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John P. McNulty Scholars and Mentors - Past

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Past John P. McNulty Scholars and Mentors



Scholars Mentors
Maha Alsubai Dr. Shirzad Jenab
Vivienne Baldassare Dr. Kelle Cruz
Ksenia Denisova Dr. Cheryl Harding
Valentina Erstenyuk Dr. Michael Siller
Ann George
Dr. Michael Siller
Elena Guskova Dr. Shengping Zheng
Elen Gusman Dr. Derrick Brazill
Kathleen McGovern Dr. Noel Goddard
Clara Ng Dr. Lei Xie
Mariola Szenk
Dr. Noel Goddard
Aleksandra Zviaguine Dr. Chris Braun

See Current Scholars


Maha Alsubai

Faculty Mentor: Professor Shirzad Jenab, Psychology

Maha graduated with a major in Psychology and a Special Honors Curriculum through the Thomas Hunter Honors Program. During her freshmen and sophomore years in college she volunteered in the Arab-American Family Support Center (AAFSC) teaching English and life skills to illiterate women from her home country, Yemen. She also became a Teacher’s Assistant for a health literacy course at AAFSC and a health literacy advocate at NY Methodist Hospital.

Working in Dr. Shirzad Jenab’s lab for two years as a research assistant, Maha’s first year project consisted of modeling Parkinson’s disease in dopaminergic cells (SH-SY5Y cells). These cells were treated with methamphetamine, dopamine, and MPP+ to see which of the treatments, if any, would have an effect on the apoptosis process (cell death). This research is important not only for Parkinson’s patients but for all patients of neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s disease, and others. As a McNulty Scholar, Maha was able to continue doing research in neuroscience. In her second year, she assisted in uncovering sex differences in the expression of certain proteins in reward-associated areas of the brain, and presented her findings in Hunter’s Undergraduate Research Conference.

Maha believes that medicine combines her interest in science and medicine with her passion for helping people. She is interested in Osteopathic medicine’s holistic approach to treating patients and hopes to become a physician who not only treats patients, but helps them understand how to improve their own health. She is also a certified Phlebotomist and ECG Technician, currently interning at a clinic and shadowing in Cardiology.

Maha was a member of Psi Chi International Society and Golden Key International Society, and she received several awards, including the prestigious Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, the Study/Travel Opportunities for CUNY Students Scholarship, Philip & Aida Siff Scholarship, and the American Society for Clinical Pathology Phlebotomy Scholarship.


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Vivienne Baldassare

Faculty Mentor: Professor Kelle Cruz, Physics and Astronomy

Vivienne Baldassare was a physics major at Hunter College and was part of the CUNY Macaulay Honors College. Vivienne was introduced to astronomy research during the summer of 2009, when she had the opportunity to study galaxy morphology at the American Museum of Natural History. During that experience, Vivienne developed a passion for astronomy, leading her to seek out more astronomy research opportunities. Vivienne's McNulty Scholars Program mentor was Professor Kelle Cruz, in the Hunter College Physics and Astronomy Department. As a McNulty Scholar, Vivienne hstudied brown dwarfs, which are star-like objects that don't have an energy source in their core, like stars do. Vivienne worked to confirm the ages of suspected young brown dwarfs, which will help us understand how brown dwarfs evolve over time.

Since graduating from Hunter College, Vivienne is pursuing her PhD in astronomy at hhe University of Michigan. Vivienne plans to become a professor at the university level, and to conduct galaxy evolution research. Vivienne is also extremely committed to increasing the representation of women in science and blogs regularly about issues relating to the advancement of women in the sciences.


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Ksenia Denisova

Faculty Mentor: Professor Cheryl Harding, Psychology

In addition to being a McNulty scholar, Ksenia was an Athena scholar who majored in psychology with a concentration in behavioral neuroscience. She joined Dr. Cheryl Harding's neuroimmunology lab during her freshman year, and she contributed to an ongoing project to develop a mouse model of the effects of mold exposure on cognitive function. She was part of a team researching whether mold inhalation results in deficits in spatial and contextual memory that depend on hippocampal function. The research aims to progress the body of knowledge that can be used to prevent and treat consequences of mold exposure in humans.

Ksenia was the president of the Hunter Psychology Collective's publication Psych News. She volunteered in New York-Presbyterian Hospital during her junior year, visiting patients in the neurology department as well as the pediatric department. As a member of the American Red Cross Club, she volunteered to coordinate the annual American Red Cross blood drive hosted by Hunter College. She also participated in Alternative Winter Break as part of a volunteer group who worked in Give Kids the World Village, a nonprofit resort for children with severe illnesses in Orlando, Florida. During her volunteer experience, Ksenia was inspired by the work of physicians and the meaningful interactions she had with patients. Currently, she works in a pain management clinic. She plans to apply to medical school to contribute her passion to the medical profession.


