Researchers

2023-2024 START Fellows

Michelle Martinez

Junior in Interdisciplinary Health Sciences
Faculty mentor: Dr. Andiara Schwingel
Department of Kinesiology and Community Health
Aging and Diversity Lab

“Since arriving at UIUC, I have been eager to participate in research. The problem for me was that I didn’t know where to begin. I have always wanted to find a solution to improve healthcare, especially in underserved communities. The START program provided me with resources to connect with Latinx patients and learn more about how Chronic Kidney Disease has affected them personally. As a researcher, I am fueled by knowing that I can identify, and possibly remove, any health-related barriers unique to minority communities”

Uwamahoro Sophie

Senior in Interdisciplinary Health Sciences
Faculty mentor: Dr. Rachel Hoopsick
Department of Kinesiology and Community Health
Hoopsick Research Team

START has helped me understand what being a researcher is by providing me with
mentorship, guidance, and helping me find my niche in research, which has helped to deepen my passion and love for research. As someone who has an interest in doing research that focuses on the diversity and inclusivity within the healthcare feild, START has definitely given me the tools I need and so much more, to succeed in my efforts

Elenna Claudio-Deutsch

Junior in Interdisciplinary Health Sciences
Faculty mentor: Dr. Fatima Husain
Department of Speech and Hearing Science
Auditory Cognitive Neuroscience Lab

“I cannot think of a better way to become involved with research than through the START program. The guidance and support from the mentors within the program truly made my first experience with research a great one. I have learned about the importance of research, especially for marginalized and overlooked populations. I admire that the START program teaches students about aging and the older adult population because they are often excluded from research. I am grateful that the START program helps students from diverse populations, and I am excited to see how this experience influences my future interest in research”

Julia Parzych

Freshman in Speech and Hearing Science
Faculty mentor: Dr. Naiman Khan
Department of Kinesiology and Community Health
Neurocognitive Health Behavior Lab

“I did not have any prior experience in research and the START program did a wonderful job teaching me the fundamentals. Each week, attending classes and actively participating in lab sessions provided me with hands-on experience, allowing me to deepen my understanding of the field. This program not only equipped me with the necessary skills and knowledge but also ignited an interest in research that I hadn’t anticipated. I am truly grateful for this amazing experience and excited to continue exploring the world of research in the future”

Inna Chong

Junior in Kinesiology
Faculty mentor: Dr. Sheena Martenies
Department of Kinesiology and Community Health

“As an aspiring Physician Assistant and aging researcher, I am committed to integrating scientific research with community service. Through the START program, I have gained crucial skills and insights that will support my graduate studies and future career. My goal is to use data-driven strategies to enhance health equity and promote informed decision-making in underserved communities, with a focus on aging populations. The mentorship and collaborative experiences from START have been fundamental in shaping my approach to health research and reaffirming my commitment to pursue graduate school

Anne Tang

Senior in Community Health
Faculty mentor: Dr. Pedro Hallal
Department of Kinesiology and Community Health
Epidemiology, Physical Activity, and International Collaboration Lab

“During my final year, I had the privilege of serving as an undergraduate research assistant with the START program, an experience that provided me with invaluable insights into the research process. Through this role, I have refined my skills and developed an appreciation for furthering my academic career. This experience not only enhanced my academic journey but also sparked my passion for continued exploration and discovery in the field of physical activity and health. I feel fortunate to have collaborated with exceptionally talented professors, students, and staff”

Savannah Guzman

Sophomore in Community Health
Faculty mentor: Dr. Rachel Hoopsick
Department of Kinesiology and Community Health
Hoopsick Research Team

“Being a part of the START program has been a fulfilling and rewarding experience. I am very grateful to be given the opportunity to get experience in research and learn about the impact we can have by becoming knowledgeable about different community health problems. The START program provided a supportive environment to grow within the field of research”

Camilo Jaime-Rivera

Senior in Kinesiology
Faculty mentor: Dr. Wendy Rogers
Department of Kinesiology and Community Health
Human Factors and Aging Lab

“My experience in the program has been everything I could have asked for regarding familiarizing myself with research. I was eager to build off my previous knowledge, and I am very satisfied with my work upon completion of the program. START has allowed me to cultivate my interests while helping me find what I like doing, as well as building experience for
grad school”

