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Researchers of the Month

Here are some of the graduating seniors we will miss. ...We wish them all well with their future endeavors and pursuits!

May 2014

Safa Abdelhakim Major: Biology (Neuroscience) Research Mentor: Dr. William Collins, Neurobiology & Behavior 

Connor Beierle 
Major: Mechanical engineering Research Mentor: Dr. Sotirios Mamalis, Mechanical Engineering 

Adeel Butt 
Major: Electrical Engineering Research Mentor: Dr. Milutin Stanacevic, Electrical & Computer Eng.

Kevin Chavez Major: Biochemistry Research Mentor: Dr. Laurie Krug, Molecular Genetics & Microbiology

Olivia Cheng Majors: Pharmacology, Cinema & Cultural Studies Research Mentor: Dr. Elizabeth Boon, Chemistry 

Thao Do 
Major: Mathematics Research Mentor: Dr. Radu Laza, Mathematics

Sam Kimmey 
Major: Biochemistry Research Mentor: Dr. Benjamin Martin,Biochemistry & Cell Biology 

Akshat Puri Major: Physics Research Mentor: Dr. Meigan Aronson, Physics & BNL

Alejandra Romero Majors: Business Management, Political Science Research Mentor:  Dr. Francoise Cromer, Women's Studies

Jameela Syed Majors: Linguistics, French Research Mentor:  Dr. Richard Larson, Linguistics


Safa AbdelhakimSafa Abdelhakim is a Biology major with a concentration in Neuroscience. After graduating from high school in Egypt, Safa enrolled in Stony Brook University and in her sophomore year joined Dr. William Collin's research lab in the Neurobiology & Behavior department, studying the pharmacology of Motor Neuron activation. She has presented her projects in the URECA symposium for the past two years, and is writing her Biology honors thesis on the role of persistent calcium and sodium currents in the activation of the External Urethral Sphincter muscle. Safa has served as the president of Golden Key International Honor Society and worked with Global Medical Brigades to help underdeveloped communities in Panama; she also has served as a Teaching Assistant for Organic Chemistry and for Organisms to Ecosystems. Safa is a recipient of the Chancellor's award for Academic Excellence, and the 2014 Undergraduate Recognition Award for Academic Excellence. She will be starting her medical studies at Stony Brook University Medical School in August 2014.

C Beierle & B StreckenbachConnor Beierle (pictured left, with CEAS Senior Design team member Brian Streckenbach) is a Mechanical Engineering major who has interned at both NASA Ames Research Center and NASA Glenn Research Center where he worked on evolutionary spacecraft and tiltrotor technology. He is a member of University Scholars, and is the recipient of the Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence, the Provost's Award for Academic Excellence, the Undergraduate Recognition Award for Academic Excellence, and the CEAS Academic Excellence award for Mechanical Engineering. Connor is also the captain of the men’s rugby team and is the founder and president of the AIAA Student Chapter, Stony Brook’s first aerospace club. His undergraduate research focused on characterizing and developing an all-electric vehicle for New York City’s Metropolitan Transit Authority. Along with Dr. Sotirios Mamalis, and the sponsorship of Unique Technical Services, the groundwork has been laid to retrofit an existing fleet of hybrid diesel-electric buses into a new all-electric fleet. Connor’s senior design project was featured at the URECA celebration and the CEAS Senior Design symposium. Connor's senior design project, supervised by Dr. Jon Longtin, involved developing an autonomous battery exchange station for an unmanned aerial vehicle. After graduation, Connor will be heading to Palo Alto, California to begin work as a rotorcraft scientist at NASA Ames Research Center before he begins graduate studies this fall in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics at Stanford University.

