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Researchers of the Month

May 2017 

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


Nicole Cerullo - Business Management and Political Science majors - Research Mentor: Dr. Denise Buhrau, College of Business

Yousef El-laham - Electrical Engineering major - Research Mentors: Dr. Petar Djuric, Dr. Monica Bugallo, Electrical & Computer Engineering

Laura Horvath-Roa - History and Political Science majors -  Research Mentors: Dr. Nancy Tomes, Dr. Eric Zolov, History

Sandhiya Kannan – Chemical & Molecular Engineering major – Research Mentors: Dr. Gary Halada, Dr. Tadanori Koga, Dr. Maya Endoh, Materials Science & Chemical Engineering

Jason Kay - Philosophy major - Research Mentor: Dr. Gary Mar, Philosophy

Joshua LaBounty – Physics major  – Research Mentor: Dr. Abhay Deshpande, Physics & Astronomy

Naveen Mallangada - Biology major - Research Mentors: Dr.Gerardo Mackenzie, Family, Population & Preventive Medicine, Stony Brook University; Nutrition, UC Davis; and Dr. Basil Rigas, Medicine, Division of Cancer Prevention

Henry Ng – Biology major - Research Mentor: Dr. Neta Dean, Biochemistry & Cell Biology

Li Syuen Pang – Political Science & Business Management majors - Research Mentor: Ambassador Harsh Bhasin, Political Science

Alex Scarlatos - Computer Science major, Music Technology minor - Research Mentors: Dr. Margaret Schedel, Music & Consortium for Digital Arts, Culture & Technology; Dr. Richard McKenna, Computer Science

Christie Shea - Chemistry & Pharmacology majors - Research Mentor: Dr. Iwao Ojima, Chemistry

Andrew Sullivan - Engineering Science and Applied Mathematics & Statistics majors -  Research Mentors: Dr. Lorna Role, Neurobiology & Behavior; Dr. Balaji Raghothamachar, Materials Science & Chemical Engineering

Joselin Vargas – Biology major - Research Mentor: Dr. Gerardo Mackenzie, Family, Population & Preventive Medicine, Stony Brook University; Nutrition, UC Davis

Jasmine Walker - Biochemistry major - Research Mentors: Drs. Michael Bell, Dr. Walter Eanes and Jennifer Rollins, Ecology & Evolution

Arianna West - Environmental Studies major - Research Mentor: Dr. Heather Lynch, Ecology & Evolution



Nicole CerulloNicole Cerullo is a member of the University Scholars program, majoring in Business Management and Political Science. She has been working on her senior Business Honors thesis under the mentorship of Dr. Denise Buhrau studying the strategies used to reach health goals, and how to best communicate these strategies to ensure success. She presented her thesis project at this year’s URECA celebration titled: “The Role of Avoidance and Approach Message Frames in Goal Pursuit.” In addition to research, Nicole has been an active member of National Residence Hall Honorary, Alpha Kappa Psi, Pi Sigma Alpha and interned for Senator Charles Schumer. Nicole is from Syosset, New York and plans on pursuing her J.D. at Cornell Law School next fall (Class of 2020).


Yousef El-laham

Yousef El-laham
is an electrical engineering major from Providence, Rhode Island. After taking a probability theory course with Professor Petar Djuric in the Spring of his junior year, he developed an interest in signal processing and began in his senior year to do research with Professors Djuric and Bugallo on Adaptive Importance Sampling (AIS) methods. After graduation, Yousef will be continuing on at Stony Brook as a PhD student. Yousef has been involved as a CEAS peer mentor, a tutor for the Academic Success and Tutoring Center (ASTC), and was a three-time recipient of the Academic Achievement Award at Stony Brook. He also was inducted into the Sigma Pi Sigma and Eta Kappa Nu Honors societies.

Laura Horvath-Roa
Laura Horvath-Roa
 is a senior majoring in Political Science and History and minoring in Latin American & Caribbean Studies. During her undergraduate career she has been an active member in different organizations on campus, serving as Vice President of the College Democrats, Community Outreach Chair with the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers and President of the Stony Brook Vocalists co-ed a cappella group. She received the A. Sanchez Undergraduate Award for outstanding Latinos on campus in 2015 during Hispanic Heritage Month.  Laura is a Scholar in the JFEW-SUNY program in International Relations and Global Affairs, that led her to an internship at the Institute for Economics and Peace in the summer of 2016. Laura’s first research project, presented at the URECA in April 26th, “Hollywood’s Depiction of Latinos During the Good Neighbor Policy,” allowed her to study in depth United States’ soft diplomacy with Latin America. She will be a graduate student in the Public Policy Master’s program at Stony Brook in the Fall.


