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2019 Emerging Leaders Institute Participants

Tiffany Farr (Graduate Liberal Studies)

Headshot of Tiffany FarrTiffany Farr is a first-year master’s student in the Liberal Studies program. Her research focuses on educational development for K-12 students. She graduated from Florida State University with a B.S. in Sociology, an additional major in English, and a minor in Education. Before attending Duke, Tiffany worked as an assistant project coordinator for a year in South Carolina. She has also enjoyed living in the Pennsylvania and D.C area. Her interests include educational nonprofits and equitable access to resources for underserviced youth. In her free time Tiffany enjoys spontaneous trips, reading, and being a dog mom.

Jessica Gokhberg (Literature)

Headshot of Jessica GokhbergJessica Gokhberg, M.A., is a fifth-year Ph.D. candidate in the Program in Literature at Duke. Her dissertation focuses on Russian author Boris Pasternak’s novel Doktor Zhivago in order to examine the role of literature in the Cold War, and how this novel in particular was staged by political and scholarly actors as a cultural weapon with the power to change the global geopolitical alignment of power at the time. When not working on her dissertation, Jessica is an advocate in the campus and national graduate student communities, working to shift campus culture toward a restorative, survivor-centered climate.

Letitia Jones, Ph.D. (Duke Human Vaccine Institute)

Headshot of Letitia JonesLetitia Jones, Ph.D., is a Postdoctoral Scholar at Duke Human Vaccine Institute (DHVI) where her work focuses on HIV vaccine development. Specifically, she analyzes antibody responses elicited by B- and T-cell activity. Letitia received her Ph.D. in Immunology and Virology from the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC).  In an effort to understand neurocognitive disorders in HIV-1 infected individuals, her thesis research concentrated on modeling HIV-induced, blood-brain barrier dysfunction in mice.  Letitia is a veteran and wife of a veteran. As a result, she loves traveling and does so whenever possible with her husband and children.

Yining Liu (Biomedical Engineering)

Headshot of Yining LiuYining Liu is a third-year Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. Her research is in the field of tissue engineering, where she focuses on designing biomaterials with optimal biophysical or biochemical cues to accelerate skin wound healing. She received her M.Sc. in Bioengineering from UCLA and her B.S. in Pharmaceutical Sciences from Peking University, China. In her spare time, she loves doing Taekwondo, experimenting with new recipes, and writing in her blog.

Angela McCall, Ph.D. (Pediatrics)

Headshot of Angela McCallAngela joined Duke University in 2017 as a postdoctoral associate in Dr. Mai ElMallah’s Lab in the Department of Pediatrics. She obtained both her B.S. in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology and her Ph.D. in Medical Sciences from the University of Florida.  While at UF her research focused on the study of the physical properties of adeno-associated viruses (AAVs) and then shifted to their use as therapeutics for neuromuscular disorders. Angela’s current research goals are to connect the events that occur at the cellular level in neuromuscular disorders to the physiological changes that occur specifically those influencing respiration. She also is interested in examining how the administration of AAV-mediated gene delivery restores homeostasis at both the micro- and macroscopic levels. Outside of the lab, Angela is involved in the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership Organization. 

Alex McCumber (Civil and Environmental Engineering)

Headshot of Alex McCumberAlex is a third-year Ph.D. student in Civil and Environmental Engineering. His research involves modeling how bacteria from different environmental media make up what bacteria are found in the lungs. He has a B.S. degree in Biochemistry from Oklahoma Christian University and a M.S. in Environmental Science from the University of Oklahoma. Prior to coming to Duke, Alex worked at the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality where he audited oil and gas production facilities for compliance with Federal and State air quality regulations.

