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Meet the Spark Contributors

Sylvia Klein 

Sylvia Klein (they/them) is a second year Ph.D. student in the Microbiology, Immunology and Cancer Biology Ph.D. program. They previously obtained their associate degree at Prince George’s Community College in Largo, Maryland and a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and Biology at St. Mary’s College of MD in St. Mary’s City, MD. Their research focuses on molecular biology regarding dengue virus infection and progression to severe disease. Sylvia aims to bring awareness to neglected tropical diseases and the research that is being done to gain insights into prevention and treatment. 

Sylvia Klein: headshot

Tiffany LaShae 

Tiffany LaShae is a farmer and activist with a diverse background in regenerative agriculture and food justice. She is an educator, sharing knowledge and skills locally in programs such as Big River Farms Beginning Farmers Education and internationally with the Farmer-to-Farmer program in several African countries. Tiffany is currently in the graduate program in Land and Atmospheric Science. Her research is a mixed method, weaving soil health across the Black Belt in the American South with the cultural anthropology of Black farmers.

Tiffany LaShae: headshot

Ming-Ching Liang

Ming-Ching Liang is an international student from Taiwan and the first in the family to study abroad. He is a Community Health Promotion major in the Master of Public Health (MPH) program at the University of Minnesota (UMN)-Twin Cities. With minors in Health Equity and Epidemiology, Ming-Ching Liang aims to bring positive changes in the community for all members. He is fascinated in the roles communication plays in equity and inclusion. He is interested in international students’ experiences in US academia and how their voices are represented.

Ming-Ching Liang: Headshot

Kimberly Lopez-Zepeda 

Kimberly Lopez-Zepeda was born and raised in sunny Anaheim, California. She started her  academic journey at Fullerton Community College, obtaining a few associates degrees, and then transferred to California State University Fullerton to obtain her bachelor’s degree in Chemistry. In 2018, she was awarded the Barry Goldwater Scholarship. Currently, Kimberly is a graduate student working toward my Ph.D. in Material Science and Engineering. Kimberly’s  research is centered on conducting fracture experiments on refractory based alloys for high-temperature applications.

Kimberly Lopez-Zepeda: Headshot

Risa Luther

Risa Luther (she/her) is originally from Portland, OR, thriving in the rain of the Pacific Northwest of the United States. She somehow found herself in the snow as a Ph.D. candidate studying biological anthropology at the University of Minnesota, though her research with non-human primates takes her around the world to warmer, albeit still rainy, climates. Her research examines diet among these primates and the process of tooth wear over their lifetimes in order to better understand what these patterns of change in the shape of the tooth surfaces over time can tell us about how our earliest ancestors lived. 

Risa Luther headshot

Teresa Mccarrell

Teresa Mccarrell is a first-generation doctoral student in her third year in the Plant and Microbial Department at the University of Minnesota, as well as a recipient of the NSF-GRFP fellowship. She previously obtained her bachelor’s degree in Microbiology and Cell and Molecular Biology from Oklahoma State University. She is fascinated by microbes living in extreme environments, and the potential for life on other planets (astrobiology). Teresa hopes to inform and inspire both the general public and future scientists with science communication and art.

Teresa Mccarrell headshot

Antavia Paredes-Beaulieu

Antavia Paredes-Beaulieu descends from the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe and grew up in South Minneapolis. She earned her associates degree at Minneapolis College as a Power of You scholar. She continued her studies in chemistry at Metro State University as an Increasing Diversity in Environmental Careers Fellow, as well as abroad in Cuernavaca, Mexico as a Gilman International Scholar. Antavia has been a PhD student of chemistry at the University of Minnesota where she helped teach undergraduate analytical chemistry labs and spent time researching and synthesizing porous nanoparticles for PFAS phytoremediation as a 3M Science and Technology Fellow. Antavia is the Lead Green Tech STEM instructor at MIGIZI in South Minneapolis.

Antavia Paredes-Beaulieu headshot

Jonathan Smith 

Jonathan Smith is a third year Ph.D. student in Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics under Professor Maziar Hemati. He graduated from Washington University in St. Louis with a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering with minors in Aerospace Engineering & Materials Science. In 2021, he was awarded the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship and is currently working on stability analysis of compressible Couette flow, with the larger goal of researching input-output stability analysis methods for predicting transition to turbulence in hypersonic flows.

Jonathan "Captain" Smith headshot