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Mentor Immersion at PTY – Mentor Bios

Please note that mentorship experiences and mentors are subject to change.


Emma Banks, Ph.D.

Emma Banks is a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at Tennessee State University. She holds a PhD in Anthropology from Vanderbilt University. Her research focuses on how marginalized communities remake their social relations around coal mining. Since 2013, she has worked with Wayúu and Afro-descendant communities displaced by the Cerrejón Coal Mine in La Guajira, Colombia. As part of her ongoing commitment to social justice in the region, she is part of a network of solidarity activists that support local movements for a just post-coal future. When she’s not thinking about climate justice, she likes to play with her dogs and spend time on her small farm outside of Nashville.

Mentor for Anthropology in Action: How Research Is Applied to Advocacy and Activism (Mentor Immersion: Summer 2021)


William Barbour, Ph.D.

Dr. Will Barbour is a research scientist at the Institute for Software Integrated Systems at Vanderbilt University. His broader research interests focus on the application of novel and advanced computational techniques to transportation systems; examples include big data analytics, machine learning, optimization, and artificial intelligence. He currently works on the I-24 MOTION testbed, seeking to establish a preeminent study area for automated vehicle technologies on an open roadway in Tennessee. Will’s other domain interests include pedestrian and cyclist accessibility, public transit planning, and transportation policy and equity.
Dr. Barbour received his Ph.D. in civil engineering from Vanderbilt University, an M.S. degree in sustainable and resilient infrastructure systems from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and a B.S. in Biosystems Engineering from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He has previously worked at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and CSX Transportation.

Mentor for Data Science for Transportation: How Do We Move In Cities? (Mentor Immersion: August 2021-January 2022)


Alyssa Baskam, J.D.

Alyssa Baskam is a partner in Beasley Allen’s Atlanta, Georgia office. She became a trial lawyer so she could help people through unimaginable hardship and has been a part of several multi-million dollar verdicts. Alyssa attended the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies. She was a Public Service Scholar recipient, inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, and graduated in 2011 with honors. She earned her law degree from Emory Law School, where she graduated with honors in 2014. While at Emory, she was a member of the Emory Moot Court Society executive board and a national qualifier at the Saul Lefkowitz Moot Court Competition. She was also an executive member of the Emory Public Interest Committee. Alyssa is currently a member of the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association (GTLA) where she serves as an Executive Committee member, Co-Chair of the New Lawyers Division, and is a member of the Women’s Caucus. She is an alumna of GTLA’s LEAD program, a highly competitive leadership program for select GTLA members identified as potential leaders in the field. She enjoys playing tennis, cooking, painting and hiking.

Contemporary Trial Law: From Primary Research to Courtroom Presentation (Mentor Immersion: Summer 2021)


Delaney Beck and Kyle Blasinsky, Ph.D./J.D. Students

Co-mentors Delaney Beck and Kyle Blasinsky are Ph.D./J.D. Students in Vanderbilt Law School’s joint degree program in Law and Economics. Hailing from Bakersfield, California, Delaney studied math and economics at Wagner College in New York City where she earned her B.A./B.S. in Economics and Mathematics. While at Wagner, Delaney represented the Seahawks on the soccer field as a Division 1 scholar athlete. Over her academic career, Delaney interned for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) as a Financial Management Scholar serving as a paid Risk Management Intern in the San Francisco field office. While in New York City, she also held an internship with The Legal Aid Society-Juvenile Rights Department. Kyle, meanwhile, has spent the better part of his life in Cleveland, Ohio where he was born, raised, and attended John Carroll University. While at John Carroll he earned his B.S. in Interdisciplinary Physics while additionally studying economics and political science. Over his academic career, Kyle has had the opportunity to work with the American Institute of Physics, intern in the U.S. House of Representatives, and assist with novel disease detection research in physics. As he progresses toward graduation at Vanderbilt, he expects to continue his work across disciplines, examining energy and environmental policy through a legal and economic lens.

