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REACH Postbaccalaureate Program Racial Equity to Advance a Community of Health

Scholars

To see the scholars from prior years, please click here

Year 1

Paulette Alfaro

Paulette, originally hailing from Mexico City, had the privilege of growing up in the picturesque Napa Valley. Both she and her family have roots in Mexico City. Her passion lies in studying the immune system, with a particular interest in developing therapeutic treatments for allergies. Paulette finds joy in simple yet fulfilling moments. Witnessing new growth in her plants and discovering dairy-free versions of her favorite foods bring her genuine happiness When she finds herself alone, Paulette indulges in a few beloved activities. She enjoys taking drives to the beach, engaging in bird watching, and exploring bookstores. In the company of friends, her favorite pastimes include playing board games, dining out, and embarking on hikes along new trails.

Estephannie Alvarez

Estephannie comes from a vibrant Salvadoran immigrant family. While she was born in Los Angeles, her upbringing primarily took place in San Bernardino, California. Estephannie’s research interests lie in clinical research, with a specific focus on understanding how to best serve as a resource for others during times of uncertainty. Finding joy in the presence of loved ones and the creation of cherished memories brings Estephannie immense happiness. Witnessing the happiness of those around her brings her a sense of fulfillment. When alone, Estephannie finds solace in engaging in challenging puzzles with over a thousand pieces while immersing herself in true crime documentaries. In the company of friends, Estephannie thrives on the energy of dancing, exploring new places, and indulging in culinary adventures.

Eduardo Chaparro Barriera

Eduardo’s father immigrated from Colombia to Puerto Rico, where he met Eduardo’s mother. Among his siblings, Eduardo is the only one who pursued a career in science. Although he initially hadn’t considered focusing on research, his passion for uncovering the mysteries of the unknown grew during his college years. For this one-year experience, Eduardo aims to contribute to a project that explores the molecular or cellular processes underlying changes in brain structure and function. Aside from his dedication to research, Eduardo describes himself as an extroverted individual who thrives on adventure. He enjoys engaging in activities like hiking, surfing, and playing basketball and baseball.

Ángel Cruz-Lociel

Ángel, a native of Puerto Rico, has deep roots in the island. He has most of his family also originating there, but some have relocated to the mainland. His research interests lie in the field of neuroscience, with a specific focus on translational and clinical avenues. Ángel also finds fulfillment in participating in scientific mentorship opportunities whenever possible. With aspirations of attending medical school, he aims to become a physician in the future. When not immersed in his professional pursuits, Ángel derives joy from spending quality time with his partner and close friends. His interests span across fitness and nutrition, soccer, and outdoor activities. However, he also appreciates the simple pleasure of unwinding and watching a captivating show on his own.

Chimere Ezeiruaku

Chimere, hailing from UMass Amherst, has a background in Biology, accompanied by a minor in Information Technology. Previously, she worked in a neurobiology lab, but now she holds a strong interest in transitioning to a cancer immunology lab. In her leisure time, Chimere enjoys discovering new shows and movies, as well as exploring different restaurants in the company of friends. As she embarks on this program, she eagerly anticipates forging new connections and expanding her knowledge within the field of immunology.

Helen Hailu

Helen, originally from Ethiopia, spent her formative years in the United States after moving there at the age of 11. Falls Church which is located in Virginia became her home during her early youth. Her research interests revolve broadly around health policy and population health studies, with a particular focus on addressing the social determinants of health that disproportionately affect Black communities. Finding joy in the company of friends, Helen loves embarking on visits to museums, cultural enclaves, and art centers. Exploring new culinary delights and discovering coffee spots also bring her immense pleasure. However, Helen often finds it stressful to ask for help or impose her problems on others. In her leisure time, Helen finds comfort in watching and rewatching sitcoms and reality TV shows. When in the company of friends, she thoroughly enjoys attending fairs or markets and exploring the various facets of the city.