Thais Ocana

Senior in Interdisciplinary Health Sciences
Faculty mentor: Dr. Susan Aguiñaga
Department of Kinesiology and Community Health
Health Equity and Aging Lab

“As a transfer student coming from a community college, I thought that finding a research lab was going to be difficult. When I came across START, I knew right away that I wanted to be a part of the program and expand my skills. I am so glad that I had supportive mentors like Dr. Schwingel, Diana, and Ana help me join Dr. Aguiñaga’s HEAL lab. START and The HEAL lab gave me an opportunity to learn more about research and aging and I will be forever grateful for that”

Natalia Mihigo

Junior in Interdisciplinary Health Sciences
Faculty mentor: Dr. Raksha Mudar
Department of Speech and Hearing Science
Aging and Neurocognition Lab

“I am profoundly grateful for the chance to participate in the START program, which has not only expanded my knowledge and skill set but also instilled in me a deeper appreciation for the field of aging research. Each day brings new challenges and discoveries, and I am thankful for the support and encouragement propelling me on this journey”

Clarissa Harrington

Freshman in Community Health
Faculty mentor: Dr. Naiman Khan
Department of Kinesiology and Community Health
Neurocognitive Health Behavior Lab

“When I arrived at this university I knew I wanted to do research, but had no idea where to begin. The START program provided me with the opportunity to do research, with the START team being incredibly supportive every step of the way. I am so grateful for the START program. It has helped me find my passion in research, and inspired me to continue researching next semester”

Janiya Daniel

Junior in Interdisciplinary Health Sciences
Faculty mentor: Dr. Andiara Schwingel
Department of Kinesiology and Community Health
Aging and Diversity Lab

“The START research program has had a truly transformative impact on me. I can say that my experience with the START research program was an important milestone in my academic career. It has given me a deep appreciation for the collaboration involved in aging research and given me the information and abilities I need to make a difference in the community. My motivation as an aging researcher ultimately stems from the chance to positively impact people’s lives directly as they age and as a community. I am incredibly appreciative of the program’s direction, mentorship, and unity as I move forward in my academic and professional journey”

Fatima Pantoja Lara

Freshman in Community Health
Faculty mentor: Dr. Wendy Rogers
Department of Kinesiology and Community Health
Human Factors and Aging Lab

“The START program introduced me to so many opportunities. As a freshman, coming to U of I was overwhelming: there were so many things to do, and I didn’t know where to begin. After joining the START program, I learned so many valuable lessons that I could apply as a student researcher, and it helped me get to know the different opportunities available for me by connecting me with a lab that matched my interests”

2022-2023 START Fellows

Hahnbit Lee

Sophomore in Kinesiology
Faculty mentor: Dr. Rachel Hoopsick
Department of Kinesiology and Community Health
Hoopsick Research Team

“Passion goes a long way. The opportunity to be part of the START program has opened many doors for me. I have learned and experienced how to collect data, collaborate, present, and develop professional skills. Being a young Asian-American with little to no experience in research, the START program, my mentor, and my research partners guided me through the whole progress. I’m grateful to be around other young researchers who empowered me to engage within the program”

Olivia Rojas

Junior in Community Health
Faculty mentor: Dr. Wendy Rogers
Department of Kinesiology and Community Health
Human Factors and Aging Lab

“Being able to work with the START Program has allowed me to gain hands on experience in research and allowed me to learn more deeply about how our small acts can make a huge impact on others.  Before being a part of this program, I had no idea the impact research has on the world around us.  Now I am not only able to see the behind the scenes of research but also what comes as a result.  I am truly thankful for the opportunity that I have had to meet new people, to learn from others with a similar passion, and to incorporate my own work into the overall research.” 

Anastasia Adjei

Senior in Community Health
Faculty mentor: Dr. Sheena Martenies
Department of Kinesiology and Community Health

“Prior to START, I had a fear of research and felt like I did not belong in that space. However, the START program gave me an opportunity to explore the field of research. It was truly amazing to receive help from Dr. Schwingel and the entire START staff when I was transitioning into my research lab. I would like to also thank Dr. Martenies and all the lab staff for an amazing and rewarding experience”

Emilee Bates

Senior in I-Health
Faculty mentor: Dr. Soyoung Choi
Department of Kinesiology and Community Health

“The START program taught me that it is perfectly okay to be seen trying. As a woman of color, opportunities like the START program are hard to come by and I am glad I joined. I was able to get experience in research and gained a host of mentors and peers who support me”