Mentor for Law and Economics: Microeconomic Theory’s Implications for the Law (Rising Expert: Mini Immersion)


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 (Mentor Immersion: Jan-June 2021)

Pietra Bruni, Ph.D. Candidate

Pietra Bruni is a 5th year Clinical Psychological Science PhD student at Vanderbilt University. Her doctoral research examines 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 and Neuroscience 101 to gifted students 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 (Mentor Immersion: Jan-June 2021 and August 2021-January 22)


Carcia Carson, Ph.D Candidate

Carcia Carson is a Ph.D. candidate in the Biomedical Engineering Department at Vanderbilt University where she conducts cancer research in John T. Wilson’s Immunoengineering Laboratory. Upon graduating, she will be the first black woman to obtain a Ph.D. in BME at Vanderbilt University, one of the top programs in the country. Carcia is a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow who works on developing nanotechnology-based cancer vaccines designed to improve immune responses to clinically relevant immune checkpoint inhibitors. She is a leader in the Vanderbilt graduate student community, serving as Vice President of both the Graduate Student Council and the Organization for Black Graduate & Professional Students and is a member of the Provost’s Women’s Advancement and Equity Council as well as the University’s Diversity Council. Carcia initiated new programs in each organization that immediately provided resources and guidance to many of her fellow graduate students. When she is not conducting research, she enjoys mentoring and communicating scientific findings.

Mentor for Biomedical Engineering: An Engineering Approach to Cancer Vaccine Design (Mentor Immersion: August 2021-January 2022)


María López Cavestany, Ph.D. Student

María López Cavestany is a 3rd year Ph.D. student in the department of Biomedical Engineering at Vanderbilt University. Originally from Madrid, Spain, María has also lived in Canada, Texas, and New York. She graduated from Stevens Institute of Technology with a B. Eng. in Biomedical Engineering and a minor in Social Sciences (Psychology and Sociology). In the lab, María is working on designing nanoparticles that target cancer cells in the bloodstream in order to prevent metastasis. Outside of work, María has many hobbies, including: rock climbing, hiking, salsa dancing, and petting other people’s dog on the street until she can get her own!

Mentor for Nanotechnology in Cancer: Small Solutions to Big Problems (Mentor Immersion: Summer 2021)


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 (Mentor Immersion: Jan-June 2021)


Christina Davis, Ph.D. Candidate

Christina Davis is a PhD candidate at Vanderbilt University studying Astrophysics. She holds a BS in both Math and Physics from Louisiana State University. Her research focuses on the evolution and interactions of galaxies in the universe using cosmological simulations. She is also invested in teaching physics, astronomy, and math at all levels, and loves finding creative ways to engage with students online. When she’s not doing and teaching science, she loves spending time with her dogs, making clothes, and riding bikes around the city.

Mentor for Astrophysics: Using Science and Math to Understand Galaxies (Rising Expert: Mini Immersion)


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 (Mentor Immersion: Jan-June 2021)


Kelley-Frances Fenelon, Ph.D. Candidate

Kelley-Frances Fenelon is a PhD candidate in Vanderbilt’s Community Research and Action program and a content creator and consultant on moral professional leadership and organizational social impact. Her research explores how more equitable, inclusive, and just communities are created when people and organizations leverage their power and resources for change, and her work focuses on equipping individuals and organizations to do just that. Her current projects include a qualitative study of a business-based social movement for LGBTQ inclusion and a quantitative analysis of the contexts and characteristics driving Fortune 500 adoption of environmental, social, and governance reporting and LGBTQ-affirming policies. Her consulting work prioritizes discerning organizational purpose and values and identifying and expanding positive social impact. Kelley-Frances holds an M.S. and M.T.S from Vanderbilt University and a B.A from Princeton University.

Mentor for Creating Change: Using Grassroots Community Development to Solve Problems (Mentor Immersion: Jan-June 2021)


Nicolette Granata, Ph.D. Student

Nicolette Granata is a rising 3rd-year PhD student in Developmental Science at Vanderbilt University. Nicolette also attended Vanderbilt as an undergraduate, graduating with a double-major in Child Development, Psychology, and a minor in Special Education. Nicolette has always been passionate about improving the inclusion and acceptance of children with differences – specifically, children with disabilities such as Autism and Down’s Syndrome. She believes research is her tool to do so. Nicolette’s research is focused on children’s concepts of disability, judgments of behaviors produced by persons with disabilities, and how disability labels and acquisition affect how fundamental both children AND adults think persons’ disabilities are to their identity. Nicolette is extremely passionate about teaching, especially in a mentorship style such as the PTY Mini-Mentor Immersion. She hopes her love for learning and passion for creative thinking inspires you to pursue your own scientific goals and dreams. When she’s not thinking science, she’s out training for a half marathon or spending time with her beloved dog Lola – a COVID-19 quarantine rescue from The Nashville Humane Association.

