Meet Our Graduate School Fellows


Name: Antonia Caba
Hometown: Sydney, Australia and Chelmsford, Massachusetts
Department: Human Development and Family Sciences
Degree Sought: PhD, 2024
If you had an extra hour in your day, every day, what hobby would you pursue?: I would take up pottery!
How has being a Graduate Fellow impacted you: The fellowship has provided financial stability, allowing me to focus on my studies and research.
Current research: Sexual and gender minority identity development, health, and wellbeing.


Name: Rachel Gabrilowitz
Hometown: Cranston, Rhode Island
Department: School Psychology
Degree Sought: MA/Sixth-Year, 2023
If you had an extra hour in your day, every day, what hobby would you pursue?: Gardening - I would love to learn how to grow my own fruit and vegetables.
How has being a Graduate Fellow impacted you: The Crandall fellowship provides me with the opportunity to be fully immersed in my studies with fewer financial constraints. I am grateful to have the space to explore my professional/research interests and to learn from the graduate student community here at UConn.


Name: Damian Deamici
Hometown: Mendoza, Argentina
Department: Literatures, Cultures and Languages
Degree Sought: PhD, 2025
What is your favorite quote?: "Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."
How has being a Graduate Fellow impacted you: I am so grateful for this fellowship. It has allowed me to fully immerse myself in my research without financial concerns or constraints. In addition, the professional assistance is molding me into a well-rounded scholar.
Current research: Biopolitics and animality in XX Latin American Literature.


Name: Anne Marie Crinnion
Hometown: Villanova, PA
Department: Psychological Sciences
Degree Sought: PhD, 2025
If you had an extra hour in your day, every day, what hobby would you pursue?: I really enjoy constructing crossword puzzles!
How has being a Graduate Fellow impacted you: My fellowship will allow me to fully immerse myself in the myriad of research groups at UConn studying language, without having to worry about devoting time to other activities for financial support. I'm so grateful to have access to a wide range of scholars doing meaningful work in the UConn community.
Current research: speech perception, spoken word recognition


Name: Mary McGuinness
Hometown: Spring Lake Heights, NJ
Department: Marine Sciences
Degree Sought: Oceanography, 2022
What is your favorite quote?: "If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew To serve your turn long after they are gone, And so hold on when there is nothing in you Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’"
How has being a Graduate Fellow impacted you: I view receiving the Crandall fellowship not only as a great honor but as a responsibility and a promise. Now more than ever, we all must work to heal this country and to aggressively pursue justice and equality for all by rooting out hatred. This goal will take daily commitment and introspection. This award will serve as a daily reminder to my vow not to simply accept the things I can not change to change but instead the things I can not accept.
Current research: I am currently characterizing alkalinity along Long Island Sound embayments and freshwater tributaries to provide insight into the contribution of estuaries in the global carbon cycle.


Name: Omar Romandia
Hometown: Tijuana, Mexico & Phoenix, Arizona
Department: Education Policy
Degree Sought: PhD, 2025
What is your favorite quote?: "Life is like riding a bicycle. In order to keep your balance you must keep moving." - Albert Einstein
How has being a Graduate Fellow impacted you: Being awarded the Harriott Fellowship at UConn has been an incredible opportunity in my life. As a first-generation student and current DACA recipient, I have had to work full-time and obtain private scholarships in order to fund my higher education studies up to this point. This fellowship allows me to focus on my studies, engage in research, and also collaborate with the brightest minds in the country. I look forward to making a lasting impact at UConn while also engaging with the community in an effort to better impact policy to help students and families. I'd like to extend my gratitude to Dr. Kenny Nienhusser and Dr. Laura Burton who have been huge advocates during my transition to UConn. I couldn't be more excited for the bountiful opportunities ahead!
Current research: My professional background is quite expansive, which has given way to developing various research interests. I have been fortunate to work in finance, information technology, the non-profit sector, and education during the past 10 years. Given my unorthodox higher education journey and also working with students from across the globe, I have developed a passion to influence policy in an effort to expand access to higher education to all students regardless of their background or socioeconomic status. My current research topics include: (1) undocumented students' access to higher education, (2) equity-minded policy implementation, and (3) the impact of graduating in a pandemic on job opportunities and long-term earning potential.


