BBS PhD Program

Peer Mentors

Meet our BBS Peer Mentors

The members of the Biomedical and Biological Sciences Peer Mentors are a dedicated group of current students that help incoming students transition into the BBS program, provide peer support to current BBS students, and answer questions from prospective students. They are here to share their personal perspectives and experiences as a BBS graduate student with you via email. Please feel free to contact them by clicking on their name. Please note that questions related to administrative matters can be directed to the Office of Graduate Education.

Richard Adeleke

Ph.D. StudentRichard Adeleke

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. During my final year in Veterinary school, I investigated the prevalence of antibodies to Japanese Encephalitis virus in commercial pigs raised in southwest Nigeria. At Cornell, my research interest centers around developing novel vaccine candidates and antivirals for deadly zoonotic viruses. I volunteer with Cornell Vaccination conversations with scientists (Vacs), where we educate people about vaccine safety. Outside the lab, I love hanging out with friends, watching movies, visiting waterfalls in Ithaca, and travelling. I am open to building new networks.

Rhasaan Bovell

Richard AdelekePh.D. Student, Mentor -  Dr. Ned Place & Pierre Comizzoli

Hi, my name's Rhasaan and I'm a second-year BBS student in Zoology & Wildlife Conservation. I'm interested in reproductive endocrinology and physiology, with a particular emphasis on using assisted reproduction to conserve endangered species. I'm participating in Cornell's Joint Graduate Training Program with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, so I split my time between Ithaca and the National Zoo in DC. My research is jointly mentored by Dr. Ned Place at Cornell and Dr. Pierre Comizzoli at the Smithsonian. Outside of the lab, I'm involved with various affinity groups on campus (BGPSA, LGSC, FiGLI, etc.). I also love to spend my stipend on food, so feel free to reach out if you're looking for a buddy to explore the local restaurants!

Rachel Chang

Ph.D. Candidate, Mentor - Dr. Siu Sylvia Lee  Rachel Chang

Hsin-Yun (Rachel) is a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate in the Biomedical and Biological Science Program at Cornell University. She got her master's degree in Brain Science in Taiwan, studying neuronal development in mice. She joined Dr. Sylvia Lee's lab at the MBG department to pursue her Ph.D. thesis in Genomic, where she studies the gene regulatory mechanisms of hormetic memory to better understand how mild-stress experiences can benefit health and delay aging.

She is passionate about science communication and aims to use her research expertise to convey the genetic and epigenetic code influencing human health to the public. She is also passionate about inspiring the next generation of young scientists, improving equity in higher education and the scientific research environment, as well as advocating for women in science. 

She was a co-chair of the 2021 Cornell BBS Symposium committee and an organizing committee of 2022 ComSciCon-NY, a state-wide graduate student-run science communication conference.  In her free time, she enjoys being in nature, trying new outdoor activities (sailing, windsurfing), exploring human paths in antique stores and writing poetry that is sometimes inspired by science!

Maya Craig

Ph.D. Student, Mentor - Dr. Kevin Cummings Maya Craig

Hi! I’m from Buffalo NY and attended SUNY Geneseo for my undergraduate education. My interest in research initiated at Geneseo where I earned the opportunity to work on different research projects in the fields of public health, microbiology, and ecology. At Cornell, I am a recipient of the Initiative for Maximizing Student Development (IMSD) fellowship and work in Dr. Kevin Cummings’s lab. I study antibiotic resistance surveillance of Salmonella serotypes in cattle. As a part of my research, I travel to different dairy farms across NY and neighboring states to collect environmental samples in efforts to understand the epidemiology and ecology of specifically Salmonella Dublin. On campus, I am involved in the Falling into Science outreach program directed by Dr. Dave Lin. In my free time I enjoy watching movies, try new recipes, and doing lots of shopping!

Jingyi Gao

Ph.D. Student, Mentor - Dr. John SchimentiJingyi Gao

Hello everyone! I'm Jingyi Gao, a second-year Ph.D. student who recently joined Dr. John Schimenti's Lab. Our lab studies genetics and molecular mechanisms behind reproductive defects. Taking advantage of the functional genomic sequencing methods and CRISPR modeling in mice, I aim to validate in silico predicted enhancers during male meiosis and identify enhancer variants that affect fertility. I grew up in the northeast part of China where winter could be even colder than Ithaca! So I pretty much enjoy Ithaca's gorgeous snow view and I'm excited for chances to do winter sports, especially ice skating and skiing! Outside of the lab, I like to watch movies and shows, learn new pieces of music, hang out with my cat Lily, and renovate my mobile home.

