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Meet the Ambassadors

Janae Bradley

Industrial and Bio-Engineering, PhD student


Janae is a 3rd year PhD student in Industrial and Bio-Engineering.

Research Interests: Her research interests are in tissue engineering and biomaterials, and her current research focuses on the development of an injectable material as a template for intervertebral disc degeneration.

Campus Involvement: She is a graduate mentor for the IMSD EXPRESS Program and serves on the Student Inclusivity Board in the College of Engineering. She also serves on the planning committee for the Diverse Engineering Professionals Conference at Mizzou.

Funding/ Fellowships: IMSD Graduate Fellowship (2015-2017), GAANN Fellowship (2017), GEM Fellowship (2017)

Awards: 2016 Celebration of Women in Engineering, 2015 Undergraduate Research Top Presenter at the American Physical Society, 2015 1st place award for Excellence in Undergraduate Research at Mizzou’s Undergraduate Research and Creative Achievements Forum

Future Plans: Her career goals after earning her PhD include conducting research in a national lab or researching and designing biomaterials in industry.

Nigelle Cochran

English, PhD student


Nigelle Cochran is a third year MA/PhD student in the English department, specializing in Language & Linguistics. 

Research Interests: Her MA thesis focused on dialect trends in Missouri English, and she plans to spend her time during her PhD to explore how phonetic realizations in American dialects are used to encode meaning and negotiate group and individual identities within varying social settings. Her research interests include sociolinguistics, sociophonetics, and dialectology.

Campus Involvement: Nigelle spends in her time on campus being involved with the Latin@ Graduate Professional Network (LGPN), the English Graduate Student Association (EGSA), and Christian Grads Fellowship.

Awards: Nigelle is a recipient of the Thurgood Marshall Fellowship and has a teaching assistantship with the English Department.

Future Plans: Nigelle aims to complete her PhD and work as a tenure track professor where she can continue her explorations in sociophonetics and, possibly one day, she can assess similar trends in other languages. 

Jasmine Hall

Biological Sciences/ Neurobiology, PhD Student


Jasmine Hall is a first year doctoral student in the Department of Biological Sciences.

Research Interests: Currently, my research interest involves, the molecular characterization and mechanisms of subunit Neurofilament genes and proteins in derivatives of Charcot-Marie-Tooth and Spinal Cord Injury mouse models.

Campus Involvement: Secretary for the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science

Awards: Gus T. Ridgel Fellow

Future Plans: One day I hope to become a high-profile science policy administrator and/or advisor. I would also like to create a Non-Profit organization that would create opportunities for African American youth and teens to become involved in Science, Technology, Engineering, Agriculture, and Mathematics.

Frank Johnson

Soil, Environmental and Atmospheric Sciences, PhD Student


Frank graduated from MU with his Master’s Degree in Natural Resources with an emphasis in Soil Sciences in 2015. He is currently a 2nd year doctoral student in the Department of Soil, Environmental, and Atmospheric Sciences.

Research Interests: His research involves using Illumina Sequencing, a next generation sequencing technique, to study dentrification from soils.

Campus Involvement: Association for Black, Graduate, and Professional Students (ABGPS).

Awards: Thurgood Marshall Fellow, Ferguson Graduate Study (School of Natural Resources)

Future Plans: After finishing his Ph.D, Frank would like to perform research for the government, or pursue a faculty position at a research institution.


Dena Lane-Bonds

Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis- Higher Education, PhD Student


Dena is a 4th Year doctoral student in the Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis-Higher Education program.

Research Interests: Dena studies the effects of poverty on learning outcomes for college students who identify as homeless and assess to campus resources available to students facing or experiencing food and shelter insecurity. She also utilizes and examines GIS (Geographic Information Systems), Neurogeography, Perceptions of campus safety and campus climate and its influence on student retention, Graduate school preparation and success, and Career development pathways for international doctoral students.

Future Plans: Faculty, U.S. Department of Education, Consultant for think tank

Campus Involvement: Former Vice President for ELGSA, AERA Division G Campus Liaison, ELGSA Mentor

Awards: Higher Education Future Scholar Fellowship October 2015- October 2016, Carolyn A. Dorsey Minority Fellowship Fund Award, August 2015-May 2017, Gus T. Ridgel Fellowship Recipient, August 2014- May 2019, Educational Leadership and Policy Scholarship, August 2014-May 2015


Veronica Newton-Burke, ABD

Sociology, Doctoral Candidate and Graduate Instructor, Mizzou Sociology


Veronica A. Newton, ABD is doctoral candidate in the Department of Sociology with a Ph.D. minor in Black Studies.

Research Interests: Her two areas of research are Culture and Identity and Social Inequalities. Her research interests include Sociology of Education, Critical Race Feminism, and Black women in higher education. Veronica’s dissertation research examines how Black undergraduate women experience racialized gendered microaggressions at a historically, predominately white university (HPWI).

Future Plans: Veronica would like to teach at a research 2 university or liberal arts college after her PhD is completed.

Campus Involvement: Association of Black Graduate and Professional Students (Social Chair) 2015-2016. In 2016, Veronica created Sociology Conversations, which is a forum held 2-3 times a semester in the Department of Sociology for undergraduates and sociology majors to discuss current social issues. 

Awards: Gus T. Ridgel Fellowship, Irma Mathes Dissertation Award Honorable Mention, Teaching and Research Award: Department of Sociology, Dr. Donald M. Suggs Dissertation Support Fellowship, James S. Rollins Slavery Atonement Endowment: Black Studies Department.


