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.

Oluwafemi Adu 

Ph.D. StudentMaria Font

Hiya! I am ‘Femi Adu, a second-year BBS PhD student in Immunology and Infectious Disease Concentration.  I am from the Southwestern part of Nigeria, where I attended the Federal University of Technology, Akure and earned a B.Tech. in Biochemistry. I also have an MS in Animal Biosciences from the Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh, UK. I recently joined the Parrish Lab, and would be working on various research themes around the subjects of viral evolution and host-viral interactions. Outside of the lab, I enjoy traveling, trying out new food recipes, watching soccer, and comedy shows (BBT is my all-time favorite).   

Orchi Anannya

Ph.D. Candidate, Mentor -  Dr. Avery August

I am currently working in the lab of Dr Avery August studying the role of ITK (Inducible T cell Kinase) in T cell biology. When not working I really enjoy traveling.

Noor Bala

Ph.D. Student, Mentor - Dr. Deborah Fowell Maria Font 

Hi! I am a second year Immunology and Infectious Disease PhD student in Dr. Deborah Fowell's lab. I study the spatial restriction of T-cell activation in inflamed/infected tissues and how that leads to pathogen control. I use multiphoton microscopy to look deep into the inflamed tissue of live mice and characterize the events that make T-cells tick as they clear pathogens. Before my PhD, I was a research scientist at Amgen San Francisco where I worked on the pharmacokinetics and drug metabolism of immunotherapy drugs. I am originally from California where I received my M.S. from CSULB and B.S. from UCLA. When I am not in the lab, I like to bake challenging pastries, work on some DIY projects, and hang out with my husband and two cats. 

Leanne Donahue

Ph.D. Student, Mentor - Dr. Andrew WhiteMaria Font 

Hi! I am a student in Dr. Andrew White’s lab where I study how UVB light from the sun can damage the skin and the effect that this inflammation has on melanocyte stem cell behavior. I grew up in New Jersey and attended Ithaca College as an undergraduate so have been in the Ithaca area for some time. Outside of the lab, I love hiking and knitting, as well as spending as much time as possible with my husband and our two cats. 

Chloe Cheng

Ph.D. Student, Mentor - Dr. Joeva BarrowMaria Font 

I am a second year BBS graduate student in Dr. Joeva Barrow's laboratory with a concentration in Metabolism. As a graduate student, my current research project focuses on investigating candidates that may repress the thermogenic response in obese patients under thermoneutral conditions. I grew up in the Bay Area and earned my B.S. in Biochemistry at UCLA in 2018 so I love the science and the sun very much. Outside of the lab, I enjoy paddleboarding, running, reading, playing video games/ watching anime, spending time with friends and trying new food places.

Camille Holmes

Camille HolmesPh.D. Student, 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!

Karla Garcia-Martinez

Karla Garcia-MartinezPh.D. Candidate, Mentor - Dr. Cynthia Leifer 

Hi everyone!  My name is Karla and I’m part of Dr. Cynthia Leifer’s lab. I work 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 around Ithaca.

Eric Gelsleichter

Ph.D. Student, Mentor - Dr. Hening Lin Alexandra Molina

Hello, everyone!  I am a soon-to-be-second-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).

Megan Keller

Ph.D. Student, Mentor - Dr. Tobias DoerrShing Hu

Hello, I am a second-year Ph.D. student in the Biomedical and Biological studies program! I recently joined the Doerr lab, working on bacterial cell wall physiology and how these contribute to antibiotic resistance. I grew up in Wichita, Kansas, but attended Florida Gulf Coast University to get my degree in Biology. There, I had the privilege to conduct research on the use of stilbenes to inhibit the migration of breast cancer cells. Coming to Cornell, I became interested in other antibiotics and their effects on Gram-negative bacteria. The Doerr lab was perfect for me, utilizing a combination of genetics, microscopy, and microbial techniques to answer these big questions. I also have a passion for science communication and outreach, and love to volunteer. Outside of lab, I enjoy exploring all the gorgeous trails that Ithaca has to offer, getting coffee with friends, and cuddling my cat, Luna, while watching movies.

