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Mentor Immersion at PTY – Mentor Bios


Charreau Bell, Ph.D.

Charreau Bell, Ph.D. is the Senior Data Scientist at the Data Science Institute (DSI) at Vanderbilt University. In her current role, she leads several data science projects across a spectrum of disciplines using machine learning and deep learning. She is a consultant for researchers and industry organizations to help them form, plan, evaluate, and reach their data-driven academic or business objectives. She also educates on data science topics, and strives to empower students, researchers, industry professionals, and others to responsibility, confidently, and ethically use data science to reach their academic and business goals. Prior to joining the DSI, she earned her Doctorate, Master’s, and Bachelor’s degrees in engineering from Vanderbilt University. She also taught computer science courses at Tennessee State University as an adjunct professor, and worked at NASA implementing machine learning and other optimization algorithms for robotic systems and instrument sensorization.

Mentor for Data Science Intensive: Using AI to Solve Real-World Problems


Melissa Browning, Ph.D.

Melissa Browning has a Ph.D. in Ethics from Loyola Univeristy Chicago. She is a faculty member with the ABCD Institute at DePaul University. Her expertise is in Asset-based Community Development and she travels and consults widely on topics related to creating community change. Melissa has worked in more than 50 countries and has published on topics such as HIV and AIDS, street children, homelessness, women & religion, ending the death penalty, racism, poverty, community organizing, community development and social enterprise. Melissa is married to Wes Browning, a documentary filmmaker and the owner of Sema Films. They have one amazing 9-year old daughter who can usually be found wearing a tutu and a superhero cape. They also parent a badly-behaving lab puppy who will never grow up to be a therapy dog, despite their best intentions.

Mentor for Creating Change: Using Grassroots Community Development to Solve Problems

Pietra Bruni, Ph.D. Candidate

Pietra is a 4th year Clinical Psychological Science PhD student at Vanderbilt University. She completed her Master’s degree earlier this year—her thesis explored the relationship between individuals’ social emotional ability and how aware they are of their internal bodily state. Her clinical work centers on trauma, PTSD, and neurodevelopment in all life stages.

Pietra received a Certificate in College Teaching from Vanderbilt and has assisted in teaching numerous college-level courses (she’s even won awards for finding creative ways to teach science). Pietra has previously taught Biology of the Brain to gifted 3rd and 4th graders through PTY—she is passionate about learning and finding creative ways to explain complex topics. In her free time, Pietra enjoys hiking, gardening, and exploring the Nashville coffee scene.

Mentor for Studies in Clinical Psychology: Principles and Applications of Research Science


Kofi Christie, Ph.D.

Kofi Christie Is an ambitious researcher with an eye toward innovations that can improve the well-being of populations with limited access to essential resources. He is currently a postdoctoral research associate at the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment at Princeton University. Christie completed his Ph.D. in environmental engineering at Vanderbilt University, where he worked to expand our understanding of desalination processes via thermodynamic analysis and the investigation of interactions between wastewater constituents and polymeric materials. He holds a master’s degree in environmental engineering from Vanderbilt University and a bachelor’s degree in physics from Morehouse College. Christie is also the co-founder of a start-up company, C-Salt, which provides smart solutions for managing challenging wastewater generated at industrial facilities. Outside of science, Christie enjoys playing the bass guitar, rollerblading, and reading about economics and religion.

Mentor for Environmental Engineering: Sustainability from the Sun to the Sea


Carlina Duan, MFA

Carlina Duan is the author of the poetry collection I Wore My Blackest Hair (Little A, 2017). She currently teaches at the University of Michigan, where she is also a Ph.D. student in the Joint Program in English and Education. Carlina has received residencies and writing awards from Tin House, the Academy of American Poets, the Fulbright Program, Sundress Academy for the Arts, Narrative Magazine, the Hopwood Program, Signal Fire Arts, & more. In 2019, she received her M.F.A. in Poetry from Vanderbilt University, where she served as the Co-Editor-in-Chief of Nashville Review. Her second book of poems, Alien Miss, is forthcoming from the University of Wisconsin Press in the spring of 2021. Carlina has taught in-person and online creative writing courses for PTY Vanderbilt for the past three years. In her free time, she loves biking, baking sweet breads, and (re)watching Hayao Miyazaki films.

Mentor for The Writer’s Notebook: Craft and Creation of Poetry, Fiction, & Creative Nonfiction


Brittany Hollister, Ph.D.

Dr. Hollister currently works as an Academic Program Specialist for the Genetics & Genomics PhD program at the University of Florida Genetics Institute. She earned her PhD in Human Genetics at Vanderbilt University and completed her postdoctoral training at the National Human Genome Research Institute in the National Institutes of Health. Her research has focused on how genes and environment interact to affect common diseases like high blood pressure as well as how genetic information impacts and is used by groups such as parents and medical students. She is incredibly passionate about genetics education and has taught numerous courses to all different levels of students as well as contributed to community events focused on promoting genetics education.

Mentor for Genetic Epidemiology: Introduction and Application of Health-Related Genetic Information


Loren LaPointe, Ph.D.