Name: Leana Santos
Hometown: Santo Domingo, DR
Department: Civil and Environmental Engineering
Degree Sought: PhD, 2024
What is your favorite quote?: "Life is like riding a bicycle. In order to keep your balance you must keep moving." - Albert Einstein
How has being a Graduate Fellow impacted you: The Harriott Fellowship allowed me to focus on my research interests rather than to worry about money to pay for my graduate studies. As a fellow, I will be part of a community that will help me grow professionally.
Current research: My research interest are: (1) bridge fatigue and failure and (2) structural reliability and risk analysis


Name: Thomas Martinez Pilnik
Hometown: London, England
Department: Art & Art History
Degree Sought: MFA, 2023
What is your favorite home cooked meal?: Anything that provokes nostalgia: in particular, a Brazilian Feijoada that takes me back to humid São Paulo summers with my grandparents.
How has being a Graduate Fellow impacted you: It has given me the freedom to uproot and replant, commit to Connecticut as both an idea and a physical space, and devote all of my time to both my passion in teaching and art making.
Current research: Art through the manipulation of neuropsychological processes and iconographic interventions


Name: Chengeng Yang
Hometown: China
Department: Biomedical Engineering
Degree Sought: PhD, 2025
Who is your favorite fictional character?: Elizabeth Bennet
How has being a Graduate Fellow impacted you: Receiving the Jorgensen Fellowship has allowed me to concentrate on my research topics in a better way and offered me with more chances to explore the world. It benefits me not only in the financial aspects but in providing networking resources.
Current research: Modeling and Simulation for Materials and Biology


Name: Lisset Martinez-Berman
Hometown: San Antonio, TX
Department: Psychological Sciences
Degree Sought: PhD, 2025
If you had an extra hour in your day, every day, what hobby would you pursue?: I would learn how to play the cello.
How has being a Graduate Fellow impacted you: It has given me financial stability and will allow me to focus more on my research as I progress into my program.
Current research: My current research interests include anti-vaccination attitudes and celebrity admiration.


Name: Cindy Barreto
Hometown: Pelotas, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil
Department: Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Degree Sought: PhD, 2026
What is your favorite dinosaur?: Birds are my favorite dinosaurs.
How has being a Graduate Fellow impacted you: Without this fellowship, I would not be able to start my Ph.D. at UConn. I have always dreamed about being a biologist and pursuing a Ph.D. will help me achieve this goal. As a first-generation college student, pursuing a Ph.D. is a life-changing opportunity for me, as well as for my family. I am grateful to UConn and the Graduate School for this fellowship!
Current research: I am interested in the effects of urbanization on interactions between Darwin's finches and their introduced parasites in the Galapagos Islands.


Name: Brennan Schliphack
Hometown: Vernon, CT
Department: Educational Psychology
Degree Sought: MA, 2022
If you had an extra hour in your day, every day, what hobby would you pursue?: Volleyball.
How has being a Graduate Fellow impacted you: This fellowship has allowed me to continue on with my education without taking a year or two off to work. This fellowship has taken a major burden off my chest, allowing me to fully commit to my Educational Psychology program.


Name: Summaya Abdul Razak
Hometown: Wa, Ghana
Department: Allied Health Science
Degree Sought: Master's, 2022
If you had an extra hour in your day, every day, what hobby would you pursue?: Gardening
How has being a Graduate Fellow impacted you: It is a great honor knowing that I am apart of a community of Diverse scholars. Receiving the Crandall Fellowship has given me financial stability and will allow me to focus more on my program. Without it I would not be able to start my Master's program.
Current research: My current research interest include malnutrition in children, adolescents health, pregnancy, health promotion and disease prevention.


Name: Sahil Luthra
Hometown: Sudbury, MA & Los Altos, CA
Department: Psychological Sciences
Degree Sought: PhD, 2021
What is your favorite flavor cookie?: Oatmeal raisin (controversial, I know)
How has being a Graduate Fellow impacted you: The fellowship has given me the freedom to explore research questions I wouldn't have had the time to investigate otherwise, leading to several research presentations and publications that I simply wouldn't have been able to do without the fellowship. It has also given me financial peace of mind, which is a tremendous privilege.
Current research: I'm interested in how we understand spoken words and how that happens in the brain. I'm especially interested in how our understanding of speech is affected by both our knowledge of who is talking (and how that person talks) as well as what they're likely to be saying in some given context. I am currently working on my dissertation titled "Neural mechanisms underlying talker-specific influences on speech perception".


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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: Carnisha Gilder
Hometown: Detroit, Michigan
Department: Allied Health Sciences
Degree Sought: PhD, 2020
What is your favorite quote?: "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take" - Wayne Gretzky
How has being a Graduate Fellow impacted you: I am so grateful for this fellowship. It has allowed me to fully immerse myself in my research without financial concerns or constraints. In addition, the professional assistance is molding me into a well-rounded scholar.
Current research: The impact of social connectedness on weight loss and weight loss maintenance


Name: Sarah Jane Asinari
Hometown: Philadelphia/Scranton, PA
Department: Linguistics
Degree Sought: PhD, 2023
Who is your favorite fictional character?: Arthur Morgan (Red Dead Redemption 2) or Elspeth Tirel (Magic: The Gathering Multiverse)
How has being a Graduate Fellow impacted you: My fellowship has given me the freedom to travel to Philadelphia, Boston, and Manhattan to collect data in historically Irish immigrant boroughs. Walking these streets and meeting people, instead of running online surveys, has really broadened my research.
Current research:  Irish immigrant dialect of Northeastern Philadelphia, Wh-question formation in English dialects, Quantifier float questions like 'what all are you bringing?'


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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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


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: 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: 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)