Meet Our Graduate School Fellows


Name: Lázaro González González
Hometown: Cuba
Department: Literature, Cultures, and Languages
Degree Sought: MA, 2020
Who is your favorite fictional character?: Holden Caulfield, from The Catcher in the Rye
How has being a Graduate Fellow impacted you: The Crandall Fellowship has been a essential support to make my research project possible.
Current research: My primary areas of interest include queer memory, performance, Latin American Cinema, documentary film theory, Caribbean studies, and the Cuban diaspora. Together with my career as a scholar, I'm also an award-winning filmmaker, whose documentaries — Máscaras and Villa Rosa —have been screened at numerous festivals and universities nationally and internationally. My articles have appeared in Cubanow, Enfoco, IPSCuba, and Cine Cubano, among other publications.


Name: Madeline Quam
Hometown: Tampa, Florida
Department: Psychological Science
Degree Sought: PhD, 2024
Who is your favorite fictional character?: Inej Ghafa, from Six of Crows
How has being a Graduate Fellow impacted you: Being awarded the Harriott Fellowship made my decision to attend UConn much easier. I greatly appreciate the support not only financially, which does provide some peace of mind, but also through the resources offered by the program as well as the chance to meet similarly driven people. Having this fellowship has given me the opportunity to pursue my specific research questions and further my academic goals as well as make connections outside of my department. I look forward to see what the next few years will bring.
Current research: 1) the effects of language experience on number knowledge and math cognition and 2) handshape preferences of deaf homesigners and their communication partners


Name: Donyeil Hoy, Jr.
Hometown: Chicago, Illinois
Department: Biomedical Engineering
Degree Sought: PhD, 2020
What is your favorite quote?: "I wish I could show you, when you are lonely or in darkness, the astonishing light of your own being." - Hafez of Shiraz
How has being a Graduate Fellow impacted you: My fellowship has allowed me to have a stronger voice in choosing the research that I am interested in pursuing. It has also allowed me to focus on research rather than teaching.
Current research: Designing Self-Assembled High-Efficiency Lipid Bicelles for the Encapsulation of Graphene Family Materials (Lipid self-assembly and drug delivery)


Name: Melanie Klinck
Hometown: Hartford, Connecticut
Department: Social Work
Degree Sought: MSW, 2021
If you had an extra hour in your day, every day, what hobby would you pursue?: Yoga
How has being a Graduate Fellow impacted you: Receiving the fellowship allows me to spend the next two years truly focusing on my education. I was able to reduce my work hours and accept my first choice internship at the Yale New Haven Psychiatric Hospital. Furthermore, I felt inspired to know that The Graduate School sees potential in my educational and career goals. I am truly grateful for the support from the university.
Current research: I am currently a research assistant on four different UConn Health studies focusing on addiction and other behavioral health topics. 1) The Empower Program (promoting HIV testing in at risk women) 2) A Psychotherapy Development Study for Internet Gaming Disorder 3) Health Behaviors and Employment (looking at how unemployment and alcohol use relate) and 4) Promoting Employment Outcomes in People Living with HIV/AIDS.


Name: Gabriel Camacho
Hometown: New York, New York
Department: Psychological Sciences
Degree Sought: PhD, 2020
What is your favorite home cooked meal?: Arroz con gandules y pernil
How has being a Graduate Fellow impacted you: Receiving funding from the Crandall/Cordero fellowship allows me to teach fewer hours and devote more time to research.
Current research: My research examines novel ways in which the risk of being stigmatized can adversely affect the stereotype-relevant performance of ethnic minorities and the health and well-being of people with concealable stigmatized identities (i.e., identities not immediately knowable to others). I am also interested in the meta-level question of whether people (whether stigmatized or not) believe that social processes like stigma and stereotype threat can explain the underperformance of ethnic minorities and other societally devalued groups. In other words, I am interested in whether psychological concepts like stigma and stereotype threat have entered into the public consciousness and are now used by lay people to explain social inequality.