Favour Ojerinde

Senior in Community Health
Faculty mentor: Dr. Shannon Mejia
Department of Kinesiology and Community Health
Adult Development, Adaptation, & Technology Laboratory (AdaptLab)

“As a first-gen Black Woman in STEM, opportunities for minorities like me can be very limited. Thankfully, the START program provided a nurturing environment, fostering growth without fear of judgment. I was surrounded by a supportive community that believed in my success whilst equipping me with valuable tools for advancement. I am immensely grateful for the chance to expand my knowledge in research and build meaningful relationships with peers and mentors that will forever be cherished” 

Evan Sebastian Headshot

Evan Sebastian

Freshman in Kinesiology
Faculty mentor: Dr. Raksha Mudar
Department of Speech and Hearing Science
Aging and Neurocognition Lab

“The START Program allowed me to explore my interest in research concerning aging populations. Having the opportunity to connect with research mentors and grow as a professional in the realm of research was a momentous experience as a first-generation college student”

Jesiah Bradshaw

Freshman in Kinesiology
Faculty mentor: Dr. Laura Rice
Department of Kinesiology and Community Health
Disability Participation and Quality of Life (DPQOL) Research Laboratory

“”Inclusion is not bringing people into what already exists; it is making a new space, a better space for everyone” -George Dei

My time with the START Program has given me the opportunity to learn more about research, aging, and myself. I was placed in the Disability Participation and Quality of Life Research Laboratory (DPQOL), where I got to help with the Fire Evacuation (in) Wheelchair and Scooter Users (FEW)”

Paulina Renteria

Senior in Speech and Hearing Science
Faculty mentor: Dr. Susan Aguinaga
Department of Kinesiology and Community Health
Health Equity and Aging Lab

“Diversity in research is crucial to understanding different races, ethnicities, genders, and ages. Through the START program, I was given the opportunity to represent underrepresented minority backgrounds in research focused on aging. Leaning on this approach in research, specifically for diverse populations, will help achieve being able to generate new ideas while eliminating disparities”

Nia Adeogun

Freshman in Kinesiology
Faculty mentor: Dr. Shannon Mejia
Department of Kinesiology and Community Health

There are very few spaces that allow us young adults to intersect with those of older generations. Each one is truly pertinent to understanding how to navigate our world just a little better. The START program provided another space to explore the intersectionality as well as provided a space to enter collegiate research fully supported. I am grateful to my mentors who have helped me develop as an individual and a researcher along the way

Melissa Suarez

Senior in I-Health
Faculty mentor: Dr. Wendy Rogers
Department of Kinesiology and Community Health
Human Factors and Aging Lab

“As a student attending a research-based university, I knew I wanted to gain research firsthand but did not know how. The START program opened opportunities for me and my peers to explore the field of aging research. I am truly grateful for the mentorship and guidance from my lab, peers, and advisors throughout this journey. The close-knit environment created by the START program has confirmed my love for research!”

Tasdique Khan

Freshman in Community Health
Faculty mentor: Dr. Alicia Kraay
Department of Kinesiology and Community Health

“As a first-generation student, having the opportunity to do research with the START Program, and Dr.Kraay is a blessing. I was able to showcase my interests in infectious diseases and public health through my research studying the intersection between climate change and the impact of vector-borne diseases in Colombia. I am grateful for having the opportunity to work with like-minded fellow undergraduate researchers, dedicated professors, and grad students!”

Alyssa Holguin

Junior in I-Health
Faculty mentor: Dr. Soyoung Choi
Department of Kinesiology and Community Health

“As our society continues to become increasingly diverse, it is essential to improve our health-related research by promoting the value of a diverse research team. I am fortunate to have been given the opportunity through START to take part in such an important mission and represent first-generation Latina students in research with the support of great mentors and peers”

Does an anti-inflammatory diet help prevent the intensity of symptoms of childhood asthma?

Kalia Davis

Freshman in Community Health
Faculty mentor: Dr. Sheena Martenies
Department of Kinesiology and Community Health

In Memoriam

Kalia (Lia) Davis was a stellar START program member and was advised by Dr. Sheena Martenies, focusing her research on diet and air quality on systemic inflammation and childhood asthma. Lia passed unexpectedly on Thursday, June 8th, 2023. Lia was an outstanding student, friend, colleague, and mentee. Lia will always be remembered with love, and her legacy will forever live on through the START Program.

