2017 Cell Biology Research Scholars Program (CRSP) Scholars
Milky Abajorga - King Lab
I grew up in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and am a junior at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). I transferred from Clark University and currently study Biomedical Sciences and Biotechnology, and Molecular Biology. I am interested in molecular biology and hope to pursue a career in academia doing extensive research in molecular biology and genetic engineering. I am obsessed with p53 and find yeast and drosophila absolutely amazing for their genetic epidemic to that of humans. My prior research experience includes researching the chaperone protein, Hsp90, in Saccharomyces cerevisae to investigate the fitness landscape of the middle domain of this heat shock protein. I am also interested in public health and have traveled to Haiti and China to observe and participate in the administration of healthcare. I enjoys reading and dancing though my dancing skills are, to say the least, not exceptional. I also love traveling and indulging in various cuisines.
Ashwin Balaji - Liao Lab
I was born in Upland, California and have lived in and around the Greater Los Angeles Area my entire life along with my mother, my father, and my older brother, residing in the cities of Claremont, Upland, Rancho Cucamonga, and Rialto. I attended Saint Mark’s Episcopal School for pre-school through eighth grade and Damien High School. I currently attend Amherst College and am a member of the Class of 2019. Academically, I am most interested in biology at the molecular and cellular level, leading me to a major in Amherst College’s Biochemistry & Biophysics Program. I have also found interest in and involved myself in activities such as debate and mock trial. Outside of these academic pursuits, I enjoy many hobbies and interests such as golfing, fishing, working on and driving remote control cars, hiking, spending time at local beaches, and pursuing various musical endeavors. Music has been an especially large portion of my life. I began with lessons in guitar and piano at the age of eight and involved myself in many ensembles during high school such as the drumline and the concert band. Currently, I am a member of a Jazz combo at Amherst College, in which I play drum set. Beyond music at Amherst College, I also play with the Amherst College Men’s Ultimate Frisbee Team. My biography is not complete without mentioning my joy of spending time with family, especially my supportive extended family members also living in California. I always look forward to our frequent gatherings.
Kayla Ingram - Van Vactor Lab
I am a Chicago, Illinois native attending Hampton University in Hampton, Virginia as a MARC scholar/trainee, and a molecular/cellular biology major interested in pursuing a biomedical research career in neuroscience and education initiatives. I am a Illinois Math and Science Academy alumna where I completed and published research on the motivational factors of gifted and talented Black and Latino students engaged in STEM. I am currently doing biomedical research on the toxicity mechanisms of tau oligomers in Alzheimer’s Disease at Hampton University, and previously did summer research at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine on finding substrates of UBE3A with intentions of understanding Angelman Syndrome and related neurodevelopmental disorders. Ultimately, I hope to own a neuroscience research facility where I can provide nonconventional opportunities producing STEM and biomedical research education initiatives for underrepresented students.
In my free time, I enjoys basking in nature, learning and experiencing new things, admiring and engaging in all forms of art, reading books of many genres, conversing with friends, and volunteering as a tutor and mentor of underrepresented students.
April Lee - Haigis Lab
I am currently a junior at Cornell University completing a degree in Biology, with a concentration in Molecular and Cellular Biology. I grew up in Sudbury, Massachusetts where I attended Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School, though I am currently residing in Alpharetta, Georgia. I first realized that I wished to pursue the field of molecular and cellular biology during my biology class sophomore year of high school. Since then, I have tried to be as involved in and learn as much about biology as I can, whether that be through taking interesting biology classes at college or spending the vast majority of my free time in lab. I have held two research positions prior to this program. One was in the Laboratory of Nanomedicine and Biomaterials at Brigham and Women’s Hospital where I conducted research on nanoparticles containing anti-cancer drugs. The other was part of my undergraduate studies in Cornell’s Department of Molecular Medicine using both classic molecular techniques and structural biology to analyze the function of various proteins. In this lab I’ve successfully purified, crystalized and obtained the structure of the active site-containing domain of an endonuclease, which revealed its catalytic mechanism. I was also heavily involved in solving the structure and mechanism of the DNA binding domain of another protein. I am very interested in studying the molecular mechanisms behind cellular functions and pathways, especially in terms of cellular aging and disease. When I am not spending my time in class or in the lab, I enjoy being an active executive member of Alpha Chi Sigma, a professor chemistry fraternity, and captaining the Alpha Chi Sigma intramural soccer team that I founded. I also enjoy playing tennis, basketball, softball and horseback riding when possible. I love cell biology and hope to continue to study and research it as much as I can!
