2019 Summer Success Symposium Speaker Bios

Mastering Your Transition Into and Progression Through Graduate School

Alaa Farghli, Ph.D. Candidate , Genetics, Genomics & Development

Alaa FarghliAlaa Farghli is a Ph.D. candidate in Genetics at Cornell University, and is a Graduate School Dean’s Scholar. Prior to attending Cornell, he earned his Bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Potsdam. He is currently investigating how regulatory elements called enhancers exert their function upon their target gene. Alaa is a recipient of the SUNY Diversity Fellowship. During his free time, Alaa’s interests include using CRISPR to mutate himself to the first X-Men, reading, hiking, and martial arts.

Jayme Kilburn, Ph.D. Candidate, Performing & Media Arts

Jayme Kilburn

Jayme Kilburn is Founding Artistic Director of the Strand Theater Company in Baltimore City. She is a graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara; NYU; and is currently working towards her Ph.D. in theatre arts at Cornell University where she is a Graduate School Dean’s Scholar. Jayme has directed over 50 productions and has written two full-length plays that were produced at the Venus Theater in D.C. Jayme works with the Phoenix Players Theatre Group, founded by incarcerated men, and previously served on the board of Civic Ensemble, a community-based theater in Ithaca, NY. In 2018, Jayme received a substantial grant to establish her Women’s Performance Workshop as a permanent program in Baltimore City. In March 2019, Jayme organized a campus-wide community symposium entitled “Feminist Directions: Performance, Power, and Leadership” which brought together dozens of international, national, and locally-based artists and activists to engage in conversations surrounding artistic practice and power. Jayme’s research focuses on feminist performance, specifically as it pertains to women directors.

Randy T. Lee, Ph.D. Student, Psychology

Randy T. LeeRandy Lee is a Ph.D. student in the social and personality area in the psychology and cognitive science program at Cornell University under the guidance of Dr. Vivian Zayas. His research seeks to understand what enables, impedes, and enhances our ability to adaptively function in social interactions. Specifically, he is interested in three distinct, but interrelated topics: 1) emotion and emotion theory; 2) the deliberate and automatic ways we intrapsychically and interpersonally regulate emotion; and 3) the causes, responses, and outcomes of and to social exclusion. Previously, he attended UC Berkeley and earned a B.A. in psychology with high distinction and honors in the major. After graduating, he worked as a lab manager for the joint Ozlem Ayduk and Rodolfo Mendoza-Denton Lab at UC Berkeley from 2016 to 2018 before coming to Cornell.

Chinasa Okolo, Ph.D. Student, Computer Science

Chinasa OkoloChinasa Okolo is a second-year Ph.D. student in the field of computer science at Cornell University where she is a Graduate School Dean’s Scholar. She was proudly born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri to Nigerian immigrants where she attended Lincoln College Preparatory Academy and the KCPS Early College Academy at MCC – Penn Valley, earning both a high school diploma and associate’s degree. Chinasa’s research interests include health care, computer vision, machine learning for development, and biological anthropology. Within these fields, she works on projects to improve health care information technologies in Sub-Saharan Africa for rapid diagnosis and treatment of tropical diseases. The computational pipelines produced in her methods will efficiently generate machine learning-assisted diagnostic paradigms for abnormal lab reports, providing health professionals with targeted information and fundamentally altering the way patients with these issues are managed and treated.

