Plant Biologist


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How do scientists discover the underlying genetic mutations that are associated with various diseases? Do you wonder how the understanding of DNA replication allows scientists to manipulate the human genome? In the PCRi Biology course, students will learn how scientists answer these revolutionary questions. This course will introduce high school students to the basics of biological research with a particular focus on molecular biology and genetics.


We will provide students with a foundational understanding of the central dogma, and introduce them to routinely used experimental techniques in biological research, including PCR, Western blotting, and CRISPR. Over the course of six weeks, students will collaborate with their peers to analyze primary scientific literature, apply their knowledge of research tools to answer real-world biological questions, and interact with leading principal investigators and graduate students to explore the vast career opportunities that research has to offer. By the end of this course, students will have gained the professional skills necessary to work confidently in laboratory settings. Students will join a diverse community of future scientists to explore their individual interests and prepare them to enter the realm of research.


Jazmine Grant

Jazmine Grant is a junior biology major and chemistry minor from Baltimore, Maryland. She currently serves as a member of Dr. Kimberlei Richardson’s lab at the Howard University School of Medicine, where she focuses on studying the role of the neuropeptide orexin in the co-occurrence of binge eating and drug addiction. She is also a member of the Karsh STEM Scholars Program at Howard University, a program designed to provide education, mentorship and research opportunities for students pursuing professional degrees in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. She is a member of the College of Arts and Science Honors Association, the Biology Honors Program and the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics. She has been named a 2021-2022 Goldwater Scholar. 

Guest Speakers


Josiah Hardy

Josiah Hardy is a rising senior at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County where he studies biochemistry and molecular biology as a Meyerhoff Scholar (M30), Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) fellow, and Undergraduate Research Training Initiative for Student Enhancement (U-RISE) Trainee. His current research in structural biology, under Dr. Michael Summers Ph.D., is focused on developing a high-resolution structure of a highly conserved region in the HIV-1 RNA genome using nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy. Characterizing this structure will allow for the development of novel HIV therapeutics that are resistant to mutation and the development of viral resistance. Josiah plans to pursue an M.D./M.S. dual degree, specializing in immunology. His goal is to work in underserved communities and to collaborate with both epidemiologists and public health specialists to research the effects of chronic stressors related to race and socioeconomic status on the immune response to infection. Josiah is excited for the opportunity to share with PCRi his clinical and research interests as well as his individual path as an undergraduate scientist and Meyerhoff Scholar.

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Dr. Hemayet Ullah 

After obtaining a BS degree in Plant Science from the University of Dhaka, Bangladesh, Dr. Ullah attended North Carolina State University at Raleigh to obtain his MS degree in Plant Science. Afterwards, he joined the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill Ph.D. program in Biology where his research on plant G-Protein coupled signaling has been highlighted in several high impact publications. After obtaining his Ph.D. in 2002, he completed his post-doctoral training at the National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences (NIH/NIEHS) and later joined Howard University as a faculty member of the Biology department in 2004. His lab investigates cellular signal transduction pathways in diverse organisms ranging from human viruses to plants. His research has resulted in the development of drugs to combat human virus replication and to inhibit invasion/migration of diverse cancer cells. His lab research has been developed into 5 different patent applications.

Austin Maduka

Austin Maduka is a 4th year MD-PhD candidate at Duke University School of Medicine. He is pursuing his PhD in Genetics and Genomics in the lab of Dr. Gustavo Silva, focusing on how human cells use the ubiquitin protein modification to protect itself against oxidative damage that occurs in many diseases. His goal is to become an academic scientist and cardiologist, both studying novel fundamental mechanisms of cardiovascular disease and advocating for underserved patient populations. At Duke, he has served as co-president of the Student National Medical Association (SNMA), an organization that supports and creates community for underrepresented medical students. He also was a co-founder of Duke Med for Social Justice. He received his BS in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) in 2017. He was a member of the Meyerhoff Scholars Program, participated in research projects at both Johns Hopkins and MIT focusing on various aspects of the cellular stress response, and engaged in many mentoring and tutoring opportunities while at UMBC. He was born in DC and raised in New Carrollton, MD, and enjoys running, hiking, and cooking/eating delicious food.


Takuma Makihara

Takuma received my BS in physics from Rice University in 2020 and is currently pursuing a PhD in Applied Physics at Stanford University. While at Rice, Takuma pursued a few different research projects. His first project involved studying biomembranes using metallic nanoparticles. His second project involved studying how nanoparticles self-assemble into larger structures. Finally, he studied a variety of quantum phenomena in magnetic materials using an esoteric technique known as terahertz magnetospectroscopy.


Currently, Takuma is pursuing a degree in the field of quantum hardware. Quantum computers promise to solve computational problems exponentially faster than any classical computer we have today. However, we have to overcome many hardware challenges before building a useful quantum computer. There are many different physical platforms that are being explored for quantum hardware applications, and I’m specifically interested in nanoscale mechanical oscillators (imagine extremely small pendulums). 


Takuma excited to participate in PCRi because he had no idea what a PhD or real research was when he started in high school, so he always happy to talk with younger students interested in this career path.


Outside of research, Takuma likes to hike, climb, and read science fiction.