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Valentyna Erstenyuk

Faculty Mentor: Professor Michael Siller, Psychology

Valentyna, from Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine, was a Psychology major, concentrating in Behavioral Neuroscience. During her sophomore year, Valentyna had an opportunity to volunteer at Wyckoff Heights Medical Center. This experience sparked her interest in science, health, and medicine. Interactions with physicians inspired her to pursue a career as a doctor. Valentyna believes that medicine in unlike any other field, combining knowledge from just about every aspect of science, directed towards helping people, while providing unlimited educational and intellectual challenge required for professional and personal development. Valentyna continues to volunteer at the hospital as a hospice volunteer, bringing comfort and support to patients and their family members to help them through the hardest times.

Valentyna participated in the Thomas Hunter Honors program in addition to pursuing her Honors degree in Psychology. Valentyna is interested in researching developmental milestones in children diagnosed with autism. Under the supervision of Dr. Michael Siller, she worked on a project that aimed to determine if children with autism, when compared to typically developing children, demonstrate differences in visual processing of social information. Valentyna presented her work at the International Meeting for Autism Research, as well as at Neuroscience professional conferences.

Working with children who have developmental disorders ignited Valentyna's desire to learn more about different health topics, and to share her existing knowledge with others. She joined Peer Health Exchange, an organization which aims to provide teenagers from public schools with the information and skills they need to make healthy decisions. Every Friday during the school year Valentyna, together with other Peer Health Exchange volunteers, visited New York City high school classrooms and spoke to students about making healthy decisions.

Being a part of the John P. McNulty Scholars program, Valentyna was exposed to a variety of experiences that helped her grow educationally, intellectually and professionally.


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Ann George

Faculty Mentor: Professor Michael Siller, Psychology

In addition to being a McNulty Scholar, Ann was in the Thomas Hunter Honors Program, majoring in psychology. Working under the supervision of Dr. Michael Siller, she was involved with research on developing and instituting a learning collaborative process to enhance toddler autism screening and referral practices by primary care physicians. Additionally, she conducted a comparison study of narrative abilities of children with autism spectrum disorder and typically developing children.

She is interested in holistic and integrative approaches to optimizing individual and community health and function. In addition to her academic pursuits, Ann is a life coach and works to empower people in being responsible for their wellness. She is continuously learning new tools and practices to enable individuals to live their best lives and contribute to others. Currently she is developing a new course with her fiancé to support alternative healthcare practitioners in expanding their businesses and better serving their clients. With extensive training in team management and transformational leadership, Ann also looks for opportunities to contribute on the community level through various wellness initiatives.

Ann graduated from Hunter College in January 2013. As she is particularly interested in integrative evidence-based practices for effectively instituting positive individual and organizational change, her post-graduate studies and research will most likely be in this area. She intends to also enjoy married life and travel extensively, working with more clients and organizations for a healthy, happy world.


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Elena Guskova

Faculty Mentor: Professor Shengping Zheng, Chemistry

Elena was part of the John P. McNulty Scholars program and the Thomas Hunter Honors program. Elena's interests range from Russian literature, chemistry, and physics to yoga, photography, history, and music. Elena majored in Russian and Biochemistry, and she pursued a Special Honors Curriculum in the Thomas Hunter Honors program.

In the future, Elena envisions herself a doctor. As an excellent mentoring program for young scholars, the McNulty Scholars Program has helped Elena to work towards achieving this goal. Elena worked in the Chemistry department with Professor Shengping Zheng. In Dr. Zheng's lab, Elena worked on research projects that were focused on developing new synthetic methodologies in organic chemistry. Their aim was to improve existing methods, to develop new ones, and ultimately, to create a less polluted environment.


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Elen Gusman

Faculty Mentor: Professor Derrick Brazill, Biological Sciences

Elen Gusman was a McNulty Scholar at Hunter College working in Dr. Derrick Brazill's Biology Laboratory.  She studied the signal transduction pathway and the effects of Protein Kinase C (PKC) and Phospholipase D (PldB) on the regulation of the actin cytoskeleton of Dictyostelium discoideum, a model organism. By conducting actin staining assays on vegetative and starved ax2 wild-type, PKCoe, PldBko, and PKCoe/PldBko mutants, Elen aimed to propose a pathway in which these proteins interact in regulating the cytoskeleton. As a McNulty Scholar, Elen gained an opportunity to not only grow an appreciation for basic science research, but also to understand the importance of mentoring, teamwork, and collaboration.

In addition to working in Dr. Brazill's Laboratory, Elen also pursued her interest in science and in medicine as a Research Assistant at the Breast Center of Weill Cornell Medical College. While working on a study designed to evaluate the efficacy of a particular surgical procedure, she had the opportunity to shadow physicians and learn more about treatment plans for patients during oncology case conferences. Elen has also volunteered at New York Presbyterian Hospital, where she worked with patients in the Hematology Oncology Department. Elen currently volunteers with children in the Pediatrics department.

Elen was also involved in leadership activities and shared her interest in research and science with her peers by organizing mentoring and community service opportunities as the Vice President of the Pre-health Organization at Hunter. In her spare time, Elen taught acrylic and oil painting classes to children at a school in which she herself first learned how to paint. Elen plans to apply to medical school to further her interest in integrating research and medicine, on the community level.


