Meet the Scholars

The Ohio State University has named 10 young researchers as the 2019 cohort of President’s Postdoctoral Scholars. The recipients were selected from a diverse and highly competitive pool of national and international applicants. The cohort’s research ranges from applying tissue engineering methodology to improve plastic surgery patient’s outcomes, to using novel mass spectrometry-based approaches to study histone proteins, to analyzing farmers’ livelihood strategies using social science theories, to examining the inflammatory mediators of stress exposure and neurodevelopment in preterm infants.


2019 Scholars:

Jenny BarkerJenny Barker
Faculty Mentor: Christopher Breuer, Pediatric Surgery
Jenny earned her BS from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and her MD and PhD from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. She is a resident in the Integrated Plastic Surgery Residency Program at Ohio State. Jenny is currently in the midst of a three-year research sabbatical being performed at the Center for Regenerative Medicine at Nationwide Children's Hospital. She would like to focus on applying tissue engineering methodology to improve the outcomes of plastic surgery patients. Her long-term career objective is to be a surgeon-scientist focused on translational research in the field of wound healing.

Andreas FiedlerAndreas Fiedler
Faculty Mentor: Siddharth Rajan, Electrical and Computer Engineering
Andreas received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in physics from the Humboldt-University of Berlin. In March 2015 he started working on his doctorate at the Leibniz-Institut für Kristallzüchtung (Leibniz Institute for Crystal Growth). His research focuses on the characterization of the formation and the influence of defects on the properties of ß-Ga2O3 – a promising material for power electronics. While working on his PhD, he contributed to nine articles, gave eight contributed talks and two poster presentations at international conferences. Andreas was elected as the representative for severely disabled persons to help them represent and defend their rights.

Jeremy HendersonJeremy Henderson
Faculty Mentor: Juan Alfonzo, Microbiology
Jeremy received his BS in Biochemistry from Ohio State University and his PhD in Microbiology from the University of Texas at Austin. He is currently a postdoctoral research scientist under the mentorship of Dr. Juan D Alfonzo in the Department of Microbiology and the Center for RNA Biology at Ohio State. His research focuses on the mechanisms of RNA modification and editing within the human parasite Trypanosoma brucei. He is also studying a pair of enzymes that appear to co-activate one another – a first of its kind discovery that has equally broad impact on our understanding of molecular mechanisms within general biology.

Kelly KarchKelly Karch
Faculty Mentor: Vicki Wysocki, Chemistry and Biochemistry
Kelly earned a BA in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from Franklin and Marshall College and a PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics from the University of Pennsylvania. Her research uses novel mass spectrometry (MS)-based approaches to study histone proteins, which are crucial for regulation of many nuclear processes including transcription, DNA damage repair and maintenance of chromatin structure. She has developed MS methodology to detect and quantify ADP-ribosylation, a post-translational modification involved in DNA damage detection and repair as well as hydrogen deuterium exchange (HDX) methodology coupled to top-down and middle-down MS to monitor histone protein dynamics in solution.

Wasiur R. KhudaBukhshWasiur R. Khuda Bukhsh
Faculty Mentor: Eben Kenah, Biostatistics
Wasiur holds a bachelor’s degree in statistics from the University of Calcutta, a master’s degree in statistics from the Indian Statistical Institute and a PhD from the Technische Universitat Darmstadt. His thesis work focused on developing model reduction techniques for agent-based and queuing systems with applications in communication networks. He is currently a postdoctoral researcher in the Mathematical Biosciences Institute at Ohio State. He is interested in applications of probability theory, statistical inference and survival analysis to problems in epidemiology, biology and other branches of science. His goal is to design better public health interventions.

Katherine MifflinKatherine Mifflin
Faculty Mentor: Phillip Popovich, Neuroscience
Katherine completed her BSc Hons in Neuroscience at Dalhousie University, during which time she studied chronic pain in a pediatric population. She earned her PhD in Neuroscience from the University of Alberta, where she studied the sex differences, exercise interventions and chronic pain in a murine model of multiple sclerosis. She is currently a postdoctoral scholar working with Dr. Phillip Popovich at Ohio State. Her research focuses on exploring the potential relationship between gut dysbiosis and the development of infection after high level spinal cord injuries.

Marliese NistMarliese Nist
Faculty Mentor: Tondi Harrison, Nursing
Marliese earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Virginia and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Ohio State. She will complete her PhD program in Ohio State’s College of Nursing in August 2019. Marliese is passionate about caring for preterm infants and their families. Her research aims to optimize preterm infant neurodevelopment. For her dissertation, she is using a non-experimental, longitudinal approach to examine inflammatory mediators of stress exposure and neurodevelopment in preterm infants. As a postdoctoral scholar, Marliese will continue to develop her program of research through training in intervention research.

Nicole PfiesterNicole Pfiester
Faculty Mentor: Sanjay Krishna, Electrical and Computer Engineering
Nicole received her BS in Physics from Purdue University, where she was first introduced to semiconductors through research on GaN nanowire growth via molecular beam epitaxy. She received an MS in Electrical Engineering and the first Joint-PhD in Electrical Engineering and Materials Science Engineering from Tufts University. While working on her PhD, Nicole was a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow and Future Leader of Engineering Fellow. Her research interests include photonic and optoelectronic devices, with an emphasis on leveraging materials engineering and nanostructures to improve their performance. She won several funding competitions and an award for her contributions to undergraduate education.

Steven ProhiraSteven Prohira
Faculty Mentor: John Beacom, Physics
Steven received his Masters and PhD in Physics from the University of Kansas. He is currently a postdoctoral fellow in at Ohio State’s Center for Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics. His research has primarily focused on radio-based detection techniques for high-energy particles, such as cosmic rays and neutrinos. He helped to develop a firmware trigger for the Telescope Array Radar (TARA) experiment in central Utah, which sought to detect cosmic-ray air showers using a radar technique. In 2018, Steven led the most ambitious experiment to date to test the feasibility of radar detection of high energy particle cascades in dense material (analysis is ongoing).

Andrea RissingAndrea Rissing
Faculty Mentor: Douglas Jackson-Smith, Environment and Natural Resources
Andrea received her BA in Anthropology from Grinnell College and her PhD in Anthropology from Emory University. She is a cultural and economic anthropologist whose research interests focus on critical agrarian studies, sustainable food systems, alternative economies and political economies of industrial agriculture in the United States. She uses social science theories and methods to analyze farmers’ livelihood strategies and the innovations that can arise when multiple approaches to growing food encounter each other. At Ohio State, she will explore the socio-economic factors that lead some beginning farmers to leave agriculture while other new farmers, running apparently similar operations, continue to farm.

2019 Applicant Pool

2019 Selected Scholars


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.

2018 Applicant Pool

2018 Selected Scholars

2018 PPSP Reception Slideshow