2021-2022 START Fellows

Ivette Camacho

Junior in I-Health
Faculty mentor: Dr. Susan Aguinaga
Department of Kinesiology and Community Health
Health Equity and Aging Lab

“With the help of the START program I was given the opportunity to work in a research lab and collaborate with others on the topic of older adults. Given that I had no prior research experience, I was able to challenge myself in this new setting by working with other students, receiving feedback, learning of a new topic, and adjusting to the work at hand. I was able to grow as a learner, leader, and communicator through my START experience; it was rewarding as a whole”

Vinh Vo

Junior in I-Health
Faculty mentor: Dr. Sheena Martenies
Department of Kinesiology and Community Health

“From the mentorship and the array of opportunities I was exposed to from being a part of the START program, I was able to gain lab experiences and valuable research skills. START has provided me with a place to build incredible relationships with faculty members and mentors. The diverse cast of members in the program also brought to the table many perspectives on how to solve complex problems”

Jaqueline Carrillo

Senior in Community Health
Faculty mentor: Dr. Rachel Hoopsick
Department of Kinesiology and Community Health
Hoopsick Research Team

“Prior to START, I had no research experience whatsoever. START came into my life during the summer before my senior year at U of I. I was very scared to sign up for the program because I had no research experience and was nervous that I will not do well in this program. START made me feel so welcomed from the very beginning and has been extremely supportive of me. I learned so much from being a part of this program, and I am super excited to continue to do research outside of this program. I am grateful for this program for being patient with me, answering all my questions, overall a great group of people to be around”

Lashona James

Junior in Kinesiology
Faculty mentor: Dr. Ken Wilund
Department of Kinesiology and Community Health
Renal and Cardiovascular Disease Research Laboratory

“Being a part of the START program has opened the door for more opportunities than I could ever have imagined. At the beginning of my college career, I never thought that I would be interested in something like this but by the end of my junior year I discovered my passion for research. The START program provided me with an extremely smooth transition into the world of research and instilled in me all the skills needed to excel”

Brianna Sirdich

Sophomore in I-Health
Faculty mentor: Dr. Sheena Martenies
Department of Kinesiology and Community Health

“The START program not only opened the diverse world of aging-related research and gave me the opportunity to participate in undergraduate research but helped me discover a passion. Before START I was not confident in my ability to engage in research as a sophomore, but I have learned skills that I will take with me the rest of my life”

Iman Love

Senior in I-Health
Faculty mentor: Dr. Toni Liechty
Department of Recreation, Sport and Tourism

“Prior to START, I had no intentions to participate in research. However, once I changed my career goal, I realized that having research-related experience would look great on applications for graduate school and it would not hurt to see what it is like. Joining START has opened my eyes to the world of research and has sparked a new interest in joining research labs in graduate school”

Melinda Jara

Freshman in Speech and Hearing Science
Faculty mentor: Dr. Raksha Mudar
Department of Speech and Hearing Science
Aging and Neurocognition Lab

“As a first-generation Latina woman, I never thought that I would have the opportunities that the START program has given me. So far START has been my favorite undergraduate experience. I hope to continue to do research and be able to give to my community through research or through my future career in health care. I am beyond thankful for this experience!”

Pedro Young

Sophomore in I-Health
Faculty mentor: Dr. Ken Wilund
Department of Kinesiology and Community Health
Renal and Cardiovascular Disease Research Laboratory

“As a first generation, African American student who grew up with very humbling beginnings, being a part of a diverse and brilliant group of undergraduate researchers was the last thing I would have expected in my first year of college. The harsh reality is that minorities are vastly underrepresented in research and the START program gives students like myself an opportunity to be a part of that. Not only did the START program give me the opportunity to become involved in clinical research by connecting me with the Renal and Cardiovascular Research Lab but more importantly, it gave me the confidence to go beyond my comfort zone and truly believe in myself and my capabilities. I will forever be grateful to the START program for the experiences, and relationships with Professors that was made possible”

Emilie Schramer

Junior in Speech and Hearing Science
Faculty mentor: Dr. Fatima Husain
Department of Speech and Hearing Science
Auditory Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory

“The START program has given me the ability to prove my place in the world of research. I’ve gained so many skills, and I feel like I belong. The faculty and mentors are so supportive, and will guide you every step of the way. Not only did I get to build a sense of community with my cohort, but I got to achieve my goal of presenting at the Undergraduate Research Symposium!”

