Mentoring Pod - Graduate Mentor Fellow Bios

Current Graduate Mentor Fellows

Cosmas Mwikirize

Cosmas is a PhD student in the Biomedical Engineering Department. He hails from Uganda and joined Rutgers as an exchange student on a Fulbright Fellowship. His research is about improving 2D and 3D ultrasound for guidance of minimally invasive surgical procedures such as percutaneous biopsies and pain management.

Prior to joining Rutgers, Cosmas obtained a Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering as a research fellow on the iLab-Africa Program, supported by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. His work, undertaken in collaboration with MIT and the iLab Global Alliance yielded better approaches to utilizing internet laboratories (iLabs) in resource challenged settings. He also previously served as an Assistant Lecturer in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Makerere University, Uganda. Over the past 3 years, Cosmas has been a mentor and judge on the BigIdeas@Berkeley, an annual contest that provides funding and mentorship to interdisciplinary teams of students who have "big ideas". His interests are in Global Health and Sustainable Energy Alternatives.

Cosmas is passionate about mentoring young students that have interest in his research, healthcare innovations targeting low and medium income countries and engineering in general. He is happy to share his experience in developing effective professional networks, taking the first steps towards a career in academia, as well as challenges and opportunities faced by developing countries, and how upcoming professionals can make interventions.

Cosmas loves cooking, travelling, music and is an ardent soccer fan.


Caroline Pantazis

Caroline is a PhD student in Neuroscience. Her research focuses on the neuropeptide orexin and its role in cocaine addiction.

Prior to graduate school, Caroline received her BA from Hamilton College in Neuroscience. She then worked as a research technician at the National Institute of Health for two years. Her project investigated the contribution of hippocampal area CA2 to learning and memory.

Caroline would be happy to speak to students interested in her research, or in the Neuroscience field. She also can provide guidance to those interested in other Life Sciences. Caroline is originally from New Jersey, and in her spare time enjoys running and yoga.


Nattawan Junboonta

Nat is a doctoral student studying Theory, Organization and Policy at the Graduate School of Education. Her main research interests include civic education, political socialization, political identity and global and multicultural citizenship education. Nat is actively involved in several Model United Nations programs and her current pilot research examines the influences of Model UN programs on young adults and how Model UN

programs influence young adults’ perception of citizenship, global citizenship and multicultural citizenship. Nat is currently in her fourth year of her doctoral program.

Prior to coming to Rutgers, Nat attended Bowdoin College in Maine and majored in Government and Legal Studies with a focus on International Relations. After college Nat worked for Bill de Blasio when he was New York City Public Advocate. Nat interned at the Social Science Research Council and at the United Nations in NYC. At the United Nations, Nat interned at World Federation of United Nations Associations where she attended an ECOSOC meeting but alas did not have the privilege to meet Ban Ki-moon in person. After the UN internship Nat returned to school and obtained her Master in Information Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In the summer of 2016 Nat was a research fellow at Columbia Law School conducting research on intersectionality and social policy. Currently, Nat is a research fellow at the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Her main responsibilities include teaching and designing learning curriculum for the new Civic Education Center.

Nat would be delighted to speak with students who are curious about civic education, political science, international organizations and information studies. Nat studied abroad in Switzerland (Geneva) for one semester. She enjoys traveling to new places and experiencing new cultures. Thus far, she has been to Canada, Belgium, England, France, Italy, Japan, Myanmar, Taiwan and Thailand.


Na'ama Av-Shalom

Na’ama is a doctoral student at the Graduate School of Education in the Learning Sciences. She is researching the development of reasoning and argumentation skills, especially, how students evaluate scientific models using data. She also is part of an epistemic cognition research group, E2, researching how knowledge develops, especially in the context of disagreement and evaluating competing claims. In short, Na’ama is interested in minds.

Prior to coming to Rutgers, Na’ama went to the University of British Columbia, in Canada, and studied Cognitive Systems, the merging of Computer Sciences, Linguistics, Philosophy, and Psychology, all focused on understanding cognition and cognitive processes. During her time there, Na’ama worked on research projects in math, science, and gifted education, learning analytics (using educational data to understand learning processes), applied ethics, and linguistics. She also built and programmed Lego robots.

Na’ama would be delighted to talk with students who are curious about how people learn, think, and reason. Although her current focus is on children and teens, she would be happy to talk about this in the context of other kinds of minds (e.g., adults, robots, octopuses). She would also be more than happy to discuss other areas of education, cognitive sciences, neuroscience, learning analytics, epistemology, epistemic cognition, and anything in related fields. Na’ama is also an international student, tries to grow fruits and vegetables, knows a few magic tricks, and loves riddles.


Eve Reilly

Eve is a Ph.D. student in the Microbiology & Molecular Genetics program. A New Jersey native, she attended Rutgers University as an undergraduate and received her BA in Molecular Biology & Biochemistry. She worked at the Waksman Institute of Microbiology as a technician after graduation, continuing her undergraduate research on oogenesis in the model organism Drosophila Melanogaster. She then briefly worked as a Sr. Laboratory Technician at Roche Molecular Diagnostics before deciding to go back to graduate school at Rutgers, where she now studies epigenetics and 'selfish genes' in fission yeast to better understand the genomic elements which threaten genome stability.

