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Current John P. McNulty Scholars and Mentors

Rena Abramova Dr. Robert Thompson
Munazza Alam

Dr. Kelle Cruz
Naxhije Berisha
Dr. Charles Drain
Janet Borrero

Dr. Saad Mneimneh
Sara Camnasio

Dr. Kelle Cruz

Dr. Emily Rice

Daphne Ko

Dr. Jayne Raper
Diane Kogan

Dr. David Foster
Nicola Kriefall

Dr. Chris Braun

Dr. James Hudspeth

Chhime Sherpa Dr. Mandë Holford
Esraa Soliman Dr. Frida Kleiman
Alla Uts Dr. Mitchell Goldfarb
Roseann Weick Dr. Nancy Greenbaum
Linda Wong Dr. Cheryl Harding
Nadha Yakoob Dr. Cheryl Harding

See Past Scholars


Rena Abramova

Faculty Mentor: Professor Robert Thompson, Mathematics


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Munazza Alam

Faculty Mentor: Professor Kelle Cruz, Physics and Astronomy

Munazza Alam is a physics major in the Macaulay Honors program interested in pursuing a career in astrophysics research. She works with a research group called BDNYC (Brown Dwarfs in New York City) that is based in the Astrophysics Department at the American Museum of Natural History. BDNYC studies brown dwarfs, low mass astronomical objects that form like stars, but are not massive enough to sustain hydrogen fusion in their cores. As a result, they cool and fade over time to resemble gas giant planets like Jupiter.

Munazza's current research project with fellow McNulty scholar, Sara Camnasio, involves two subtypes of unusual brown dwarfs that are described as either "red" or "blue." Whereas red brown dwarfs are brighter at longer wavelengths, blue brown dwarfs are brighter at shorter wavelengths (when compared to their similarly-classified counterparts). Her work involves comparing near-infrared observations of these unusually blue and red brown dwarfs to "normal" (standard) brown dwarfs at different wavelengths and spectral resolutions to elucidate their underlying atmospheric and physical properties.

Munazza loves to do her science as much as she loves talking about it with others!  As astronomer Carl Sagan wrote, "Not explaining science seems to me perverse. When you're in love, you want to tell the world."


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Naxhije Berisha

Faculty Mentor: Professor Charles Michael Drain, Chemistry

Naxhije Berisha, affectionately known as “Gia,” is a junior at Hunter College majoring in biochemistry. She is presently in Dr. Drain’s Photonics and Nanotechnology lab in Hunter College where she works on synthesis and characterization of porphyrins and phthalocyanines. Moreover, she is studying how nano-graphene oxide can enhance therapeutic properties of these photo-active molecules. Gia also works at the Physical Science Learning Center in the school, where she tutors General and Organic Chemistry. She hopes to continue her research by pursuing a PhD in chemistry or biochemistry. She is incredibly grateful to the McNulty Scholars program for its support in her studies.



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Janet Borrero

Faculty Mentor: Professor Saad Mneimneh, Computer Science

Janet C. Borrero is a post-baccalaureate student at Hunter College with a previous B.S. in Biology from SUNY Geneseo.  She is currently majoring in Computer Science with a Bioinformatics Concentration at Hunter.  She is presently working with Dr. Saad Mneimneh on a potential way to determine protein structures using their cysteine framework.  She is extremely grateful to Dr. Saad Mneimneh and McNulty Scholars program for the opportunity. 


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Sara Camnasio

Faculty Mentors: Professor Kelle Cruz, Physics & Astronomy

                             Professor Emily Rice, Engineering Science & Physics, College of Staten Island

Sara is a junior at Macaulay Honors at Hunter College, majoring in Physics and Astronomy. She moved from Italy five years ago and dreams of pursuing a career in the aerospace field. For the past two years, she has been interning at the American Museum of Natural History in the Astrophysics department. She is extremely excited to be a part of the McNulty Scholars program, and to meet and be inspired by a group of such talented women.