Name: Elena Robakiewicz
Hometown: Massachusetts
Department: Geosciences
Degree Sought: PhD, 2020
If you had an extra hour in your day, every day, what hobby would you pursue?: Tap Dancing
How has being a Graduate Fellow impacted you: My fellowship has been absolutely instrumental in my ability to pursue research. My fellowship has allowed me to travel to Universitaet Tuebingen where we have now established an exchange program between the geology and archaeology departments of both universities. Without this fellowship, I would have been unable to travel and this partnership would not have been possible.
Current research: Changing Southwest African Climate and Hydrology: Implications for Human Evolution (How past environments impact human evolution, innovation, and migration in Africa)


Name: Jesslynn Rocha Neves
Hometown: New Bedford, Massachusetts
Department: School Psychology
Degree Sought: PhD, 2020
Who is your favorite fictional character?: Chuckie Finster, from the Rugrats
How has being a Graduate Fellow impacted you: I appreciate knowing that I can access a community of diverse scholars during and beyond my time at UConn.
Current research:  Development of a School Climate Walkthrough Assessment, Cross Cultural School Climate Study (Educational equity, school climate, measurement, and accountability)


Name: Adaliss S. Rodriguez
Hometown: Connecticut
Department: Anthropology
Degree Sought: PhD, 2022
What is your favorite quote?: "Pray, hope, and don't worry." - St. Padre Pio
How has being a Graduate Fellow impacted you: Not only has this fellowship allowed me to make pursuing this degree an option, but - equally and, if not more, importantly - it has introduced me to the finest advocates and role models in the academy. This small number of people, both peers and staff, have irrefutably been prerequisite to my well-being and success hitherto.
Current research:  I am preparing for my comprehensive examinations, which will survey child obesity in North America, genetically engineered organisms and their co-technologies, and physicians working in the context of complementary and alternative medicine, namely Naturopathy.


Name: Luke Johnson
Hometown: Olympia, Washington
Department: Computer Science and Engineering
Degree Sought: PhD, 2022
What would you name the movie title for the story of your life?: Our Lives Covered in Chia Seeds
How has being a Graduate Fellow impacted you: It has allowed me to pursue research outside of my department and build relationships with other faculty at the University. It also reminds me that the work that I do outside of my field has value and is important.
Current research: Code Offset in the Exponent (Theoretical cryptography, the foundations of secure biometric authentication)


Name: Tyler W. Griffin
Hometown: West Linn, Oregon
Department: Marine Sciences
Degree Sought: PhD, 2023
What is your favorite dinosaur?: Stegosaurus - they had wicked cool dorsal plates AND tail spikes (called a thagomizer!)
How has being a Graduate Fellow impacted you: This fellowship has meant everything for my career development. Without it, I definitely wouldn't be at UConn, and probably wouldn't be pursuing my PhD at all.
Current research: Bi-directional interactions between bivalve-associated microbial communities and anthropogenic pollutants (Bivalve-associated microbiome)


Name: Dina Lisel Rivera
Hometown: Willimantic, Connecticut and San Juan, Puerto Rico
Department: Literatures, Cultures, and Languages
Degree Sought: PhD, 2020
What is your favorite flavor cookie?: Chocolate
How has being a Graduate Fellow impacted you: The fellowship has been critical in providing time and space for researching and writing my dissertation, for developing an ongoing second project, publishing papers, and preparing and delivering presentations at various academic conferences, among other scholarly activities. Teaching one course per semester has allowed me to hone and refine my teaching fields and skills and has granted key support in developing my professional profile. The financial and professional assistance provided by this fellowship, the Graduate School and their support systems have been extraordinary, and a key component of my growth as a scholar and teacher.
Current research:  Houses Taken Over: Gothic, History, and Nation in Spanish American Literature; Counterfoundational Fictions and the Gothic Modality in Latin American Letters; Distanced Fictions and National Narratives in Contemporary Puerto Rican Literature


Name: Shadia Heenan
Hometown: Houston, Texas
Department: Art & Art History
Degree Sought: MFA, 2020
If you had an extra hour in your day, every day, what hobby would you pursue?: I would get back to jewelry making or ceramics.
How has being a Graduate Fellow impacted you: The Crandall-Cordero fellowship has supported me most in experiencing a full immersion into my research, academic courses, and my art practice.
Current research: The impact of trauma and intergenerational transmission of trauma.