Emma Lachs

Senior in Community Health
Faculty mentor: Dr. Wendy Rogers
Department of Kinesiology and Community Health
Human Factors and Aging Laboratory

“As a woman in research, I welcomed the daunting new chapter of working in a lab as much as I feared it. As a chronically ill woman in research, sometimes the fear of something new overpowered the excitement of something new. However, my time spent in my lab and in START taught me something valuable and that is: I am valuable. My limitations are but a fraction of who I am as a person and as a researcher and this showed me that I am capable of truly anything I set my mind to so long as I have the faith”

Kyreon Williams

Senior in I-Health
Faculty mentor: Dr. Wendy Rogers
Department of Kinesiology and Community Health
Human Factors and Aging Laboratory

“Most people don’t grow up. Most people age. They find parking spaces, honor their credit cards, get married, have children, and call that maturity. What that is, is aging. My experience in START and the lab gave me the opportunity to enrich my research skills so I will be able to use it to further my career in health and aging”

Eldrick Surheyao

Sophomore in I-Health
Faculty mentor: Dr. Wendy Rogers
Department of Kinesiology and Community Health
Human Factors and Aging Laboratory

“Engaging in research at the university level has enlightened me in many ways. I am grateful for the opportunity to learn more about the fundamentals of research, and the hard work and diligence required to develop products and materials designed for the purposes of healthcare. As a minority (African American) I am excited to be able to transfer any skills I develop to bringing diversity into the laboratory and join the fight to reduce health-outcome disparity for minorities”

Natalia Rzepa

Sophomore in the Department of Speech and Hearing Science
Faculty mentor: Dr. Raksha Mudar
Department of Speech and Hearing Science
Aging and Neurocognition Lab

“I am truly grateful for START and all the experiences I have gained through this program. Joining a research lab was a wonderful opportunity for me to get started in the field of research and explore my interests. Before START, I had a very limited knowledge of what occurs in a research lab. Through my experience, I learned the role of undergraduate students in research and realized that I have an interest in neurocognition. I look forward to working in this lab next year and learning more”

Arunya Thavone

Senior in Speech and Hearing Science
Faculty mentor: Shannon Mejía
Department of Kinesiology and Community Health
Adult Development, Adaptation, & Technology Laboratory (AdaptLab)

“Prior to entering the START program, I had aspirations of engaging in research at the
University of Illinois. However, I was unsure of ways I could get involved. Finding the START
program has opened my eyes to the vast field of aging research and its importance. I have gained
a lot of knowledge, and I am grateful for the opportunity to grow as a student and participate in
research through the START program”

Samyla Williams

Senior in I-Health
Faculty mentor: Shannon Mejia
Department of Kinesiology and Community Health
Adult Development, Adaptation, & Technology Laboratory (AdaptLab)

“I’ve never experienced being a research study before or being a part of a community that helps each student so much. Aging is such an amazing part of life and it’s a never-ending process. Technology has just made aging easier and more acceptable. As a black woman in STEM, being in START has encouraged me to learn more about aging and doing more for my community. It has encouraged me to help other accept aging as a stage in life and address the concern in healthcare that have to do with aging”

Joshua Salamea

Senior in Kinesiology
Faculty mentor: Dr. Toni Liechty
Department of Recreation, Sports and Tourism

“Agism can come in many different forms but perhaps the fault with ageism is allowing ourselves to believe that age is the ‘end all be all’ of human prosperity. How can we work to not only gracefully age, but redefine the stigmas surrounding aging? The answer lies in the tedious work we do here to answers how all facets of life contribute or don’t to the idea that getting old/aging is inevitable maybe it doesn’t have to be”

My Amazing START Experience

Michael Knipp

Sophomore in Kinesiology
Faculty mentor: Dr. Rachel Hoopsick
Department of Kinesiology and Community Health
Hoopsick Research Team

“I had a great time in START. I was able to learn so much new information about topics surrounding aging and research as a whole. Meeting with Kunle was also a great learning experience because he had such a good perspective on many different topics. I am forever grateful for the START program and everything that it taught me”

