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[title size=”1″]Class of 2016[/title]

Raymond Blackwell

Research: Design Principles of Solar Cells with Transition Metal Dichaleogenides and Black Phosphorous

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Scott Warren


Raymond Edward Blackwell was born in Greensboro, North Carolina. An only child, he was raised in McLeansville, NC, a small rural town with a population of 1,000. Due to McLeansville’s lack of resources, Raymond spent his junior and senior year at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics (NCSSM). While attending NCSSM, Raymond discovered his passion for research through the Minority Introduction to Technology Engineering and Science (MITES) summer program at MIT. In this program, Raymond performed research at the Broad Institute, a joint facility between MIT and Harvard, which left a lasting impression on him. Working with world-class researchers who loved every second of their work opened his eyes to a whole new world. Additionally, Raymond completed a Research Experience for Undergraduates in the Material Science department at Northwestern University in the summer following his sophomore year at UNC. These two experiences have left Raymond even more dedicated to pursuing a career in research.

Currently, Raymond is a junior in the Honors Program majoring in Chemistry on the Polymer track with a minor in Mathematics. Outside of class, he is an undergraduate research assistant in the Department of Chemistry, an Admissions Ambassador, and will be a C-Start course instructor. Additionally, Raymond is a co-founder and editor of Event Horizon, a magazine inspired by Cosmos that offers a creative view on science. The goal of the magazine is to lessen the divide between the scientific community at UNC and the general student body. Even though Raymond loves research, his long-term goal is to get more people, especially minority groups, interested in STEM fields. Raymond plans to obtain a Ph.D. in Chemistry and then hopefully serve as a research professor.


Amma Boakye

Research: Health Disparities Among Minority Populations; The Effects of Geographic Location on Limiting Health Quality & Care

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Giselle Corbie-Smith

As a child, Amma had a craving for knowledge. She gravitated to many novels and books where she became fascinated with words as she explored her creativity by writing her own stories and poems as a way to express her feelings at a young age. In high school, Amma was active in sports such as Cheerleading and Track and Field, and even went to state for Track. She was also a part of the National Honors Society, tutored children afterschool, and sang in her church choir. For Amma, nothing was more important than living her life for Christ and attributing all her success to God who helped her receive admission into UNC.

Amma embraces her new passion for public policy and global studies with a concentration in global health and environment. Her affiliations with O.A.S.I.S., the Organization for African Students’ Interests and Solidarity, Globemed, and tutoring children through CoachWrite demonstrate Amma’s interests in Africa, health, and community development. The strife she has learned and witnessed stemming from local and global health disparities has shaped her research interests, and she hopes to study the effectiveness of health policies in underserved minority communities and to understand the social impacts of how healthcare is administered. Her aspirations are to obtain her Masters and Ph.D. in Public Health.



Brandon Boone

Research: The role of Set2 and Histone Modifications in Relation to Unstable Transcription

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Brian Strahl


Brandon Boone was born in Kenansville, North Carolina and raised in Rose Hill, North Carolina. Coming from a rural background, Brandon experienced an early life dedicated to both hard work and family values. Noticing his keen mind, Brandon’s family continually encouraged him in his education, believing education to be the key to all future opportunity.

Brandon was very active both in his local community as well as in school. Beginning when he was 8, Brandon played baseball for the local parks, his middle school, and his high school. In high school he became an active member of the Beta Club, the band, and, in his senior year, the student government.

Coming to Carolina, Brandon decided to pursue a degree in Biology. He enjoys all aspects of the field, from genetics to animal behavior. Recently Brandon became a research assistant in the Strahl Lab where he is beginning a project centered on genetics. He hopes to become a primary author on a published paper in the next two years.

After graduating, Brandon plans to continue studying genetics as well as microbiology. He hopes to help medicine progress through understanding the complicated process of genetic function, control, and manipulation. Through this understanding, we may be able to treat human conditions from the most fundamental level: the genomic level.


