Alumni Mentors

Perciliz Ahern

Current position and location: Senior Scientist at Rescindo Therapeutics Inc (small startup company in Durham, NC)

Area of study: Genetics and cell biology. Identification of genetic factors that could contribute to human disease and functionally characterizing variants identified. From there we hope to identify potential therapeutic targets.

Undergraduate institution and major: University of Notre Dame, Biology major 2004

Career Goals: After graduation from ND with my BS I worked as a lab technician/lab manager at Johns Hopkins University and joined the Human Genetics graduate program there. Soon after my professor got recruited to Duke University so I transferred to the Cell Biology graduate program there and graduated with my PhD. I knew I did not want to stay in academics and am now working towards a career in project management in industry. My primary focus is on human disease and therefore focus on projects and companies that remain therapeutically aligned.

Advice to younger REU fellows: Persistence is key and if you don't have a good mentor seek one out. Science can for sure have its ups and down but remember that there are always people willing to help (sometimes you just have to look for them). There are non-academic tracks for science majors!!! So don't feel like there is no other options.


Felicity Newton

Current position and location: PhD Student, University of Notre Dame

Area of study: My current project is on a novel transmembrane kinesin known as StARD9. I am characterizing its ability to deliver cholesterol from the lysosome to the ER and which conditions may inhibit this process.

Undergraduate institution and major: Belmont University, Biochemistry/Molecular Biology with a minor in Dance

Career Goals: After completing my studies at Notre Dame, I intend on pursuing a career in Academia. I have had several amazing mentors over the years, and I want to be able to help future generations fall in love with science like those professors did for me.

Advice to younger REU fellows: If there is anything my REU and any subsequent research has taught me, it is to be open to learning anything from anyone. So many of us think that we can do anything on our own, but science requires constant collaboration, not only with other labs, but also with the people who work with you. When I got outside of my own head and started asking for help from not only my mentor, but also my undergraduates and friends in nearby labs, I became more successful than I could have ever imagined.


Cristal Thompson

Current position and location: PhD Student, University of Notre Dame

Area of study: Mycobacterial pathogenesis

Undergraduate institution and major: Washington State University, B.S. Microbiology

Career Goals: Infectious disease research in an industry setting

Advice to younger REU fellows: Don't do a PhD unless you cant imagine your life without one, be comfortable with pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone, and never let anyone tell you you cant do it.


Nick Deason

Current position and location: NIH Postbaccalaureate Researcher, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (Rockville, MD)

Area of study: I study the spread of drug-resistant malaria in Cambodia and the mosquitoes that transmit these parasites. Projects include identifying field-caught vectors, lab infections of mosquitoes with parasites isolated from the field, and testing novel interventions for mosquito control.

Undergraduate institution and major: University of Notre Dame, Biological Sciences major

Career Goals: After obtaining a PhD in microbiology or neurobiology, I plan to pursue a career as an independent researcher.

Advice to younger REU fellows: Make sure you know what you want to get out of your time as an REU student. In my opinion you should be striving to make large jumps in your scientific and workplace skills. Additionally, make efforts to connect with your peers and mentors as these support networks may be immensely important in the future, whether you decide to pursue science or not.


Katelyn Carothers

Current position and location: PhD student, University of Notre Dame

Area of study: I work in microbiology, specifically bacterial pathogenesis and host response. My current project involves studying how toxins produced by Streptococcus pyogenes (which commonly causes strep throat) affect human skin cells and cause severe systemic infections.

Undergraduate institution and major: Manchester University, B.A. in Biology-Chemistry

Career Goals: I would like to become a biology professor in a primarily teaching role at a small undergraduate institution. Alternatively, I am also interested in non-profit industry work.

Advice to younger REU fellows: Find good mentors, and stay in touch with them! Whether it's an undergraduate professor, academic adviser, or REU supervisor, chances are good they'll be very happy to hear from you and learn about how your research or other career goals are going. Plus, the more your mentor knows about you, the easier it will be for them to help you when it comes to things like networking and writing letters of recommendation.


Raquel Montanez-Gonzalez

Current position and location: PhD student, University of Notre Dame

Area of study: Genetics and Genomics, Infectious Disease. I concentrate on studying chromosomal inversions in An. gambiae, principal malaria vector, and how this inversions contribute to differences in mosquito behavior.

Undergraduate institution and major: Biology, University of Puerto Rico at Cayey

Career Goals: I aim to work in Academia, preferible in Puerto Rico. I want to set an example to students, for them to get involve in science and provide them with opportunities and skills to become future researchers.

Advice to younger REU fellows: During your REU take advantage of any faculty member that you may meet. Initiate conversations with other graduate students, ask questions get the most out of your experience. Being a graduate student is much more that doing research, you have to communicate the science, take courses, TA and establish a successful relationship with your mentor. You can do it if you really want it.


Jordan A. Cockfield

Current position and location: PhD student, University of Notre Dame

Area of study: Cancer Biology. I'm currently investigating the metabolic process by which a rare breast cancer utilizes to generate energy during metastasis.

Undergraduate institution and major: Stetson University, Biology Major with a minor in Spanish, 2016

Career Goals: Upon completion of my PhD, I plan to further pursue cancer research in national laboratories such as the NCI. I'm aiming for lead research scientist positions that entail working with a team to conduct bench side-to-bedside research.

Advice to younger REU fellows: Science is about exploration, questions, and discoveries. In order to understand the process, you must first recognize that it is a process; thus, be patient with yourself. Soon, you will have a better idea of how all the pieces just might be coming together if you do not give up.