AdeelButtAdeel Butt is an Electrical Engineering Major with a specialization in Microelectronics, who came to Stony Brook after completing an A.S. degree at Suffolk County Community College. He is a member of Tau Beta Pi Honor Society, Eta Kappa Nu (HKN) Honor Society, Golden Key International Honor Society and Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineering (IEEE) society. In summer 2012, Adeel worked at Brookhaven National Laboratory where he updated the operating system of a Linear Accelerator Timing System, and published a paper. Adeel has more recently done research with Dr. Milutin Stanaćević at the department of Electrical and Computer Engineering where he has developed an algorithm to detect mind activity signals and used it to build a mind control robot. He has published a paper titled “Implementation of Mind Control Robot” in IEEE Xplore and presented at Long Island Systems, Applications and Technology Conference (LISAT 2014) earlier this month. Adeel together with his Senior Design teammates has built a 3D printer for his senior design project using additive Laminated Object Manufacturing technology, and presented this project at the URECA annual celebration. Adeel is a recipient of the Provost Award for Academic Excellence, the Undergraduate Recognition Award for Academic Excellence, and a CEAS Academic Excellence in Electrical Engineering Award. Adeel will be joining Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) as a software Engineer following graduation, and will also be doing a Masters in Electrical Engineering at Stony Brook.

KevinChavezKevin Chavez is a Biochemistry major who came to Stony Brook after completing an Associates degree in Chemistry at Queensborough Community College. He is a MARC Fellow, an American Chemical Society Scholar, and the recipient of the Chancellor's Award for Student Excellence, the inaugural Sigma Xi Undergraduate Research Merit Award as well as the Provost Award for Student Excellence. Kevin has been a member of the research laboratory of Dr. Laurie Krug in the Department of Molecular Genetics & Microbiology since 2012; he investigates the role of cellular protein APOBEC3 in herpesvirus pathogenesis. Kevin was been a second author on a publication in Virology titled: "Host Restriction of Murine Gamma herpes virus 68 replication by Human APOBEC3 Cytidine Deaminases but not Murine APOBEC3." Kevin has also participated in summer programs, working with Dr. Trevor Sears at Brookhaven National Laboratory on the design of an optical dual, laser, molecular spectroscopy set-up to study transient species in order to facilitate evaluation of the absorbance and combustion of hydrocarbon fuels; and at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of NJ, Department of Pharmacology where he worked under the direction of Dr. Victor Jin on the inhibition of breast cancer cells by combining Imatinib mesylate with CSAA. In addition to URECA's poster symposium, Kevin has presented at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students in CA where he won best poster presentation award in Cancer Biology. Kevin also is a Certified Emergency Technician for the Centereach Fire Department, an Academic Associate Intern at the Emergency Department of Stony Brook University Hospital and serves as a Spanish Translator for the Stony Brook School of Medicine HOME Clinic. He also is involved in the CHOICE program (Choosing Health Options in a College Environment). Following graduation, Kevin will be applying for M.D./Ph.D. programs where he hopes to continue bridging medicine and research.

Olivia ChengOlivia Cheng is a member of the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) program, with a double major in Pharmacology and Cinema & Cultural Studies. She first became involved in research in fall 2011 in Dr. Ivan Chase's lab of the Sociology/Ecology and Evolution departments, investigating the social hierarchy dynamics in African cichlids. In the fall of 2012, Olivia joined Dr. Elizabeth Boon's lab in the Department of Chemistry. Her senior thesis focuses on nitric oxide signaling pathways and quorum sensing in bacteria models and her research was supported with URECA funding during summer 2013. Olivia was Homecoming Queen in 2013, is the recipient of the 2013 Anne Sayre Award, and has been active as Vice President of the Fencing Club, and Treasurer of the Premed Society. In WISE, Olivia has also served as a SISTER Mentor, and worked with middle school girls through WISE TechPREP. Olivia will be involved in developmental neurobiology research this summer in Madrid, Spain through MHIRT, after which she will be returning to pursue her M.D. at Stony Brook University School of Medicine.

