This board contributes to the graduate student community at Illinois by providing varied perspectives that enhance the academic, professional, and social experience of graduate students at the university. They collaborate with Graduate College staff on projects related to programs, initiatives, or the broader goals of the college.
As we embark on a new academic year, we are excited to introduce our 2021-2022 SAGE board:
Allison Rzepka is a second-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering. Her research combines thermochemistry, computer science, and materials science to model the response of thermal protection systems during hypersonic flight. She is excited to help the Graduate College create a welcoming space where everyone has the support to build well-being and success. In her free time, Allison enjoys hanging with friends, playing sports (soccer, basketball, and volleyball), and trying new foods.
Ana Irene Mitchell is a third-year Ph.D. student in the Division of Nutritional Sciences. As a former teacher, she aims to combine her experience in education and passion for health equity in her research, which focuses on the implementation and evaluation of public health nutrition programs. In her free time, Ana likes to travel, try new foods, and stay active.
Ben Jasperson is a second-year Ph.D. student in the Theoretical and Applied Mechanics program. As a member of the DIGI-MAT program, his research centers around using data science to solve complex material science problems. At home, Ben enjoys hiking, camping, and spending time with his family.
Cassidy Russell is currently pursuing a Master of Library and Information Science. She is interested in storytelling and the stories we choose to tell, creating artistic spaces where people feel comfortable being vulnerable, and in literacy and language preservation. Cassidy works as a theater director, improv teacher, actor, and visual artist.
Destiny Williams-Dobosz is a third-year doctoral student in the Department of Educational Psychology. As a researcher, she seeks to understand the connection between psychological constructs and the curricular experiences of students traditionally underrepresented and marginalized in STEM fields to find ways to support students in pursuing STEM careers. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, listening to podcasts, and playing with her dogs.
Elizabeth Coder is currently a doctoral student in Education Policy, Organization, and Leadership, concentrating in both Global Studies in Education and Diversity and Equity in Education. Her research interests center on the intersection of international education and civic engagement. She has extensive experience working in student affairs and services, both in the United States and abroad, most recently working in international education in Doha, Qatar. In her free time, Elizabeth enjoys traveling, spending time with friends, and exploring the outdoors on foot or in her kayak.
Holly Mallinson is a third-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences. Her research focuses on understanding how hail will change in a future, warmer climate. Additionally, she works on topics relating to diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility in the geosciences. In her free time, she enjoys hiking with her dog, playing video games, and cooking.
Irina Valenzuela is a Ph.D. candidate in Economics. She is working on research topics related to teacher accountability and student performance; political corruption and interpersonal trust; and, gender violence and protest. She is passionate about data analysis. In her free time, Irina enjoys listening to Peruvian music, attend events, read graphic novels, and discover new places.
Izan Chalen Paredes is a neuroscientist currently pursuing his Ph.D. at the Cellular Neuroscience Imaging Laboratory (Dr. Catherine Best’s Lab) in the Beckman Institute. Coming from a family of scholars, Izan is passionate about higher education, science, and public policy. In addition, he is a defender of Liberal Arts Education and highly involved in Hispanic Studies. In his free time, Izan enjoys books, cinema, and spending time with friends.
Julissa Nunez is pursuing a master’s in Agriculture and Biological Engineering studying Contextual Engineering. Her research focus is to identify pivotal decision points in water system design and understand how context influences the outcome. In her free time, Julissa enjoys traveling, eating, watching Netflix, and staying active via cycling and yoga.
Kay Gomes Saul is a Masters of Business Administration student residing in New York City. Her focus areas are Entrepreneurship and Strategic Innovation and Global Challenges in Business. Kay graduated from Pace University earning a BA in English Literature and a BS in Sociology/Anthropology. She spent the last decade working as a project manager with small businesses, helping them establish synergistic growth strategies and reevaluate their value propositions to stay relevant in the digital age. Her future career interest is working with larger corporations on expansion into new markets and identifying alliances/partnerships. Kay is a competitive powerlifter with USA Powerlifting and enjoys hiking, nature, and traveling.
Kevin Jose Cheng is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Biophysics and Quantitative Biology program. His research utilizes physics-based simulations to understand how an antifungal drug interacts with sterols in order to design safer derivatives for human consumption. As a first-generation American and college student, he is passionate about making higher education more accessible for people of all backgrounds. Outside of research, he enjoys reading, watching foreign films, learning international politics, and trying out different sour beers.
Leah Marie Becker is a fifth-year Ph.D. candidate in the English Department. She is originally from the Pacific Northwest and received her B.A. from the University of Portland in Portland, Oregon, and her M.A. from NYU in New York City. She is a 19th Century American Literature scholar, and her research focuses on the intersection of the environmental humanities, ecoconsumerism, and nineteenth-century domesticity, and domestic ideology. In her spare time, Leah loves cooking, baking, knitting, gardening, and creating art, as well as spending time with her husband, Ryan, and her 1-year-old Scottish terrier, MacDougal in their Chicago home.
