Inaugural cohort of President’s Postdoctoral Scholars selected

Ohio State has named 11 scholars as the inaugural cohort of President’s Postdoctoral Scholars. The recipients were selected from a diverse and highly competitive pool of 103 national and international applicants. Their research ranges from a mathematical examination of complex biological patterns, to the cumulative nature of depressive syndromes, to the history of fiction reading in the United States, to the effect of childhood experiences on an individual’s life trajectory.

The President’s Postdoctoral Scholars Program, supported by the Office of the President, was launched in January 2018 to recognize outstanding young researchers at the university and aid in the recruitment of highly qualified postdoctoral trainees who will become leaders in their fields.

Meet the 2018 Scholars:

Lisa BarrowLisa Barrow
Faculty Mentor: Bryan Carsten, Evolution, Ecology and Organismal Biology

Lisa Barrow earned a BS in Zoology with a minor in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation at the University of Florida in 2009, and her PhD in Biological Science (Ecology and Evolution) at Florida State University in 2016. Early in her undergraduate career, while at the Florida Museum of Natural History, she developed an interest in evolutionary biology and the importance of natural history collections for studying biodiversity across space and time. Her dissertation research focused on spatial genetic structure in North American amphibians across different scales, from species tree estimation of a genus of frogs, to phylogeography and population genetics of a disjunct species complex, to a targeted comparison of four frog species across the Southeastern U.S. coastal plain. This work combined fieldwork with emerging genomic technologies and paleoclimate niche modeling to investigate the influence of historical processes and contemporary landscape on population divergence.

Lisa was awarded a 2016 National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Research Fellowship (Research Using Biological Collections) under the direction of Dr. Chris Witt at the Museum of Southwestern Biology, University of New Mexico (UNM), and Dr. Staffan Bensch at Lund University, Sweden. She expanded her research program to haemosporidian blood parasites, a globally distributed and diverse group including avian malaria. At UNM, Lisa led a diverse team of students studying avian host-parasite community dynamics.

Lisa will join Dr. Bryan Carstens’ lab in the Department of Evolution, Ecology and Organismal Biology at The Ohio State University in fall 2018, where she will expand her work on amphibian evolution, phylogeography and conservation.


Randi BatesRandi Bates
Faculty Mentor: Laura Justice, Educational Studies

Randi Bates is a Registered Nurse (RN) and certified Family Nurse Practitioner. She earned her BS in Nursing in 2008 and MS in Nursing in 2015, both from The Ohio State University. She will complete her PhD in Nursing at Ohio State in December 2018.

She is a Ruth L. Kirschstein Predoctoral Fellow of the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Nursing Research, and a Nurse Leader Scholar of the Jonas Foundation. As a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer from the Dominican Republic, she served as health advisor (2008-2010) and as a first responder RN after the 2010 Haitian earthquake.

Randi’s dissertation research, which is being conducted at the College of Nursing Biomedical Laboratory, focuses on understanding environmental influences of early childhood self-regulation, a key component of health development. One aspect of her research is to determine if hair cortisol can be used to measure chronic stress in very young children. She has pioneered an innovative study measuring cortisol concentration in the hair of toddlers and their mothers.

Randi’s research has led her to the Crane Center for Early Childhood Research and Policy, where she is collaborating with Dr. Laura Justice, a clinically certified speech-language pathologist. As a Presidential Postdoctoral Scholar, she will continue her work with Dr. Justice, researching early chronic stress, child development and language and literacy development through observational and interventional studies.


Enrico BerkesEnrico Berkes
Faculty Mentor: Bruce Weinberg, Economics

Enrico Berkes holds an MA in International Economics from the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies of Geneva and an MS in Mathematics from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology of Zurich. He earned his PhD in Economics from Northwestern University.

He is an urban and innovation macroeconomist studying how innovative activities interact with urban structure and its characteristics. His research has focused on how a more diverse urban environment promotes the production of inventions that are more unconventional in nature, and how innovative activities affect the spatial distribution of income.

