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Meet Cornells McNair Scholars

McNair Scholars 2023-2024 Cohort 

Alif Abduallah is looking at the camera, he has a blue shirt and black hat on

Alif Abdullah is a sophomore in the College of Engineering majoring in Computer Science and hoping to minor in Robotics. His research interests lie at the intersection of robotics and reinforcement learning. He is currently a research assistant at EmPRISE Lab, working on food acquisition robots to assist people who struggle with Activities of Daily Living (ADLs). He hopes to attain a PhD in Reinforcement Learning as it relates to robotics and to one day become a robotics researcher.  

Mary Bellakbira is smiling at the camera. She has a blue striped shirt on

Mary Bellakbira is a sophomore in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences pursuing a bachelor's degree in Nutritional Science and a master's degree in biomedical engineering on the MD/PhD track. She is currently immersed in data base research for the United Nations Foundation, where she combines data analysis, qualitative research methods, and community engagement strategies to conduct comprehensive research on social justice issues prevalent in the Northeastern United States. Driven by her interest in endocrinology, Mary aspires to become an esteemed endocrinologist and hormone scientist. Mary is involved in a biomedical engineering lab, where she will play a role in the development of sensor devices in agriculture. Post-graduation, she envisions herself delving into the realm of biomedical devices, specifically focusing on identifying the invisible enigmas within the human body, with a focus in preventive care within the realm of hormone health.

Abra Geiger is smiling at the camera. She has on business attire

Abra Geiger is a sophomore majoring in Physics and Math and minoring in Astronomy in the College of Arts and Sciences. She is a researcher in the Cordes radio Astronomy group, focusing on probing interstellar gas with pulsars, which are the remnant core of supernovae. She plans to pursue a Ph.D. in astrophysics after graduation, with a particular focus on the large-scale structure and evolution of the universe. Beyond McNair, she is involved in the Cornell Society of Physics Students, the Steminist Movement, Ballet & Books, Cornell Astronomical Society, and Pandora Dance Troupe.

Hector Huretado is sitting down and smiling at the camera. He has on a blue suit

Hector Hurtado is a junior in the Nolan School of Hotel Administration with minors in Computer and Data Science. He is a first-generation student born in the Dominican Republic. Hector is currently researching under the Organizational Management Department, where he explores technological solutions to the problem of information asymmetry plaguing academic publishing. After Cornell, he intends to pursue a PhD in Information Science with a concentration in Computational Social Science and study how activist technology may alleviate the inequalities of power dynamics that are embedded in technology through its design.

Jailyn loor is smiling at the camera. She has on professional business attire

Jailyn Loor is a junior in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) studying Environment & Sustainability with a concentration in Evolutionary Biology and Applied Ecology, with a potential minor in Infectious Diseases. Jailyn is a researcher in the Lazzaro Lab studying host-microbe interactions and translation dynamics to understand how Drosophila melanogaster resists disease. She plans to pursue a Ph.D in the intersection of immunology and neuroscience to study how these systems influence infection dynamics within hosts.  

Maria Calderon Marrero is sitting down and smiling. She has on a business outfit

Maria Calderon-Marrero is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences studying biology with a concentration in microbiology and an interest in astrobiology. She spent this past summer at the University of Tennessee studying extremophile bacteria from Don Juan Pond, Antarctica, which is an astrobiological analog for Mars. Maria currently works in the Hay Lab where she looks at the organic adhesives produced by bacteria in soil with the future goal of testing similar systems in space. She also hopes to promote diversity and interest in the space sciences. After graduating, she plans to pursue a Ph.D. in astrobiology, support the direction of future space missions/research to astrobiological targets of interest such as Mars or Europa, and enhance our understanding of our place in the cosmos.

Jennnifer Navarro is standing and leaning on a window ledge. She is smiling at tyhe camera and has on professional attire

Jennifer Navarro is currently a junior studying Human Development in the College of Human Ecology. She is a first-generation student from Salinas, California. Jennifer is also a Program for Research on Youth Development and Engagement (PRYDE) research scholar, helping to promote positive youth development through translational research. Her research interests lie in investigating the impact of racial inequities, microaggressions, and the role of racism-related stress on the psychological and physical development of youth of color. Specifically, how do racist attitudes and practices in education contribute to youth’s chronic stress, wear and tear of the body, and development of psychopathologies? She hopes to use her research to help amplify the voices of underrepresented youth in schools. After Cornell, she intends to pursue a PhD in Human Development and teach at the university level. Ultimately, she hopes to continue contributing towards research that will help transform the education system in communities of color. 

