2019 Alumni

SPARK continued its trajectory of success in 2019, when 27 students completed the program. Four of those students were also 2018 scholars. Meet the 2019 alumni and learn more about their achievements during their SPARK term.

  • SPARK Research Mentorship Program scholar Avani Bansal

    Avani Bansal

    Term: 2019 (junior)

    School: The Bolles School

    Research: Avani's research with Nilufer Ertekin-Taner, M.D., Ph.D. focused on Alzheimer's disease association with vitamin D pathway genes and gene expression. Avani presented her project at the Mayo Clinic SPARK Mini Science Fair and the Northeast Florida Regional Science and Engineering Fair (NEFRSEF). She received a special award for outstanding senior project, second place, in medicine and health from the Office Environments and Services at NEFRSEF, and she was invited as a finalist to the 2020 State Science and Engineering Fair of Florida.

  • SPARK Research Mentorship Program scholar Sally Barksdale

    Sally Barksdale

    Term: 2019 (junior)

    School: Episcopal School of Jacksonville

    Research: Sally worked with Keith L. Knutson, Ph.D. focusing her research on the effect of anti-PD1 and anti-PDL1 on the cytokine profile and immune system. Sally presented her project at the Mayo Clinic SPARK Mini Science Fair and the Northeast Florida Regional Science and Engineering Fair (NEFRSEF). She received a special award for project excellence, first place, in biochemistry from Johnson and Johnson at NEFRSEF, and she was invited as a finalist to the 2020 State Science and Engineering Fair of Florida. She received first place at the Episcopal School of Jacksonville Science Fair in biological science and first place at the Junior Science and Humanities Symposium at the University of Florida. She was named a bronze winner for her project at the 2020 Virtual Edition INSPO Research & Innovation Competition.

  • SPARK Research Mentorship Program scholar Ashton Body

    Ashton Body

    Term: 2018 (junior), 2019 (senior)

    School: Episcopal School of Jacksonville

    Research: Ashton's research with Debabrata (Dev) Mukhopadhyay, Ph.D. focused on designing a targeted nanoparticle formulation for drug-resistant breast cancer stem cells. Ashton presented her project at the Mayo Clinic SPARK Mini Science Fair and at the Northeast Florida Regional Science and Engineering Fair, 2019 State Science and Engineering Fair of Florida, and the 2019 International Science and Engineering Fair, where she earned the third place grand award in biochemistry. During her second year of SPARK in 2019, Ashton's work focused on drug delivery and metastatic cancer, furthering her drug delivery system research from the previous year. Ashton was named a top 300 scholar in the Regeneron Science Talent Search for 2020. She received first place at the Episcopal School of Jacksonville Science Fair in biological science. Ashton planned to attend Harvard University and major in biochemistry or anthropology.

  • SPARK Research Mentorship Program scholar Natalie Byron

    Natalie Byron

    Term: 2019 (junior)

    School: Ponte Vedra High School

    Research: Natalie's research with Leonard Petrucelli, Ph.D. focused on biomarker discovery for spinocerebellar ataxia 3. She presented her project at the Mayo Clinic SPARK Mini Science Fair and the St. Johns County Science Fair, where she received honorable mention in the senior biomedical/cellular/microbiology division.

  • SPARK Research Mentorship Program scholar Kaitlyn Copland

    Kaitlyn Copland

    Term: 2019 (senior)

    School: Ponte Vedra High School

    Research: Kaitlyn's research with Hugo Guerrero Cazares, M.D., Ph.D. focused on neural stem cell organization, proliferation and proteome changes in response to lateral ventricle proximal glioblastoma. She presented her project at the Mayo Clinic SPARK Mini Science Fair and the St. Johns County Science Fair (SJCSF). She received honorable mention in the senior biomedical/cellular/microbiology division at SJCSF. Kaitlyn planned to study marine biology at Eckerd College.

  • SPARK Research Mentorship Program scholar Skyler Demi

    Skyler Demi

    Term: 2019 (junior)

    School: Ponte Vedra High School

    Research: Skyler worked with Katelyn A. Bruno, Ph.D. focusing on sex differences in the effects of vitamin D and sex hormones on patients with hypertension. She presented her project at the Mayo Clinic SPARK Mini Science Fair and the St. Johns County Science Fair (SJCSF). Skyler received a special award at SJCSF for second place in senior math from Mu Alpha Theta and was invited as a finalist to the 2020 State Science and Engineering Fair of Florida.