Anna Kolarzyk

Ph.D. Student, Mentor - Dr. Esak LeeAnna Kolarzyk

Hello! I am a third year student in Dr. Lee's lab in the biomedical engineering department. In my research, I combine fundamental biological questions with engineering techniques. I am interested in lymphatic vasculature biology, specifically lymphatic vessel remodeling in cancer and their function as active immune regulators. I got my bachelor's and master's from the University of Warsaw in Poland. Before coming to Cornell, I spent 3 years at the University of Chicago studying ion channels as well as myelin sheath disorder, at the same time enjoying the beautiful Lake Michigan and wide availability of cocktail bars and jazz sounds. In Ithaca, I enjoy organizing BBQ for my friends, wine tasting, going to the sandy beaches of lake Ontario, and snowboarding at Greek Peak. I also enjoy meeting new people and for this reason I am a peer mentor.

Sebastian Gonzalo Llanos Soto

Mason JagerPh.D. Student, Mentor - Dr. Renata Ivanek

I come from Chile, a long and thin country located in South America, a land of volcanoes, penguins, and the finest wines. Most of my experience prior to joining the BBS program has been with parasites and infectious diseases of Chilean wildlife. I came to Ithaca with my dearest wife and two cats and we are enjoying our time here so far. Recently, I joined the Epidemiology and Food Systems Laboratory supervised by Dr. Renata Ivanek. There, I plan to learn epidemiological and mathematical modeling tools to study zoonotic disease transmission in agricultural settings. Learning German (and hopefully other languages), understand how the US history influenced society and politics in my country, and improve my communication skills are among my personal interests for the upcoming years. My hobbies include photography, ice cream, pet my cats and I have a deep interest in traveling (although not something that I could do right now). 

Hector Loyola Irizarry

Ph.D. Candidate, Mentor - Dr. Ilana Brito Jeff Pea

Hi!  I am a second-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 and watch movies.  If it's a nice day outside, you might catch me playing soccer or hiking!

Alexandra Molina

Ph.D. Student, Mentor - Dr. Alexander Travis Alexandra Molina

Alexandra is a third year PhD student from the College of Veterinary Medicine Biomedical and Biological Sciences with a concentration in Zoology and Wildlife Conservation. She is also a joint graduate trainee with the Smithsonian National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute. She graduated in 2019 from UCLA with a B.S. in Ecology, Behavior, and Evolution and has a research history in studying urban mammalian epidemiology and chimpanzee behavior. Now, her research is primarily composed of voltage-gated calcium channel Cav2.3 and its protein subunits’ contributions to the dynamics of murine sperm capacitation. In the future, she hopes to improve cryo-preservation techniques to increase sperm longevity, better sperm quality, and prevent cryo-capacitation from inhibiting conservation breeding goals.

Jeff Pea

Ph.D. Candidate, Mentor - Dr. Marla Lujan 

Jeff PeaHi everyone! I am currently a fourth-year student in the Molecular & Cellular Medicine program and a member of the Lujan Lab in the Division of Nutritional Sciences. My research interests relate to reproductive physiology, specifically how ultrasonographic features of ovarian morphology can be used as a marker for reproductive and overall health. 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 or sports, and watching anime!

Leah Simon 

Ph.D. Student Jon Villanueva - Mentor - Dr. Deborah Fowell 

I am a current first year student in the BBS program with a concentration in Molecular and Cellular Medicine. I am an Indian national and was born and raised in Dubai, UAE. I completed my BS in Biological Sciences from the University of Illinois at Chicago and then my MS in Reproductive Science and Medicine from Northwestern University. My masters thesis investigated the effects of age-associated changes in follicle stimulating hormone structure on ovarian folliculogenesis. I am very passionate about science education, teaching and outreach. In addition to my scientific interests, I am a massive Bollywood movie enthusiast and I enjoy cross stitching!

Jon Villanueva

Ph.D. Candidate, Mentors - Dr. Praveen Sethupathy & Dr. Charles DankoJon Villanueva 

I am currently a third-year graduate student in the field of 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.