Sandhiya KannanSandhiya Kannan is a Chemical & Molecular Engineering major with dual minors in Nanotechnology and Astronomy. She is a member of the Women in Science and Engineering program, and serves on the CEAS Dean’s Undergraduate Student Council. Sandhiya has been doing research in the Department of Materials Science & Engineering since Fall 2015; her nanomaterials research with Dr. Gary Halada has been submitted for publication. Her thesis research is with Dr. Tadanori Koga and Dr. Maya Endoh, working on the process of carbon dioxide hydrate formation. During the summer of 2015 Sandhiya was an REU scholar at Princeton University, working on a fractional distillation apparatus for the removal of polonium from groundwater. Sandhiya presented two research posters at the URECA symposium last year and just recently presented her thesis project at the annual URECA event. She has also presented at the AIChE 2016 Annual Meeting, winning first place in the Undergraduate Poster Competition. Sandhiya mentors first year students in WISE, and is also very involved on campus, winning an Undergraduate Recognition Award for Outstanding Achievement in Leadership for her service as President of Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society, President of the Undergraduate Astronomy Club, and Co-President of Golden Key International Honour Society. In the fall, Sandhiya will begin pursuing her Master's in Chemical Engineering at Columbia University.

Jason Kay

A philosophy major hailing from Nassau County, 
Jason Kay's research is primarily concerned with the sort of rationality concerned with what we ought to believe. One of his primary research questions concerned whether it is possible for two peers to fully rationally come to different conclusions on the basis of some shared evidence and, and if they can, whether it would be reasonable for them to maintain their confidence when they learn that a peer disagrees with them. While most philosophers have been impressed by the thought that the only rational response to disagreement is to dramatically reduce one's confidence in what one believes, Jason argued in his Honors Thesis that it can sometimes be rational to maintain your initial confidence. Jason has been nominated for the H. Lee Dennison Valedictorian Award and will be attending a Ph.D. program in Philosophy at the University of Pittsburgh this Fall. There, he is eager to explore the implications of his view for religious disagreement, political disagreement, and for disagreement among scientists.

Joshua La Bounty

Joshua LaBounty
is an Honors College student from Plattsburgh, NY majoring in Physics with a minor in Astronomy. Since sophomore year, he has been working with Dr. Abhay Deshpande on a number of projects related to a proposed Electron Ion Collider (EIC) experiment. This past summer, with the support of the URECA Summer Program, he worked extensively on creating a prototype for a magnetic field cloaking device. As part of this project, Joshua traveled with other members of his lab to take measurements at Brookhaven National Lab and Argonne National Lab. While at Argonne, they were able to utilize an MRI magnet to demonstrate cloaking up to 0.45 Tesla. His undergraduate senior thesis, "Identification of Leptoquark Events in Simulated electron-proton Collisions", utilizes computer simulations to determine whether the proposed EIC can be used in a search for leptoquarks, hypothetical particles which exist in some models of physics beyond the standard model. He has presented these projects at the past three URECA symposia. In addition to his academic work, he has also been Hall Council treasurer for the past three years and has been an avid participant in Roth Regatta. This fall, Joshua will be pursuing a Ph.D. in Physics at the University of Washington. 



Naveen MallangadaNaveen Mallangada is a Biology major in the Honors College - Scholars for Medicine dual degree (B.S./M.D.) program. He started his research experience at Stony Brook University in high school under Dr. Benjamin Hsiao investigating self-assembling polymers and methods of genetic information delivery. As an undergraduate, Naveen has conducted pancreatic cancer research in the laboratories of Dr.Gerardo Mackenzie and Dr. Basil Rigas since December 2013; and was the recipient of a URECA summer fellowship. He has presented on campus at the 2015-2017 URECA Symposia, at the 2015 NIH Ras Symposium, and at the AACR 2017 annual meeting where he was awarded honorable mention at the Undergraduate Student Caucus and Poster Competition in Washington, D.C.. He has acquired a global perspective on medicine through his shadowing/internship experience at the Narayana Institute of Cardiac Sciences in Bengaluru, India, along with shadowing in Vascular Surgery and Ophthalmology at Stony Brook University Hospital. Naveen has served as a Genetics Laboratory Teaching Assistant, a Student Ambassador, and is involved in the Honors College Big Sibling Program mentoring first-year students. Naveen created and led multiple campus beautification initiatives: The “Piano Steps” which painted the Tabler steps to resemble a grand piano, and “The HeartBeats of Stony Brook” which installed a mural on the pedestrian tunnel connecting East and West campus. He is a recipient of the 2017 SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence, the Linda and Richard Gelfond Leadership Scholarship, the Outstanding Future Alumni award, the Babak Movahedi Award, and the William J. Sullivan award recognizing significant academic and community contributions to the campus. Naveen was also a featured student at the 2017 Stars of Stony Brook Gala with chief guest Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. As President and Founder of 3Diatrics, Naveen leads a student group which teaches 3D printing to pediatric patients at the University Hospital. He will attending Stony Brook School of Medicine this fall. 