Mentor for Psychological Science Research: Solving the Human Puzzle (Rising Expert: Mini Immersion)


Candace Janine Grisham, M.D./Ph.D Student

Candace Janine Grisham is a third year MD/Ph.D student who is focusing on cancer research in the biomedical engineering department at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. She completed her Master in Medical Science from Boston University School of Medicine and her Bachelor of Engineering from Vanderbilt University.
During her time as an undergraduate student at Vanderbilt University, Candace was the Vanderbilt cheerleading captain, Vice President of the Eta Beta Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., and an active member of the National Society of Black Engineers. Currently as a student at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine she is the president of First Generation MDs and the MAPS Liaison of the Student National Medical Association. She is also a committee member of the Vanderbilt MSTP Anti Racism Diversity and Inclusion Council.
Upon completion of her MD/Ph.D program, she intends to specialize in Neurosurgery. Candace has published several studies pertaining to neurology and neurosurgery.

Mentor for Fundamentals of the Brain: Physician-Scientist Perspective (Mentor Immersion: August 2021-January 2022)


Erika Grundstrom, Ph.D.

Dr. Erika Grundstrom loves sharing the wonder of the universe with everyone young and old and has done so for 13 years with Programs for Talented Youth.  She is the director of astronomy labs and outreach in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Vanderbilt University, and her research combines interests in massive stars, spectroscopy, and astronomy education. She received a Ph.D. from Georgia State University in 2007. Education and outreach have brought her (and often an inflatable planetarium) into schools throughout the Nashville region as well as provided opportunities to develop and teach curriculum for fifth-, sixth-, and ninth-grade students. Outside the classroom she loves to play with her husband and two young sons, partner dance, play sand volleyball, and travel.

Mentor for Astrophysics: Using Science and Math to Understand Galaxies (Rising Expert: Mini Immersion)


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 (Mentor Immersion Jan-June 2021; Rising Expert: Mini Immersion)


John Koch, Ph.D.

Dr. John P. Koch is a Senior Lecturer and Director of Debate in the Department of Communication Studies. He has a Ph.D. in Communication Studies, with an emphasis in rhetoric, from Wayne State University. John Koch uses a wide range of methods to understand and explain political and policy debates. He is interested in political campaign debates, presidential debates, policy debates and presidential rhetoric. His research is guided by the question of how we can improve citizenship practices and debates within our political culture. He currently serves as the chair of National Communication Association’s Argumentation and Forensics Division. His research has appeared in various publications on academic debate, presidential debates, and presidential rhetoric. He has also been published or quoted in various news publications. Currently, he serves as the Director of Debate of Vanderbilt’s internationally renowned and award-winning debate program.

Mentor for Rhetorical Advocacy and Criticism (Rising Expert: Mini Immersion)


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 (Mentor Immersion: Jan-June 2021)

Thao Le, MD/Ph.D. Candidate

Thao Le is a rising 6th year MD-PhD student in the Vanderbilt Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP). Born and raised in Tra Vinh, Viet Nam, she left her home when she was 16 to study abroad in the U.S. Thao’s passion for the biological sciences took roots in her high school Biology and self-taught AP Biology courses. She then attended Hampshire College to pursue a liberal arts education, concentrating on anthropology and the natural sciences. Thao cemented her love for medicine and biomedical research through her undergraduate coursework as well as various summer internships and research assistantships during and after college. In 2015, she joined the Vanderbilt Interdisciplinary Graduate Program as a Vanderbilt International Student Scholar. In 2016, Thao matriculated into the Vanderbilt MSTP, working towards both MD and PhD degrees and ultimately a career as a physician scientist who identifies unmet challenges in the clinics and translates laboratory discoveries into effective treatments for patients. Thao has since completed the first 2 years of her MD training and is currently pursuing her PhD degree under the mentorship of Dr. Julio Ayala in the department of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics. Her research interests lie in the intersections between neuroscience, physiology, and metabolism, with a focus on how the brain communicates with the rest of the body. For her PhD thesis, Thao examines how a gut hormone called Glucagon-Like Peptide 1 (GLP-1) acts on the brain to modulate feeding and body weight. Outside of medicine and research, Thao has a long-standing interest in mentoring and education. In addition to assisting and teaching several courses in college, Thao has led outreach efforts and served as a mentor for students from various academic and socioeconomic backgrounds throughout her time at Vanderbilt. In her free time, she enjoys playing with her cat Mochi, cooking, exploring the outdoors, and staying active in general.