Alina Clarke

Research: International Health Systems Strengthening With a Focus on Health Workforce Gaps That Serve the Maternal and Child Health Population

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Dorothy Cilenti


Alina Clarke is in the introductory stages of her career in public health as a BSPH Health Policy and Management candidate in the Gillings School of Global Public Health with a minor in Hispanic Studies. As the daughter of foreign-born parents from diverse ethnic backgrounds, her interests have always been in the realm of global work. Beginning with early childhood travels to visit family members abroad and continuing through her high school volunteer work, Alina’s exposure to the detrimental effects of economic, social and health inequalities has played an instrumental role in shaping her interests and goals. Her summer internship for the Government of Guyana’s Ministry of Health helped to further narrow her academic focus by sparking an interest in health system strengthening to address issues of health access disparities on an international scale.

In addition to her coursework and involvement with the Gillings School of Global Public Health, Alina is an undergraduate Research Assistant within the UNC School of Social work, and she looks forward to gaining experience in interdisciplinary outreach and policy research. She has also enjoyed her involvement in globally focused campus programs and organizations, such as UNC MEDLIFE and the Carolina Global Initiative. Alina is thrilled to be a McNair Scholar and hopes to pursue a career in teaching, research and implementation after earning her Ph.D. in a public health field.



Alysa Delgado

Research: The Health Status of the Eno River with Regard to Temperature, PH, Dissolved O2 and Turbidity in Comparison to Location

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Aaron Moody


Alysa Delgado was born in Winchester, VA, but grew up in Central Maryland. As an only child with both of her parents heavily involved in the horse business, Alysa spent most of her childhood exploring farms and woods, on foot and horseback, allowing her to quickly gain a passion for both the aesthetic and functional values of the environment. Despite tight financial times, Alysa graduated as a member of the Cum Laude Society from McDonogh School in Owings Mills, MD. During her time at McDonogh, Alysa was heavily influenced by her AP Biology and Environmental Science classes, allowing her to set her eyes on UNC to pursue an Environmental Science Degree. She also was an active member and Co-Leader of the school’s Habitat for Humanity chapter.
Now a third year student on track for a B.S. in Environmental Science with a Minor in Geography, Alysa has expanded her research skills by working in a lab on campus in the Biology Department. She also conducted research of her own during her experiential learning study abroad trip in Panama in Fall 2014. Alysa’s research interests focus on Human-Environment interactions, and she plans to earn a Ph.D. in Environmental Geography to not only help preserve the environment, but also help cultures grow and expand sustainably. Outside of class, Alysa is an active member of the UNC Heelraisers Council, which helps promote the importance of private giving to the university, and has also served as a Covenant Scholar Peer Mentor, where she was a constant academic and personal resource for new first year scholars as they adjusted to UNC.



Laura Gamo

Research: The Effects of Freedom of the Press on Latin America

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Adam Saffer


Laura Gamo was born in Bogotá, Colombia as the youngest of three siblings. At the age of six, she and her family moved to the United States. Laura was raised in the suburbs of Rockledge, Florida, and she became very involved in academics; she graduated as salutatorian of her class. Among other commitments, Laura was secretary for her National Honors Society chapter, co-captain to both the volleyball and women’s tennis teams and she served as Senior Class president. Although she struggled to assimilate to the new language and culture, she also learned the importance of always making the best of the opportunities awarded to her. When she was accepted to UNC, Laura recognized the value of studying at UNC- Chapel Hill and made the difficult decision of moving away from home and family.

During her time at UNC-CH, Laura has found her “campus family” through her involvement in the Carolina Latina/o Collaborative. As part of this organization, she helps to serve the needs of Latinas/os at UNC and the surrounding community. Laura is currently a junior majoring in Journalism and Mass Communications and Global Studies at Carolina, with hopes of pursuing further education in Public Policy and International Relations. She is particularly passionate about studying the impact of freedom of the press and freedom of speech on the quality of democracy in Latin America and Spain. She is also interested in how class conflict has shaped these freedoms and the development of democracies. Due to her experiences in the U.S., Laura is interested in studying and, hopefully, developing strategies that might bring a similar sense of security and democracy to various Latin American nations.​



Anastazja Harris

Research: The Impact of Impression Management on How College Students Utilize Social Media

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Katie Striley


Anastazja Harris is a Psychology and Interpersonal/Organizational Communication Major in the UNC Class of 2016. She was born in Goldsboro, NC. Growing up in a military family, she lived in Japan and New Mexico before moving back to North Carolina for high school. Having lived in these different areas, Anastazja developed a genuine interest in people and their behaviors. She learned from both positive and negative experiences with people in all of these locations, and she often wondered about the effects one’s background and social environment had on their behaviors. How did their social environments and backgrounds impact their communication styles and behaviors? How did their behaviors impact their relationships with others?