Eric Gelsleichter

Ph.D. Student, Mentor - Dr. Hening Lin Eric Gelsleitcher

Hello, everyone!  I am a third-year PhD student in the BBS program.  I recently joined the lab of Hening Lin in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, where I will study how certain post-translational protein modifications contribute to the pathogenesis of autoimmune and chronic inflammatory diseases.  I was a first-generation college student, and I grew up in a small rural community just outside Scranton, PA.  I have a BS in chemistry from King’s College (Wilkes-Barre, PA), and I have a DVM from Virginia Tech (Blacksburg, VA).  Throughout my undergraduate and veterinary school years (and throughout the time between), I participated in research spanning the chemical and biological sciences.  After veterinary school, my wife, two daughters, and I lived just outside Syracuse, NY for 6 years, where I worked as a small-animal veterinarian prior to starting grad school at Cornell.  Beyond my professional life, I love spending time with my wife and daughters, especially doing anything outdoors or exploring our surroundings.  Once upon a time (i.e., prior to being a father of young children), I had many other interests that I someday hope to recapture (hiking/backpacking; camping; canoeing/kayaking; fly fishing; nature photography; fossil and rock collecting; learning to play guitar; learning music theory; history of science; history of medicine; traveling).

Camille Holmes

Camille HolmesPh.D. Candidate, Mentor - Dr. Bettina Wagner 

Hello! My name is Camille and I am a member of Dr. Bettina Wagner’s lab. Our lab studies equine immunology through the lens of allergy and viral infection. My work is focused on understanding the localized immune response in equine herpesvirus type 1 (EHV-1) at the site of infection. I grew up in Upstate NY and was very excited to continue enjoying the beauty of this region after earning my BS in Biology at SUNY Potsdam. Outside of the lab I love to ride horses, take photos while birding, paddle board on Cayuga lake, and hike (or sometimes snowshoe) the beautiful trails of Ithaca!

Melia Matthews

Ph.D. Student, Mentor - Dr. Karl LewisMelia Matthews

Hi! I am a second year student in Dr. Karl Lewis’ lab in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. My research is focused on bone homeostasis and mechanobiology, specifically developing a new in vivo imaging technique with Cornell Dots. I am excited to be collaborating with the Wiesner Lab (Materials Science) and the Delco Lab (CVM). I received my Bachelors in Biology from Whitman College in Walla Walla, WA and I am originally from rural Northern California. Outside of science, I am passionate about outdoor recreation, especially swimming, skiing, scuba diving, and underwater photography. On campus, I am involved in a number of organizations, including Graduate Women in Science, the Cornell Undergraduate Research Journal, the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly, and the Club Swim Team. 

Kayleigh Morrison

Ph.D. Student, Mentor - Dr. Gunther HollopeterAnna Schumann

Hi! I’m a second year PhD student in Gunther Hollopeter’s lab, where we follow a unique C. elegans phenotype called “jowls” to understand the genetic and molecular basis of membrane trafficking and epithelial integrity. Currently, I am studying the role of partitioning (PAR) proteins in regulating epithelial junction polarity, as well as utilizing electron microscopy to analyze the unique phenotypes of our C. elegans mutants. I am originally from Lawrenceville, New Jersey, and received my B.S. in biology from The College of William & Mary, in Williamsburg, Virginia. While at William & Mary, I researched spermatogenesis in C. elegans, which started my interest in the molecular mechanisms of development. Outside of the lab, I enjoy hiking, going to local concerts, and playing with my cat, Leonie!

Anna Schumann

Ph.D. Student, Mentor - Dr. Martin WiedmannAnna Schumann

My name is Anna Schumann and I am a second year PhD student in Dr. Martin Wiedmann’s lab. I am interested in Microbiology, specifically in virulence factors that contribute to pathogenicity and antibiotic resistance. As part of the Food Safety Laboratory, I am currently studying mobile colistin resistance genes in Enterobacteriaceae. I grew up in Germany and moved to the U.S. to get my B.S. in Molecular and Cellular Biology from the University of Maine where I also competed for the track and field team. Outside of lab I love to run, hike, travel and meet my friends!

Erica Secor

Erica SecorPh.D. Student, Mentor - Dr. Heidi Reesink 

Hi! I’m a second year PhD student in Dr. Heidi Reesink’s laboratory. Our lab focuses on a variety of topics related to joint disease and fracture, particularly in horses but with crossovers to a variety of other species, including dogs and humans. I am interested in the intersection between immunology and orthopedic disease. My specific area of research is related to the changes in immune cell populations and lubricin, a glycoprotein involved in both immunology and boundary lubrication, which occur in the development of equine joint disease. I grew up in Vermont but attended Cornell for both my undergraduate and veterinary degrees. Following veterinary school I completed a residency in equine surgery and spent 4 years as a private practice surgeon before returning to my alma mater for my PhD. Outside of the laboratory I enjoy trail running with my dog Annie, riding my horse Mocha, and hiking and cooking with my husband Andrew.

Viraj Upadhye

Ph.D. Student, Mentor - Dr. Hector Aguilar-Carreño Viraj Upadhye

My name is Viraj Upadhye and I am a 2nd year Ph.D. student in the lab of Hector Aguilar-Carreno. My work focuses on understanding the structure of paramyxoviruses using cryo-electron microscopy and high-resolution flow cytometry. I am originally from Southern California and I went to San Diego State University for my B.S in Molecular Cell Biology. My hobbies include golfing, hiking, and making cocktails.