Chelsea Stephens, Ph.D. Student, Biomedical Engineering

Chelsea StephensOriginally from Los Angeles, CA, Chelsea Stephens graduated from Syracuse University in 2015 with a B.S. in bioengineering and minor in biology. Upon graduation, she spent two years actively engaged in an intensive post-baccalaureate research education program at the University of Michigan, where she studied cartilage tissue engineering to ensure that a doctoral program would be a suitable career decision. She is Graduate School Dean’s Scholar and a third-year Ph.D. student in biomedical engineering, where she studies cardiovascular tissue engineering under the mentorship of Jonathan Butcher. In brief, her research is focused on the role of hemodynamic flow on local angiogenesis within 3D-bioprinted neo-pedicle tissue, such as muscle and fat. Apart from her research, which she truly enjoys, she is highly engaged within and outside the Cornell community as a leader and an activist for equity in education. As a student instructor of GRASSHOPR and Splash!, she has taught a series of lectures on reproductive health and sex education to high school and middle school students. Through 4-H Career Explorations, she has organized and led workshops focused on the development and use of bioreactor systems for cardiovascular applications. As the High School Programs Coordinator for Diversity Programs in Engineering, she helps develop programs that increase the exposure of educational and professional opportunities in STEM fields to underrepresented minority students. Lastly, she serves as an achievement coach with the Village at Ithaca, where she works with underrepresented minority elementary and middle school students who require supplemental assistance in math, reading, and science.

Practical Steps for Completing Your Master’s Thesis or Doctoral Dissertation

Wendy Carter-Veale, Ph.D.

Dissertation Coach and Program Coordinator at the University of Maryland at Baltimore County

Wendy Carter-VealeDr. Wendy Carter-Veale currently serves as Interim Director of PROMISE Academy, Social Science Research Coordinator, and the dissertation coach at for the Graduate School at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and has worked with faculty, students, and administrators at UMCP and UMB. She has been involved with graduate student retention, institutional survey administration, and with AGEP projects as a Dissertation Coach for PROMISE: Maryland’s AGEP, the University of Michigan AGEP, and the University of Pittsburgh’s Pitt STRIVE AGEP. She is a social sciences researcher and lead author for the “Dissertation House Model” (2016), published by CBE Life Sciences, which was acknowledged at the 2018 AGEP National Research Conference, “Pathways to a Diverse Professoriate,” at the University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Carter-Veale co-authored “Structured Interventions for Underrepresented Students and Faculty Members in STEM” (2014) as part of the 2012 Conference Summary for “Understanding interventions that broaden participation in research careers: Intervening to Critical Mass,” and she co-authored the book chapter, “Successful Ph.D. Pathways to Advanced STEM Careers for Black Women” (2011). Carter-Veale is co-PI on the Career Pathways project (Council of Graduate Schools), and she has had social and behavioral sciences faculty experience at Arizona State University – West, and the University of Maryland University College. As an entrepreneur she has formed successful businesses, TA-DA Thesis and Dissertation Accomplished, Ph.D. Completion and conducted many professional development workshops for graduate students at many universities across the country. Her expertise in graduate retention and Ph.D. completion is well known. Dr. Carter-Veale co-authored a recent book with Dr. Howard G. Adams entitled, Mastering the Ph.D. Process: Strategies for Surviving, Thriving, Excelling, and Succeeding as a Doctoral Student. She has conducted many professional development workshops for graduate students at several graduate schools including Duke University, Cornell University, University of Michigan, Western Michigan, and Arizona State University.

Keynote Luncheon

Diane Wong, M.A. ’15, Ph.D. ’18, Government

Assistant Professor and Faculty Fellow in the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at New York University

Diane WongDr. Wong holds a Ph.D. in American politics and M.A. in comparative race, ethnicity, and immigration from the field of government at Cornell University. Her interests include American politics, Asian American politics, gender and sexuality, urban governance, comparative immigration, race and ethnicity, participation and inequality, cultural and media studies, and community-engaged research. As a first-generation Chinese American born and raised in Flushing, Queens in New York City, her research is intimately tied to the Asian diaspora and urban immigrant experience. Her work draws from a unique combination of methods including ethnography, participatory mapping, archival research, augmented reality, and oral history interviews with tenants, community organizers, restaurant and garment workers, small business owners, public health workers, and elected officials. Her dissertation received the Byran Jackson Dissertation Research on Minority Politics Award, Susan Clarke Young Scholars’ Award, and the Don T. Nakanishi Award for Distinguished Scholarship and Service in Asian Pacific American Politics.