Dr. Loren LaPointe was born and raised in Kalamazoo, Michigan. She attended Western Michigan University and received a Bachelor’s of Science in Biochemistry and a Bachelor’s of Art in Spanish. Dr. LaPointe began her research career as a sophomore synthesizing gold nanoparticles and her undergraduate thesis was on oxidation of aldehyde compounds in fish oils. Before graduate school, she spent a year at Pfizer working on monoclonal antibody research for therapeutic drugs. Dr. LaPointe received her PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2014 and then completed her postdoctoral research at Vanderbilt University studying Alzheimer’s disease proteins. In 2017, Dr. LaPointe started as a AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow in Washington DC where she was placed at the United States Department of Agriculture Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS). At FAS, Dr. LaPointe addressed non-tariff trade barriers for U.S. agricultural exports, engaged in science diplomacy and U.S. trade policy, and served as a liaison to the U.S. regulatory system when representing U.S. interests abroad. In 2020, Dr. LaPointe started a career position at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency where she serves as an international, tribal, and state liaison to EPA’s many pesticide programs. In her free time, Dr. LaPointe enjoys cooking, knitting, exercising, and reading. She currently lives in Alexandria, VA with her husband and orange cat, Mufasa.

Mentor for From Lab to Press Conference: How to Think, Write and Communicate as a Scientist


Katie Minyard, MBA

Katie Minyard holds a master’s degree in business administration and is a first-year PhD student studying Leadership Studies. With nearly ten years of experience in higher education administration, Katie has been part of both east coast and west coast university administrations and enjoys engaging with leaders at every level. Katie’s personal leadership philosophy was inspired by her grandfather who was a former university president and was appointed by US President Jimmy Carter as Under Secretary of the Army. Katie resides in Riverside, California with her husband, Mike, and their two rescue dogs Murphy and Ollie.

Mentor for The Leadership Institute: A Journey towards Innovative, Principled and Insightful Leadership


Andrea (Andy) Perreault, Ph.D.

Andrea Perreault earned her PhD in Chemical and Physical Biology from Vanderbilt University in May 2020. She is now a postdoctoral fellow at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Andrea’s research uses biology and computer science to understand how your genetic material is organized in your cells and how this is altered in various diseases. She is also interested in increasing women and minority participation in STEM and creating fun, challenging, inclusive learning environments. Previous PTY courses include Dabbling with DNA and The Science and Ethics of Genome Editing.

Mentor for Genomics: The Next Generation of Biology Research


Zach Richards, JD

Zach Richards is a 2014 graduate of Vanderbilt’s College of Arts and Science and a 2018 graduate of the Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C., where he was a member of the Georgetown Law Journal, a 1L tutor for the Black Law Students Association, and a student law clerk in the United States Senate. Zach most recently worked as an associate at a major law firm in Washington, D.C., where he primarily focused on complex commercial litigation. Prior to that, Zach served as a law clerk for a federal judge near home town in Kentucky. In his free time, Zach enjoys painting and spending time with his Australian Shepherd mix, Geoffrey.

Mentor for Legal Reasoning and the American Legal System


Jesse Spencer-Smith, Ph.D.

Jesse Spencer-Smith, PhD is Chief Data Scientist for the Data Science Institute at Vanderbilt University. He leads a team of data scientists who collaborate with researchers across the university and medical center and with industry partners, and is also an Adjunct Professor in Computer Science. He was previously at HCA Healthcare for nine years, where as Director of Data Science he built the first Data Science team for the company and was charged with enabling Data Science across the enterprise through training, mentoring, skills assessments and consulting with business units on Data Science preparedness. He has been teaching and consulting on analytics since he was a high schooler, when he started a consulting company building software for civil engineering companies.

Mentor for Data Science Intensive: Using AI to Solve Real-World Problems


Caoimhe Harrington Stack, Ph.D.

Dr. Caoimhe Harrington Stack recently received her PhD from Vanderbilt University in Cognitive Psychology. Her research is in psycholinguistics, the investigation of how the mind represents and organizes language. Most recently, her research explored how listeners utilize prosody to structure the language they hear. She is currently a Teaching Fellow at Harding Academy. A huge animal lover, Caoimhe’s free time is most often spent at the horse barn or at home surrounded by her pack of three dogs and a cat.

Mentor for Exploring the Mind: The Science of Psychology


Laine Walters Young, Ph.D.

Dr. Laine Walters Young is the Assistant Director for the Cal Turner Program for Moral Leadership in the Professions at Vanderbilt University, a cross-professional co-curricular program aimed at helping students, faculty, and community practitioners hone their sense and skill of moral possibility within their everyday work and callings. She loves zooming out to see the big picture of things and then back in to help people breathe, vision, and work toward their intentions. She holds a doctorate in Religion, Psychology, and Culture from the Department of Religion at Vanderbilt University. Laine’s enjoys working with students from around the world, emotionally and socially supporting change-agents, and spending time with her husband and toddler son.

Mentor for Moral Leadership: Bridging Difference, Building Trust in Uncertain Times