Hannah McMillan (Molecular Genetics and Microbiology)

Headshot of Hannah McMillanHannah is a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology.  Her research focuses on how bacterial vesicles activate plant immune responses, and how this informs the larger field of host-pathogen interactions.  Originally from Durham, Hannah got an early start on research in the Duke Biology Department before attending Davidson College, where she graduated in 2015 with a B.S. in Biology and a minor in Dance.  Outside of lab, Hannah continues to dance and pursue other hobbies including music and baking.  She also leads the GPSC community outreach initiatives and volunteers at the GPSC community pantry.

Imran Ozer (Biomedical Engineering)

Headshot of Imran OzerImran is a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate in the Biomedical Engineering Department. Her current research focuses on the development of biomaterials that overcome immune recognition. Before Duke, she earned her M.Sc. degree in Biotechnology & Bioengineering. When not in the lab, you can find her hiking, traveling, or spending time with her friends.

Nicole Stantial (Molecular Genetics and Microbiology)

Headshot of Nicole StantialNicole Stantial is a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology. Her research is focused on determining the effects of spontaneous mutations on genome stability, especially when these mutations arise during cellular processes, such as replication and transcription. Nicole is interested in pursuing a career that combines her expertise in science with the business world. In her spare time Nicole enjoys training for triathlons, trying new restaurants, and traveling.

Saraswathi Subramaniyan, Ph.D. (Anesthesiology)

Headshot of Saraswathi SubramaniyanSaraswathi Subramaniyan is a postdoctoral associate from the basic science division of Duke’s Anesthesiology department. She earned a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the Medical University of Vienna, Austria and joined Dr. Niccolo Terrando’s group at Duke University to explore the role of cholinergic anti-inflammatory reflex in regulating neuro-immune interactions after surgery. Her graduate research established a link between spatial memory retrieval and nicotinic acetylcholine (nACh) receptor signaling in the hippocampus. Dr. Subramaniyan’s current work attempts to alleviate the detrimental effects of neuroinflammation by fine tuning the vagal nerve. 

Edgar Virguez (Environment)

Headshot of Edgar VirguezEdgar Virguez is a third-year Ph.D. student at the Nicholas School of the Environment (NSOE). His research evaluates the transition to a deeply decarbonized electric power sector, by incorporating operations research, data science and geospatial analysis into a common framework. Previously, he worked for a decade promoting the adoption of cleaner fuels in transport and industry throughout Latin America, while simultaneously advancing his academic administrative career. Edgar holds a M.Sc. in Environmental Engineering, a B.Sc. in Chemical Engineering and a B.Sc. in Environmental Engineering. The most important facet of Edgar´s life is his role as a husband of Temis Coral (NSOE MEM ‘19), father of Hannah Maria (future Duke Student ‘36) and owner of Brownie (the coolest Old English Sheepdog).

Hannah Yan (Interdisciplinary Data Science)

Headshot of Hannah YanHannah Yan is a first-year graduate student in Interdisciplinary Data Science. Her research interests combine the rigor of data science with the creativity of interactive visualization.  Hannah’s earlier industry experiences in analytics gave her insights on how global organizations and distributed teams strategize and operate. She enjoys exploring and learning.

Feichen Yang (Chemistry)

Headshot of Feichen YangFeichen Yang (Chemistry) is a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate in Chemistry. He works with a biotech company on a new material that can potentially repair injured knee cartilage at Dr. Benjamin Wiley’s lab. He recently started to manage a Bass Connections project on the generation of hydrogen fuel for third world countries. In the future, he wants to join a healthcare consulting firm as a consultant. In his spare time, Feichen enjoys swimming.

Yudi Zhang (Chemistry)

Headshot of Yudi ZhangYudi Zhang is a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate in Chemistry. Originally from China, she received her bachelor’s degree from Fudan University in Chemistry. At Duke, her research is focused on developing self-diagnosable polymer materials that can harness external stress and use them as tools to study material wear and failure. Aside from research, Yudi is a member of the Chemistry Diversity, Inclusion and Community Committee, working actively to promote a diverse departmental culture. In her free time, she enjoys baking, travelling, watching movies and fashion photography.