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Instructor Bios

Keitlyn Alcantara

Keitlyn Alcantara is a bioarchaeology Ph.D. student at Vanderbilt University. While her work has taken her on excavations in France, Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras, her favorite place to work is her home country of Mexico. Keitlyn spent the past year in Tlaxcala, Mexico examining skeletons from the time of the Aztec Empire (1325-1519 AD) to understand how bones can record resistance to imperial conquest through trauma, evidence of disease and stress, and changes in diet. When not in the lab, Keitlyn spends her time dancing salsa and bachata, cooking (and eating!!!), and cuddling with her cat, Olive.

Jason Brasel

Jason Brasel is an educational researcher at the University of Michigan. His work focuses on how to support teacher educators to prepare beginning teachers to teach skillfully and responsibly. He holds a B.A. in Mathematics from the University of California, Berkeley and an M.S. in Learning, Teaching, and Diversity from Vanderbilt University. Things he geeks out on: math, teaching, fantasy novels (favorite author: Brandon Sanderson), bike racing, and family time with his wife and two daughters.

Bryan Beyer

Bryan Beyer is a chemical manufacturing executive that has worked in the private sector at both domestic and international companies. With 36 years of experience in the chemical industry, he has held various positions in site management, production, research and development, process engineering and automation. He is a faculty member at Vanderbilt University teaching Introduction to Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and Senior Design Projects, University of Mississippi Engineering Advisory Board member, and a Subject Matter Expert with Life Science Tennessee. Bryan has been awarded 2 patents and an international award for innovative use of technology. He has a BS in Chemical Engineering from the University of Mississippi and lives in Franklin, TN.

Bethany Burkhardt

Dr. Bethany Burkhardt is a research engineer working with the Nuclear Environmental Engineering Research Group at Vanderbilt University within the Civil & Environmental Engineering Department. Her research interests focus on assessing the environmental, human health and safety impacts of nuclear technology and the maturation process of advanced nuclear reactors and nuclear fuel cycle facilities. Dr. Burkhardt received a BS degree in Civil & Environmental Engineering from Tennessee Tech University and a MS and PhD in Environmental Engineering from Vanderbilt University.

Daniella Chappell

Daniella Chappell grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa. She received her MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Eastern Washington University and now works as an Adjunct Professor of Composition at Lipscomb University. She spends her free time doing things you would expect from someone trained in liberal arts: cooking, reading, watching art films and enjoying life with her dog.

Rebecca Cox

Rebecca Cox is a third-year Ph.D. student in clinical science at Vanderbilt. Her research examines sleep disturbance as a causal factor in the development of anxiety-related disorders and specific mechanisms that may account for this relationship, such as stress reactivity and deficits in inhibitory control. Rebecca’s research has been published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research and the Journal of Anxiety Disorders. When she’s not in the lab, Rebecca enjoys hiking, Pilates, and choral singing.

Brandy Daniels

Brandy Daniels is a Ph.D. candidate in theological studies and a fellow in the prestigious theology and practice at Vanderbilt University. She has an M.Div. and an M.A. in comparative literature and African American studies from Duke University. Her research interests center around questions of theological anthropology at the intersections of systematics, critical theory, and ethics. Brandy has taught at Rutgers, Pace University, and and Union Theological Seminary. Her published works deal with topics ranging from Bonhoeffer and Foucault on racial identity to poststructuralism and liberation theology. In her free time, Brandy enjoys running, hiking, watching Jeopardy!, and eating ice cream.

Mason Garison

Mason Garrison is a Ph.D. student in quantitative psychology, and has a B.A. in economics from Washington University in St. Louis. She studies the impact of personality and intelligence on important life outcomes, using family data. Her research is funded by the National Science Foundation. In her spare time, she enjoys taking her cat, Tukey, on long walks, recovering lost psychology studies, and editing wikipedia.

Zach Gaslowitz

Zach Gaslowitz is a math Ph.D. student at Vanderbilt, studying structural graph theory. He has been teaching courses on discrete mathematics and game theory for VSA for the past three years. When not thinking about awesome mathematics, Zach enjoys bicycling, wood-carving, and juggling.