Megan Cole is a sixth-year Ph.D. candidate in the English Department. She is originally from Metro Detroit and received her B.A. from the University of Alabama. Her research interests are in gender and sexuality in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century British literature, and her dissertation explores the role of asexuality and asexual environments, including convents, in the development of early feminism. When not writing or teaching, Megan can be found baking, working puzzles, watching any and all sporting events, and dreaming about future travels.
Melanie Archipley is a fourth-year graduate student pursuing a Ph.D. in the Astronomy Department. Her research focuses on extremely distant galaxies and objects in the early universe. She enjoys teaching astronomy for non-majors and making science accessible to everyone, including volunteering for a youth astronomy non-profit with a global audience. Melanie enjoys listening to people’s stories and spending time outdoors.
Michelle Farley is currently a Ph.D. Candidate in the Anthropology Department. She received her B.S. in Anthropology/Archaeology from Mercyhurst University and her M.A. in Anthropology from the University of Chicago. Her current research focuses on topics of early hominin evolution, bipedalism, foot morphology, and ecomorphological interactions. She is also pursuing a Graduate Minor in Museum Studies and is interested in the accessibility to informal education for disabled and marginalized communities. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, kayaking, gardening, and snuggling with her dog.
Pradeep Kumar is a sixth-year Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology. For his graduate work, he is studying how the organization of genome in the nucleus affects gene expression. Being a first-generation college graduate, he is passionate about teaching and hopes to increase scientific curiosity in others. When not in the lab, Pradeep enjoys running and training for marathons, watching movies, and spending time with friends.
Preetha Maanasa Mohan is pursuing Masters of Science in Management and lives in New Jersey. She is interested in management consulting and looks forward to developing a career as a consultant. She is also passionate about entrepreneurship and has had a few small-scale business experiences in her ventures. She volunteers as a tutor in an NGO and loves cooking, listening to business podcasts, and spending time with her family and friends.
Rama Paudel is a fourth-year Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Crop Sciences. As a native of Nepal, she is passionate about improving the agricultural conditions in developing countries. Her Ph.D. research focuses on herbicide and cover crop interactions to improve herbicide efficacy. In her free time, Rama loves to spend time with her daughter Ananya and watch movies.
Samantha Iwinski is a third-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies. Her research focuses on attachment security, parent-child relationships, and promoting healthy development for families and children. She also works on various projects involving program evaluation and encouraging people to go outdoors. In her free time, Sam likes to go hiking with her dog and partner, exploring, and cooking food.
Sari Alkhatib is a third-year Ph.D. student in the Socio-Technical Risk Analysis (SoTeRiA) Research Laboratory at the Department of Nuclear, Plasma, and Radiological Engineering. His research focuses on the screening processes in Probabilistic Risk Assessment (PRA). By incorporating the science of underlying accident causation into risk scenarios and enhancing the decision-making process behind it, he hopes to assist Nuclear Power Plants (NPPs) in achieving efficient and safe operations. In his free time, Sari likes to cook, run, and bike. He is also interested in learning new languages whenever he has the opportunity.
Sebastian Aviles is a graduate student pursuing his master's in Human Resources at the School of Labor and Employment Relations. He grew interested in LER while studying team cooperation and diversity within the private sector during his undergraduate career. Last year, with S.A.G.E, he worked with a team supporting the Graduate Student Podcast. In his free time, Sebastian likes spin classes, cooking, and hiking.
Shelby Keye is currently a third-year Ph.D. student in Kinesiology. Her research interests are on physical activity and exercise in children and its impact on their body composition as well as cognitive and motor functions. In her free time, Shelby likes eating, working out, spending time with friends and family, and watching reality TV.
Shuyuan Shen is a third-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Political Science. He studies both American politics and comparative politics with a focus on political communication. His research projects seek to understand how information and communications technology (ICT) shapes public opinion in both democratic and authoritarian regimes. In his spare time, Shuyuan enjoys traveling, hiking, and playing tennis. He is a first-gen college student.
Victoria Kriuchkovskaia is a third-year Ph.D. student in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. Her research focuses on developing biomaterial and tissue engineering platforms to study the most prevalent and lethal form of brain cancer—glioblastoma. Outside of the lab, Victoria enjoys hiking with her husky (and sometimes her cat comes along, too), gardening, working on home improvement projects, and going on road trips.
Zoë MacDowell Kaswan is a sixth-year doctoral candidate in the Neuroscience Program. Her research focuses on the interaction between immune-mediated tryptophan metabolism, seizures, and microglia. She is passionate about improving access to graduate education for people from all backgrounds. In her free time, Zoë enjoys doing crafts and relaxing with her husband and two cats.