Summer Neuroscience Scholars (SUNS) program

The FAU Brain Institute Summer Neuroscience Scholars (SUNS) program is an 8-week program that provides an opportunity for students to participate in directed, remote learning in preparation for research in the laboratory. Participants, under direction of their mentors, engage in directed reading and videocast discussion with Institute faculty and their trainees to explore career networking and next steps in school/job applications and interviews, research ethics in the laboratory, and best practices in communicating science to the general public, among other topics.

There is no cost for participation nor is there a stipend provided, and we do not provide academic credit. However, participants will gain valuable background in reviewing primary literature in areas of interest, and participation can accelerate entry into the lab, and/or fill in gaps in understanding of the history of the mentor’s research. At the end of the 8-week period, SUNS Program participants will receive a Certificate of Completion signed by the Program Director and the Faculty Mentor, and they may note participation in the program on their resumes.

Amaris Alayon

Amaris Alayon

Mentor: Dr. Celan Isgor

Amaris is a graduate of FAU’s Department of Biological Sciences and will be starting her second-year of medical school at the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine this coming August. She has a particular interest in neuroscience and its clinical translation to neurology and neurosurgery, and is thrilled to be joining the Summer Neuroscience Scholars program.
Tyler Batlle

Tyler Batlle

Mentor: Dr. Kate Guthrie

I am a first-year graduate student of the Master of Science in Biomedical Sciences program here at FAU. It is an honor to hear of such fascinating efforts that promote the well-being of individuals.
Angelica Bodine

Angelica Bodine

Mentor: Dr. Maureen Hahn

Angelica is a Junior in the Bachelor of Science (BS) Neuroscience and Behavior undergraduate degree program. At FAU, she is the Vice-President of The Neuroscience Club and also the Vice-President of Pre-SOMA, a pre-health organization. She volunteers as a Standardized Patient (SP) at FAU medical school’s Clinical Skills Simulation Center and works clinically as a Registered Nurse for Cleveland Clinic Hospital.  In the future, she will be working under the Blakely Lab as an undergraduate research assistant, with plans on applying to graduate school the following year. 
James Trey Floyd

James Trey Floyd

Mentor: Dr. Ning Quan

I am currently a senior at FAU earning my B.S. in Biological Sciences. I currently help Dr. Areal with her research in neuropsychiatric disorders. Once I graduate, I plan on getting more involved with the exciting research being conducted in Dr. Blakely and Dr. Quan’s lab. While pursuing my degree I am also a member of the Council of Scholarship and Inquiry here at FAU helping fellow undergraduates get involved in research.
Zayna Gichi

Zayna Gichi

Mentor: Dr. Randy Blakely

Currently pursuing a bachelor's degree in Neuroscience & Behavior at the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science at FAU. I have had the incredible opportunity of gaining some undergraduate research experience at the FAU Brain Institute under the supervision of Dr. Randy Blakely. My work in the Blakely Lab involves the use of genetic and pharmacological techniques to study dopamine-dependent behavior in C. elegans. During my time at FAU, I have served as the President of the Muslim Student Association, as well as Co-Chair of Multicultural Medicine in the American Medical Student Association. I am also a mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters and a hospice volunteer with Trustbridge Hospice & Palliative Care. In my off-time, I enjoy watching soccer, creating artwork and exploring Florida's natural beauty. My ultimate career goal is to become a physician and give back to my community by improving the health and wellness of others.
Megan Giovanniello

Megan Giovanniello

Mentor: Dr. Carmen Varela

I am an undergraduate student majoring in Psychology.  I am a member of the Women’s Cross Country and Track & Field teams. Throughout my time at FAU, I have become fascinated with the brain by learning about its many functions and behaviors. After my undergraduate degree, I plan on continuing my education to pursue a PsyD in Clinical Psychology.  I grew up playing baseball and soccer and have been running competitively since I was 9 years old. With my interests in psychology and sports, I thought there was no better career for myself than one in Sport Psychology.
Biandra Louis-XVI

Biandra Louis-XVI

Mentor: Dr. Ning Quan

My name is Biandra Louis-XVI and I am a first generation college student with an undergraduate degree in Food Science and Human Nutrition from the University of Florida. I am currently pursuing a Master’s of Science degree in Biomedical Science at FAU Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine. After graduation, I plan on matriculating to Medical School to further my career in becoming a Pediatric Oncologist. I work as a Licensed Practical Nurse at Broward Center Center, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping children with disabilities. With my heightened interest in research, I am excited for this opportunity to expand my understanding of the integration of Science and Medicine and gain experience in a science lab.
Jitesh Persaud

