STAR U 2022 Alumni Bios
Alexandra Diaz-Ariza is a recent graduate from Florida International University where she double majored in Biology and Natural and Applied Sciences. She was born and raised in Miami, Florida as a first generation American with parents from Puerto Rico and Colombia. During her previous summer as a STAR U scholar she worked with Dr. Kiran Thakur in developing a long-COVID protocol. As a native Spanish speaker, she is looking forward to continuing her work in this study and hopes to gain valuable experiences which she can practice in her future medical career. She is excited for all the learning opportunities this program will provide and hopes to create lasting bonds with the incoming cohort and mentors.
I was born and raised in Queens, Corona. I’m a senior at Hunter College majoring in biological science with a double minor in psychology and sociology, with a keen interest in neuroscience research, and helping disadvantaged communities. My ultimate goal is to obtain an MD-PHD to provide care in underserved communities and, through research, develop an understanding of neurological diseases that cause a great deal of disability. My hobbies consist of drawing, running, and attending yoga classes. My interest is in minimizing the poverty gap in NYC. As an intern at the Urban Outreach Center, we are actively working on projects to achieve this goal. Additionally, I’m Vice President of the Latino Medical Association where my team and I help first-generation students obtain the resources they need to succeed in undergrad and a mentor at the Pre-health Mentoring Initiative. During my sophomore year of high school, I had the opportunity to perform at the White House and meet Michelle Obama. I’m excited about the STAR U program and doing research in aging/neuropsychology because it is a wonderful opportunity to broaden my knowledge of the other fields in neuroscience, while also giving me more hands-on experience in Clinical Research.
Kyla Cummings is a rising senior at Michigan State University, where she is pursuing a degree in Psychology with a minor in Cognitive Science. Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, Kyla plans to attend graduate school to obtain a PhD in Clinical Neuropsychology. Kyla is currently a member of the Psychology and Neuroscience Clubs at Michigan State. She also participates in Our Collective Brains, which helps connect diverse undergraduate psychology students to resources regarding graduate school and career development opportunities. Outside of academics, Kyla loves to go on runs, read new books, eat chocolate chip cookies, and tend to her plants in her grandmother’s garden. A fun fact about her is that she studied classical violin for seven years. Kyla is very excited to be a part of the STAR U program for a second year and have the opportunity to connect with others within the field of neuropsychology and brain aging.
I am from Birmingham, AL. I am a sophomore at Alabama State University and I’m majoring in Psychology. I want to obtain my Master’s and PhD in Neuropsychology or Cognitive Neuropsychology. I love to do research and figure out why things happen in certain ways. I see myself working in a lab discovering new information often. I love to travel to new places and read. I like to go to the gym. I like to volunteer in my community. I am involved with the W.E.B. Dubois Honors Program, Psi Chi and National Society of Leadership and Success. I developed an interest in neurocognitive diseases and aging after watching my grandmother manage her Alzheimer’s disease. I am excited for the STAR U program because I will be able to explore and learn new things about the world of neuropsychology that I have only dreamed about learning. I will be able to put all of my energy into learning more about the aging process. I hope to leave STAR U with an abundance of knowledge and guidance about my next steps in my career.
Joseph (Jojo) Nacario
Joseph (Jojo) Nacario is originally from San Diego, California, and is a rising senior at Vanderbilt University studying child development and medicine, health, and society. He plans to pursue a PhD in nursing science and become a nurse practitioner. At Vanderbilt, he is involved in clinical research, the Pre-Nursing Society, and various volunteer organizations including Special Olympics. Outside the classroom, Jojo enjoys going to the beach, hiking, and traveling. He just completed a semester abroad in Florence, Italy, and traveled to seven different countries. He is also a triplet! Jojo is excited about the STAR U program to meet diverse minds that share a common interest in aging brain research. He is excited to conduct aging research in order to help improve the lives of those who have aging brain disorders.
Camryn Dixon is from Brooklyn, New York with roots in Saint Lucia and Trinidad. She is a rising sophomore at Harvard University and plans to major in History of Science and African American Studies. In the future she hopes to improve health disparities through research and health policy. At school she has been the Director of Diversity for Harvard's World Pre-Health Conference and the Director of Outreach for the Connected Foundation. In her free time she enjoys staying active and spending time with friends. She is excited for the StarU program because she is interested in exploring racism's impact on cognitive health and hopes to contribute to the field.
Munira Zaker Urmi
My name is Munira Zaker Urmi; I'm currently a junior at Lehman college pursuing Bachelor's degree in Psychology. I'm the first in my family to attend college and major in a subject related to mind and behavior. My goal is to get a P.h.D in clinical neuropsychology, teach in college, work in the clinic, and be a therapist. Moving forward, one of the primary reasons I decided to study the Neuropsychology field is because I want to support every individual experiencing terrible cognitive conditions and lacking the treatment and support. I believe that gaining enough knowledge regarding connections between brain structures and mental and behavioral processes can give me the ability to help others and give them a better life. STAR U will assist me in fulfilling my purposes and achieving more.