Mentor for Brain-Body Interactions: From Health to Disease (Rising Expert: Mini Immersion and Mentor Immersion: August 2021-January 2022)

David Lee, MFA

David Ian Lee currently serves as full-time faculty for the Theatre and Dance Program at Tennessee State University and as Co-Producing Artistic Director for Nashville’s Pipeline-Collective, an organization that creates guerilla-style theatre, with emphasis on the craft of the actor, dynamic storytelling, and theatrical magic on a shoestring budget. He is a freelance actor and director, having worked in New York for companies including Pearl Theatre Company, Manhattan Theatre Source, Boomerang, Gideon, and Flux Ensemble; for regional theatres including Actors Theatre of Louisville, Milwaukee Rep., Arizona Rep., Tennessee Rep.; and classical companies including New York Classical Theatre, Arkansas Shakespeare, Illinois Shakespeare, Sedona Shakespeare, Utah Shakespeare, and Nashville Shakespeare. He is an internationally produced playwright, with recent productions of his work in Canada, South Africa, Scotland, and Greece. He has presented at conferences including Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE) and Mid-America Theatre Conference (MATC), and will present again at MATC 2019. A graduate of the William Esper Studio, He received his M.F.A in Directing in 2015 from Illinois State University, where he was honored with an Outstanding Teaching Award. He has proudly taught with Vanderbilt’s Programs for Talented Youth since 2016. Favorite credit: his son, Beckett Harrison Lee.

Mentor for Community, Collaboration, Creative Writing, and New Play Development: An Immersive Theater-Making Experince (Mentor Immersion: August 2021-January 2022)


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 (Mentor Immersion: Jan-June 2021)


Jenna Mosier, Ph.D. Student

Jenna Mosier is a full-time PhD student in the Reinhart-King Cell Mechanics lab in the Vanderbilt Biomedical Engineering Graduate Program. Jenna is a National Science Foundation fellow who works on cancer cell migration in the context of breast cancer metastasis. Her research is primarily focused on understanding how cells respond to the surrounding tumor microenvironment and the many physical and biochemical challenges cells encounter while there. She has a passion for teaching and science and loves to work with students in and outside of the lab. When not focused on research, she loves to read, paint, and run.

Mentor for Biomedical Engineering Approaches to Cancer (Mentor Immersion: Summer 2021)


Alex Munden, Ph.D. Candidate

Alex Munden is from rural Indiana and graduated with a BS in Biomedical Engineering from Johns Hopkins University. After realizing he didn’t want to be an engineer, he worked as a research assistant in a cancer biology lab at Vanderbilt University Medical Center before going back to graduate school. He is currently a PhD candidate in the Biological Sciences Department at Vanderbilt University. Using fruit flies, he studies how genetic material is safely copied during development. More specifically, Alex uses a variety of DNA- and RNA-sequencing technologies to understand how specific regions of the fly genome are difficult to duplicate during embryogenesis. He then uses computer science to analyze a frankly overwhelming amount of data. He is passionate about teaching and promoting an inclusive environment where students from a variety of backgrounds can feel welcome. Since COVID started, Alex has been spending his time working from home and playing video games with his wife and 3 cats.

Mentor for The Genomics Revolution: Understanding and Utilizing Modern Genome Sequencing Technology (Mentor Immersion: Summer 2021)


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 (Mentor Immersion: Jan-June 2021)


Katie Reed, Ph.D. Candidate

Katie Reed is a Genetics and Molecular Biology PhD candidate in her fifth year at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. She studies how and why cells reorganize their DNA as they respond to their environment. She generates genome-wide data of many types and then uses computer science to look for exciting trends. Katie loves teaching and talking science – in her day-to-day work, in the classroom, and at home. Her favorite teaching experience was volunteering at the Museum of Life and Science in Durham, leading hands-on experiments for visitors of all ages. When she’s not thinking about science, she loves playing video games, playing piano, and relaxing with her husband and their dog, Baxter.

Mentor for Genomics: The Next Generation of Biology Research (Mentor Immersion: Jan-June 2021)


Zach Richards, J.D.

Zach Richards is a civil litigator in Kentucky who focuses his practice on Antitrust and Consumer Protection law. Previously, Zach was as an associate attorney at a major law firm in Washington, D.C. and served as judicial law clerk for the United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky. He 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. In his free time, Zach enjoys painting, taking long road trips, and spending time with his Australian Shepherd mix, Geoffrey.