Alexus Jackson

Alexus, a Fall ’22 graduate from San Jose State University, hails from Vallejo, CA. Her research interests are centered around neurophysiology, while her aspiration is to work as a physician within her community, although she is still undecided about the specific specialty. When it comes to what brings her joy, Alexus’s family takes the top spot. The bond of friendship, trust, and love they share fills her heart with happiness. In her personal time, Alexus engages in various activities that bring her contentment, including exercise, reading, studying, and indulging in albums by listening to them from start to finish. When she is with her friends, she enjoys simple pleasures like sharing meals, taking walks, and engaging in card games, particularly Uno.

Kayla Jenkins

Kayla, originally from Richmond, Virginia, has a keen interest in autoimmunity research and is particularly intrigued by immunological approaches to addressing autoimmunity and diabetes. Finding joy in the company of wonderful individuals with whom she can share laughter and fun experiences is of utmost importance to her. Kayla’s diverse range of interests includes climbing, hiking, discovering new restaurants, and exploring coffee shops. She thrives in the great outdoors, reveling in the beauty of nature, and whenever possible, she indulges her passion for travel. During her alone time, Kayla finds solace in going to the movies, embarking on explorations of new cities, and engaging in workouts. When surrounded by friends, she delights in activities such as volleyball matches, climbing adventures, discovering new culinary delights, and engaging in the wholesome experience of fruit picking.

Joshua Johnson

Josh, born and raised in Houston, Texas, has strong connections to both his hometown and northern Louisiana, where his grandparents and extended family are from. He has a keen interest in neuroscience-based research, although he remains open to exploring various fields. His career plans revolve around obtaining an MD in neuroscience. Music holds a special place in Josh’s heart, and it brings him immense joy. Alongside music, his family plays a significant role in his happiness and fulfillment. During his alone time, Josh finds solace in listening to his favorite music albums, playing video games, and watching anime. When he’s with friends, he enjoys engaging in similar activities, sharing his interests, and engaging in meaningful conversations while relishing each other’s company.

Kaila Kalauokaaea-Kahele

Kaila, a native of Hawaii, spent most of her upbringing on the beautiful island of Maui, although her parents hail from Oahu. Her passion lies in the realm of cancer research, but her ultimate goal is to return to Hawaii and provide medical care to underserved areas, particularly the native Hawaiian communities. Spending quality time with loved ones, immersing herself in books, movies, and TV shows, enjoying music both through personal devices and live concerts, and striving to live in the present moment are sources of joy for Kaila. Walking alone while listening to music serves as a cherished pastime, offering her a chance to decompress and savor the simple pleasures of life after a busy day. Exploring new dining experiences and embarking on outdoor adventures, such as discovering hiking trails or visiting hot springs during colder months, are activities that she enjoys with her friends.

Jessica Kissi

Jessica, originally from Ghana, West Africa, had the privilege of spending a significant portion of her childhood in both Ghana, her father’s home country, and Togo, her mother’s homeland. While she currently resides in Chicago with her parents and siblings, the majority of her extended family remains in West Africa. Jessica’s research interests encompass a wide range of fields, including genomics, immunology, cancer biology, and neuroscience. Her ultimate career aspiration is to pursue either an MD/PhD or MD/MPH, with a strong focus on serving underrepresented populations. Embracing her love for travel, Jessica delights in immersing herself in diverse cultures and gaining new perspectives. She finds solace in cooking when alone, as it allows her to clean while simultaneously preparing meals. For Jessica, the more cooks in the kitchen, the merrier. When in the company of friends, Jessica thoroughly enjoys traveling together, attending invigorating workout classes, and indulging in shared meals.

Eduardo Ramirez Lopez

Eduardo was born in the small town of Colusa, California, and raised just a short distance away in Williams. His parents, immigrants from Guanajuato, MX, instilled in him a strong sense of his first-generation identity. Eduardo’s research and career pursuits revolve primarily around the field of neuroscience. He holds a profound interest in studying neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and ALS, among others. When with friends, Eduardo takes great pleasure in exploring new dining establishments, relishing the opportunity to try different culinary experiences. During his alone time, he finds solace in engaging in workouts or going for runs, as it aids in clearing his mind and promoting a sense of clarity.