Enrico will join the Department of Economics at The Ohio State University where he will work with Dr. Bruce Weinberg on projects taking advantage of a novel data set of detailed micro data about the beneficiaries of grants in a sample of U.S. universities. The data offer a unique opportunity to understand how knowledge diffuses and which factors affect its dissemination. Of particular interest are understanding how the presence or absence of underrepresented ethnic and racial groups affect the type of research performed in academic institutions, and which mechanisms might hinder their professional development and affect their placement in the labor market. The UMETRICS data project offers a unique opportunity to answer these questions with a new level of accuracy.

Enrico previously worked in the research department of the International Monetary Fund. While there, he co-authored a paper that studies the relationship between financial development and growth.


Nicholas BoyerNicholas Boyer
Faculty Mentor: Anthony Brown, Neuroscience

Nicholas Boyer attended Clemson University for four years, initially majoring in biomedical engineering. He graduated with a BS in Biochemistry. After graduation, he studied age-related macular degeneration as a tech in the lab of Dr. Yiannis Koutalos at Medical University of South Carolina for two and one-half years. He attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for his doctoral studies. Working under the mentorship of Dr. Stephanie Gupton, he studied the function of the ubiquitin ligase TRIM67 in brain development and axon guidance.


Maria-Veronica CiocanelMaria-Veronica Ciocanel
Faculty Mentor: Adriana Dawes, Mathematics and Molecular Genetics

Maria-Veronica Ciocanel received her PhD in Applied Mathematics from Brown University. She is interested in using mathematical techniques such as dynamical systems, stochastic processes and numerical simulation to understand how proteins move and organize to ensure proper cell function. Her thesis work focused on how spatial differentiation is achieved in early developing organisms, for example, in the oocytes of the frog. Her work proposed novel methods for analyzing microscopy data and suggested biological mechanisms involved in the dynamics of messenger RNAs.

Maria-Veronica joined the Mathematical Biosciences Institute at Ohio State as a postdoctoral fellow in 2017, working with Dr. Adriana Dawes, Departments of Mathematics and Molecular Genetics. She is exploring how motor proteins and filaments are transported and organized into patterns to maintain contractile rings in the worm reproductive system. The research uses agent-based modeling and tools that draw from topological data analysis to quantify simulation results and experimental data. She is also collaborating with Dr. Anthony Brown’s lab, Department of Neuroscience, to model axonal transport kinetics that are key in ensuring appropriate neural communication.

She will be working at Ohio State with Dr. Dawes to construct a new mutant strain of the worm C. elegans using CRISPR/Cas9. This strain will express an unconventional motor protein that they believe is essential for proper ring channel maintenance in developing oocytes. She is also planning to expand an undergraduate mathematical contest for modeling that she founded at Ohio State, and will train students to use mathematical modeling to address real-world problems.


Katarzyna Danis-WlodarczykKatarzyna Danis-Wlodarczyk
Faculty Mentor: Daniel Wozniak, Microbial Infection and Immunity

Katarzyna Danis-Wlodarczyk earned her bachelor’s degree in Biology from the University of Wroclaw in Poland. In 2010, she joined the Laboratory of Pathogen Biology and Immunology at the University of Wroclaw where she began working with bacteriophages, earning a master’s degree in Biology/Microbiology. Her study of biotechnology led to research focused on the characterization of bacteriophages and their antimicrobial enzymes.

She was awarded an EU-funded Erasmus scholarship for a six-month study at the Universitaire Instelling Antwerpen in Belgium. After receiving a second Erasmus scholarship, she joined the Laboratory of Gene Technology at KU Leuven, Belgium. In 2015, she visited the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin, Ireland, where she worked with CF lung epithelium cell lines, focusing on phage therapy. In 2016, she defended two separate PhDs to become Doctor of Bioscience Engineering, KU Leuven, Belgium, and Doctor of Biological Sciences, specialization Microbiology, University of Wroclaw, Poland.