ThaoDoThao Do is a math major in the Honors College, currently working on her senior thesis in algebraic geometry under the direction of Dr. Radu Laza. Thao has participated in two Research Experience for Undergraduate programs, including an REU at the University of Michigan (summer 2012), and REU SMALL at Williams College (summer 2013). Thao received honorable mention recognition for the Alice T. Schafer prize in 2013; and has co-authored 4 papers involving topics in number theory and statistics. Thao has presented at numerous conferences, including the AMS sectional meeting at Temple University, the Mid-Hudson River Undergraduate Math Conference, the Virginia Tech Undergrad Math Competition, Joint Math Meetings and the Garden State Undergraduate Math Conference. She received Honorable mention in the 2012 and 2013 Putnam competitions, and was named best junior by the Math Department. Thao is also the recipient of the Provost's award for Academic Excellence, and the Math Department's Foundation Award for Excellence in Math. At SB, Thao served as historian and event coordinator for the Vietnamese Students Association and was Vice president of the Math Club from 2011-13. Thao will be entering a Ph.D program in mathematics at MIT starting next Fall.

SamKimmeySam Kimmey is a member of the University Scholars Program majoring in Biochemistry. He has been a member of Dr. Ben Martin’s lab since August 2012, investigating the role of Fibroblast Growth Factor signaling in late stages of zebrafish development. His research was supported this past summer with the 2013 URECA-Biology AlumniResearch Award. He presented a poster at the 2013 URECA symposium titled “Fibroblast Growth Factor signaling in the tailbud progresses cells through Epithelial to Mesenchymal Transition” and wrote his Biochemistry honors thesis on this work. Sam also competed as a member of the Stony Brook University Men’s Cross Country and Track programs his four years here, and was a part of Stony Brook’s first America East Men’s Cross Country Conference Championship team. Sam is the recipient of the 2013 Undergraduate Recognition Award for Athletic Excellence, and the 2014 Provost’s Award for Academic Excellence. Sam will be pursing a Ph.D. in Developmental Biology at Stanford University beginning next fall.

AkshatPuriAkshat Puri is an international student from India, double majoring in Physics and Mathematics. In 2011, supported by the URECA Summer Program, Akshat conducted research in Professor Thomas Hemmick’s laboratory and worked on the mechanical design of an ion source that was to be used for carbon dating. In 2012, Akshat joined Dr. Meigan Aronson’s solid-state laboratory at Brookhaven National Lab where he has been actively involved in research. Akshat has been presenting his research at the URECA Symposium for three years running. In 2014, he was awarded the URECA travel grant to go to the APS March Meeting to present his work on the optimization and doping of iron pnictide LaFeSb2 single crystals. He is a co-author of a paper (Electronic correlations in FeGa3 and the effect of hole doping on its magnetic properties) that was recently accepted for publication in the Physics journal, Physical Review B. In addition to conducting research, Akshat works as a Physics tutor for the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences. He has been inducted into theSigma Pi Sigma, as well as the Phi Beta Kappa Honor Societies and will be going on to pursue a PhD in Physics at the University of Illinois – Urbana Champaign.

AlexRomeroAlejandra (Alex) Romero is a double major in Business Management and Political Science with a minor in Women’s and Gender Studies. She decided to research the difficulties faced by undocumented Latina students who want to pursue an undergraduate degree in the United States because of all the different obstacles they must overcome created by the multiplicity of their identities. Alex's research examines the ways undocumented Latina students can successfully be accepted into and begin an undergraduate degree program in the United States. Throughout her time at Stony Brook University, Alex has been highly involved as an Undergraduate College Fellow, Resident Assistant in Tabler Quad, Student Assistant at the Center for Prevention and Outreach, and a Human Resources Intern at the Career Center. She participated in Study Abroad at Florence University of the Arts, Florence Italy; was the 2013 recipient of the Student Life Award for Advocacy Leadership; and is a Student Ambassador and member of the JFEW-SUNY Scholars Program in International Relations and Global Affairs. Alex will attend the Institut Barcelona d'Estudis Internacionals in the fall to pursue a Master’s in International Relations.