Sara’s main research focus has been investigating the properties of brown dwarfs–low-mass stellar objects that form like stars, but are not massive enough to ignite hydrogen burning, so they cool to resemble gas giant planets. For the past year in particular, she has been investigating with colleague and fellow McNulty scholar Munazza Alam the properties of brown dwarfs that present extreme infra-red colors. These colors, namely red and blue, are not physical colors; in astronomy terms they are simply an indication of whether the spectrum of the star peaks at longer (red) or shorter (blue) wavelengths. Through current and past projects, she has had the opportunity to present her work at major conferences around the country and has had the chance to directly collect astronomical data at the 2.1-meter telescope on Kitt Peak National Observatory (Arizona), and soon at the NASA IRTF facility on Mauna Kea (Hawai’i).

Besides being a passionate junior astronomer, Sara loves dance and is extremely fascinated by the meeting point of science and performance art. She is also a fierce promoter of the advancement of women in STEM and is involved with the Women of STEM Macaulay Hunter group, as well as the Intrepid Museum GOALS for Girls Camp. She is also a web design/social media intern at the Harold Hunter Foundation in New York City.


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Daphne Ko

Faculty Mentor: Professor Jayne Raper, Biological Sciences

Daphne Ko is currently a junior at Hunter College and double majoring in Biology and Chinese. She recently joined Professor Jayne Raper's lab, where they study trypanosome lytic factors (TLFs) and their role in primate innate immunity. TLFs can kill African trypanosomes, some of which cause African sleeping sickness. Daphne is excited to be a part of this lab, since she aspires to become a researcher in biology.

Daphne is also a part of the Thomas Hunter Honors Program as well as the Chinese Flagship Program. She has just spent a summer abroad in Taiwan, where she studied Chinese at the National University of Taiwan. In addition, she is a tutor at the Physical Sciences Learning Center at Hunter College, where she is able to share her love of science by offering help to chemistry students.

Daphne is thankful to be a McNulty scholar and for the opportunities this program offers.



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Diane Kogan

Faculty Mentor: Professor David Foster, Biological Sciences

Diane, a senior at Hunter College, is a McNulty scholar majoring in biochemistry and minoring in psychology. She is also part of the Yalow Scholar program, a scholarship awarded to students dedicated to careers in the physical sciences or medicine. Diane aspires to become a physician and is most interested in the fields of general pediatrics and pediatric oncology. She is currently in the process of applying to medical school.

Diane first became interested in oncology while interning at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. There, she had many shadowing opportunities and helped conduct two separate clinical research projects. The first focused on the effects of radiation therapy on a pediatric skeletal muscle cancer, rhabdomyosarcoma. The second project looked into breast cancer screening guidelines and mammogram findings in women 80 and over. She is excited to join the McNulty team and to gain research experience in a laboratory setting.


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Nicola Kriefall

Faculty Mentor:  Professor James Hudspeth, The Rockefeller University

                             Professor Chris Braun, Psychology

Nicola is a senior and Biology major with a concentration in Neurobiology.  She is currently a Yalow Scholar, a scholarship granted to students dedicated to careers in the physical sciences or medicine.  Nicola also won a prestigious Goldwater Scholarship for 2014, the nation's most prestigious undergraduate scientific award. She is excited to be a McNulty Scholar and a part of such a fascinating and devoted team.

Nicola has been captivated by the ocean for as long as she can remember.  Her passion has led her to work in three laboratories that utilize aquatic animals.  For the majority of her time at Hunter College, she studied the behavior and physiology of weakly electric fish with Dr. Chris Braun of the Psychology Department.  Over the summer, she works with Dr. Gerardo Morfini at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, MA, using squid neurons to analyze the molecular mechanisms of neurodegenerative diseases.  During her senior year she began working with Dr. James Hudspeth's team at the Rockefeller University, exploring the role of ion channels in mechanosensory transduction, using zebrafish as a model organism. 

In the future, she will pursue a PhD in Marine Biology at a graduate school on the coast.  Then she will spend the rest of her life conducting conservation research for the benefit of the ocean's ecosystems.  In her free time, she enjoys drawing and adventures.