Adam Northcutt

Biology, PhD Candidate



Adam Northcutt grew up in the small town of DeSoto, MO and received his Bachelor’s Degree in Biology: Biomedical Sciences from Southeast Missouri State University in 2014.  Following graduation, he accepted a position at the University of Missouri-Columbia as a graduate student in the Division of Biological Sciences as a Biology PhD candidate.  He is currently a fourth-year graduate student. As a CIE Ambassador, Adam is happy to serve Mizzou and support diversity initiatives to allow our young professionals to be successful in their programs and careers beyond. 

Research Interests: His research interests include understanding the molecular underpinnings of neuron cell identity, as well as providing modern molecular tools to traditional electrophysiology preparations, including the medicinal leech, sea lamprey, Jonah crab, and American lobster.  

Campus Involvement:  Biology Graduate Student Association (BGSA)

Awards:  T32 Molecular Biology Trainee Grant, McNair Fellowship, NSF GRFP Honorable Mention award

Future Plans: Upon graduation, Adam plans to seek a position as a research scientist in an industrial setting. 

Christopher Odudu

Developmental Psychology, PhD Student


Christopher is a 3rd year doctoral student in the Developmental Psychology program.

Research Interests:  Adolescent Sibling Relationships/How stress affects infant physiological development

Campus Involvement: Grad Psychology Association Secretary/IMSD Graduate Mentor/Psychology Honors Graduate Student Mentor/CIE Ambassador

Awards:  NIH IMSD Research Training Grant Fellowship/ Ridgell Scholar Fellowship

Future Plans: His future plans include teaching in academia at R2 or R1 institution.


Nicholas Olivarez

Molecular Pathogenesis & Therapeutics Program, PhD Student


Nicholas Olivarez is a 4th year doctoral student in the Molecular Pathogenesis & Therapeutics Program.

Research Interests: Host-pathogen interactions; Molecular microbiology; Virology; Development of novel therapeutics

Bacteriophage antimicrobial therapy; Astronomy and physics

Campus Involvement: President of Alternative Career Exploration in the Sciences (ACES) grad student group; President of the Mizzou chapter for the Society for the Advancement of Hispanics/Chican@s and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS); MU Graduate Student Leadership Development Program trainee; Graduate Innovation Initiative co-founder; Mentor for the NIH Initiative for Maximizing Student Diversity (IMSD) trainees

Awards: Gus T. Ridgel Fellowship; NIH NIGMS IMSD training grant; NIH T32 training grant; Life Sciences Fellowship; Phi Zeta Research Day research poster award; Life Sciences Week research poster award

Future Plans: Pursue a career as an infectious disease research scientist; Continue involvement in the advancement of underrepresented students in sciences; Continue mentoring students in science; Actively engage in science communication efforts to provide better communication between science and communities


Jana Onwonga

Education, PhD Student


Jana Onwonga is a 2nd year doctoral student in Counseling Psychology.

Research Interests: Jana studies how refugee experiences can inform the development of holistic interventions that would facilitate their successful reintegration into new societies. She also explores the resiliency and growth of survivors of trauma.

Campus Involvement: The Association of Black Psychologists (ABPsi)

Awards: Gus T. Ridgel Fellowship, Norman Gysbers Endowment Fund in the College of Education

Future Plans: Jana hopes to engage in community advocacy, as well as start/coordinate/consult program or organizations that implements interventions to successfully reintegrate trauma survivors into society as productive, contributing, and thriving members. She also would like to be a practicing psychologist/clinician, in addition to teaching at a higher education institution.

Michelle Williams

Biological Sciences, PhD Student


Michelle is a 4th year doctoral student in the Division of Biological Sciences, with an emphasis in Microbiology.

Research Interests: Michelle’s research focuses on understanding the molecular mechanisms of bacterial growth and division.

Campus Involvement: ACES (Alternative Career Exploration in the Sciences) (Social Media Coordinator), Bound for Grad School event planning committee, SCAPE (Science Communication and Public Engagements)

Awards: Life Science Fellowship, Professional Presentation travel award from the Office of Graduate Studies, and the Douglas D. Randall Young Scientists Development travel award, 1st Place oral presentation at the Missouri Branch of the American Society for Microbiology.

Future Plans: I am interested in a career in science policy and science communication. I hope to apply my knowledge as a scientist to help impact policy decisions, and to help scientists communicate the importance of their work to policymakers and the public.


Patricka Williams-Simon

Biology, PhD Student


Patricka is a 3rd year student in the Biology program in the Division of Biological Sciences.

Research Interests: Quantitative Genetics and Genomics

Campus Involvement: Founding president of Minorities in STEM (Mi-STEM)

Awards: IMSD Fellowship

Future Plans: After completing her PhD, Patricka would like to be a Presidential Management Fellow (PMF) at the National Institute of Health (NIH).

Tiffanesha Williams

Political Science, PhD Student


Tiffanesha is 4th year doctoral student in the Department of Political Science with an emphasis in Comparative Politics and International Relations.

Research Interests: She is interested in the long term effects of the level of colonial exclusionary practices on state capacity in post-colonial states. Her other research interests include the effect of globalization on local mediation of natural resource extraction in Southeast Asia, interstate conflict and cooperation over freshwater resources, the importance of administrative capacity for varying levels of police brutality and state violence, and the new wave of social activism in the United States.

Campus Involvement: Program Coordinator- CIE Ambassadors Program; President-Association of Black Graduate and Professional Students

Awards: AIFIS CAORC/ECA Fellow; Gus T. Ridgel Fellow; Fulbright Hays Fellowship; Critical Language Scholarship (CLS)-Indonesia; Foreign Language Area Studies Fellowship (FLAS)   

Future Plans: Her future plans include teaching at a research institution or liberal arts college, as well as public service and consulting.