Henry NgHenry Ng
is a senior pursuing his studies and career in Biology research with a concentration in Developmental Genetics. He started doing undergraduate research in his second year under the guidance and mentorship from Dr. Neta Dean of the Department of Biochemistry & Cell Biology. His research project focuses on optimizing a novel genome editing tool, CRISPR/Cas in a fungal pathogen, Candida albicans. He was awarded the Mardovich Memorial Scholarship and the URECA Biology Alumni Research Award 2016 supporting his research and pursuit of academic success. Henry has participated in the URECA symposium in 2016 and 2017, and the SUNY Undergraduate Research Conference 2017. He also has served as a Teaching Assistant and Peer Tutor, and is also collaborating with the Undergraduate Biology Department to develop a set of lab activities that aim to introduce CRISPR to Introductory Biology laboratory students. After graduation, he will be pursuing his PhD degree in University of California, San Francisco in Molecular Biology.

Li Syuen Pang
Li Syuen Pang
is a Political Science and Business Management double major, with an Accounting minor, in the University Scholar’s Program. She presented her honor thesis titled “The Validity of China’s Claims in the South China Sea” at the 2017 URECA Symposium. Her thesis aims to analyze the extent and validity of China’s claims in the South China Sea and whether they will hold up in international law in light of the recent award by the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration. In addition to research, Li Syuen has previously served as a TA for Introduction to Comparative Politics and Contemporary India: History, Politics, Diplomacy. She is also the recipient of an Undergraduate Awards for Academic Excellence (2017). Li Syuen will be interning with KPMG in the summer and plans to pursue a career integrating accounting and international relations in the future.

Alex Scarlatos

Alex Scarlatos
is a member of the Honors College, majoring in Computer Science with a minor in Music Technology. He has been working with Prof. Margaret Schedel and cDACT since Fall 2015, developing projects that apply software to fields outside computer science. He presented 3 projects at URECA 2017: 1) A spatial interface for doing sound design, 2) a hybrid synthesizer using an Arduino, developed with Collin Champagne, and 3) CrytpoClash - an educational worker-placement game centered around volatility in online markets, developed with Joshua Cehulic and Marisa DePasquale. He will be returning to Stony Brook in Fall 2017 to pursue his MS in Computer Science.

Christie Shea

Christie Shea 
is a Chemistry and Pharmacology double major. She began working as an undergraduate research assistant under Distinguished Professor Dr. Iwao Ojima since her sophomore year. After joining the lab, she has completed the synthesis of two next-generation Taxoids. In the Spring of 2016, she earned the chance to pursue her own research project involving a structure-activity relationship (SAR) study on a chemotherapeutic agent Combretastatin A-4. She was one of the participants of the PSEG-funded Exploration in STEM summer program at Stony Brook University in the Summer of 2016. Christie recently presented a poster at the URECA poster symposium titled "Design, computational analysis, biological evaluation, and synthesis of fluorinated combretastatin A-4 analogs." She is a recipient of the Undergraduate Recognition Award for Academic Excellence, Wilson Endowed Scholarship, and Outstanding Academic Achievement Award. She is also a general chemistry tutor at the Academic Success & Tutoring Center and was certified as a level 2 tutor with the College Reading and Learning Association. After graduation, Christie will be joining the Tri-Institutional Ph.D. Program Chemical Biology, which is a joint program offered by Rockefeller University, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and Weill Cornell Medical College. 

Andrew SullivanAndrew Sullivan is an Engineering Science and Applied Mathematics & Statistics major with a concentration in biotechnology and is a member of the Honors College. He has been involved in research in the Role lab in the Department of Neurobiology & Behavior since the beginning of 2016, working to develop computational tools to examine the function of acetylcholine in modulating neuronal activity in the ventral subiculum. He participated in the URECA summer program during summer 2016 to continue this work, presenting at the URECA symposium in Spring 2017 for work both in neurobiology and his senior design project in engineering, a shower head attachment designed to monitor water consumption and display this to the user in a dollar amount. Andrew is a tutor on campus in biology and differential equations, a member of Tau Beta Pi Honor Society, and a recipient of the 2017 Provost's Award for Academic Excellence. Following graduation, he intends to apply for PhD programs relating to materials science and bioengineering. 