Name: Monica Garity
Hometown: Sacramento, California
Department: Marine Sciences
Degree Sought: PhD, 2024
What is your unusual talent?: I can put together jigsaw puzzles very quickly.
How has being a Graduate Fellow impacted you: It has given me peace of mind knowing I will have financial stability throughout graduate school. This will allow me to focus on my research.
Current research: I am researching the oceanic processes which may have been responsible for the atmospheric carbon dioxide changes seen during glacial-interglacial cycles.


Name: Kevin Zevallos
Hometown: Brooklyn, New York
Department: Sociology
Degree Sought: PhD, 2022
What is your favorite flavor cookie?: Chocolate, Chocolate Chip Cookies
How has being a Graduate Fellow impacted you: My fellowship has allowed me to allocate more energy and focus onto my research endeavors.
Current research: Undocumented Youth Organizing/ Latinx Identity Formation Processes


Name: Mikayla Moody
Hometown: I have many homes, but I would say Norfolk, Virginia and Stillwater, Oklahoma are my two homes.
Department: Biomedical Engineering
Degree Sought: PhD, 2024
If you had an extra hour in your day, every day, what hobby would you pursue?: If I had an extra hour every day, I would either paint or draw.
How has being a Graduate Fellow impacted you: It has made me feel less financially strained. It has also introduced me to other people from other departments through fellow get-togethers. Additionally, I feel like I have gained a network of administrators I can talk to about improving the graduate school experience for myself, current students, and future students.
Current research:  I am currently looking at how a build up acid in the body due to diet or disease affects bone fractures, specifically in the femur.


Name: Monique Domingo
Hometown: Vallejo, California
Department: The School of Business
Degree Sought: PhD, 2022
What is your favorite quote?: "Neither of my parents had the means to attend college, but both taught me to love learning, to care about people, and to work hard for whatever I wanted or believed in." - Ruth Bader Ginsburg
How has being a Graduate Fellow impacted you: The Giolas-Harriott Fellowship has advanced my academic development by providing the resources that enable me to devote my attention toward building my research and teaching skills.
Current research: Team enabling and activating conditions on team member psychological empowerment and performance; Backlash response theory: how women leaders use emotional labor to address backlash events


Name: Tanner Kovach
Hometown: Willimantic, Connecticut
Department: Anthropology
Degree Sought: PhD, 2025
Who is your favorite fictional character?: The T. rex from Jurassic Park
How has being a Graduate Fellow impacted you: My fellowship has allowed me to pursue academic opportunities, such as fieldwork in Armenia and future lab work in Georgia, without having to worry about how I am going to pay rent, etc., while I am away.
Current research: I am studying Upper Paleolithic lithic technology in the Southern Caucasus.


Name: Jamilah R. George
Hometown: Detroit, Michigan
Department: Psychological Sciences
Degree Sought: PhD, 2024
If you had an extra hour in your day, every day, what hobby would you pursue?: Performing! - I'm a singer/dancer/actress
How has being a Graduate Fellow impacted you: Given my research-focused orientation, I have benefited greatly from my fellowship. It has allowed me to focus my attention and resources on research more than I would otherwise be able to. It has also relieved some of the financial burden of the program which has positively contributed to my overall psychological well-being.
Current research: Perception of God Moderates the Relationship Between Scrupulosity and Contamination Symptoms in OCD (OCD; Trauma; Race/Ethnicity/Culture; Mental Health Disparities; Religion/Spirituality; Underserved populations)


Name: Vernan Rivera
Hometown: California
Department: Accounting
Degree Sought: PhD, 2024
If you had an extra hour in your day, every day, what hobby would you pursue?: Learn to play the piano
How has being a Graduate Fellow impacted you: The Harriott Fellowship reduced the anxiety related to not having income from a full-time job during my PhD studies. The Fellowship has also allowed me to make lasting connections with other graduate students from outside the business school.