Mentor for Legal Reasoning and the American Legal System (Mentor Immersion: Jan-June 2021 and August 2021-January 2022)


Tiffany Richardson, Ph.D. Candidate

Tiffany Richardson grew up in Spotsylvania, Virginia. She attended Princeton University and received a Bachelor of Arts in Molecular Biology with a minor in Engineering Biology. Attending Princeton gave her the unique opportunity to broaden her scientific knowledge while doing cutting-edge research. Her research experience helped her to realize the importance of chasing down a question until you find the answer. Tiffany is currently a 4th year Ph.D. candidate in the Molecular Physiology and Biophysics department at Vanderbilt University. As a member of the Powers-Brissova Research Group, she studies how the pancreatic islet environment affects its ability to secrete hormones to control blood glucose levels. This research can aid in better understanding diabetes and improve the lives of many people. Tiffany is interested in the integration of scientific investigation and its implications on human health. Furthermore, Tiffany believes that science communication is necessary to bridge the gap between biomedical research, the patients it strives to serve, and the public who funds research. To help bridge these gaps, Tiffany has given many award-winning presentations to a broad range of audiences. In her free time, Tiffany enjoys photography, exercising, and watching movies/TV.

Mentor for Molecular Physiology and Biophysics at Work: Investigating When Pancreatic Physiology Goes Wrong (Mentor Immersion: Summer 2021)

Benjamin Schwartz, Ph.D. Candidate

Benjamin Schwartz is a PhD candidate in English at Vanderbilt University. He holds a BA in American Studies from Brown University, a MA in English & Comparative Literature from Columbia University, and a MA in English from Vanderbilt University. Prior to coming to Vanderbilt, he taught Middle School English for three years in Southwestern Connecticut. Ben has been published in English Journal and served as the editorial assistant on the A-Line: a journal of progressive thought. His research focuses on humor, hip-hop, and teaching in African American literature.

Mentor for Writing With Fire (Rising Expert: Mini Immersion)


Jermaine Soto

Jermaine Soto is the Director of Faculty Development within the Office of Faculty Affairs at Vanderbilt University. He has taught college level courses on Intergroup Dialogue at various universities in New York and Tennessee. Jermaine incorporates dialogue in his current work with faculty as well as in past curriculum development for schools, school districts, and education agencies at the state level. Jermaine received his Bachelor’s in English from Cornell University, an MS in Cultural Foundations of Education from Syracuse University, and is currently completing his PhD from Syracuse University.

Mentor for Intergroup Dialogue and Interaction across Identity and Ideological Difference: A Path towards Civility
(Mentor Immersion: Summer 2021)


Chris Simmons, Ph.D.

Dr. Chris Simmons is an Associate Professor in the College of Computing and Technology at Lipscomb University. He obtained his Bachelor’s degree from Tennessee State University, followed by a Master’s degree in Information Technology from Carnegie Mellon University. Chris completed his doctorate in Computer Science from the University of Memphis. Prior to pursuing a Ph.D., Dr. Simmons held positions as a Software Engineer and Sr. Programmer Analyst for companies such as the Boeing Company and FedEx. Simmons’ research involves enhancing secure software development standards and the development of knowledge management systems for secure software and cyber-attack response. His work has appeared in Journal of Computing Sciences in Colleges and Decision Sciences Journal of Innovative Education, among others. Simmons has a passion for increasing technology usage in underprivileged communities and developing countries.

(Mentor Immersion: August 2021-January 2022)


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 (Mentor Immersion: Jan-June 2021)


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 (Mentor Immersion: Jan-June 2021)


Zachary Stuckelman, Ph.D. Candidate

Zachary Stuckelman is a Ph. D. candidate at Vanderbilt University studying Developmental Psychology. His line of research primarily focuses on how children’s development interacts with exposure to different kinds of digital media. Additionally, Zach has a strong background in statistics and social science research methods. He has previously taught multiple courses for the SAVY/PTY program around various topics in psychology and research. He is very excited at the opportunity to mentor students to become the next generation of researchers and psychologists!

Mentor for From Lab to Life: How Psychology Research Connects to our Development as People (Mentor Immersion: Summer 2021)


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 (Mentor Immersion: Jan-June 2021 and Summer 2021)