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MARC-WSU Program Maximizing Access to Research Careers

Meet Our Students

MARC-WSU Scholars: 2022-24 Cohort

  • Eliza Johnson

    Hometown: Spokane and Spokane Valley, Washington

    Ethnicity or heritage: My maternal grandfather was Assyrian Iranian and the rest of my family are descendants of mostly Irish, English, and Scandinavian immigrants.

    Major: Genetics and Molecular Biology

    Future career goals: With a Ph.D. in a biomedical research field I will lead research related to enhancing cell products for a changing world.

    Why I joined MARC-WSU: Approaching a graduate degree is intimidating. With the guidance and support of the MARC program I can remain on track toward my dream career with confidence.

    Research activities: I want to understand and expand the possibilities of genetic engineering and synthetic biology. Whether it is increasing the efficiency of gut microbiomes, making changes that confer higher survivability in changing climate, or improving innate immunity and immune responses, there are many improvements to be made now that scientists and artificial intelligence have enabled gene sequencing, targeting and mapping like never before.

    Fun fact: Before returning to school to study biology I spent the last 10+ years writing, performing and producing music. I’ve released two albums, written close to 60 songs, and performed live over 100 times.

  • Sophie Kate Shirali

    Hometown: Bellevue, Washington

    Ethnicity or heritage: Mixed (Colombian and Persian)

    Major: Neuroscience

    Future career goals: Earn a M.D./Ph.D. in Neuroscience

    Why I joined MARC-WSU: As a first-generation student and a lifelong learner, I am very grateful for the guidance and support the MARC-WSU program will provide me. The opportunity to experience different labs and learn a multitude of research skills, have access to numerous mentors within my field of interest, and take part in courses that will enrich and nurture my skills and passion for neuroscience research are just some of the ways that MARC-WSU will have a profound positive impact on my growth as a scientist as well as my future career endeavors.

    Research activities: I have been a part of Dr. Travis Brown’s lab since August 2021 researching the effects of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) on the degradation of structures in the prefrontal cortex known as perineuronal nets to understand the role MMPs play in causing diet-induced obesity. This will hopefully lead to future work in utilizing gene silencing techniques to develop novel treatments to diet-induced obesity and its subsequent implications.

    Fun fact: I love to run; I have previously run a half-marathon!

Inaugural 2021-23 Cohort

  • Alexandra Malena

    Hometown: Hawthorne, California

    Ethnicity or heritage: Mexican and Argentinian

    Majors: Neuroscience and Psychology
    Minor: Sociology

    Future career goals: Earn a Ph.D. in Neuroscience

    Why I joined MARC-WSU: As a first-generation student, having the opportunity to partake in research skills courses, professional development workshops, and mentoring will provide me with the support needed to be successful in pursuing a doctorate degree. Being a part of the MARC-WSU program will help me achieve my aspirations of researching and making an impact in the field of Alzheimer’s disease at a higher education level by providing the resources and opportunities to get into a graduate program.

    Research activities: I have been a part of Dr. McLaughlin’s lab since January 2020 and have been researching the effects of maternal cannabis use on offspring anxiety-like behavior in rats. I will be starting a research project to assess whether rats will lever press for cannabis vapor rewards.

    Fun fact: I ran the Los Angeles Marathon when I was 18.

  • Kalli Stephens

    Hometown: I grew up in a rural town in Southern Utah and come from a large, multiracial family.

    Ethnicity or heritage: I learned the importance of my Chinese and Native Hawaiian heritage through traditions such as celebrating Chinese New Year, and hula dancing at family luaus.

    Majors: Microbiology/Molecular Biology

    Future career goals: Earn a Ph.D. in neuroscience

    Why I joined MARC-WSU: As a non-traditional college student, I appreciate the financial assistance offered by MARC because it allowed me to stop working part time to focus on school and research. Additionally, the mentorship and research opportunities the program offers are invaluable as I prepare for and apply to graduate school.

    Research activities: After moving to Pullman in 2015, I worked at a reproductive health clinic. This experience gave me a passion for reproductive health, and I decided to go to college in pursuit of a career in reproductive biology. Since enrolling at WSU, I have been involved in reproductive biology research and plan to pursue a Ph.D. after graduating.

    Interesting facts: After high school I attended culinary school and worked in bread and pastry. Although I enjoy baking and still bake in my spare time, after a few years I decided to change fields.

  • Natasha Puzon

    Hometown: I grew up in a small town south of Seattle, Washington called Enumclaw

    Ethnicity or heritage: Puerto Rican on my mom’s side

    Majors: Microbiology and Cell Biology/Genetics

    Future career goals: I want to get my Ph.D. in infectious disease, though I have not decided if I want to focus on bacterial infections or virus caused diseases yet.

    Why I joined MARC-WSU: I am extremely excited to become a part of the MARC program and cannot wait to see where it takes me!

    Research activities: I am a member of both the Honors College and the STARS program here at WSU.

    Interesting facts: I love animals and have a dog named Isi and a cat named Rosie. My favorite things to do in my spare time are running, swimming, hiking, camping and watching documentaries.

  • Tyrus Adrian Thomas

    Hometown: Pullman, Washington

    Ethnicity or heritage: Mixed (White & Black)

    Majors: Microbiology

    Future career goals: Earn my B.S. and Ph.D. in microbiology

    Why I joined MARC-WSU: When I heard about the MARC program, I was interested in applying because I enjoy doing research. I have had some experience working in a lab. Gaining more knowledge and skills while meeting new people and having a mentor will prepare me for grad school.

    Research interests: I want to research bacteria because they are fascinating, and I am interested in how they become resistant to antibiotics. Also interested in other microbes, not just bacteria, such as bacteriophages.

    Interesting facts: I’m in track & field at WSU in the 110m hurdles. I’ve also done wildland firefighting.