Joselin Vargas
Joselin Vargas
is a Biology major and Leadership Development minor, who came to Stony Brook after completing an Associates degree in Math and Science at Queensborough Community College. She is a Student Ambassador, a member of the University Scholars program, and a member of the Golden Key international Honor Society. She was first introduced to research through the BiOPREP program in the summer of 2014, working in Dr. Gerardo Mackenzie’s lab; and rejoined the lab in 2015 as part of the NIH-funded IMSD-MERGE fellowship program. She is exploring the cytokinetic effect of the novel drug CMC2.24 (a novel curcumin derivative) in combination with gemcitabine, the current standard-of-care for patients suffering with pancreatic cancer and has presented her work in 18 conferences. Joselin has won 1st and 2nd place at the CSTEP statewide conference in 2015, and 2016 respectively. She is a recipient of the NSF funded LSAMP fellowship, the Hearst Foundation STEM scholarship, the I-STEM Undergraduate Scholarship, and the recipient of the undergraduate Recognition Award for Academic Excellence and the 2017 Chancellor’s Award for Student’s Excellence. Her experience has allowed her to communicate science very effectively, and to serve others as a mentor, teaching assistant, and instructor. This summer, Joselin will be joining the National Cancer Institute at the NIH as a 2-year CRTA.

Jasmine Walker with Dexter Bailey
Jasmine Walker
 (pictured with Dexter Bailey) is a Biochemistry major on the Pre-med track from Freeport, NY. She joined the Bell Lab in the summer of 2014 and has since been studying the divergence of age structure of Threespine Stickleback in the department of Ecology and Evolution. Jasmine had presented a poster at the 2016 URECA poster symposium titled “Determination of Age Structure among Threespine Stickleback (
Gasterosteus aculeatus) Populations Divergent for Body Size.” Her project investigates whether age is the only determinant of body size of Alaskan Threespine Stickleback. Jasmine has spent her last year at Stony Brook, writing her Senior Honors Thesis, on her research and will be receiving an honors degree in Biochemistry. She is a recipient of the Undergraduate Recognition Award for Academic Excellence, the Sam and Rose Berezin Scholarship and the Angela and Dexter Bailey-URECA Award. Jasmine has spent three years with the non-for-profit volunteer organization Project Sunshine, where she volunteers with children at the hospital. She is also the creative director for the Stony Brook Chapter of Project Sunshine. In August, she will begin her studies at the SUNY Downstate Medical College.


Arianna WestArianna West
is an Environmental Studies major with a minor in Marine Science, from Farmingville, NY. She first began her research experience at Stony Brook in September 2015 in the lab of Dr. Demian Chapman, where she analyzed baited remove underwater videos (BRUVs) to identify elasmobranchs and bony fish. In September 2016, she then joined Dr. Heather Lynch’s lab in the Department of Ecology and Evolution. Here, she first assisted with the analysis of panoramic photos to obtain king penguin population counts before she began her independent research project with mentor Catherine Foley. She presented this research, titled “The Effect of Oceanographic Conditions on Pygoscelis Penguin Population Dynamics” at the URECA annual symposium in April 2017. After graduating, Arianna plans on taking a gap year before applying to pursue a Ph.D.

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

Interview excerpts

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

Joselin. My advice to undergrads is to ask questions, be curious, and if you have ideas share them with your PI. I learned about many ideas in my prospective field of study from the conferences and talks I attended. Also, if you find yourself in a lab where you’re not able to grow, as a student/scientist, don’t feel afraid to look for another one: a great mentor is the most important aspect of research. For those looking to get involved, reach out to your professors, be specific in your emails as to why you are interested in their lab, also pay attention to the weekly emails sent by your department; it often contains information about available research positions!

Christie. Be involved in research early in your undergraduate career, as you tend do have more time during Freshman or Sophomore year. It's okay do make mistakes

Alex: Find something you're passionate about, maybe something you've wanted to do since you were a kid or just a crazy idea you had one day. It's meant to be a learning experience, and if it's something you think is cool then others will probably get something out of it too. Also, the professors at Stony are very supportive, and as long as you have ambition you can accomplish more than you think!