Nhien Lu

Nhien Lu, also known as Tee Jay, was born in Southern Vietnam and moved to San Francisco, California at the age of 13. She began her academic journey at the Community College of San Francisco and later transferred to San Francisco State University, where she pursued a bachelor’s degree in Cell and Molecular Biology. While she finds joy in studying cell and molecular biology, Tee Jay is also interested in exploring other fields of biology such as microbiology and immunology. Outside of academic pursuits and time in the lab, Tee Jay finds pleasure in creating craft cocktails and exploring new cooking recipes, as well as immersing herself in nature. Tee Jay acknowledges that lack of preparation and tardiness induce stress in her, driving her commitment to thorough readiness. She values kindness and care from others, and her preferred study atmosphere involves learning new biology concepts amidst the serene tones of Lofi playlists, accompanied by a cup of Philz coffee. In the company of friends, . In her leisure time, Tee Jay bonds with friends over board games, engaging conversations, and exploring new places and foods.

Jesus Maldonado

Jesus hails from the state of Guanajuato in Mexico. His mother’s side of the family originates from the quaint farming town of Ballesteros, while his father’s side comes from the larger town of Guanajuato. At the age of six, Jesus immigrated to Texas alongside his parents and two brothers. His ambition is to become a physician capable of addressing the challenges faced by the Hispanic community. Jesus possesses broad research interests spanning neurology, immunology, and cancer biology. He holds a deep fascination for marine animals and maintains an active lifestyle. When faced with stressful days, Jesus finds solace in embarking on long jogs or bike rides. He also finds great enjoyment in indulging in video games and movies. During his alone time, Jesus relishes the opportunity to engage in nighttime jogs while immersing himself in music or searching for inexpensive music CDs to add to his collection.

Faith-Masong Njunkeng

Faith was born in Cameroon and emigrated to the States in 2010. A passionate individual, Faith’s primary focus lies in enhancing the healthcare system in her home country, as well as in other developing nations. What truly brings Faith joy is being in the company of her loved ones, indulging in makeup, exploring new destinations through travel, and immersing herself in the enchanting world of music. Faith’s ultimate aspiration is to become a urogynecologist specializing in global health medicine. During her solitary moments, Faith finds great pleasure in reading, going on leisurely walks, and indulging in true crime documentaries. When surrounded by friends, she thoroughly enjoys engaging in activities such as brunch outings, hosting barbecues, participating in field days, or playing various sports.

Serey Nouth

Serey, originally from Phnom Penh, Cambodia, embarked on a new chapter in her life when she immigrated to the United States of America at the age of six alongside her mother and older sister. With a broad range of research interests, Serey’s focus lies particularly in the fields of microbiology and immunology. She is driven by her dedication to serving low-income communities, Southeast Asian communities, and immigrant populations, aspiring to become a physician or physician-scientist who can bridge the gap and make medicine more accessible to these underserved communities. In her personal life, Serey finds immense joy in the art of cooking and baking, pouring her creativity and love into each dish she prepares. Spending quality time with her family and friends is also a source of great happiness for her. However, navigating familial responsibilities can sometimes lead to stress in her life. When she seeks solitude, Serey engages in activities such as meditation and indulges in Lego projects, allowing her mind to find peace and creativity. On the other hand, being with friends brings her delight in trying out new restaurants, engaging in board games, embarking on movie marathons, and simply enjoying each other’s company. As she looks ahead to the next year, Serey eagerly anticipates diving into full-time research, experiencing the independence of living on her own, and meeting new people who will enrich her journey.