During high school, she attended Wayne School of Engineering in Goldsboro, where she was very involved with athletics, playing on varsity teams for volleyball, indoor track, and soccer. She also worked as a math peer tutor at Wayne Community College for two years. It was during high school that she learned about the power of communication in her academic and extracurricular activities. Whether she was helping her teammates or encouraging her students, Anastazja has always been passionate about helping others improve and reach their potential.

On Carolina’s campus Anastazja continues to follow this passion by being highly involved in organizations that help people develop personally, academically, and professionally. Currently, she helps lead the Substance Free Living Learning Community as their Administrative Student Coordinator. She is also an active Admissions Ambassador, Career Peer, and Minority Advisor. These clubs allow her to have a positive impact on people from prospective families to current Carolina students.

After completing her undergraduate degree, Anastazja plans to earn her graduate degree in Psychology. She then hopes to return to a university setting where she can further study her academic interests as a researcher, and also provide guidance to students as an advisor and professor.




Crystal Johnson

Research: The Relationship Between Power Dynamics Between the City of Jacksonville and The Marine Corps Base, Camp Lejeune

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Katherine Turk


Crystal Johnson was born in Orlando Florida to parents Doug and Anita Johnson. She and her older brother, Robert, were raised in Jacksonville, North Carolina following their parents’ divorce. Crystal graduated from White Oak High School where she was extensively involved in the band program and debate team. Along with band and debate, she was active in the National Honors Society and student government. Outside of WOHS, Crystal participated in recreational basketball as both a player and a coach.

At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Crystal is in the process of completing a double major. Her primary major is History with a concentration on US History. Her secondary major is Peace, War, and Defense and she focuses on National and International Defense and Security. She is also pursuing a minor in Geography. Crystal continued to follow her love of music at UNC by joining the Marching Tar Heels and becoming a sister of SAI – an international music fraternity. She is also a Covenant Scholar and was a Covenant Scholar Mentor for the 2013-2014 school year. After two amazing years at UNC, Crystal was fortunate enough to be accepted into a study abroad program in Auckland, New Zealand, and she is excited to spend the fall semester of her junior year at the University of Auckland.

Crystal is looking forward to the returning to UNC and spending the rest of her time as an undergraduate expanding her horizons.  In part because of her family’s long history of military service, she is interested in researching Military History, particularly civil-military relations. She hopes to pursue a Ph.D. in History following her graduation from UNC.




Merrick Osborne

Research: The Effects of Optimism and Group Affect on Academic Achievement within Minority Student Populations

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Noah Eisenkraft


Merrick Osborne is a junior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. A business and psychology double major, Merrick is fascinated by how organizational structure influences success in the workplace and beyond. When Merrick was young, he had discussions with his dad, a corporate manager at Freightliner, about the workplace environment, and even then he was thinking about ways to improve the environment for minorities. Since then, he has gotten involved in many organizations at school so that he can understand organizational structures with different leaders and systems. He wants to apply this knowledge to future research investigating how to improve organizational structure.

His interest in the workplace environment has also driven his research at Carolina. In Dr. Enrique Neblett’s African-American psychology lab, he investigated the factors that can influence African-American wellness, which directed his desire to identify interventions that will enhance minority success in the workplace. He also has held a research assistantship at the Kenan-Flagler Organizational Behavior (OB) Lab, where he has noted a void in the OB literature surrounding the efficacy of minority-driven interventions to enhance work place performance.

Outside of the lab, Merrick has been an active member of the Carolina community. Through the Buckley Public Service Scholars program and the Mu Zeta chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, he has been involved in various mentoring programs, where his service work has inspired him to seek unique and constructive ways to enhance minorities’ organizational environment. As a McNair scholar, he plans to continue this research into minority success throughout his undergraduate career. After graduation, he will matriculate to graduate school to earn a degree in Organizational Behavior psychology. He plans to consult CEOs and other executives on effective ways to lead, while also conducting research to understand how minorities can effectively lead.