Name: Lily Luo
Hometown: Shanghai, China and Boston, Massachusetts
Department: Political Science
Degree Sought: PhD, 2024
What is your favorite quote?: "These are the times to grow our souls." -Grace Lee Boggs
How has being a Graduate Fellow impacted you: This fellowship has given me the time to focus on my research interests and get involved in the community here at UCONN.
Current research: Intersectionality, Critical Race Theory, Feminist Political Theory, Decolonialism, Revolution and Evolution, Neo-liberalism, Political Science and Popular Culture


Name: Reynaldo Lastre
Hometown: Willimantic, Connecticut
Department: Literatures, Cultures, and Languages
Degree Sought: PhD, 2024
Who is your favorite fictional character?: Odysseus
How has being a Graduate Fellow impacted you: It has given me more time for my research. It allows me to be part of a network of graduate students who exchange knowledge and research skills.
Current research:  Nuclear energy and Cultural Production in the Caribbean (Sciences's intervention of Humanities)


Name: Ajhanai (AJ) Channel Inez Newton
Hometown: San Jose, CA
Department: Learning, Leadership, Educational Policy
Degree Sought: PhD, 2021
What is your favorite quote?: "Sometimes, God will not allow us to look like what we have been through." -Dr. Heaven
How has being a Graduate Fellow impacted you: I am forever thankful for the support I receive from the GH fellowship. The fellowship has allowed me to engage in research and doctoral studies, with little financial stress. I have also been able to connect with peers and develop close relationships with other fellows, which has assisted in how I perceive community at UConn.
Current research:  A Conceptual Model of the Emergence of Diversity and Inclusion Officers in Division I Collegiate Athletics | A Critical Discourse Analysis of White Student-Athletes Attending a Historically Black College and University (Diversity and Inclusion in Sport Organizations, Racial Identity Development of Student-Athletes, Mental Health and Student-Athletes)


Name: Marc Reyes
Hometown: Kansas City, Missouri
Department: Department of History
Degree Sought: PhD, 2021
If you had an extra hour in your day, every day, what hobby would you pursue?: I would watch more movies and write film reviews
How has being a Graduate Fellow impacted you: My fellowship provided opportunities to travel and better understand the world - to do research in foreign archives, present at international conferences, and meet with scholars from all over the globe. It supported my development as a researcher, instructor, and emerging scholar eager for a career in academia.
Current research: In the Circle of Great Powers: India, the United States, and the Postcolonial Atomic State (Foreign relations history; South Asian Studies; histories of science & technology)


Name: James A deMayo
Hometown: California
Department: Marine Sciences
Degree Sought: PhD, 2021
What is your favorite home cooked meal?: My grandmother's tacos, enchiladas, rice, and beans
How has being a Graduate Fellow impacted you: This fellowship is the reason I am still able to pursue an education at UConn. Without it, I would not be able to complete the experiments I've attempted or get the teaching experience I've desired. It has made the most profound difference in my educational career thus far.
Current research:  Climate change adaptation in zooplankton


Name: Alec Jorge Calvo
Hometown: Manchester, CT
Department: Psychological Sciences
Degree Sought: PhD, 2020
If you had an extra hour in your day, every day, what hobby would you pursue?: Wood working
How has being a Graduate Fellow impacted you: Graduate school carries with it enough anxiety in the work itself, let alone the compounded stress of financial concerns. The certainty that has come with this fellowship has made it such that I never had to worry where my graduate funding would come from.
Current research: Dignity of Labor: Callings Among the Working Poor (Work as a Calling)


Name: Emma Lee
Hometown: Oakland, Maine
Department: English
Degree Sought: MA, 2021
If you had an extra hour in your day, every day, what hobby would you pursue?: Crafting something wearable (sewing, knitting)
How has being a Graduate Fellow impacted you: I have been able to pay back undergraduate debt and create financial security for the future! Thank you!
Current research: Contemporary multi-ethnic literatures; minority literatures


Name: Nikole Giovannone
Hometown: Sandy Hook, Connecticut
Department: Speech, Language, & Hearing Sciences
Degree Sought: PhD, 2023
What is your unusual talent?: I bake my own bread from a homemade sourdough starter!
How has being a Graduate Fellow impacted you: My fellowship has given me the opportunity to pursue the scientific questions that excite me at an institution that offers both incredible support and copious resources for the study of the neurobiology of language.
Current research:  Contributions to individual differences in lexically guided perceptual learning (How do our expressive and receptive language abilities impact the way in which we perceive speech?)