Julio Sagastume

Julio, a native of Pasadena, California, spent his upbringing in the vibrant city. His parents hail from Guatemala, with his mother originating from Baja Verapaz and his father from Morales Izabal, near the Caribbean Coast. Julio’s research interests lie in the field of immunology. Recently, he received a diagnosis of a rare autoimmune disease that necessitates periodic surgical grafts. Through delving into autoimmune and alloimmune published research, Julio found empowerment in gaining a deeper understanding of his own condition. Coinciding with his diagnosis, Julio became aware of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) and recognized that his community is particularly susceptible to chronic illnesses, including autoimmune diseases. Consequently, Julio’s ultimate life goal is to become an advocate for marginalized communities, especially those prone to developing chronic illnesses. In life, Julio finds joy in the little things. The simple act of waking up and witnessing the radiant beams of sunlight streaming through his window brings him immense happiness. When Julio finds himself alone, he takes solace in going on long jogs while immersing himself in his favorite music. Although his recent surgeries have temporarily hindered his ability to engage in physical workouts, his passion for reading has been reignited. Recently, he completed “Circe” by Madeline Miller. Exploring new cuisines and immersing himself in different cultures alongside friends and family are experiences that Julio truly cherishes.

Julia Soares

Julia, an international student hailing from São Paulo, Brazil, recently graduated from Columbia University. For approximately a year, she has been engaged in research at the Javitch Lab, with a primary focus on unraveling the connection between the opioid system and depression. Julia aspires to pursue an MD-PhD degree in the United States, although she plans to take a few gap years to decompress and adequately prepare herself for the extensive journey ahead. Julia holds a strong appreciation for building communities, meeting new people, and exchanging diverse experiences. Outside of her academic pursuits, she finds joy in the culinary arts, indulging in cooking endeavors. Biking, reading light-hearted science fiction and romance novels, and spending quality time with her friends are also activities she cherishes.

Nahom Zewde

Nahom, originally from Ethiopia, spent his formative years in his home country before relocating to Houston, Texas during his high school years. His research interests center around the fascinating realm of the subconscious mind, attachment theory, and human behavior as a whole. Delving into these areas captivates his intellectual curiosity. During his free time, Nahom finds enjoyment in a variety of activities. Whether it’s swimming, exploring new restaurants, engaging in conversations with unfamiliar faces, or embarking on journeys to different locations, he savors the opportunity to try new things and expand his horizons. When Nahom is in the company of friends, he relishes partaking in outdoor activities such as hiking and weightlifting. These experiences not only foster camaraderie but also contribute to his physical and mental well-being.

Wesley Zhao

Wesley, hailing from a family with roots in Shanghai, spent his formative years in the Seattle area before settling in Leavenworth, Washington. Within the field of precision psychiatry, Wesley’s primary research focus revolves around developing more effective and accessible treatments for treatment-resistant depression and trauma. He specifically directs his attention toward Asian-American and other immigrant populations, harboring a keen interest in emerging rapid-acting therapies, including psychedelics. To find joy in life, Wesley engages in various activities. He relishes being physically active, indulging in delicious foods, playing the piano, collaborating closely with others, and bringing happiness to his three-year-old niece. When he finds himself alone, Wesley takes pleasure in reading, writing, and playing the piano. He also derives great satisfaction from working out and sharing meals with friends.

Year 2

Pedro Cuevas

Pedro Cuevas

Pedro Cuevas gradauted from UC Davis in 2021 with a degree in Genetics and Genomics. While at UC Davis, he volunteered at the UCD Medical Center in both the Pediatrics and Cardiology departments. Shortly after graduating from UC Davis, he worked on dental and regenerative medicine research in Dr. Jill Helms’ lab at Stanford University. He is a published author in journals including: Biochimica et Biophysica Acta-Molecular Basis of Disease, Cancer Research, Journal of Dental Research, and Journal of Student Research. As Pedro continues his research at the Helms lab, he will now be studying how dental implant surfaces affect the way gingiva heals in a mouse and human model, as previous studies have solely focused on alveolar bone-implant integration. By studying the biological response in healing epithelial tissue, new approaches may be taken to improve the long-term success of implant placement.