Ajené Robinson-Burris

Research: Ethics in Philosophy

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Steven Swartzer


Ajené Robinson-Burris was born in Grand Rapids, MI. She was the oldest of three children to a single mother whom she watched go from being a correctional facilities officer to a registered nurse. Watching her mother go to classes at the local community college and get a degree made Ajené realize that she wanted to go to college and be a professor.

When Ajené was in elementary school she was teased for “acting white.” Ajené was confused because she didn’t even know what that meant or why it was something to be teased about. One day after coming home from school upset, her mother told her that she was likely being teased because of someone else’s personal pain. Then Ajené’s mother said something that has made her the person she is today: “Everyone has problems. You never know what someone else is going through.” This quote has inspired a passion for Ajené to learn about people different from her and how to better understand others.

Ajené is now at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a Global Studies and Philosophy double major and a minor in Classical Humanities. Since reaching college, Ajené has pursued her passion to better understand different kinds of people through her various campus group and organization roles. Some of her former and current roles that have given her this experience include being a Cultural Competency Leadership Institute Scholar, Buckley Public Service Scholar, Multicultural Advisor for her Resident Advisor staff, Tunnel of Oppression Acting Coordinator, and president of National Residence Hall Honorary. Also, her international politics courses have influenced her to examine more closely how policies can be developed in collaboration with people of diverse backgrounds/cultures. Ajené plans to pursue a Ph.D. for an academic career in policy, cultural competency, and global communities so she can work with students at the university level and highlight the importance of cultural competency with regards to policy and community involvement worldwide.




Frank Silva

Research: Sports Performance Analysis With Emphasis in Soccer and Basketball

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Wendell Gilland


Frank Silva was born in Itajuba, Brasil. He moved to Paducah, KY, with his parents, Frank and Carla Silva, and his younger brother, Willian, when he was 4 years old. He has been living in NC for the past 14 years, and he attended Lake Norman Charter High School. In high school Frank played varsity soccer for four years and was an assistant coach for the girl’s varsity soccer team his senior year. He plans to double major in Business and Mathematical Decision Sciences at UNC-Chapel Hill. He still goes back to Brazil pretty frequently to visit his aunts, cousins, and his god daughter, Laura.

Outside of class, Frank is a soccer coach for Triangle United’s Youth Academy and an usher for the Carolina Performance Arts. He is also a member of NC Fellows, which is a leadership development program run through the Carolina Leadership Development office. Frank is also very big into following sports. This past summer he had the opportunity to go to the World Cup and watch four games in person. His field of interest is sports analytics, which is an emerging field that seeks to develop new mathematical methods to evaluate player performance. In particular, he is interested in using his math and statistics background to come up with new ways to evaluate player performance in basketball and soccer. For example, he is very intrigued by the possibility of developing a statistic in basketball that would make it simple for fans to measure a player’s value on defense.



Viktoriya Zhuravleva

Research: Interactions Between Neurotrophin Receptors and the HIV Co-Receptor CXCR4 in Macrophages

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Brian Hogan


Viktoriya Zhuravleva was born in Rivne, a city in northwestern Ukraine. Her family moved to Asheville, North Carolina when she was five years old. The experience helped mold a sense of independence and curiosity as she learned to figure out the answers to her questions about American culture and the English language.

In high school, Viktoriya was a member of the varsity cheerleading team and Beta Club, and she volunteered with Relay for Life and Hospice. She also participated in academic competitions in mathematics and current events. After taking her first Biology course, Viktoriya knew she wanted to study the subject in greater depth.

Now a Biology major with a minor in Chemistry at UNC, Viktoriya is currently part of the Meeker Lab in the Neurology Department, studying the effects of HIV on the central nervous system. She is also a volunteer peer tutor and a representative of the Carolina Neuroscience Club.

After graduating, Viktoriya aspires to attend graduate school and become a researcher in Neuroscience. She hopes to study language learning as it relates to changes in the brain or to enter the field of Neurology, looking at diseases that affect the central nervous system.



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