Richlove Nkansah is smiling at the camera. She has on a business suit

Richlove Nkansah is a sophomore in Arts and Sciences studying Information Sciences with a concentration in Behavioral Science and a minor in Entrepreneurship. In addition to being a McNair scholar, she is the Co-Founder and CTO of Culture Care, a digital mental health platform for BIPOC therapists to run their businesses. She serves as the Co-PR chair for Underrepresented Minorities in Computing (URMC) and is an active member of National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE). Richlove aspires to obtain a Ph.D. in Information Science and Human Development with the goal of utilizing technological tools to understand and determine the emotional state of children from different cultural lenses. She will be a researcher in the Behavioral Analysis of Beginning Years (B.A.B.Y) lab, which studies babies' and songbirds' cognitive and social influences on the acquisition of speech and vocal learning. 

Gio Rodriguez is looking at the camera. He has on a tie and jacket

Gio Rodriguez is a sophomore in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences studying Global Development with a minor in Latino Studies. As a first-generation, low-income Mexican American student from San Diego, California, Gio is highly involved on campus with Cornell University Diversity Admissions Ambassadors (CUDAA), Engineers in Action (EIA), Queer Magz, and a social fraternity. He also interns with the Latino Studies Program. Gio is currently studying abroad in a CALS Exchange Program, France Agro3 PURPAN, in Toulouse. His research revolves around migrant communities, specifically Refugees and Undocu/DACAmented individuals in the United States. He is working with Assistant Professor Monica Cornejo in the Open Borders Collab to identify the undocumented experience in popular Latine music. After graduating from Cornell, Gio envisions himself pursuing a Ph.D. in International Development in the United Kingdom. 

Shaunjae Suarez is sitting down and smiling at the camera. He has on a business suit

Shaunjae Suarez is a first-generation college student and sophomore in the College of Arts & Sciences; he is pursuing a major in Physics with a concentration in Finance and a minor in Computer Science. He is a current Pre-Professional (P3) Scholar and Undergraduate Teaching Assistant (UTA) in the Cornell Physics Department as well as a Big Red Tutor in the Student Athletes Department. Shaunjae has a keen interest in researching cosmology and its many intersections in theoretical physics and applicable aerospace engineering. His passions include nanotechnology and software design of advanced hardware. He intends to pursue his PhD in an engineering discipline and become a space exploration researcher with a focus on tech development and theory development. 

Isaac Webster is smiling at the camera. He has on a black button down shirt ad green tie

Isaac Webster is a sophomore in the College of Agriculture and Life Science pursuing a major in Biological Sciences with a concentration in Microbiology and multiple minors in infectious disease, entomology, and viticulture and enology. He is a member of the Biology Scholars Program, treasurer for the Asian Pacific Americans for Action (APAA) Club, and an avid member of Cornell’s Knit with Care Club. As a member of the Holgerson Lab, Isaac conducted fieldwork this summer, sampling pond and wetland bodies across the Finger Lakes region in collaboration with the New York Department of Environmental Conservation. He also started working in the Power Lab, conducting projects on synergistic coinfection relationships with wheat pathogens. This summer, Isaac will be researching conservation, biodiversity, and human-wildlife interactions in southwestern China. He plans to pursue a PhD in ecological microbiology, develop future international research collaborations, and eventually working in the Pacific Islands. 

Kay Williams is smiling at the camera. She has a blazer on and a black shirt underneath

Kay (Akaysha) Williams is a sophomore in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences studying Environment and Sustainability with a completed minor in Animal Science and a second possible minor in Education. In addition to being a McNair Scholar, she is a first-generation multi-racial student and Vice President and Raiser/Sitter of Guiding Eyes for the Blind. She is currently in the Hedrick Lab studying spatial capture-recapture (SCA) in salamanders to determine how climate change has impacted populations of herpetofauna. After Cornell, she hopes to attend a Ph.D. program in Conservation Biology studying climate change impacts on species both in and outside of the U.S. Her career goals include entering a non-profit organization, working with a zoo doing species reintroduction work, or becoming a professor (or all three!). 

Ayleen Yanza is sitting down and smiling at the camera. She has on a black shirt

Ayleen Yanza is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences pursuing a major in Environmental and Sustainability.