Dr. Wong’s research has been funded by prestigious grants from the National Science Foundation (2014-2017), Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center, Mellon Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities, New York Public Library, Humanities New York, and Cornell University’s American Studies Program. She is a member of the Cornell chapter of the Edward A. Bouchet Graduate Honor Society, and has been a participant and mentor for the McNair Achievement Scholars Program, Leadership Alliance Mellon Initiative, and the American Political Science Association Minority Fellows Program. Her work has been appeared in Urban Affairs Review, Women’s Studies Quarterly, Asian American Policy Review, Push/Pull, and a variety of edited book volumes, journals, anthologies, museum exhibitions, and podcasts.

#IamRemarkable: Becoming Comfortable with the Practice of Self-Promotion

Elena Cuevas, Technical Accounts Manager- University Programs, Google

Elena CuevasDriven by her motivation to make the tech industry a more hospitable place for women, Elena Cuevas takes pride in creating spaces for women to flex their self-advocacy skills. She is an experienced facilitator of #IamRemarkable, sharing the business benefits of self-promotion and owning your brand with hundreds of people across the country. In her current role at Google as a Technical Account Manager, she partners with internal teams to build inclusive and user representative products on Google Cloud Platform. Always open to adventure, Elena will soon be leaving the perfect weather of California behind to experience all four seasons in New York.

Francine Marquis, Program Manager- University Programs, Google

Francine MarquisFrancine Marquis works at Google in People Operations (HR) on a mission to “make Google work better.” Originally from Philadelphia, Francine attended Hampton University and graduated with her B.S/M.B.A in Business Administration. After graduation Francine moved to California to start her career. Throughout her journey at Google, Francine had the honor of working as a specialist in Staffing and Operations, a program manager for the University Programs team and served as a trusted HR expert providing HR guidance to managers on Google’s programs/processes. Francine is currently on the Talent Management team within People Operations which focuses on building and investing in a strong and diverse pipeline of critical talent tackling the future business needs. Her responsibility is to help build out stable infrastructures and processes. A majority of her job is building solutions and program managing which she really enjoys! During her free time she loves traveling, event planning, and creating new memories. Fun fact: August 2017, Francine road tripped from VA to CA stopping at historical sites and museums on her journey to checking off items on her bucket list.

Mary Jo Pham, Program Lead- University Programs, Google

Mary Jo PhamMary Jo (MJ) Pham is a former award-winning reporter and U.S. diplomat who has served at the U.S. embassies in Saudi Arabia, Jamaica, and Cambodia. She began her career at Google handling Google’s corporate and policy communications across Asia Pacific for over two years.  She currently leads Google’s university programs relationship with Cornell as a member of the People Operations team. In her 20 percent capacity, she serves as the program manager for Project Merci, building a hardware device to nudge kindness. She founded Google’s Singapore Mixed Martial Arts Collective (SMMAC) and enjoys travel writing, riding on two wheels, and belly dance. 

Closing Remarks

Amnon Ortoll-Bloch, Ph.D. Candidate, Chemistry and Chemical Biology

Amnon Ortoll-BlochAmnon Ortoll-Bloch is a Ph.D. candidate in chemistry and chemical biology and is a Graduate School Dean’s Scholar. He works in a materials science and engineering lab, studying the crystallization of novel solar-cell materials. Amnon grew up in Colima, Mexico, and earned his B.Sc. in chemistry at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) in Mexico City. At Cornell, Amnon has been involved in K-12 science outreach with the Cornell Center for Materials Research (CCMR) in Ithaca, NYC, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. He has also served as Registration Chair for Expanding Your Horizons and acted as a mentor for the Graduate Students Mentoring Undergraduates program. Amnon is the recipient of a Dean’s Excellence Fellowship and the 2016 Bayer Teaching Excellence Award from the department of chemistry and chemical biology. Recently, he spent eight months at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory as a DOE SCGSR awardee working on his dissertation research with experts in the field of crystal nucleation and growth.