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Meet Our 2021-2022 Leaders for the Future Fellows

The University of California, Davis, named 19 Ph.D. students and postdoctoral scholars as fellows in the 2021-2022 Leaders for the Future (LFTF) program.

The Leaders for the Future program exhibits the university’s integrated approach to advanced education and is a collaboration between GradPathways Institute, the Internship and Career Center, and the Mike and Renee Child Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

This nine-month certificate program prepares individuals from a range of disciplines to excel in careers outside of academia. Participants engage in immersive activities such as projects, internships and job shadowing that support business skills development. Upon completion of the program, they gain the skills necessary for success in various careers in industry, government, and beyond.

“We are thrilled to welcome these fellows as they will build upon their skills and prepare for their future careers,” says Teresa Dillinger, Director of the GradPathways Institute for Professional Development. “Programs like this one provide additional professional development that will serve participants well in whatever path they choose.”

Meet The 2021-2022 Leaders for the Future Fellows

Rizwan Asghar
  • Rizwan Asghar, Ph.D. Candidate, Political Science

Rizwan’s research focuses on international security, nuclear proliferation, civil military relations and conflict dynamics. His dissertation project examines how imperfect civilian control of the military by the government affects the dynamics of bargaining and makes states more likely to be involved in both interstate and intrastate conflicts.

Cassandra Baker
  • Cassandra Baker, Ph.D. Candidate, Genetics & Genomics

Cassandra is a researcher in the Harmer Lab at UC Davis. She researches the circadian clock in Arabidopsis thaliana, a plant model organism, to investigate how the loss of core clock components affects circadian rhythms.

Nicholas Burnett
  • Nicholas Burnett, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Scholar in Neurobiology, Physiology, & Behavior

Nicholas is a postdoctoral researcher in a flight biomechanics laboratory where he studies the mechanical, physical, and behavioral traits that allow insects to fly in complex habitats. He holds a B.S. in Biological Sciences and a Ph.D. in Integrative Biology.

    Alena (Laney) Casella
    • Alena (Laney) Casella, Ph.D. Candidate, Biomedical Engineering Graduate Group

    Laney’s research is focused on developing novel, electrically conductive biomaterials to aid in functional regeneration of bone and muscle for clinical translation. Her Ph.D. work focuses on developing conductive biomaterials to promote nerve cell survival and regeneration in biologically challenging conditions

    Ashlee Hauble
    • Ashlee Hauble, Ph.D. Candidate, Chemistry

    Ashlee conducts academic research, focusing on solid state synthesis and characterization of narrow band gap semiconductors. Before coming to UC Davis, Ashlee worked as an organic extractions scientist, where she held a leadership role in her team, mentoring and training new hires and delegating workloads. 

    Kristen James
    • Kristen James, Ph.D. Candidate, Nutritional Biology Graduate Group

    Kristen is passionate about helping people live healthier longer. She researches the intersection of nutrition, genetics, and the gut microbiome to understand how these factors influence the development of chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, obesity and kidney disease.

    • Maitreyee Jathal, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Scholar in Biochemistry & Molecular Medicine

    In her current role as postdoctoral fellow and Principal Investigator, Maitreyee is studying molecular mechanisms of resistance to treatment in human prostate cancer, focusing on a specific protein called ErbB3/HER3. She graduated from UC Davis in 2018 with a Ph.D. in Integrative Pathobiology.

    Lisa Johnson
    • Lisa Johnson, Ph.D. Candidate, Developmental Psychology

    Lisa’s research broadly focuses on understanding how environmental influences get "under the skin" to shift health and well-being trajectories during adolescence. She is especially interested in the Five Cs model of Positive Youth Development (PYD), and her dissertation investigates the salience of this framework for marginalized groups, Latinx youth specifically.

    Zoe Kanavas
    • Zoe Kanavas, Ph.D. Candidate, Civil & Environmental Engineering

    Zoe is currently the president and founder of the Society of Water and Environmental Graduate Students. In her research, she uses machine learning and statistical analysis to understand how fluids flow through porous media with the goal of improving groundwater contamination remediation techniques. 

    Chloe Karaskiewicz
    • Chloe Karaskiewicz, Ph.D. Candidate, Psychology

    Chloe’s dissertation research is focused on how close social relationships impact physiological processes like sleep and reproduction. She has worked hard to develop as an effective teacher and mentor, completing a practicum in teaching and now teaching her own course on reproductive development at UC Davis. 

    Noreen Karim
    • Noreen Karim, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Scholar in Environmental Toxicology

    Noreen is a postdoctoral scholar at UC Davis, studying the proteomic manifestations of disorders of genetic, physiological and/or toxicological nature. She specializes in identification of molecular markers for disease states, toxic exposures and forensic identification. 

    Hanna Koster
    • Hanna Koster, Ph.D. Candidate, Biomedical Engineering

    In her current research, Hanna synthesizes gold nanomaterials for use in a biosensing platform. She works on detecting cancer and other diseases with a technique called surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS) that is amplified through her fabricated nanomaterials. 

    Jiayu Li
    • Jiayu Li, Ph.D. Candidate, Chemical Engineering

    Jaiyu’s research focuses on the rheological impact of surfactants (stabilizing agents such as fatty acids, alcohols, proteins, and particles) on fluid-fluid interfaces. Specifically, he develops mathematical models to quantify the rheological impact of surfactants on interfacial instabilities and investigates the surface viscous effects on foams.

    Linhui Li
    • Linhui Li, Ph.D. Candidate, Pharmacology & Toxicology

    Linhui investigates the crosstalk between metabolic reprogramming and receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs) signaling pathways in both cancer and pulmonary fibrosis. She previously led and organized a student-host seminar for her graduate group, and this year Linhui is serving as a student member for the Recruitment and Retention committee.

    Elizabeth Mojica
    • Elizabeth Mojica, Ph.D. Candidate, Ecology 

    Elizabeth studies how fish epigenetically respond to salinity stress. This work is meant to enhance the understanding of how a changing environment can shape evolution, and Elizabeth hopes to use this information to help mitigate the impact of climate change. Beyond her research, Elizabeth has been committed to and teaching since coming to UC Davis. 

    Coyla Munson
    • Coyla Munson, Ph.D. Student, Biophysical Chemistry

    Coyla is a Biophysical Chemistry Ph.D. student in the Murray group where she studies the plant cell wall structure using nuclear magnetic resonance to clarify the current model and assist in efforts to unlock biomass for sustainable bioproducts including biofuels. In addition to her initial independent research projects, she works as a TA and lab instructor for the Chemistry Department.

    Logan Savidge
    • Logan Savidge, Ph.D. Candidate, Psychology

    Within her role as a Ph.D. candidate Logan proposes, designs, and conducts behavioral and biological research on nonhuman primates. This role inspired Logan to get involved in communicating science and therefore led her to her role as a communications intern at the California National Primate Research Center. 

    Maria-Malvina Tsamouri
    • Maria-Malvina Tsamouri, Ph.D. Candidate, Integrative Pathobiology

    Malvina is studying signal transduction pathways in the field of translational bladder   and prostate cancer research. She is particularly interested in identifying new biomarkers for early cancer diagnosis and targeted therapies in veterinary and human oncology.

    Sydney Wyatt
    • Sydney Wyatt, Ph.D. Candidate, Integrative Genetics & Genomics Graduate Group

    Sydney conducts research on early zebrafish gonad development and sex determination. Additionally, she has served as President and Editor-in-Chief for the science communication group Science Says since 2019. 


    Visit the Leaders for the Future website to learn more about the program and its alumni. 

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