JameelaSyedJameela Syed is a member of University Scholars program, with majors in French and Linguistics and a minor in International Studies. In her sophomore year, Jameela spent a semester abroad at the Université Lumière Lyon 2. Jameela has been involved on campus as a member of the University Scholars Council, an Orientation Leader, an English Conversation Partner in the English Pal Program, and a member of the Weekend Life Council; additionally, she is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and recently received the Provost's Award for Academic Excellence. Jameela is currently working on a Senior Honors Project in Linguistics under the direction of Professor Richard K. Larson, researching the dynamics between swearing, censorship and First Amendment Jurisprudence, a project she presented at URECA's Celebration. Recently awarded a 2014 Fulbright Scholarship, Jameela will be working as an English Teaching Assistant in France starting this fall.

Below are excerpts of their conversations with Karen Kernan, URECA Director.

Interview excerpts

. How has being involved in research shaped your experience of SB?

Sam. Getting involved in research gave me the opportunity to meet so many amazing people. Putting yourself in an environment where you are surrounded by experts in varying fields provides you with resources you may not have known to exist before. All of these people created an amazing environment during my time here.  The many relationships I started through my research benefitted me in so many already and I know they will continue to do so. 

Adeel. Research has taught me more than anything I could get out of a classroom. Doing research has helped me grow intellectually and personally. I got chance to have a hands on experience on cutting edge technology and have developed great relationship with my mentor and other professionals. Research made me discover my real interest in the field of Electrical Engineering. I got to work on different projects and have developed a Mind Control Robot. Recently I presented at Long Island Systems, Application and Technology conference in Farmingdale. Research made me realize the true purpose of my degree. For me my degree is not just about classes or exams; instead it’s about innovation and invention.

Karen. Describe what you've learned from doing research, and why you enjoy it.

Thao. Doing math research is a lot of fun to me. Different from research in (other) science fields, research in math does not require anything: no lab, no equipment. To solve a math problem, I just need a pen and a notebook, then I can work on it anytime at any place. I love the feeling of thinking so deeply about only one thing. I love the feeling when I understand the problem, or see the connection between it and other things. But of course the greatest joy is when the problem is solved.

Alex. One of the biggest things from doing research I learned is how to write concisely and how to write effectively. Working with my faculty advisor Prof. Cromer has given me the opportunity to be able to write academically; she helped me to re-write sections in my paper and I was able to learn so much about how to write effectively. I found that process to be incredibly useful. That’s something I’m going to continue using. . . 

Connor. The most important lesson I have learned is to never stop asking questions. I find research adventurous, and that aspect is why I personally enjoy it so much. You get to cut through uncharted territory, and partake in the advancement of a subject’s understanding.

Karen. What advice about research do you have for other undergraduates?

Akshat. You shouldn't be afraid to approach professors and start research as soon as possible. No one expects you to be an expert when you enter the lab. The professors are almost always willing to take on new students, and all they require is a certain level of enthusiasm and a willingness to learn.

Jameela. I would advise students to get involved in research early on in their undergraduate careers, and to not get discouraged if their research changes directions over time. The work that I set out to do at the beginning of the year and the work that I ended up with were very different, but I was ultimately satisfied with the final product. 

Kevin. I agree - The earlier you get involved in a lab the better. Research takes time as one has to learn all the protocols required for an experiment(s). Depending on the nature of the research this could involve more than ten different protocols. Moreover, every experiment is repeated numerous times to make sure that results are correct and reproducible. Taken together starting earlier will give you more time to fully understand all protocols and effortlessly reproduce your results. Finally, don't be shy to approach or email professors. Most investigators want undergraduates and if you show a genuine interest on their research and if there is a spot available they will most likely accept you in their labs.

Olivia. I think it's important to remember – especially if you're just starting to do research – that at the end of the day, it's not the numbers you were or weren’t able to obtain but what you've gained from the experience that matter most. It’s easy to forget, when engulfed in procedures and protocols, the fundamental goal of research (besides discovering), which is learning and understanding, and I consider myself very fortunate to have a mentor who would remind me of this time and again. It's good to keep this in mind because experiments don't always run smoothly, but that shouldn't keep anyone from trying and learning each day.

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