2020-2021 START Fellows

Headshot of Brianna Silveira

Brianna Silveira

Senior in Community Health
Faculty mentor: Dr. Liza Berdychevsky
Department of Kinesiology and Community Health
Diversity Research Laboratory

“As a wheelchair user, I had little time to seek out potential research opportunities due to other responsibilities. The START program helped me gain research experience while matching me with a lab, so I didn’t have to seek one out myself. Research experience is crucial to being a student at Illinois. The START program facilitated valuable research experience, which I may not have had otherwise”

Headshot of Vanessa Romero

Vanessa Romero

Junior in Speech and Hearing Science
Faculty mentor: Dr. Raksha Mudar
Department of Speech and Hearing Science
Aging and Neurocognition Lab

“Being a first-generation woman of color in my family has inspired me to continue my education for myself and my parents who sacrificed so much by emigrating to the United States. I always wanted to be involved in research but did not know where to begin. The START program gave me the opportunity to learn and be part of a research program that has expanded my professional skills in the field of research and aging”

Headshot of Vanesa Ramos

Vanessa Ramos

Junior in I-Health
Faculty mentor: Shannon Mejía
Department of Kinesiology and Community Health
Adult Development, Adaptation, & Technology Laboratory (AdaptLab)

“The START program gave me the space to voice my thoughts on science/health related topics, and I am grateful for the START program to have given a opportunity for minority students to get more involved in aging research. The adult development, adaptation, and technology lab has welcomed me with open arms and has taught me more about aging research above and beyond what is taught in a typical university course”

Headshot of Chloe Maghinang

Chloe Maghinang

Sophomore in Speech and Hearing Science
Faculty mentor: Dr. Raksha Mudar
Department of Speech and Hearing Science
Aging and Neurocognition Lab

“As a first-generation Asian American woman and a proud daughter of two immigrant parents, I embrace the values of determination, perseverance, and hard work instilled in me throughout my life. I strive to continuously exercise such principles and conducting research through the START program has given me the perfect opportunity to do so. I am incredibly grateful for everyone who has helped me develop as a student and a researcher”

Headshot of Jessie Li

Jessie Li

Sophomore in I-Health
Faculty mentor: Dr. Liza Berdychevsky
Diversity Research Laboratory
Department of Recreation, Sport and Tourism

“I applied to the START program on a whim, not really knowing the full extent of aging research. Since joining, I have had the pleasure to meet and interact with so many like minded people while learning new skills through research. I’d like to thank Dr. Schwingel and the rest of the START team for empowering me to participate and engage with the resources they have organized. START has definitely become one of my favorite undergrad experiences so far”

Headshot of Leah Lasher

Leah Lasher

Junior in Kinesiology
Faculty mentor: Dr. Neha Gothe
Department of Kinesiology and Community Health
Exercise Psychology Lab

“Being a part of the START program has given me so many opportunities that I would not have had otherwise. Learning about and being involved in aging research at UIUC is something that is so special and valuable for my future aspirations. I am also grateful to have been surrounded by a diverse group of individuals in this program. It is so important to see culturally and racially diverse perspectives in research”

Headshot of Jenna Crean

Jenna Crean

Senior in Speech and Hearing Science
Faculty mentor: Dr. Fatima Husain
Department of Speech and Hearing Science
Auditory Cognitive Neuroscience Lab

“I am very passionate about research! The START program has provided me with a hands on experience in research and a better insight into the field of aging. I had an excellent time working with Dr. Husain and her research. I am thankful for her guidance and the support of everyone in the START program. I will carry this experience and everything I learned from it with me as I move forward towards a career in health”

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Cailey Cranny

Senior in I-Health
Faculty mentor: Dr. Toni Liechty
Department of Recreation, Sport and Tourism

“Difference can be challenging. If you’ve got a homogenous group of people who all think alike, it’s easier to reach a comfortable consensus. Diversity means including people with different perspectives, different experiences, different opinions, and perhaps different working styles or expectations. The companies that succeed in their diversity initiatives do a good job of managing those differences and creating a harmonious whole”

Headshot of Vivian Chay

Vivian Chay

Sophomore in Kinesiology
Faculty mentor: Dr. Wendy Rogers
Department of Kinesiology and Community Health
Human Factors and Aging Lab