Karen. How has doing research prepared you for your future career? 
Li Syuen. Participating in independent research has allowed me to reevaluate my career choice. Before taking on this research, I had the notion of doing a Ph.D and entering academia. However, being involved in the research project has given me insight about pursuing other career paths. Doing the honors thesis project has also allowed me to gain some valuable skills especially in regards to my work ethic and time management. 

Naveen. Research has allowed me to understand the whole process of medicine. From the theorizing and experimentation of a new treatment, to the administration of a therapy to a patient, research has allowed me to comprehend every step of medical progress. This enables me to be a more aware and capable physician in the future that not only treats the patient, but is involved in developing the next generation of advanced treatments and therapies.

Karen. What have you learned from your interactions with your mentor and colleagues in your lab?
Yousef. Professor Djuric and Professor Bugallo were fantastic mentors.  Professor Djuric was always very easy to approach and eager to help whenever he could. He was the person who first got me interested in these topics and he still always pushes me to do my best. Professor Bugallo helped me build upon my passion of statistical signal processing. I met with her almost every week throughout the semester and her guidance was invaluable. My colleagues at the COSINE lab in Light Engineering have also helped me along the way as well. All of them have contributed to the enjoyable atmosphere of doing research!

Jasmine. Not only has research given me the opportunities to explore my passions in evolutionary science, but it has also given me great mentors. They have, not only provided me with the technical skill to pursue my research, but the confidence to openly discuss my findings. They’ve also groomed me both professionally and academically in my writing.

Henry. Being an undergraduate research student in the Dean Lab has taught me different research techniques and more importantly intra- and interpersonal communication skills. Being in the science research field, keeping yourself informed and interested are the uttermost important, hence I have learned the importance of reading scientific journals and attending seminars. Plus, knowing how to articulate your research and opinion allows you to share your ideas with your fellows; these ideas are certainly the force that drive all scientists toward their success.

Karen. What's your favorite aspect of doing research?
Joshua. My favorite aspect of doing research is thinking outside the box trying to solve problems. With limited time and resources, you often have to come up with unique solutions to the challenges you face in order to get the results you need. Zip ties, Styrofoam, and elbow grease play a surprisingly important role in Physics research.

Nicole. The best part is that research goes beyond regular coursework to challenge you in different ways. It challenges you to use your critical thinking skills to analyze and dissect a problem and to then decide the best way to proceed to solve it. Research also requires you to be flexible and be able to adapt to unexpected outcomes and roadblocks in your research. Research is very rewarding because you are able to take an idea, grow and refine it, and come up with a meaningful result that can be applied to enrich others’ lives.

I really enjoyed the freedom of being able to pursue a research topic that I was passionate about. I wanted to dig into a controversial subject in US-Latin American relations and I learned a lot about both sides of the story. I also enjoyed talking to my advisors about the direction I wanted my research to go. I hope I get the opportunity to do this again in the future!

Jason. My favorite thing about research is the leeway it affords in terms of choice of topic. Independent research puts you in control of your own learning. I was often surprised at the directions in which my research developed, and the positions in response to unforeseen challenges. When your labor of love is finally completed, you can't help but have a stronger grasp of your intellectual interests and priorities. Inevitably, you learn as much about yourself as you do your subject matter. 


Karen. How did being involved in research enhance your education?
AriannaBeing involved in research has helped me use what I have learned in classes throughout the years and further my knowledge through real-life application. The skills and experiences I’ve obtained through the lab setting are different that those obtained in a classroom. Overall, I feel that being a part of research in my undergraduate career has properly introduced me to scientific research and prepared me for a future in graduate school.

Sandhiya. By doing research, I was able to apply the concepts I had learned in my coursework toward a variety of applications I had never thought I'd be involved with, ranging from clean energy options to antimicrobial nanomaterials. Learning and practicing new laboratory techniques has given me a strong technical education in addition to the theoretical foundation, which will be invaluable to my engineering career. Research has also given me the opportunity to enhance my communication skills, be it while writing long papers with precise scientific terminology or while explaining my work in an easily understandable manner at symposia such as URECA.

Andrew. As an engineering and applied math major, my exposure to biology was limited at best, taking a few courses for my concentration, but not much else. Working in the Role lab has allowed me to pursue a passion in a field that I did not even know I was interested in beforehand, and gave me a new perspective on the skills I was learning as an engineer, being able to apply them in unconventional ways to solve scientific problems. It is this research, coupled with my coursework and guidance from mentors, that has set me on the path I plan to pursue following graduation. I encourage all students who have an interest in furthering the sum of human knowledge to participate in undergraduate research and see where their passions lie.