  • SPARK Research Mentorship Program scholar Nihar Ettigi

    Nihar Ettigi

    Term: 2019 (junior)

    School: The Bolles School

    Research: Nihar's research with Nilufer Taner, M.D., Ph.D. focused on developing a MACS approach to isolate specific cell populations from brain tissue using a cell culture model. Nihar presented his project at the Mayo Clinic SPARK Mini Science Fair and the Northeast Florida Regional Science and Engineering Fair.

  • SPARK Research Mentorship Program scholar Sarah Fraga

    Sarah Fraga

    Term: 2019 (senior)

    School: Ponte Vedra High School

    Research: Sara worked with Thomas Caulfield, Ph.D. focusing on computational modeling and assessment of novel serine protease inhibitors for better drug behavior. She presented her project at the Mayo Clinic SPARK Mini Science Fair and the St. Johns County Science Fair (SJCSF). She received first place in senior math at SJCSF and was invited as a finalist to the 2020 State Science and Engineering Fair of Florida. Sarah planned to major in biomedical engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology.

  • SPARK Research Mentorship Program scholar Ned Franklin

    Ned Franklin

    Term: 2019 (senior)

    School: Douglas Anderson School of Arts

    Research: Ned's research with Debabrata (Dev) Mukhopadhyay, Ph.D. focused on nanoparticle-mediated actin reorganization. He presented his project at the Mayo Clinic SPARK Mini Science Fair and the Northeast Florida Regional Science and Engineering Fair (NEFRSEF). He received a special award for outstanding senior project, second place, in medicine and health from the Office Environments and Services at NEFRSEF. Ned planned to double major in electrical engineering and music performance at the University of North Florida.

  • SPARK Research Mentorship Program scholar Marlon Brandon Griggs

    Marlon Brandon Griggs

    Term: 2019 (junior)

    School: Robert E. Lee High School

    Research: Brandon's research with Joy Emelie (Joy) V. Wolfram, Ph.D. focused on extracellular vesicles as a therapeutic protein delivery system. He presented his project at the Mayo Clinic SPARK Mini Science Fair and the Northeast Florida Regional Science and Engineering Fair (NEFRSEF). Brandon received a special award for project excellence, first place, in medicine and health from Johnson and Johnson at NEFRSEF.

  • SPARK Research Mentorship Program scholar Yash Gulani

    Yash Gulani

    Term: 2019 (senior)

    School: The Bolles School

    Research: Yash's research with Debabrata (Dev) Mukhopadhyay, Ph.D. focused on analyzing the role of neuropilin-1 knockdown on conventional chemotherapy in glioblastoma. He presented his project at the Mayo Clinic SPARK Mini Science Fair and the Northeast Florida Regional Science and Engineering Fair (NEFRSEF). He received a special award for excellence in plant or animal in vitro biology or cell culture from the Society for in Vitro Biology at NEFRSEF and was invited as a finalist to the 2020 State Science and Engineering Fair of Florida and the International Science and Engineering Fair. Yash planned to study public health and economics at Brown University.

  • SPARK Research Mentorship Program scholar Monica Gupta

    Monica Gupta

    Term: 2019 (senior)

    School: Stanton College Preparatory School

    Research: Monica worked with Takahisa Kanekiyo, M.D., Ph.D. focusing her research on the effect of CGRP on human brain vascular smooth muscle cell properties. She presented her project at the Mayo Clinic SPARK Mini Science Fair and the Northeast Florida Regional Science and Engineering Fair. Monica planned to study biochemistry at the University of Miami.

  • SPARK Research Mentorship Program scholar Stephanie Hernandez Sanabria

    Stephanie Hernandez

    Term: 2019 (junior)

    School: Ponte Vedra High School

    Research: Stephanie's research with Abba C. Zubair, M.D., Ph.D. focused on the role of mitochondria in the aging of mesenchymal stem cells with implications for cell-based therapy. She presented her project at the Mayo Clinic SPARK Mini Science Fair and the St. Johns County Science Fair (SJCSF). Stephanie received a special award for second place in senior biomedical/cellular/microbiology from the Florida Association of Science Teachers at SJCSF and was invited as a finalist to the 2020 State Science and Engineering Fair of Florida.

