BBS PhD Program

Diversity & Inclusion Council

Mission Statement

The BBS Diversity & Inclusion Council is committed to educating and serving the BBS community while enhancing cultural awareness, sensitivity, and growth. We strive to provide safe spaces for students of all backgrounds to express their concerns and challenges with their graduate school journey on a peer level and maintain active communication with faculty in hopes to promote a more inclusive BBS community. Our council will amplify student voices, particularly those of Black, Native, Latinxs, Asian American and Pacific Islanders, and other underrepresented student groups by serving as liaisons between students, the BBS community, and campus-wide resources to ensure well-rounded support is available.

Why Join the BBS D&I Council?

The D&I Council acknowledges that diversity encompasses multiple sectors. We recognize the importance of increasing diversity, as it fosters a variety of perspectives and ideas, leads to better problem-solving, expands representation of talented yet marginalized groups, and promotes innovation and long-term growth of our community. Therefore, the D&I Council welcomes all individuals, and your participation will benefit our community.  Participating in the D&I Council not only benefits others and the community, but it also provides a significant opportunity for your own growth. Joining the D&I Council offers career development, leadership opportunities, networking with peers, faculty mentors, and GFAs within and outside of the department, as well as access to internal resources.

Interested in joining and would like additional information, feel free to reach out to our current D&I Council members (contact information below).

Collaboration with Other Groups on Campus

BBS D&I Council highly collaborates with the Diversity Council in the MBG department in an effort to maximize the resources within the campus while distributing efforts more manageably to ultimately benefit every student in both the MBG department and the BBS program.  BBS and MBG+ Council have been collaboratively hosting events that welcome all students from both communities. All BBS students are also welcome to attend any events hosted by MBG Diversity Council including monthly training-only meeting, TWIP (sign up for practicing presentation, A-exam and receiving feedback from peers). To be more engaged, BBS students can also join any working groups to plan and host events with other MBG+ Diversity Council leaders.   To learn more about it, check out the website: MBG+ Diversity Council 

Meet the D&I Council Members

Richard Adeleke

Richard Adeleke Email:

Hi everyone, I am Richard Adeleke, a DVM-seeking PhD student in the BBS program. I obtained my Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. My interest in biomedical research started during my fourth year in Veterinary school. At Cornell, my research interest centers around developing novel vaccine candidates and antivirals for SARS-CoV-2 and a universal vaccine for Flu. I volunteer with Cornell Vaccination conversations with scientists (Vacs), where we educate people about vaccine safety and Cornell Fall Into Science program. I want to promote inclusion and improve student interactions within the BBS community. Outside the lab, I love hanging out with friends, watching movies, visiting waterfalls in Ithaca, and traveling. I am open to building new networks.

Hsin-Yun (Rachel) Chang

Rachel Chang Email:

I am a fifth-year Ph.D. candidate in the laboratory of Dr. Siu Sylvia Lee, where I use functional genomic approaches to study the biology of aging. Originally from Taiwan, I earned a Master's degree in Brain Science before coming to the United States to pursue my Ph.D. in 2019.  I am passionate about mentoring, science policy and advocating for women in science. I actively foster collaboration between the BBS D&I Council and the MBG+ Diversity Council to maximize the resources available on campus for the benefit of students in both BBS program and MBG department. In my free time, I enjoy being in nature, trying new sports such as figure skating and windsurfing, exploring human paths in antique stores, and writing poetry.

Jingyi Chen

Email: jcc2786@cornell.eduJeff Pea

I am a second-year PhD student in the Biomedical & Biological Science program with a concentration in molecular cellular medicine. I received my bachelor's degree in Chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley. I am interested in pursuing cancer biology and immunology for my PhD study. But I am still in rotation to find a home lab. As a first-generation immigrant and college student, I believe everyone can do research if given appropriate opportunities. Therefore, I would like to engage in the Diversity & Inclusion Council to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in the STEM field. In my spare time, I enjoy spending time with my dog.

Sharada Gopal

Sharada Gopal


Hello everyone! I am originally from Bangalore, India. My interest in research stems from my experience working in developmental biology back in India. My current research involves studying the relationship between reproduction and aging in worms. I love science and research and apart from that, I enjoy hiking the stunning trails in and around Ithaca, swimming and kayaking in the picturesque gorges and waterfalls in the upstate area. I also enjoy cooking for friends and family. Through the D&I council, I aim to learn more about everyone in our diverse and beautiful BBS program and learn what it means to provide an equitable environment for everyone to thrive in. 

Kieran Koch-Laskowski

Kieran Koch-Laskowski


I am a fifth-year Combined DVM/PhD student working to integrate my passions for veterinary medicine and biomedical research while promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in the scientific and academic communities. Currently, I work in the lab of Dr. Praveen Sethupathy studying the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying metabolic diseases such as obesity and type II diabetes. I grew up in the Greater Philadelphia area and completed my undergraduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Outside of the clinic and the lab, I enjoy playing ice hockey, cooking and baking (more so eating), exploring new places and cuisines, and spending time with my friends, family, husband, and dog.