“Being in the START program for two semesters, I have gained a lot of knowledge on research and have developed new perspectives on the different topics on aging. I am also grateful that START has assisted my transitioning into a research lab by giving me prior knowledge and skills of research. Overall, I really enjoying working in this diverse and great START team”

Headshot of David Boachie

Daniel Boachie

Junior in Kinesiology
Faculty mentor: Dr. Neha Gothe
Department of Kinesiology and Community Health
Exercise Psychology Lab


“Prior to START, I did not see the value of getting involved at the University of Illinois, but the program changed that. Before START, I did not see myself as competent enough to be a contributing factor in a research lab, but the support and guidance I’ve received from Dr. Schwingel and the EPL staff have been invaluable in changing this mindset. I’ve been able to gain novel skills, experiences, and build a relationship with faculty that I believe will be very beneficial in my future endeavors”

Headshot of Anya Bhagwaker

Anya Bhagwakar

Senior in I-Health
Faculty mentor: Dr. Susan Aguinaga
Department of Kinesiology and Community Health
Health Equity and Aging Lab

“Being someone who had little research experience, the START program was the perfect opportunity for me to dive into the world of academic research. This program taught me the skills that I needed to work in that setting and helped me find a lab that matched my goals as a student researcher. The STAR program gave me all the tools I needed to be successful in the field of research and I am beyond grateful for this experience!”

Headshot of Ruth Ada

Ruth Ada

Senior in I-Health
Faculty mentor: Dr. Shannon Mejía
Department of Kinesiology and Community Health
Adult Development, Adaptation, & Technology Laboratory (AdaptLab)

“Joining the START Program was one of the highlights of my college career. Not only did it give me an opportunity to work in a lab where I had amazing mentors and learning opportunities, but it validated my abilities as a young Asian American woman to be successful in my chosen field. I am so proud of the work that my peers and I have accomplished during our year in the START program. The knowledge and connections that I have gained through research are invaluable, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds!”

2019-2020 START Fellows

Headshot of Siyao Zhang

Siyao Zhang

Sophomore in Community Health
Faculty mentor: Dr. Wendy Rogers
Department of Kinesiology and Community Health
Human Factors and Aging Lab

“I used to think that it was extremely hard for undergraduate students to be involved in research labs, while START program completely changed my mind. In the past year, not only did I learn about the wealth of research resources in AHS, I also got in touch with so many fellow undergraduate student researchers with the same passion in aging field. Especially as an international students, I feel recognized when my understanding of a different culture provides fresh perspectives and makes impact on the research work in lab

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Isabella Russel

Senior in Speech and Hearing Science
Faculty mentor: Dr. Toni Leichty
Department of Recreation, Sport and Tourism

Being a part of the START program has given me experience in research and a better insight into the field of aging. I had an excellent time working with Dr. Liechty and her research. I am thankful for her guidance and the support of everyone in the START program. I will carry this experience and everything I learned from it with me as I move forward towards a career in health

Headshot of Brielle Ross

Brielle Ross

Sophomore in Community Health
Faculty mentor: Dr. Julie Bobitt
I-Health Program
Aging and Health Policy Lab

Before the START program, I wasn’t as familiar with research that focuses on aging. It was interesting to hear about the different research that Applied Health Science professors are involved in throughout the program. The START program has made me more confident and eager to explore other aging topics in the future. I believe my African American background contributes to healthy aging in different aspects

Headshot of Wallis Peterson

Wallis Peterson

Sophomore in I-Health
Faculty mentor: Dr. Jake Sosnoff
Department of Kinesiology and Community Health
Motor Control Research Lab

Being a member of the START program was a great first opportunity to dip my toes into the research world. It was also awesome during our weekly meeting/seminar to see such a diverse group of students who were all female and pursuing the same goal of wanting to get more involved with research. I am grateful for the opportunity to do research in the aging field as someone who wants to study in the field of geriatrics

Headshot of Carla Ortiz

Carla Ortiz

Sophomore in Community Health
Faculty mentor: Dr. Laura Payne
Department of Recreation, Sport and Tourism

“As a Latina woman interested in research, I’ve always recognized the need for more diverse voices in this field. Research is one of the most powerful tools in expanding our knowledge of the world and the START program has given these typically underrepresented voices a chance to be heard. As a START fellow, I have had the perfect opportunity to delve into the world of research in aging, gain valuable experience, and develop as both a student and researcher.”