  • SPARK Research Mentorship Program scholar Ylliah Jin

    Ylliah Jin

    Term: 2019 (junior)

    School: The Bolles School

    Research: Ylliah's research with Abba C. Zubair, M.D., Ph.D. focused on the effect of MSC-derived extracellular vesicles on cell proliferation. She presented her project at the Mayo Clinic SPARK Mini Science Fair and the Northeast Florida Regional Science and Engineering Fair. Ylliah was invited as a finalist to the 2020 State Science and Engineering Fair of Florida.

  • SPARK Research Mentorship Program scholar Grace Littler

    Grace Littler

    Term: 2019 (senior)

    School: Ponte Vedra High School

    Research: Grace's research with Joy Emelie (Joy) V. Wolfram, Ph.D. focused on the effects of hyaluronic acid through enzymatic digestion in cancer cell-derived extracellular vesicles. She presented her project at the Mayo Clinic SPARK Mini Science Fair and at the St. Johns County Science Fair (SJCSF). She received a special award for first place in senior biomedical/cellular/microbiology from St. Johns County Medical Alliance at SJCSF and was invited as a finalist to the 2020 State Science and Engineering Fair of Florida and the International Science and Engineering Fair. Grace planned to study physics with a concentration in living systems at Georgia Institute of Technology.

  • SPARK Research Mentorship Program scholar Ella Markovsky

    Ella Markovsky

    Term: 2019 (senior)

    School: Creekside High School

    Research: Ella worked with Baoan Ji, M.D., Ph.D. focusing her research on evaluating effects in protein levels after Aurora kinase A inhibition. She presented her project at the Mayo Clinic SPARK Mini Science Fair and the St. Johns County Science Fair. Ella planned to study biology at Florida State University.

  • SPARK Research Mentorship Program scholar Rishi Misra

    Rishi Misra

    Term: 2018 (junior), 2019 (senior)

    School: The Bolles School

    Research: Rishi worked in the Cell Adhesion and Metastasis Lab of Panagiotis (Panos) Z. Anastasiadis, Ph.D. studying the role of adhesion molecule PLEKHA7 in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma. Rishi presented his project at the Mayo Clinic SPARK Mini Science Fair, The Bolles School Science and Engineering Fair, and the Northeast Florida Regional Science and Engineering Fair (NEFRSEF) in 2019 and 2020. He received a special award for best senior medicine and health project from the University of Florida College of Medicine at NEFRSEF 2020 and was invited as a finalist to the 2020 State Science and Engineering Fair of Florida. Rishi planned to study history of science, medicine and public health at Yale University.

  • SPARK Research Mentorship Program scholar D'Andrea Murray

    D'Andrea Murray

    Term: 2019 (senior)

    School: William M. Raines High School

    Research: D'Andrea's research with Verline Justilien, Ph.D. focused on lung squamous cell carcinoma ECT2 gene overexpression. She presented her project at the Mayo Clinic SPARK Mini Science Fair. D'Andrea planned to study chemistry at Savannah State University.

  • SPARK Research Mentorship Program scholar Imran Nasrullah

    Imran Nasrullah

    Term: 2019 (senior)

    School: Stanton College Preparatory School

    Research: Imran's research with John A. Copland III, Ph.D. focused on HER2-positive breast cancer. He presented his project at the Mayo Clinic SPARK Mini Science Fair. Imran planned to study biotechnology and molecular and biological sciences at the University of Florida.

  • SPARK Research Mentorship Program scholar Telvia Perez

    Telvia Perez

    Term: 2019 (junior)

    School: The Bolles School

    Research: Telvia's research with Kaisorn L. Chaichana, M.D. focused on non-small cell lung cancer. Telvia presented her project at the Mayo Clinic SPARK Mini Science Fair and the Northeast Florida Regional Science and Engineering Fair (NEFRSEF). She received a special award for project excellence, second place, in biochemistry from Johnson and Johnson at NEFRSEF.