My name is Anna Rios (she/her) and I’m an incoming neuroscientist in training at Harvard Medical School, in partnership with Brigham and Women’s Hospital. I grew up in California and attended undergrad at UC Berkeley, where I recently graduated with a degree in Molecular and Cell Biology. Three interests of mine include neurodegeneration, the microbiome, and the art of science communication. As a STAR U participant, I’m excited to collaborate with Dr. Troy on a research project investigating a novel therapeutic for Alzheimer’s Disease. Moreover, I’m looking forward to exploring New York City alongside members of this summer’s cohort!
I'm from Nashville, Tennessee and I'm a rising senior at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. I am a Psychology major with a minor in Biology. On campus, I am a Brock scholar in the Honors College, an Honors College ambassador, a psychological research volunteer/assistant, a member of the Psi Chi Honors society, and a member of the Big Brother Big Sister university chapter. My career goal is to eventually become a clinical neuropsychologist, serving and providing knowledge on brain aging to communities of color. I enjoy trying new restaurants, spending time with friends and family, and cooking/baking. I also really enjoy my leisure time either streaming new shows, online shopping, or reading. Something interesting about me is that I went to performing arts middle and high schools playing the clarinet for eight years, piano for one, and being involved with the theater department for five years. I am so excited to participate in brain aging research with StarU this summer because I'll get to meet like-minded students, learn more about my desired field, connect with professionals, and use cool new technology all in a new city hundreds of miles away from home.
Veria Puerta-Alvarado is a Peruvian-American student at the Burnett Honors College in the University of Central Florida (UCF). She is in the neuroscience track for the Biomedical Sciences major and plans to go to graduate school to get a PhD in Neuroscience. She is interested in conducting research in sleep, memory, cognition, and consciousness.
She is excited for the STARU program because she will get to research aging and neurodegenerative diseases, which allows her to study loss of cognitive function, and indirectly also study consciousness. She is also looking forward to improving her skills in molecular neuroscience techniques, building up her coding skills, and learning the R statistical program.
She greatly enjoys using molecular neuroscience/biomedical techniques for research, which she has been exposed to through university courses and projects. She has worked on a quantitative chromatin immunoprecipitation project (qChIP) to compare REST protein levels in Alzheimer’s disease versus healthy donor brains at the Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU), and her current project is to develop a qPCR protocol to implement in UCF’s Quantitative Biological Methods course. She has also been working at the Attention & Memory Psychology Lab on electroencephalography (EEG) experiments and learned python coding for online experiments.
My name is Hanna Nkulu and I am a sophomore student from the University of Arizona majoring in Neuroscience with a minor in Chinese. My passion for studying foreign languages and memory led me to the field of neuroscience, and my enthusiasm for cognition grows with every passing day. At my university, I am actively involved in the Amateur Radio club, table tennis club, and the student association for Neuroscience and Cognitive Science majors, as well as being an undergraduate research assistant in a psychology lab focusing on autobiographical memory. Outside of my academic pursuits, I love watching coming-of-age movies and studying astrology. As part of the STAR-U program, I look forward to being part of a diverse cohort of undergraduate student researchers in New York, as well as training in neuroimaging research methods to learn more about how aging affects our memory and other cognitive abilities. After undergrad, I intend on spending time abroad expanding my language skills and attending medical school to specialize in neurology, or graduate school for a Clinical Psychology PhD with a Neuropsychology focus. I hope that by furthering my education in neuroscience and related fields, I can positively contribute to clinical perspectives on age-related cognitive changes while also supporting those affected by cognitive decline.
Hi! I’m originally from Jamaica but moved to the Miami area when I was eight years old. I currently go to Pomona College in Claremont, CA majoring in neuroscience. My future career goal is to become an MD/PhD with a research focus in neuroscience but specializing in cardiology. This would allow me to research how cardiovascular diseases lead to certain neurological disorders. Additionally, I would want to become a medical school professor. I am currently involved in Claremont Students for Public Health, BSU, Project Sunshine, and work as a RA. Outside of school, I volunteer with Matriculate as an advisor to high school seniors applying to college. A fun fact about me is that I have been flying alone since the age of 5 and this made me delve into aviation, and now I know almost everything about commercial aviation. The coolest thing I’ve done would probably be going to Europe for a week with my close friends and having the time of my life. I’m super excited to be a part of the STAR U program because it will enhance my brain aging knowledge, better prepare me for future goals, and allow me to make long-lasting friendships and connections.
Hey everybody! My name is Ayman Hammad! I am a native New Yorker, although ethnically I am Jordanian! I currently attend Hunter College as a Behavioral Neurobiology Major and Economics Minor on the Pre-Medical Track and hope to have a career in Medicine in the future. I love sports/fitness and actually just completed the Brooklyn Marathon in late April to raise money for Glioblastoma Research! I also love cooking, picnics, and meeting new people! Can’t wait to see y’all soon!