Kimberly Goins

Kimberly Goins is a licensed attorney with the New York State Bar, earning both an M.A. and J.D. from the University of Alabama. Her professional practice focused on healthcare and criminal law. She has also served as the Vice Director for Disaster Legal Services for the Young Lawyer’s Division of the American Bar Association for 4 years. Kim is currently finishing her M.T.S. degree at Vanderbilt Divinity School with intentions to work in the nonprofit sector before going on to further doctoral work. Kim’s favorite pastime is trying to keep up with her energetic two-year old, Penelope.

Dawson Gray

Dawson Gray is in his thirteenth year with Vanderbilt Programs for Talented Youth and his eleventh year as an instructor. He currently teaches at Battle Ground Academy in Franklin, Tennessee, where he serves as the Mathematics Department Chair for grades 5-12 and teaches AP Statistics, AP Calculus AB, and College Preparatory Calculus. He graduated from Vanderbilt University with a double major in piano performance and mathematics, and he completed a master’s degree in secondary education with an emphasis on mathematics at Vanderbilt’s Peabody College.

Erika Grundstrom

Erika Grundstrom loves sharing the wonder of the Universe with everyone young and old and has done so for seven 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 partner dance, play sand volleyball, and travel.

Jan Harris

Jan Harris is a poet, an avid reader, and an accomplished VSA instructor whose popular courses have included Writing and Visual Literacy and Creative Writing: Autobiography. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Alabama in 2008. Harris is a published author whose poetry has appeared in Anthology and Event.

Chris Jaeger

Chris Jaeger is a lawyer and a Psychology Ph.D. student at Vanderbilt. He graduated from Vanderbilt University Law School in 2009, then spent one year as a law clerk to a federal appellate judge in Kansas City, Missouri before returning to Nashville to practice law at Stites & Harbison, PLLC. Chris returned to Vanderbilt to explore his research interests at the intersection of psychology and law as a Ph.D. student. Chris is especially interested in ways that knowledge, beliefs, and expectations affect various cognitive processes ranging from perception to memory to decision-making.

Paul Johnson

Paul Johnson is a doctoral student in Environmental Engineering, Management, and Policy at Vanderbilt University, an interdisciplinary Ph.D. program that integrates social and technical systems to address environmental challenges. Prior to coming to Vanderbilt, Paul was a business manager for the Decision Sciences team at Capital One Financial. He received his M.S. in Engineering Management from Duke University and graduated summa cum laude from Georgia Tech with a B.S. in Industrial and Systems Engineering.

Ashlyn Karan

Ashlyn is a Ph.D. student in the department of Teaching and Learning. She is researching how introducing programming and computational thinking into traditional STEM classes can support math and science learning. Ashlyn loves programming because it combines problem-solving and logical thinking with design challenges.

Peter Kropp

Peter Kropp is a Nashville native who is currently a fifth year graduate student at Vanderbilt University. He studies how differences in pancreas development can predispose individuals to diseases such as diabetes and pancreatic cancer. He is drawn to research due to the complex problems that human health presents and the quest to solve those problems. In his spare time Peter is an avid runner and rock climber, and lover of all things outdoors.

Loren LaPointe

Loren LaPointe is a membrane protein biochemist who is studying proteins involved in Alzheimer’s disease. She did her Ph.D. at UW-Madison on structure and function of membrane proteins in bacterial cell division. She also has extensive experience teaching K-12 students through Vanderbilt Programs for Talented Youth and also the Center for Science Outreach where she has been teaching 7th and 8th grade science for the past year. Loren has a passion for mentoring young scientists and motivating them to pursue careers in STEM.

Amanda Lowery

Amanda Lowery, Ph.D. is returning to VSA for a 5th year. She is a native Tennessean and has been at Vanderbilt for 9 years. Amanda received her doctorate at Rice University and now teaches in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. She teaches freshmen to seniors and has a passion for laboratory courses. Amanda’s creative approach to teaching lab skills encourages students to think, explore, take risks, and discover.

Jordan Nikkel

Jordan Nikkel is an enthusiastic Vanderbilt Ph. D. student in the mathematics department, studying geometric group theory and specializing in the Thompson Groups. He has been a TA for many Vanderbilt math classes, and has loved tutoring students of many ages in a multitude of mathematical principles and skills since 2009. Jordan enjoys spending quality time with his wife, hiking, piano, and playing video games.