Former D&I Council Members

Tiago Zilch

Tiago Zilch


Hi everyone! I am a third-year PhD student in the field of Biomedical and Biological Sciences (BBS) with concentration in Immunology and Infectious Diseases. I am a member of Dr. Deb Fowell’s lab where I study the development of immune responses, more specifically the roles and requirements of T follicular helper cells (Tfh) on the development of adaptive immune response (B cells and antibodies). I am a Latino and first-generation college student from Brazil, where I earned my B.S. in Chemical Engineering. I am also a proud member of the LGBTQIA+ community.

Coming from many minority groups, I try my best to promote diversity and reach out to those that are also from underrepresented groups, showing that we all can be and do what we love, in my case: SCIENCE! Outside the lab, I like to go for walks with my dog, Harley the Queen (yeah, I’m a big fan of all of them: Harlequin (the character), Harley-Davidson (motorcycles) and Queen (the band)), she is a smart golden retriever that loves people and to run after chew-monks (chipmunks). I also enjoy cooking, playing video-games, and spending quality time with my American family.

Naya Eady

Naya Eady

Hello! I am a Biomedical & Biological Sciences PhD candidate in the Wagner Lab. My love for animals attracted me to veterinary immunology and virology. The current focus of my research in Dr. Bettina Wagner’s lab, is the host immune response to Equine Herpesvirus-1, more specifically elucidating the antiviral mechanisms utilized by EHV-1 specific antibodies to protect host cells.

Prior to graduate school enrollment, I earned a BS in General Biology from Trinity Washington University and completed Virginia Tech PREP, Post Baccalaureate Program. I am a proud native Washingtonian, originally from Washington, DC. In my spare time, I enjoy reading, arts/crafts, singing, exercising, gaming, cooking, and watching movies.

Karla Garcia-Martinez

Karla Garcia-Martinez

Hi everyone! My name is Karla and I completed my PhD in Biomedical and Biological Sciences degree in Dr. Cynthia Leifer’s lab. I worked on understanding how cancer derived extracellular vesicles modulate immune responses in macrophages. I’m a first-generation college student from San Diego, California and I earned my undergraduate degree in Integrative Biology at the University of California, Berkeley. In my free time, I enjoy reading short stories, learning different recipes to try with my friends, and exploring the Ithaca area.

Hector Loyola Irizarry

Hector Loyola Irizarry

Hi! I am a fifth-year student in Molecular and Cellular Medicine in the Brito Lab, where I study how the gut microbiome can cause disease and possible ways to engineer it to improve host health. I'm from the beautiful island of Puerto Rico, where I grew up and did my undergraduate studies. During my free time, I like to play video games, watch movies, and try out new recipes in the kitchen. If it's a nice day outside, you might catch me playing soccer or hiking!

Viviana Maymi

Viviana Maymi Hi everyone! My name is Vivi, and I'm a combined DVM/PhD student in Brian Rudd's lab. My research focuses on how differently-aged CD8+ T cells have distinct responses to chronic antigen stimulation, like in chronic viral infections and cancer. After growing up in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Tampa, Florida, I earned my bachelors in Neurobiology from Harvard. My interest in immunology blossomed during two gap years spent doing research at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, prior to starting veterinary school. Outside of school and lab, you can find me practicing yoga, basking in the sun, and trying not to ruin new recipes.

Jeffrey Pea

Jeff PeaHi everyone! I am a graduate of the Biomedical and Biological Sciences PhD program.  My research was completed under the mentorship of the Lujan Lab in the Division of Nutritional Sciences. My research interests relate to reproductive health, specifically the development of novel detection methods for gynecological disorders. I grew up mostly on the West Coast, having spent most of my childhood in northern California and doing my undergraduate degree at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.

In my free time, I love making art, staying fit through outdoor activities and watching anime! Through my own personal experiences in graduate school, I hope to improve the accessibility of on-campus and off-campus resources for students, promote a more inclusive space for students of different backgrounds and help students navigate their graduate degree journey with a focus on personal wellbeing and growth.

Jonathan Villanueva

Jonathan VillanuevaI obtained my PhD in Biomedical and Biological Sciences (BBS) with a co-mentorship between Dr. Charles Danko and Dr. Praveen Sethupathy. Prior to coming to Cornell, I earned my B.S. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. My current research focuses on investigating the gene regulatory mechanism utilized in colorectal cancer. Specifically, I am looking at how these mechanisms can vary when comparing different primary patient samples and various model systems. Outside of the lab I enjoy a bit of running, watching college sports, getting involved in science outreach, and watching movies.