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Chhime Sherpa

Faculty Mentor: Professor Mandë Holford, Chemistry

Chhime is a senior, who will be majoring in biochemistry. Her volunteering experience at the Elmhurst hospital has inspired her to pursue a career in the medical field. In the future, she hopes to become a clinical pharmacist. Currently, she is working in Dr Holford's lab, which focuses on identifying therapeutically relevant peptides from venomous marine snails that can be used for various biomedical applications, including serving as analgesic compounds for alleviating chronic pain. Being able to apply the knowledge she acquired form science classes in a research lab has tremendously helped her to make connections with the materials she learned in class. Hence, she is very thankful to be part of the McNulty program for giving her a very rewarding research experience. 

Inspired by her mentors, she truly believes that sharing her own educational experience with high school students will inspire and guide them to succeed during high school.  Therefore, she also volunteers at a small nonprofit organization called Network of Sherpa Students and Professionals. As a volunteer she helps organize events such as college fair, financial aid workshop, career workshop, gardening events, museum trips, and also provides information to high school students regarding volunteering opportunities, summer internships and after school programs.  In addition, she also volunteers as a TA for an Organic Chemistry class, where she help students with workshop questions, holds office hours, and help prepare students for future exams to not only get better grades, but also to really understand Organic Chemistry.

All her experiences has allowed her to face different challenges and taught her to overcome future obstacles. Using her experiences, she hopes to become an inspiring clinical pharmacist and a mentor.


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Esraa Soliman

Faculty Mentor: Professor Frida Kleiman, Chemistry

Esraa, a senior at Hunter College and an aspiring doctor, is a McNulty Scholar majoring in Biochemistry with a minor in music literature and history.  She is also part of the Thomas Hunter Honors Program, where she is completing her special honors curriculum in Biochemistry.  Esraa is currently working in Dr. Frida Kleiman's lab, where she has been introduced to RNA processing, DNA damage, and the roles of p53 and BRCA1 in cancer research.  When they are not functioning normally, p53 and BRCA1 often cause the growth of cancer cells.  However, when they function normally, these proteins are significant tumor suppressors that activate other proteins to help repair the DNA damage and prevent cancer.  By understanding the roles of such proteins, we can be one step closer to finding the cure for cancer.

In addition to working in Dr. Kleiman's lab, Esraa is President of the Minority Association of Pre-medical Students (MAPS) and the Vice-President of the Pre-health Organization at Hunter College.  In both organizations, she helps create and present events that will benefit students who wish to pursue a career in medicine and provide them with the networks and resources necessary to succeed in their endeavors.  Esraa has volunteered at Dr. Farhat's office and in the mother-baby unit at NY Methodist Hospital, where her interactions with the patients increased her passion for medicine.  To further explore this passion, she conducted clinical research in the Emergency Department at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital over the summer.  During this time, Esraa was exposed to medical techniques and practices in the emergency department, while assisting in research projects in an effort to improve the quality care of patients.

Esraa is also a research assistant at the Children's Environment Research Group in NYC.  With CERG, she is able to conduct research and case studies seeking to fulfill children's rights and improve the quality of lives of children world-wide.  When necessary, she also helps with Arabic translation.  Through her experiences, Esraa has confirmed her passion for medicine and received great satisfaction when interacting and comforting patients, especially children.  Aside from gaining the John P. McNulty Scholarship, she has also won the Anna Jacobs Scholarship, the HCF Scholarship, the President's Education Award for outstanding excellence, and she is part of the Golden Key Honor Society at Hunter College.  During her free time, Esraa loves to hang out with family and friends, play basketball, read medical novels, listen to music, dance, and hula-hoop.  Soon, she will be applying to medical school to become an emergency medicine doctor with a special focus in pediatrics.  Esraa is very thankful for the opportunities and support that the John P. McNulty Foundation has offered her.  With the support of the Foundation, her mentors, and her peers, she will be able to pursue her dream as a physician.