Headshot of Diana Morales

Diana Morales

Sophomore in Speech and Hearing Science
Faculty mentor: Dr. Susan Aguinaga
Department of Kinesiology and Community Health
Health Equity and Aging Lab

Being a First-Generation Mexican-American Woman fuels me as a researcher. Being a proud product of immigrants, I embrace and challenge the world around me, taking advantage of any and every opportunity I’ve earned. Being Mexican-American means I give back to my communities and try to dissolve disparities that exist between them. Being a woman means I show courage and strength, something many are not allowed to do. This is what fuels me as a student-researcher”

Headshot of Claire Inskeep

Claire Inskeep

Senior in Speech and Hearing Science
Faculty mentor: Dr. Raksha Mudar
Department of Speech and Hearing Science
Aging and Neurocognition Lab

“I’m passionate about research! It offers doorways to new information and ideas that feed my curiosity and motivate me to learn even more. Along with this, I was eager to find a research opportunity focusing on the aging population and was excited to be selected for the START program; it was a perfect fit”

Headshot of Jessica Escutia

Jessica Escutia

Sophomore in I-Health
Faculty mentor: Dr. Liza Berdychevsky
Department of Recreation, Sport and Tourism
Diversity Research Laboratory

“As a first generation previously undocumented migrant, I didn’t think a pathway towards higher education was possible, the barriers and unfamiliarity with the culture of academia made the journey even more daunting. The START program gave the applied knowledge, understanding and guidance to start my own research focused on aging. This fall I will being attending the University of Chicago to pursue a master’s degree in Social Service Administration to further investigate how to support marginalized populations. I will forever be grateful to the START program for giving me the opportunity to advance and collaborate with such acclaimed faculty”

Headshot of Makylah Allen

Makylah Allen

Junior in Kinesiology
Faculty mentor: Dr. Adam Konopka
Department of Kinesiology and Community Health
Physiology of Aging Lab

“Being selected to be a part of the START program opened many new doors for me as a Black woman at a predominantly white institution. This program has enhanced my research experience and allowed me to feel like I can contribute to important conversations regarding the quality of life of the aging population. I have learned a vast amount of novel skills and areas of expertise within the aging research laboratory I am in. The networking and relationships I have built with professors within the college of Applied Health Sciences through START is invaluable!”

2018-2019 START Fellows

Text reading sexual satisfaction and constraints in later life: insights from older lgbt older adults

Sonia Cabrera

Community Health
Faculty mentor: Dr. Liza Berdychevsky, Department of Recreation, Sport and Tourism

Leonardo Daniel Guzman research poster

Leonardo Daniel Guzman

Kinesiology
Faculty mentor: Dr. Shannon Mejia, Department of Kinesiology and Community Health

Jennifer Lee research poster

Jennifer Lee

I-Health
Faculty mentor: Dr. Wendy Rogers, Department of Kinesiology and Community Health

Seungaha (Riah) Lee research poster

Seungaha (Riah) Lee

I-Health
Faculty mentor: Dr. Adam Konopka, Department of Kinesiology and Community Health

Text reading What is Missing?: Insights from MoCA-MIS Scores of Individuals with Amnestic Mild Cognitive Impairment

Jessica Philipp

Speech and Hearing Science
Faculty mentor: Dr. Raksha Mudar, Department of Speech and Hearing Science

Text reading hearing handicap and cognitive challenges in age-associated hearing loss

Grace Rochford

Speech and Hearing Science
Faculty mentor: Dr. Raksha Mudar, Department of Speech and Hearing Science

Nimota-lai (Nini) Sulaiman research poster

Nimota-lai (Nini) Sulaiman

Kinesiology
Faculty mentor: Dr. Jake Sosnoff, Department of Kinesiology and Community Health

Kathy Tran research poster

Kathy Tran

Community Health
Faculty mentor: Dr. Diana Grigsby-Toussaint, Department of Kinesiology and Community Health

Jenna Vangalis research poster

Jenna Vangalis

Kinesiology
Faculty mentor: Dr. Fatima Husain, Department of Speech and Hearing Science

Emily Williams research poster

Emily Williams

Community Health
Faculty mentor: Dr. Julie Bobitt, I-Health

Alanna Wong research poster

Alanna Wong

I-Health
Faculty mentor: Dr. Shannon Mejia, Department of Kinesiology and Community Health