Katarzyna was also awarded a highly-competitive postdoctoral fellowship at KU Leuven, focusing on the engineering of phage endolysins, EPS depolymerases and recombinant fusion proteins with antimicrobial/anti-biofilm/wound healing peptides. She also participated in several international thematic courses and workshops. In 2017, she visited the Laboratory of Host Pathogens Interactions, also at KU Leuven, and the Burn Wound Unit in Queen Astrid Military Hospital in Brussels, Belgium, where she tested the efficiency of engineered phage endolysins on cell lines infected with Pseudomonas aeruginosa clinical isolates.

Currently, she is a postdoctoral researcher in the Departments of Microbiology and Microbial Infection and Immunity at The Ohio State University, focusing on phage therapy against P. aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus.


Taban SalemTaban Salem
Faculty Mentor: Mary Fristad, Psychiatry and Psychology

Taban Salem graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Currently she is a doctoral candidate in the Clinical Psychology PhD program at Mississippi State University, completing her doctoral internship with Stony Brook University.

Taban’s research interests include investigating unique ways in which depressed and anxious individuals process emotional information, and examining how this knowledge can be translated to make clinical treatments more accessible and effective. Much of her research to date has focused on reward devaluation theory (Winer and Salem, 2016), which posits that some depressed individuals actively avoid prospective rewards—rather than simply failing to approach them—potentially because reward cues have repeatedly been paired with negative emotions such as disappointment or rejection. For her dissertation, Taban experimentally examined if changes in beliefs about the causes of depression influence beliefs about psychotherapy or acceptance of a psychotherapy referral.

As a postdoctoral fellow in the Childhood Mood Disorders Lab under the mentorship of Mary Fristad, Taban will work with data from the Longitudinal Assessment of Manic Symptoms, a multi-site study examining longitudinal relationships among the course of symptoms, outcomes and neural mechanisms associated with different clinical trajectories in youth with symptoms characterized by behavioral and emotional dysregulation.

Taban’s career goal is to lead an independent research program testing integrative models of depression to better understand relationships among cognitive, behavioral and physiological phenomena that have separately been linked to depressive symptoms. She hopes to develop cross-cutting assessment methods that could identify problematic cognitive and behavioral patterns early on in their trajectory, and which could ultimately give rise to targeted interventions to prevent these factors from triggering and/or perpetuating depressive symptoms and related health consequences.


Samantha SommersSamantha Sommers
Faculty Mentor: Elizabeth Hewitt, English

Samantha Sommers received her BA with High Honors in English and American Studies from Wesleyan University in 2009 and her MA in English from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in 2014. She will receive her PhD in English from UCLA in summer 2018.

Samantha is a literary critic specializing in nineteenth-century American and African American literature, book history, print culture studies and the history of reading. Her dissertation project, “Reading in Books: Theories of Reading from Nineteenth-Century American Fiction,” turns to depictions of reading in The Sketch-Book (1820), Wieland (1798), Hope Leslie (1827), Clotel (1853) and Moby-Dick (1851) to challenge contemporary theories that over-determine the relationship between reading and the formation of the liberal subject. Seeking an alternative to this model, “Reading in Books” utilizes the collected intertexts, citations and procedures for reading on display in these novels as a set of raw materials for deriving multiple and competing theories of reading as an activity that facilitates social, rather than self, formation.

She has received fellowship support from The McNeil Center for Early American Studies, American Antiquarian Society, The Library Company of Philadelphia, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, UCLA Graduate Division, Department of English at UCLA and Wesleyan University. At The Ohio State University, under the mentorship of Elizabeth Hewitt, Department of English, she will focus on revising “Reading in Books,” preparing articles for publication and working with rare books and manuscript material in Ohio State’s Special Collections.