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Alla Uts

Faculty Mentor: Professor Mitchell Goldfarb, Biological Sciences

Alla Uts is a college junior on the pre-medical track majoring in Biological Sciences and minoring in Africana and Puerto Rican/Latino Studies. She is motivated by her dual interests in scientific and cultural studies. In pursuit of her medical degree, she has had the opportunity to conduct research at several institutions, including the Department of Neurobiology at Columbia University, the Department of Genetics and Genomic Sciences at Mount Sinai Hospital, and the Department of Biological Sciences at Hunter College. In addition to her scientific endeavors in the lab, Alla worked as a counselor at a weekend program for children with autism spectrum disorders, introducing her students to novel activities in a regimented curriculum.

During her sophomore year, Alla was elected president of the Global Brigades Medical/Public Health Chapter at Macaulay Honors because she is passionate about leading through the use of education and empowerment. In August 2014, she took on a greater active role by leading a cohort of students to Panama and offering basic medical support, health education, and sustainable infrastructure to under-resourced rural communities. As a current participant of the John McNulty Foundation, Alla is learning about the importance of leadership and time management. With the help of this program, she hopes to gain a greater skillset that will allow her to build a solid foundation for her career path.




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Roseann Weick

Faculty Mentor: Professor Nancy Greenbaum, Chemistry

Roseann Weick is a junior at Macaulay Honors College at Hunter majoring in Biochemistry. Roseann is currently working in Professor Nancy Greenbaum’s Biochemistry lab, which studies the structural biology of RNA and the intramolecular, intermolecular, and environmental factors that influence RNA folding. In addition to her lab work, Roseann is also the co-director of the newly established Women in STEM Macaulay-Hunter club that strives to motivate and provide female students interested in pursuing the sciences opportunities to excel in their respective fields. Such prospects include a mentorship program with upperclassmen as well as networking panel discussions to provide advice from female professionals.

In the future, Roseann wishes to pursue a career in medicine. She wishes to be part of a dynamic hospital environment, which requires the medical team to think and act quickly to meet their patients’ needs. To immerse herself in this environment and volunteer to provide healthcare services, Roseann participated in a student led service trip with the Macaulay Global Brigades club to provide medical, dental, and public health care to families of rural Panama. Roseann is very grateful for the opportunities provided by the John P. McNulty Scholarship and is excited to develop her leadership skills and combine her passions for science and medicine.


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Linda Wong

Faculty Mentor: Professor Cheryl Harding, Psychology


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Nadha Yakoob

Faculty Mentor: Professor Cheryl Harding, Psychology

Nadha Yakoob is currently a 3rd year student at Hunter with a major in Biochemistry. She is also a part of the Thomas Hunter Honors program following an honors interdisciplinary curriculum with a minor concentration in Psychology. Her interest in psychology stemmed from being a student research assistant in Dr. Cheryl Harding's lab. Together with Dr. Harding, Nadha studies the effects of mold exposure on neural and cognitive function of mice, hoping this will help inform many families that live in moldy buildings who are unknowingly and adversely affected by it.  Nadha is very grateful to Dr. Harding for giving her the opportunity to be part of her lab and for inspiring her deep interest in Neuroimmunology.

Nadha was a long-term volunteer at the neural and cardiac unit at the New York Presbyterian/ Weill Cornell medical center and she also trained new volunteers. She has aided in a clinic in an economically underserved region in Sri Lanka. She also shadowed and served as a student assistant at a dermatology clinic where she learnt more about skin cancer and its effects on our community. These have been vital learning experiences for her, because it showed her how different, and yet similar healthcare can be in various settings. She is always amazed by this vast field of medicine and research. Nadha believes contributing to any part of it has the potential to help many lives. This is why she wants to become a physician and potentially pursue a PhD as well. She hopes to be able to practice medicine in underserved areas, contribute to research and also be part of spreading its education. She sincerely appreciates the support McNulty has given her to help her commit to her goals.


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