Jitesh Persaud

Mentor: Dr. Maureen Hahn

I’m currently a Biochemistry major at the FAU honors college as well as the Governor of the Northern Campuses at FAU. I’m incredibly passionate about research and improving the way we communicate scientific information with the general public. I currently work in the Blakey Lab studying the MBLAC1 gene and the up-regulation of glutamate transporters in glial cells. When I’m not busy, I enjoy trail running to clear my head.
Hannah Phelps

Hannah Phelps

Mentor: Dr. Jenny Wei

My name is Hannah Phelps and I am a junior at Florida Atlantic University. My major is Biological Sciences and I am currently conducting research with Dr. Jianning Wei in the College of Medicine. My research focuses on the molecular pathways affected by neurodegenerative diseases, particularly Huntington’s disease. After I complete my undergraduate degree, I hope to attend medical school.
Jacklyn Potts

Jacklyn Potts

Mentor: Dr. Randy Blakely

I am a current undergraduate student at the University of Florida studying Pre-Professional Biology and plan to graduate in the spring of 2021. This summer, I will partake in the FAU Brain Institute Summer Undergraduate Neuroscience Scholars Program where I will discuss research ethics in the laboratory, best practices in communicating science to the general public, and career networking techniques with Institute faculty and trainees. Apart from participating in these discussions, I will also have the opportunity to learn about current research from Dr. Blakely and Ph.D. student Samantha Stilley.
Rachel Semenchuk

Rachel Semenchuk

Mentor: Dr. Jenny Wei

Hi! I'm Rachel; a resilient researcher interested in conducting experiments, analyzing data, and being surrounded by a field of Neuroscience aimed at exploring the interactions and relationships between biological matter and organic processes of the human body. After taking 3 Research Method courses, I've started working with Dr. Wei in early 2020 at the College of Medicine researching Huntington's Disease and learning lab techniques: Western Blotting, Immunostaining, Cell Culture. I'm excited to take this opportunity in the SUNS program to strengthen my understanding of the history of Dr. Wei's research, as well as to discuss future steps I should take in my career.
Maria Smirnova

Maria Smirnova

Mentor: Dr. Ning Quan

Hello! My name is Maria Smirnova and I am from Davie, Florida. I am a rising senior at the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College and I am majoring in cellular neuroscience. My research interests include therapeutics for neurodegenerative diseases and neuroimmunology. I am currently doing research in Dr. Quan’s lab at the Brain Institute where I am investigating the effects of the IL-1R1 receptor on hippocampal functioning and induced immunological responses in transgenic mice. After graduating from the Honors College, I plan to attend graduate school and pursue a Ph.D. in neuroscience. I aspire to become an independent scientist and to start a laboratory of my own one day!
Bruce Steinberg

Bruce Steinberg

Mentor: Dr. Shailajah Allani

I am currently a sophomore at the University of Florida. I will graduate in the spring of 2023 with a Bachelor of Science in Applied Physiology and Kinesiology with a specialization in Exercise Physiology. In addition to being a full-time student, I am the director of service for Pre-Professional Service Organization, UF’s oldest pre-health organization, and I collaborate with Dr. Allani on her research. I’m an avid runner and enjoy training for marathons in my free time. 
Michelle Velez

Michelle Velez

Mentor: Dr. Randy Blakely

I am currently a Senior at FAU and I will graduate this fall with my Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences. Besides being a full-time student at FAU, I also work as a Medical Assistant in a Pediatric office and I assist Dr. Mayer with his research at the Blakely Lab. During my free time, I love spending time with my family and pets.
Oriana Williams

Oriana Williams

Mentor: Dr. Carmen Varela

My Name is Oriana Williams and I am a senior at Florida Atlantic University majoring in Neuroscience and Behavior. After graduating I plan to pursue a graduate degree in Neuroscience with a concentration in neurodegenerative disorders and aging. I am interested in studying neurodegenerative disorders and aging because I want to contribute to helping improve the quality of life of individuals who are affected by such diseases and understand how mechanisms associated with aging effect these diseases. I currently work in Dr. Carmen Varela’s lab as a Directed Independent Research student where I assist with procedures and various experimental techniques. Under the guidance of Dr. Varela, I have learned numerous techniques and gained knowledge pertaining to how biological and neurological processes centered in and around the thalamus are involved in sleep and learning and memory.