Susana Najera - Harper Lab
I was born and raised in Tijuana, Mexico and immigrated to the United States at the age of 12. I a first-generation college student at San Diego State University double-majoring in cellular and molecular biology, and Spanish, with a minors in chemistry, counseling, and social change. During my time at San Diego State, I have joined 11 honor societies, been an active member of five campus organizations, and contributed countless hours to volunteer work with underserved populations. I have maintained a 3.94 GPA while conducting laboratory research at San Diego State, interning at the UCSD Medical Center, mentoring middle and high school students, and serving as a STEM ambassador for local youth. After graduation I plan to complete an M.D./Ph.D. program focusing on oncology research to prepare for a career teaching at the university level, while conducting clinical research in the biomedical sciences. I enjoy hiking, reading, and serving my community through mentorship, tutoring, and by providing free health care services through different on-campus organizations.
Nathaniel Rolfe - Shi Lab
I grew up in San Marino, California, a suburb of Los Angeles. I am the only child of two international bankers, one specializing in Asia and the other in Latin America. In elementary school, I became engrossed in baseball and developed into a Red Sox fan, due to my father’s roots in Boston. At the age of 12, my passion for baseball would lead to a slipped vertebra, which would have to be surgically fused. During my recovery from the surgery, I became immersed in physics, a passion that morphed into an interest for almost every branch of science. It was during my time spent in the hospital that I began to entertain the idea that I might one day become a medical researcher. As I entered high school, I returned to the baseball field while continuing my studies in science. In 2015, I began studying at Haverford College and joined Haverford College’s cricket team, the only varsity cricket team in the United States. While the undergraduate years are, undeniably, a time of change, my love for the natural sciences, and in particular for biology, has only grown during my time at Haverford, and cricket has proved to be an interesting alternative to baseball.
Preethiya Sekar - Salic Lab
I am a junior at Carleton College majoring in Biology with a minor in Biochemistry and South Asian Studies. My coursework and research experience in the biomedical sciences have affirmed my interest in the field of cancer biology. After college, I plan on pursuing some form of graduate studies focused specifically cancer biology. In addition to research, I am interested in studies concerning South Asia and making STEM more accessible to underserved populations. In my free time I love to run, play soccer, and knit.
Madeline Topf - Liberles Lab
My name is Maddie Topf and I am a junior at Carleton College. I'm from Ames, Iowa. In addition to being on the women's soccer team at Carleton, I play clarinet in a quintet and serve as a board member of a cooking club. I'm interested in cellular neuroscience as well as the brain-gut link. I love being able to see the stars at night.
Felicia Wranitz - Moazed Lab
I am a rising junior at the University of Pittsburgh, majoring in Biology and Anthropology, with a minor in Chemistry. Upon graduating I hope to pursue an MD/PhD. I am passionate about genetics and am currently doing genetics based fertility research at Magee Womens Research Institute in Pittsburgh at the Rajkovic laboratory. I am especially interested in gene regulation and epigenetics. This summer I will be researching in the field of genetics in the laboratory of Dr. Moazed as part of the CRSP Internship Program at Harvard.
I am the daughter of William and Theresa Wranitz who preside in rural Pennsylvania, and I am very involved in my community. I enjoy volunteering in my local emergency room, at local schools and library, and with the Special Olympics. I am a Girl Scout, and earned my Gold Award for writing a book of science experiments for elementary school children. I also received the Girl Scout Trail Blazer Award for my work helping to inspire girls to pursue their dreams and explore areas that interest them, especially in the sciences. In my free time I enjoy Polynesian dancing, and perform at luaus throughout my community; I even performed at Walt Disney World.