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Kathleen McGovern

Faculty Mentor: Professor Noel Goddard, Physics and Astronomy


Kathleen McGovern came to Hunter College with a background in the arts.  Coming  from a musical family, she is the granddaughter of jazz legend Stan Getz.  At the age of sixteen she was selected with other students from the Julliard School to be featured on the National Radio Program “From the Top” featuring young artists, which was broadcast live from Carnegie Hall.  She has studied with the principal players of the New York Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Opera and played extensively until she left the world of music due to illness. 

In coming to Hunter College, Kathleen found a new passion in science and mathematics, majoring in Physics with a concentration in biophysics and Mathematics with a concentration in quantitative biology.  She was the first student in the history of Hunter College to simultaneously earn these two degrees. 

Kathleen worked in the lab of Dr. Eric Sobie at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, where she researched mathematical modeling of drug-induced cardiac arrhythmias at the cellular level.  Kathleen has presented posters on this research at the 2011 and 2012 annual meetings of the Biophysical Society.  In the summer of 2010 Kathleen was selected to participate in research at the Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology undergraduate research program in biomedical optics.  Her project involved using novel optical techniques to determine mechanical properties of cell scaffolds and testing the response of cancer cells to changes in their mechanical microenvironment. 

Kathleen is extremely grateful to her McNulty mentor, Dr. Noel Goddard, for all her insight and unwavering support.  Kathleen graduated as a member of Phi Beta Kappa in 2012 as well as a McNulty and a McNair scholar.  She was the first person in her family to earn a college degree.   She is mainly interested in mathematical biophysics and intends on earning a doctorate in biophysics/quantitative biology.    Outside of school and research, Kathleen enjoys ballroom dancing and hot yoga.


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Clara Ng

Faculty Mentor: Professor Lei Xie, Computer Science

Clara, a major in Computer Science with a concentration in Quantitative Biology, was part of the John P. McNulty Scholars program and the Catalyst Scholars program.

The Quantitative Biology concentration and Catalyst are both interdisciplinary programs, which has allowed Clara to meet and work with students from various backgrounds.  She was part of a team working on an XOR-gate based on the mechanism of opposing promoters.  As part of the Catalyst program, she was part of a research team studying windbelts, an alternative to traditional wind turbines.

Clara worked in the Computational Systems Biology, Biomolecular Modeling and Bioinformatics Laboratory with Professor Lei Xie. In Dr. Xie's lab, Clara worked on network-inference of drug-target networks, which may  facilitate drug repurposing, side effect prediction, and polypharmacology drug design.


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Mariola Szenk

Faculty Mentor: Professor Noel Goddard, Physics and Astronomy

As a graduate of Staten Island Technical High School, Mariola has been strongly inclined toward scientific study. She believes that science and technology will be the venues of human progress and enlightenment. At Hunter, she was enrolled in the Macaulay Honors Program majoring in Physics, Economics and minoring in Mathematics.

Mariola has been interested in how local rules of interaction can lead to global spatiotemporal properties. In the past, she conducted research in Systems Biology at Mount Sinai Hospital and in Synthetic Biology at M.I.T. As a McNulty Scholar, Mariola worked at Dr. Altan-Bonnet's lab at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in collaboration with Dr. Goddard, her McNulty mentor at Hunter College. They working on developing and tested a single cell RT-qPCR protocol which aimed to study the dynamics of decision making in naïve T-cells.

From the study of Biophysics, Mariola has seen that the merging of the disciplines of the biological and the mechanical are expanding a new frontier of technology. Through the use of emergent or engineered systems, wherein biological components are externally guided or self-assemble through programmed responses into actuators, Mariola and her colleagues developed innovative tools to tackle the problems of the 21st century. Mariola's fascination with this field pushed her to pursue a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering; a program she began in the Fall of 2012.


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Aleksandra Zviaguine

Faculty Mentor: Professor Chris Braun, Psychology

Aleksandra was a Psychology major with a concentration in Behavioral Neuroscience, fascinated by anything that involves human/animal cognition. She has always felt a strong pull towards psychology, specifically the physical and tangible methods of studying and applying psychology.

Aleksandra worked with Dr. Chris Braun of the Psychology department at Hunter on the lateral line and its implications in mosquitofish courtship behaviors. She was also involved in the Contemplative Sciences Lab at NYU under the lead Dr. Zoran Josipovic, which focuses on meditation research.

When she was not pursuing her studies and research interests, Aleksandra worked at Learning RX, a company that specializes in ‘brain training’, a vigorous program aimed at increasing the cognitive efficiency of both kids and adults with ADHD, autism, traumatic brain injuries, dyslexia, and anybody who may need a boost. In the future, Aleksandra hopes to continue to work in a setting that allows her the opportunity to connect with and mentor people with psychological challenges, while at the same time to continue to investigate the mysteries in the structure and function of the brain. Aleksandra is incredibly thankful for the opportunity to have been a McNulty scholar where she was surrounded by and learned from such inspirational young aspiring female scientists.


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