Eve enjoys discussing all things related to science, health, and medicine. In her spare time she embraces the chaos generated by her two little girls.


Richard Voepel

Richard is a 5th year graduate student in Mathematics currently finishing up his Ph.D program. His research is currently focused on aspects of economic game theory, but has intense interest in many other fields, particularly number theory.

Prior to graduate school, Richard received his undergraduate degree in Mathematics from the University of South Carolina. Thanks to his family's background in the military, as well as contacts and mentors cultivated over the early years of his university experience, he was accepted into the National Security Agency's premier undergraduate research experience, the Director's Summer Program, in which the nation's best students of mathematics and related disciplines work with agency experts to tackle pressing real world problems that face the United States. The two summers spent working with the NSA have given him a unique perspective on the possible career paths and opportunities available to students interested in math and science who may not want to spend their lives in academia.

Outside of the world of math, Richard spends a great deal of time thinking about education practice and policy, or developing some side projects related to math, education, and outreach, but primarily spends time playing games with his family and friends.

Finally, Richard greatly enjoys learning about other people's disciplines and studies, so students need not be mathematicians to have a wonderful time!


Caitlin Bronson

Caitlin is a Ph.D. student in Social and Health Psychology. Broadly, her research interests focus on how group identity (i.e., people's identification with different social groups such as gender, race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation) can influence health and health behaviors. For example, one line of her current research examines how identification with and threats to masculinity can elicit anxiety and lead to poorer cardiovascular functioning. Much of Caitlin's work uses physiological measures such as impedance cardiography, blood pressure, and EKG.

Prior to her graduate studies at Rutgers, Caitlin earned her B.A. with honors in psychology at the University of South Florida. During her time there, Caitlin was involved in research on perceptions of gender-atypical targets, discrimination toward gay men, and domestic violence. Caitlin also received a National Science Foundation Honorable Mention for her research on cardiovascular health and gender.

While Caitlin focuses on health outcomes related to people's experiences with the social world, she is happy to discuss other important societal issues including prejudice and discrimination. In addition, despite her psychology background, Caitlin is open to speaking with students from other fields with an interest in understanding the intricacies of human interactions and behaviors. When outside of the research lab, Caitlin can be found fawning over her cat, biking, board gaming, and baking.


Shaojun Zhu

Shaojun is a Ph.D. student in Computer Science at Rutgers University working with Kostas Bekris in the PRACSYS Lab. He works in artificial intelligence, more specifically, in robotics, where he explore methods to enable robots learn new techniques without manually programming them. He is also interested in computer vision, where the goal is to teach computers see and understand images and videos.

Shaojun received Master of Science in Engineering of robotics from University of Pennsylvania and Bachelor's degree in Electronics and Information Engineering from Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, P.R.China.

Shaojun will be interning in a start-up working on autonomous driving in the summer of 2017.

When he is not busy teaching the dumb robots, Shaojun enjoys watching NBA games. He is a fan of the San Antonio Spurs.

Catie Raney

Catie is a fourth year PhD candidate in the Physics & Astronomy department. Her research is focused on gravitational lensing, a phenomenon, predicted by General Relativity, of the ability for mass to bend light, particularly causing images of galaxies to be distorted and magnified. She uses this magnification to study galaxies from the distant past, up to 10 billion years ago. She also can use gravitational lensing to make models of the mass in clusters of galaxies, which are heavily dominated by the mysterious and as-of-yet unexplained dark matter.

Before heading out east, she grew up in Texas and did her undergraduate work at the University of Oklahoma, getting degrees in both mathematics and astrophysics. There she worked on quasars, which are powered by supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies, as well as variable stars within our own Milky Way.

She would love to tell any interested student just how little physicists know about our Universe, and would be delighted to talk about anything else related to astronomy, math, physics, or programming (which she uses a lot in her work). When she's not working, she loves to bake, listen to NPR, and run; she also spends way too much time trying to get her cat to meow back at her.

Morgan Moyer

Morgan is a fourth year PhD student in the Linguistics department. She studies linguistics and cognitive science, with a particular focus on how children learn the dynamics of meaning in context, and how they use their theory of mind to make inferences about what a speaker believes given the speaker's utterances. She also works on computational learnability, developing a model of how a learner can make inductive inferences about a language's sound patterns. Morgan is a member of the Laboratory for Developmental Language Studies run by Dr. Kristen Syrett, and was previously a member of the Project on Children's Language Learning at the University of Maryland.

Morgan is passionate about helping students navigate the academic world and learn to conduct research. She is happy to talk about either of those things, as well as her own research or research in linguistics, psychology/cognitive science, philosophy or related fields. She would also be more than happy to discuss her experiences as a woman in academia. In her free time, she practices yoga daily, hangs out with her cat, and plays (air) guitar.

Previous Graduate Mentor Fellows | 2016-17

Tawanda Hubbard; Social Work
Rachel Rubinstein; Psychology
Yilin Wu; Economics
Na'ama Av-Shalom; Learning Sciences
Nattawan Junboonta; Education Theory, Organization and Policy
Sonia Razavi; Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
Caroline Pantazis; Neuroscience
Cosmas Mwikirize; Biomedical Engineering
Fei Wang; Molecular Biology & Genetics
Maria Qadri; Biomedical Engineering & Quantitative Biomedicine
Urmimala Basu; Biochemistry & Molecular Biology

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