Soneida Deline-Caballero

Soneida Deline-Caballero

Having witnessed how infectious disease can exacerbate inequity in our society, Soneida is interested in exploring the inequity in our own immune systems. Soneida will be joining the Blish lab and investigating the role of innate immunity and systemic inflammation in the context of COVID-19, amongst other diseases. Most recently, Soneida graduated from Brown University with a Masters in Medical Science (22’). At Brown, she led a quality improvement project at a FQHC, organized public health campaigns, contributed to Brown Interviews, and spoke at TEDxBrownU 2022. In 2021, she graduated as a first-generation college student. Her cardiovascular research culminated in a museum exhibit that highlighted how policy decisions impact disease at the molecular level. In the future, she aims to become an M.D.-J.D and build interdisciplinary healthcare systems that prevent health crises like the ones we are living through now.

Michelle Dzeinse

Michelle Ananym Dzeinse is a graduate from Bowie State University located in Maryland where she earned her bachelor’s degree in Biology. While in BSU, Michelle worked as a research assistant under the chemistry department on a project which aims to synthesize molecules that will facilitate the transport of analogs of tryptophan (coupled with cancer drugs) through the blood brain barrier. She is currently part of the immunology laboratory under Dr. Martinez’s supervision. She will be working on exploring the molecular effects of the immune system during post-transplantation of an organ.

Jaime Morales Gallardo

Jaime Gallardo

Jaime Morales Gallardo graduated from the University of California, Davis where he earned a B.S. in Global Disease Biology and a B.A. in Chicana/o Studies with a Social/Policy Studies emphasis along with a Sexuality Studies minor. As a NSF CAMP Scholar at UC Davis, Jaime was able to contribute to Dr. Rebecca ​​Calisi Rodríguez’s Birds, Brains and Banter Lab’s research on behavioral and reproductive neuroendocrinology. Jaime also assisted in the La Merrill Lab’s study on the effects of parabens on the invasive phenotypes of breast cancer cells. He also completed his Global Disease Biology Practicum in the Gomes Lab which determined that acetaminophen induced stress on cardiac cells. As a REACH Postbacc Scholar, Jaime will be working with Dr. Naima Sharaf in the Sharaf Lab, where he will work to characterize the structure and function of Borrelia burgdorferi proteins involved in lipoprotein trafficking.

Dariana Gil-Hernandez

Dariana Gil-Hernandez

Dariana Gil-Hernández earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology and music at the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus. During her undergraduate years, Dariana worked in different research studies regarding the etiology, impact of cognitive functioning, and efficient treatments for anxiety disorders, mood disorders, and suicide. Throughout her year as a REACH postbaccalaureate scholar, Dariana will work in the Rodríguez Lab and the Berk Lab at the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. The research focus for both labs will be identifying risk factors for suicide attempts in adults and adolescent suicidal and self-harm behavior.

Timothy Johnson II

Timothy Johnson II

Timothy Lemuel Johnson II is a graduate of the distinguished Hampton University where he earned his bachelor’s degree Biochemistry and minored in Leadership Studies. While at Hampton, Timothy was a research fellow with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, where he studied environmental justice and social inequities using high-spatial-resolution remote sensing. As the newest member of the Goldberg Laboratory at the Byers Eye Institute, Timothy will be working on clinical research of neuroprotection, identifying biomarkers, and regeneration of the optic nerve.

Ivan Lopez

Ivan Lopez is a graduate of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley where he graduated Magna Cum Laude and earned his bachelor’s degree in Biology with a concentration in Biological Sciences. While at UTRGV, he was a Genetics Teaching/Research Assistant where he worked in identifying toxin transcripts to discover pharmacological properties that inhibit certain oncogenic pathways initiated by protein-protein ligand interactions in western diamondback snake venom. Becoming the newest member of the Haileselassie Lab, Ivan will be working to determine the role of altered mitochondrial dynamics in sepsis-induced multi-organ dysfunction syndrome (MODS).

