennis, traveling with friends, and making food.          

Jeffrey Wojton, Ph.D. (Pharmacology and Cancer Biology), is a postdoctoral researcher in Sally Kornbluth’s Lab in the Department of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology at Duke. He is originally from North Canton, Ohio and received his B.S. from Marietta College in 2008. He went on to obtain his Ph.D. in Neuroscience from The Ohio State University where he worked on experimental therapeutics for primary brain tumors. Jeff’s research currently focuses on the regulation of programmed cell death in cancer and other diseases. In his spare time, Jeff loves to backpack/hike, play with his boxer Chewie, and cheer on his terrible Cleveland sports teams.

Bin Yin (Psychology and Neuroscience) was born and raised in mainland China. He earned his bachelor’s in biological sciences and psychology from Peking University with a three-year research experience at the Center for Learning and Memory of Tsinghua University in Beijing. He enrolled at Duke to pursue his Ph.D. in 2009. He has had a broad range of contributions, including participating in the cultural adaptation and strategic planning of Duke Kunshan University in China, founding and leading an interdisciplinary and cross-cultural knowledge-sharing platform in the North Carolina Triangle area called Triangle SmartTalk, as well as a Chinese improv theater training & performance group at Duke. With research interests in the realm of brain-behavior relationship, Yin is currently working on how multiple brain areas coordinate to drive the perception of time and other conscious experiences. In his spare time, Yin likes theater performance, reading books, sharing ideas with people, and exploring the world.         

Seth Zissette (Global Health) is a second-year M.S. candidate at the Duke Global Health Institute studying social and behavioral components of health. He is originally from South Carolina and graduated from UNC Chapel Hill with a joint B.A. in Anthropology and African Studies in 2013. Seth’s current research involves understanding the intersections of masculinity and health care access among men in rural South Africa. He has worked on several research projects seeking to understand the social qualities of biomedical health care, especially within Africa. In his spare time, Seth enjoys playing tennis, exploring Durham’s restaurants, and watching movies with friends.