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Tolu was born and raised in Silver Spring, Maryland where he attended the University of Maryland, Baltimore County as a Meyerhoff Scholar. He graduated with a B.S in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (2016) where we went on to pursue a Ph.D at Vanderbilt University. He is currently a 5th-year graduate student in the Program in Cancer Biology and is member of the Vanderbilt Center for Bone Biology. In 2018, he received the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Gilliam Fellowship for Advanced Study, a fellowship dedicated to supporting underrepresented minorities in STEM in become the next leaders in science and science education. He is currently conducting his research and thesis work under the mentorship of Dr. Rachelle Johnson, studying tumor dormancy and breast cancer bone metastasis. Outside the lab, Tolu enjoys doing photography and is an avid ice skater.

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Tolu Omokehinde


Tod Woolf

Tod Woolf started as the Executive Director of the Technology Ventures Office in July of 2019. In this role, Dr. Woolf provides leadership for BIDMC’s intellectual property management and technology commercialization activities.  He most recently served as a Technology Licensing Officer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dr. Woolf brings to BIDMC more than 25 years of leadership experience at biotechnology companies. He founded Sequitur in 1996, which was acquired by Invitrogen (now Thermo Fisher). He co-founded and took RXi Pharmaceuticals public in 2006. He served as CBO and CTO at X-Body BioSciences, which was acquired by Juno, and he co-founded ETAGEN Pharma in 2014. His teams developed mRNA Therapeutics™, STEALTH RNAi™, Self-Delivering RNAi™ and Therapeutic Editing™. Dr. Woolf earned a Bachelor of Science in Cellular and Molecular Biology from the University of Michigan, and a Doctorate in Biology at Harvard University, working in Professor Doug Melton’s laboratory.


Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) is a Harvard Medical School Affiliated teaching hospital.  Our research lab leaders and clinicians have appointments as Professors at Harvard Medical School. I am participating in PCRi to further BIDMC’s goal to enhance opportunities for underrepresented students in biomedical research. BIDMC invites undergraduates to apply to work in our Professor’s laboratories for summer internships, and I can be a contact for interested students. I will compare and contrast the career paths in academic research (non-profits) versus the biotech industry.  I am participating in PCRi  because want to give back as one of my mentors in college back in the 1980s, Tom Storer, was the first Native American tenured Professor of Mathematics at a major research institution.

Research Mentors

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Courtney Quick

Courtney Quick obtained her B.S. in Biology from the University of North

Carolina at Asheville in 2018. She is currently a post-baccalaureate research fellow in the Genetic Epidemiology Research Branch of the National Institute of Mental Health. Her research investigates the relationship between cannabis use disorder and mood disorders and looks at how these disorders are transmitted within families. She also spent a year at the National Cancer Institute researching cellular growth pathways. She is very excited to become a research mentor at PCRi, as she is passionate about making research more accessible and helping inspire others to further their own research journeys!

Lisa Joseph, PhD

Lisa Joseph, Ph.D. a clinical child psychologist originally from the Caribbean islands of Trinidad and Tobago, holds a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Palo Alto University in California. Dr. Joseph completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Warren Alpert Medical school of Brown University in the Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities. She has also worked in Guangzhou, China and Lima, Peru, training researchers and providers on assessment of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in children. Dr. Joseph joined the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Intramural Research Program in 2008 as a research fellow, and is currently a clinical psychologist in the Neurodevelopmental and Behavioral Phenotyping Service at NIMH. Dr. Joseph’s research interests include repetitive behaviors in neurodevelopmental disorders, identification of intellectual disability and the behavioral phenotype of neurodevelopmental disorders and rare genetic disorders, and the impact of ASD and other neurodevelopmental disorders in low- and middle-income countries. Dr. Joseph is currently part of a mentoring and career advancement initiative for early and middle ASD career researchers from low- and middle-income countries, and for underrepresented minorities in high income countries. The PCRi initiative is an exciting and innovative way of engendering research interest for students as they embark on decisions about their own career trajectory, and she is pleased to share my research and training experiences.

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Sope Adeleye

Sope Adeleye graduated from Harvard College in 2020 with a bachelors of arts in neuroscience, a secondary in global health and health policy, and a citation in Spanish. Also while at Harvard she played on the varsity women's volleyball team, conducted thesis research at the Ann Romney Center for Neurologic Disease, and was a peer advising fellow. Currently she is working as a clinical research coordinator at the Vanderbilt Memory and Alzheimer’s Center, and she is applying to medical school to matriculate in the fall of 2022. Sope is so excited to be a part of PCRi! 

Sarah Paracha

Sarah Paracha is a graduate student in the Cell and Molecular Biology program at the University of Chicago. She is interested in the cellular stress response pathway and her current research project is trying to figure out how Hsp70 regulates Hsf1 in yeast cells. She is an avid reader of all books, fiction and nonfiction, and has watched pretty much every TV show you can think of (okay maybe not every single one, but a lot). She also has the sweetest puppy, named Ziggy, and is more than happy to share pictures of him if anyone is ever interested.

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Daniella Reis

Daniella is a Ph.D. student in Geological Sciences at Cornell University. Throughout her studies, she has always been interested in subjects involving laboratory work and related to geochemistry (the study of geological systems using chemical tools) and petrology (the study of the origin of rocks). Her research area is experimental petrology, which means that her research group does laboratory experiments simulating the pressure and temperature conditions of the interior of the Earth and other planets in order to better understand their composition and evolution. What she is most excited to share with PCRi students is that experimental petrology enables the scientific community to not only study planetary bodies that would otherwise be inaccessible, but their work is also multidisciplinary and involves knowledge ranging from geology and astronomy to chemistry and physics.

Sample Course Schedule

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