Quincy Rhoads

Quincy Rhoads teaches English composition at Nashville State Community College in Clarksville, TN. He has a Master’s in English from Austin Peay State University and has been teaching for five years. He is also a contributing editor to the web magazine Entropy. His criticism and creative writing have been published in Plough Shares, Zone 3, Uno Kudo and elsewhere. As of late his creative output has focused on the intersection of popular culture with highbrow literature and creative writing.

Zeeshan Samad

Zeeshan Samad is a doctoral candidate in Economics at Vanderbilt. He also has a Master’s in Public Policy from the University of Maryland. He has long been passionate about behavioral economics and why in the real-world people do not act ‘rationally’. His current research is about how people’s mood (e.g. being happy or sad) affects their decision-making ability. He believes in using experiments with random people to prove ideas in economics. In his free time he likes to swim, play chess, or read.

Zachary Settle

Zachary Thomas Settle is currently a PhD student in the Graduate Department of Religion at Vanderbilt, where he is working in the areas of political theology and political economy. He is the theology editor for The Other Journal, and he has written for numerous publications, including the Journal of Cultural and Religious Theory and The Other Journal. He is also the co-editor of Dreams, Doubt and Dread: The Spiritual in Film (Cascade, 2016).

Mackenzie Sunday

Mackenzie Sunday is a third-year graduate student in the Department of Psychology, in the Cognition and Cognitive Neuroscience program. She completed her undergraduate degree at the University of South Carolina and now works in Dr. Isabel Gauthier’s lab researching face and object perception using individual differences approaches. Her work focuses on how people differ in their abilities to recognize objects and why these differences might occur. She also researches perceptual expertise effects using neuroimaging methods.

Aileen Teague

Aileen Teague is a Ph.D. Candidate in History at Vanderbilt. Her research interests include U.S. interactions with Latin America (particularly Mexico), U.S. national security policy, militarization, and drug control history. Her dissertation examines the effects of U.S. drug enforcement efforts in 1970s Mexico. Her opinion pieces have appeared in History News Network, The Global Intelligence, and Time Magazine. Prior to entering graduate school, Aileen served as a U.S. Marine Corps officer. Outside of her research, Aileen enjoys long distance running, travel, singing karaoke, and hiking with her dog, Gracie Lou.

Susan Verberne-Sutton

Susan Verberne-Sutton is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Chemistry in the College of Arts and Sciences. She has over 8 years of experience teaching courses from freshman chemistry to senior-level nano-based courses with Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Dr. Sutton draws from her experience as a synthetic chemist in Silicon Valley a well as her time as director of a nanoscience laboratory to build a course that will showcase contemporary skill sets in the materials industry. Her dissertation focused on surface science, the interface between chemistry and devices, using nanotemplating technologies to develop surface architectures for polymer-based photovoltaics (plastic solar cells).

Courtney Caudle Travers

Courtney Caudle Travers is a senior lecturer in Communication Studies at Vanderbilt University. Her research and teaching focus on the merger between American political and popular culture, particularly during the early Cold War era. She has co-authored an essay on metaphor in Style, and her current project examines Jacqueline Kennedy’s visual rhetorical influence on the Kennedy administration’s presidential persona. She has taught public speaking and rhetoric courses for more than five years.

Sheahan Virgin

Sheahan Virgin is a Ph.D. student in political science at Vanderbilt University, specializing in electoral systems and institutional reform. He previously earned a B.A. (2008) and an M.A. (2010) in political science from Grinnell College and from the University of Chicago, respectively. In his spare time, he enjoys tennis and classical music.
Greg WalkerGreg Walker is an associate professor of mechanical engineering, holding several appointments at Vanderbilt, including in the Interdisciplinary Materials Science program, the Thermal Engineering Lab, the Advanced Computing Center for Research and Education, and the Vanderbilt Institute of Nanoscale Science and Engineering. His research interests include the modeling and simulation of non-equilibrium, coupled energy transport in electronic and energy conversion materials.

Greg Walker

Greg Walker is an associate professor of mechanical engineering, holding several appointments at Vanderbilt, including in the Interdisciplinary Materials Science program, the Thermal Engineering Lab, the Advanced Computing Center for Research and Education, and the Vanderbilt Institute of Nanoscale Science and Engineering. His research interests include the modeling and simulation of non-equilibrium, coupled energy transport in electronic and energy conversion materials.