  • SPARK Research Mentorship Program scholar Victoria Pham

    Victoria Pham

    Term: 2018 (junior), 2019 (senior)

    School: Ponte Vedra High School

    Research: Victoria worked in the Tumor Angiogenesis and Vascular Biology Lab of Debabrata (Dev) Mukhopadhyay, Ph.D. and with Mayo Clinic molecular biology researcher Ying Wang, M.D., Ph.D., on screening novel anti-inflammatory small molecules in endothelial cells. She presented at the Mayo Clinic SPARK Mini Science Fair; the Academy of Biotechnology and Medical Research at Ponte Vedra High School; the 8th Mayo Clinic Symposium on Tumor Microenvironment and Cancer Therapeutics: Role of Precision Medicine and Targeted Therapy in Clinical Practice; and the St. Johns County Science Fair, where she won the University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences College of Agricultural and Life Sciences Award. Victoria participated in many outreach events, including at MOSH, the Museum of Science and History in Jacksonville, where she taught children how nanoparticles work with the lab of Joy Emelie (Joy) V. Wolfram, Ph.D. In her second year in the program, Victoria continued her research on novel small molecules and their role in inflammatory diseases. She placed third in senior biomedical/cellular/microbiology at the 2020 St. Johns County Science Fair and was invited as a finalist to the 2020 State Science and Engineering Fair of Florida. Victoria went on to attend George Washington University.

  • SPARK Research Mentorship Program scholar Raha Riazati

    Raha Riazati

    Term: 2018 (junior), 2019 (senior)

    School: Stanton College Preparatory School

    Research: During both of her SPARK terms, Raha worked in the Neurogenesis and Brain Tumors Laboratory of Hugo Guerrero Cazares, M.D., Ph.D. where she studied the role of neural progenitor cells on the malignancy of glioblastoma cells in vitro. Raha presented her project at the Mayo Clinic SPARK Mini Science Fair, the Northeast Florida Regional Science and Engineering Fair in 2019 and 2020, the State Science and Engineering Fair of Florida in 2019 and 2020, and the 2019 International Science and Engineering Fair. She planned to study chemistry at California Institute of Technology.

  • SPARK Research Mentorship Program scholar Shuangyi Kelvin Shi

    Shuangyi Kelvin Shi

    Term: 2019 (junior)

    School: Ponte Vedra High School

    Research: Kelvin's research with Baoan Ji, M.D., Ph.D. focused on bilirubin-promoting proliferation of bile duct cells through the PTEN/AKT pathway. He presented his project at the Mayo Clinic SPARK Mini Science Fair and the St. Johns County Science Fair.

  • SPARK Research Mentorship Program scholar Rachelle Smith

    Rachelle Smith

    Term: 2019 (senior)

    School: Stanton College Preparatory School

    Research: Rachelle's research with Evette S. Radisky, Ph.D. focused on prostate cancer. She presented her project at the Mayo Clinic SPARK Mini Science Fair and the Northeast Florida Regional Science and Engineering Fair. Rachelle planned to study molecular and cell biology at the University of California Berkeley.

  • SPARK Research Mentorship Program scholar Neha Sonthi

    Neha Sonthi

    Term: 2019 (junior)

    School: Stanton College Preparatory School

    Research: Neha worked with Debabrata (Dev) Mukhopadhyay, Ph.D. focusing on elucidating the role of neuropilin 1 in chemotherapy drug-mediated cardiotoxicity using zebrafish embryos. She presented her project at the Mayo Clinic SPARK Mini Science Fair and at the Northeast Florida Regional Science and Engineering Fair (NEFRSEF). Neha received a special award for project excellence in medicine and health, second place, from Johnson and Johnson at NEFRSEF and was invited as a finalist to the 2020 State Science and Engineering Fair of Florida. She was named a bronze winner for her project at the 2020 Virtual Edition INSPO Research & Innovation Competition.

  • SPARK Research Mentorship Program scholar Aditi Verma

    Aditi Verma

    Term: 2019 (junior)

    School: Stanton College Preparatory School

    Research: Aditi's research with Peter Storz, Ph.D. focused on cancer stem cell properties in early pancreatic cancer development. She presented her project at the Mayo Clinic SPARK Mini Science Fair and the Northeast Florida Regional Science and Engineering Fair. Aditi was invited as a finalist to the 2020 State Science and Engineering Fair of Florida.

  • SPARK Research Mentorship Program scholar Amy Yan

    Amy Yan

    Term: 2019 (junior)

    School: Stanton College Preparatory School

    Research: Amy's research with Takahisa Kanekiyo, M.D., Ph.D. focused on future gene therapy in Alzheimer's disease. She presented her project at the Mayo Clinic SPARK Mini Science Fair and the Northeast Florida Regional Science and Engineering Fair. Amy was invited as a finalist to the 2020 State Science and Engineering Fair of Florida.