Terrin TamatiTerrin Tamati
Faculty Mentor: Derek Houston, Otolaryngology

Terrin Tamati received a BA in Linguistics and Portuguese from The Ohio State University in 2008. She completed her MA in Linguistics in 2011 and PhD in Linguistics in 2014, both from Indiana University, while working in the Speech Research Laboratory. Terrin obtained a postdoctoral research position at the University Medical Center Groningen in the Netherlands.

A consistent focus of her research has been the role of talker variability in speech perception and spoken word recognition. She has worked on projects examining how listeners perceive and understand speech by multiple talkers with different voices and accents. She is particularly interested in the perceptual, linguistic and cognitive mechanisms used in speech perception in these highly variable, adverse conditions, and what skills may underlie individual differences in speech perception, for example in second language learners or hearing-impaired populations.

Currently, Terrin is applying her research interests to cochlear implant users, who must rely on a signal that is heavily reduced in acoustic-phonetic detail, resulting in a particular difficulty understanding speech in real-world, adverse conditions, including conditions with high talker variability, and a great deal of individual differences in speech perception skills. As part of her research, Terrin is also interested in developing new, more realistic test materials for assessing real-world speech perception skills of cochlear implant users in the research lab or clinic.


Adam ThomasAdam Thomas
Faculty Mentor: John Brooke, History

Adam Thomas received a BA (Hons) in International History from the University of Leeds (U.K.) and an MA in Modern History from University College London. He earned a PhD in History, with a certificate in Critical Theory, from the University of California, Irvine, in 2016.

He served as a junior faculty fellow at The Ohio State University Center for Historical Research, and as a visiting assistant professor of American Studies and Global and Intercultural Studies at Miami University. His research interests include race, gender, slavery, emancipation, childhood, kinship and memory in the U.S., Caribbean and Atlantic world.

Adam is currently working on his first monograph, a comparative-transnational study of two 1831 slave rebellions: the Southampton County uprising in Virginia and the “Baptist War” in Jamaica. This project, tentatively titled “An Unparalleled Time: Rebellion, Emancipation, and Memory in the Atlantic World,” reveals significant connections and similarities between the events, questioning the different place each holds in popular memory. Disparities in how the rebellions are understood today reveal much about contemporary unwillingness to recognize the efficacy of Black revolutionary politics. Adam is also writing an article that examines same-sex sexual abuse in the context of slavery in Jamaica.

Adam’s research has been supported by grants and fellowships from the Social Science Research Council, Council on Library and Information Resources, American Antiquarian Society, American Philosophical Society, Virginia Historical Society, University of California and the University of Texas. His work has appeared in Women’s Studies Quarterly, the Journal of Caribbean History, Black Perspectives and edited collections.


Erin WestgateErin Westgate
Faculty Mentor: Lisa Libby, Psychology

Erin Westgate received her PhD in social psychology from the University of Virginia in 2018, where she worked with her advisor, Timothy D. Wilson, on the challenges and benefits of enjoying your own thoughts. Prior to graduate school, she spent two years at the University of Washington researching implicit cognition and alcohol use after receiving her undergraduate degree from Reed College.

Erin is a social psychologist interested in social cognition and emotion. She has published in the areas of thinking, emotion, implicit attitudes, sexual prejudice, procrastination, social media and alcohol use. While much of her early research focused on the conditions under which people enjoy (or do not enjoy) their own thoughts, she has since extended that work to the larger question of why people become bored, in general. What is boredom, why we do we experience it, and what happens when we do? There has been a great deal of interest in this topic in recent years, but no overarching theoretical perspective fully captured this phenomenon. She has developed such a model–the Meaning and Attentional Components model of boredom–that explains the causes and consequences of this unpleasant state.

At Ohio State, she will be working with Lisa Libby, Department of Psychology, to develop a novel model of the role that mental imagery plays in emotion, and how adopting a third (versus first-person) perspective shapes the specific emotions people feel.