Name: Txai Sibley
Hometown: Connecticut and New York City, New York
Department: Institute of Material Science
Degree Sought: PhD, 2024
If you owned a boat, what would you name it?: Coriander
How has being a Graduate Fellow impacted you: My fellowship made attending UConn feasible for me. Without the fellowship, worries about funding, housing, food, and transportation would distract me from academics and research. I'm incredibly grateful to be enabled to focus on what I came to graduate school for: learning.
Current research:  Defect Characterization of Irradiated Pure Tungsten (I'm researching defect behavior in irradiated metals to help develop materials for nuclear energy applications.)


Name: Briana Hennessy
Hometown: Cromwell, Connecticut
Department: Educational Psychology
Degree Sought: PhD, 2021
What is your unusual talent?: I am pretty good at whistling
How has being a Graduate Fellow impacted you: The fellowship has allowed me the time to pursue my own research interests while maintaining balance in life.
Current research: Item response theory, standardized testing, growth modeling.


Name: Dung (Emma) Nguyen
Hometown: Annapolis, Maryland
Department: Linguistics
Degree Sought: PhD, 2020
What would you name the movie title for the story of your life?: The Confused Little Asian Kid
How has being a Graduate Fellow impacted you: This fellowship has given me the time and freedom to carry out my research throughout the calendar year (including summer) as well as disseminate my research as conferences.
Current research: The predictive power of lexical semantics on the acquisition of passive voice in young children (First Language Acquisition)


Name: Manny Ramirez
Hometown: Tampa, Florida
Department: Sociology
Degree Sought: PhD, 2023
What is your favorite flavor cookie?: Double Chocolate Chip
How has being a Graduate Fellow impacted you: My fellowship has allowed me to think more deeply about my research as well as my performance as an instructor.


Name: Grace Vaziri
Hometown: Santa Clarita, California
Department: Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Degree Sought: PhD, 2023
What is your favorite home cooked meal?: Ghormeh sabzi (Persian herb stew)
How has being a Graduate Fellow impacted you: Because of the fellowship I have fewer teaching obligations, which allows me more time to spend in the field collecting data, and has given me the freedom to explore a diverse roster of project ideas.
Current research:  The eco-immunology and microbiota of (frozen!) overwintering wood frogs (Ecological-immunology, parasitism, wild microbiome)


Name: Matthew Howell
Hometown: Boiling Springs, South Carolina
Department: Chemistry
Degree Sought: PhD, 2024
If you had an extra hour in your day, every day, what hobby would you pursue?: Classical guitar
How has being a Graduate Fellow impacted you: The Fellowship has connected me with a support network that has actively worked to make my graduate school experience as successful as possible.
Current research: Synthesis and characterization of metal-binding peptides that kill bacteria


Name: Britney Jones
Hometown: Elmont, New York
Department: Educational Leadership
Degree Sought: PhD, 2021
If you had an extra hour in your day, every day, what hobby would you pursue?: YouTube, I would either spend the time watching videos or start my own channel! 🙂
How has being a Graduate Fellow impacted you: This fellowship has undoubtedly relieved a financial burden and limited stress around seeking funding opportunities each year. Additionally, it has reduced my workload and allowed me to focus more of my time and energy on research related to my own interests. Finally, it created a space for me to connect with a network of dynamic, phenomenal, and inspiring fellow UCONN graduate students!
Current research:  Culturally Relevant Pedagogy; Culturally Relevant Science Teaching