Aicha Rose Mabene

Aicha Mabene

Aicha Rose Mabene is a graduate from the University of California, San Diego where she earned her bachelor’s degree in Physics with specialization in Biophysics. While at UC San Diego Aicha interned at Los Alamos National Laboratory, where she worked in the Theoretical Biology and Biophysics group on mathematically modeling immune responses to malarial infection. As the newest member of Attardi Laboratory, Aicha will be working to help identify p53 tumor suppressor target genes in order to better characterize p53-mediated tumor suppression networks in cancer and illuminate possible therapeutic strategies in p53-deficient cells.

Juan Melesio

Juan Melesio

Juan Melesio is from Williams California. Juan received his Associates Degree in Biology from American River College in Sacramento & his Bachelor’s Degree in Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior from the University of California, Davis. He is currently apart of Dr. Joseph Wu’s Lab in the department of Medicine and Radiology at Stanford University School of Medicine. Dr. Joseph Wu’s lab is focused on the biological mechanisms of patient-specific and disease-specific induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs).

Neha Momin

Neha Momin

Neha Momin is a graduate from the University of Texas at Austin where she earned her bachelor’s degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders with a specialization in Audiology. While at UT Austin, Neha received the President’s Award for Global Learning for her research on the use of augmented reality to promote skin cancer prevention efforts. Recently, she joined Marinkovich Lab to assist in clinical trials for gene therapy as a treatment for dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa.

Jairelisse Morales

Jairelisse Morales

Jairelisse Morales is a graduate student of a bachelor’s degree in General Biology with a minor in Chemistry from the University of Puerto Rico at Humacao. During the month of May, she was accepted for a position of REACH Postbaccalaureate Scholar as Life Science Research Professional. During this year, she will be part of BRAVE lab with Claudia Padula, PhD at the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, working in three different projects related to improve treatment outcomes for Veterans suffering from alcohol addiction. She will be involved in both clinical and scientific laboratory experiences.

Josselyn Perez

Josselyn Perez

Josselyn Perez is a Chicana, alumna of the University of California, Los Angeles, where she earned her Bachelor’s of Science in Biology with a minor in Spanish. As the newest member of the Food for Health Equity lab, she will be working to evaluate the All-In Alameda Receipe4Health (R4H) Project, which aims to reduce food insecurity, improve health outcomes, and healthcare utilization. She is also interested in Latinx pre-health community spaces, community health & engagement, and mentorship. She currently serves as an ambassador for MiMentor and as a peer mentor for UCLA’s Médicos, Enfermeros, y Dentistas Para El Pueblo (MEDPEP).

Cristela Samaneigo

Cristela Samaniego

Cristela Samaniego is a graduate from the University of California, Davis where she earned two bachelor’s degrees in Environmental Toxicology with a medicine emphasis and Cognitive Science with a neuroscience emphasis. Under the guidance of Dr. Sascha Nicklisch at UC Davis’ Department of Environmental Toxicology, Cristela conducted research to determine the molecular interactions of multiethnic P-glycoprotein (P-gp) variants with cancer drugs involved in chemotherapy-induced peripheral neurotoxicity (CIPN). As the newest member of Dr. Katrin Chua’s Laboratory, Cristela will be working to better understand the molecular functions of the SIRT7 chromatin regulatory enzyme and its roles in aging and cancer biology.

Katya Vera

Katya Vera

Katya was born in Guadalajara, Mexico and grew up in the Central Valley of California. She graduated magna cum laude from Princeton University in 2020 with a degree in Anthropology and minors in Global Health & Health Policy and Latin American Studies. Her previous research has focused on health disparities and her thesis discussed implicit bias training in medical schools in the U.S. and Mexico. After working at Latinx en Medicina and completing a pre-med post-bac at Loyola Marymount University, she joined Stanford University School of Medicine as a REACH post-bac scholar. She enjoys blogging, shopping, and traveling.