Scientific Literacy Graduate Research Fellows

In the fall of 2023, sixteen graduate students from around the nation were accepted into the HBCU STEM-US Center’s Graduate Student Fellows Program for Educating Emerging Researchers (PEER). During this five-month paid fellowship, the Fellows learned qualitative research methods in the area of broadening participation in STEM by participating in an ongoing investigation of the efficacy of a Scientific Literacy curriculum at HBCUs. The Fellows attended seminars and training, participated in and facilitated focus groups, and curated interview questions and protocols. Additionally, Fellows received practical skills in collecting, cleaning, and transcribing qualitative data. After the fellowship, the Fellows will be well-versed in analyzing data using a theoretical lens, contributing to knowledge generation and future STEM publications.

Headshot[13065] - Sirocus Barnes

Sirocus Barnes

Sirocus Barnes joined Georgia Tech’s Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics, and Computing


(CEISMC) in March 2012 as the Outreach Coordinator for the AmeriCorps Academic Mentoring Program. Sirocus attended Valdosta State University where he earned a BA and MA. Sirocus is currently pursuing a Doctor of Education in Learning Sciences and Policy with a focus in Out-Of-School Learning from the University of Pittsburgh. My research journey started as an undergrad student when I was enrolled at Valdosta State University and conducted my undergrad research that was focused on Race as a Factor for Dating Practices for College Students.

IMG_2379 - Jaire Clarida

Jaire Clarida

Jaire Clarida is currently pursuing a PhD in Social Work from Morgan State University. His research interests 


include examining the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on African-American Communities.

Zsanai Epps_2023 - Zsanai Epps

Zsanai Epps

Zsanai Epps, MPH, CHES is a Doctor of Public Health candidate at Morgan State University. Her dissertation


study explores the lived experience of Black women pursuing public health degrees at HBCUs who are interested in sexual and reproductive health during this period of restrictive abortion policy and attack on reproductive rights. She is also the Senior Director of Reproductive Justice Initiatives at a national nonprofit leading programming with young Black women ages 18-30 and college students with an emphasis on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Zsanai’s portfolio includes programming around sexual and reproductive, health, rights, and justice, chronic disease prevention, mental and emotional wellness, policy advocacy, and leadership development. Zsanai received her Bachelor of Science in Health Education and Master of Public Health from Morgan State University.

MomPic - Maryam Funmilayo

Maryam Funmilayo

Maryam is an early career researcher and a Public Health AmeriCorps Community Health Worker 

(CHW). Besides her interests in academic research writing, she enjoys working with senior citizens as a CHW, and connecting them with health resources and social services. 
Even though Maryam has co-authored a peer-reviewed journal on E-Mentorship for Female Minorities in Public Health, she hopes to hone her research writing skills with the help of this fantastic HBCU-STEM program and eventually, author more research articles that focus on ethnography, women’s mental health, and qualitative research.
She earned a Master of Public Health degree (with a focus on Health Disparities) from Lamar University, Beaumont, Texas, a Master of Arts degree in Health Education and Promotion from East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Human Nutrition (with a focus on Public Health Nutrition) from Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas.
She is embarking on pursuing her doctoral degree in Public Health in the fall of 2024.
guajardo2018 - Lino Guajardo

Lino Guajardo

Lino Guajardo have pushed himself out of his comfort zone to be involved with research projects that he finds 


interesting. His research goals is to continue to bring to light the student perspectives and use this knowledge to support students in their junior and senior level mathematics courses. His goal is to have all succeed, not just the ones who figure out “how to play the game” based on the standards set by those in charge. He is currently pursuing a PhD in Mathematics Education at Texas State University.


Caylin Jordan

Caylin Jordan started her masters program in fall of 2022. She is currently pursuing her MPH in Public 


Health at Morgan State University. HBCU has opened an incredible amount of opportunities for her including research opportunities. She was interested in advancing her knowledge and expertise in research and when she was made aware that her graduate school was looking for a graduate research assistant she applied and ultimately was chosen to be a graduate research assistant at the Center for Urban Health Equity (CUHE) within Morgan State University School of Community Health and Policy. After working with CUHE for a few months and sharpening her research skills she came across the opportunity to be a PEER Fellow with the STEM US Research Center. She applied and was chosen to be a PEER Fellow. She is happy to be here and to work with an amazing group of people as she continue her efforts to sharpen her research skills.


Taresha McBride

For over 25 years, Taresha McBride has served much of her career as a science educator, researcher, and higher education 


administrator and is an advocate of strengthening the gaps along the STEM education pipelines. As an MTSS Teacher, she works closely with school administrative teams, teachers, and students. Taresha’s professional experiences have included contributions to cell and molecular research, academia, and higher education administration. She is a former Director at Morgan State University in the School of Computers, Mathematics, and Natural Sciences. A student leader, she has served over two terms as Parliamentarian of Morgan’s Graduate Student Association Executive Board, a large and diverse graduate student body. In 2022, Taresha was appointed to serve on President Wilson’s Commission on the Current State of Information Technology (IT) at Morgan. She earned her B.S. in Biology from Fairleigh Dickinson University and her M.S. in Cell & Molecular Biology from Rutgers University. She is a proud doctoral candidate in the Community College Doctoral Leadership Program at Morgan. Her research focus follows her passion for the improvement of equity, inclusivity, and accessibility in STEM and K-21 programs in this advancing technological society. Taresha enjoys spending time with her family, including her loving parents, who have been married for 59 years. She is the proud mom of her son, a talented scholar and aspiring digital artist and STEAM professional, a Maryland Student Ambassador, and a Baltimore County Student Council member.

McClure Headshot - Chelsea McClure

Chelsea McClure

Chelsea  McClure started her science education professional journey in the middle school classroom before becoming 


passionate about research, curriculum writing, and pre-service teacher education. That passion led her to academia at Towson University, where Chelsea McClure serves as a lecturer in the Department of Secondary and Middle School education, and to Morgan State University, where Chelsea McClure is in the process of completing her EdD in Science Education from Morgan State University.

Asli Headshot - Asli McCullers

Asli McCullers

Asli McCullers is a 1st year PhD student in Behavioral and Community Health at the University of Maryland,


 of Maryland, College Park. She is an aspiring health equity researcher and leader, and is passionate about interrupting the pathway to health inequity through the lens of adolescents and young adults of historically marginalized backgrounds. Asli possesses a dynamic array of research experiences, including mental health, reproductive health, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and digital health, with academic works published in world class journals. As a fellow, Asli will expand Project HeartHEAL (Health Equity and Love), which seeks to understand, amplify and address the health-related experiences of young adults of diverse backgrounds that have experienced challenging romantic breakups. Through this work, Asli is looking forward to coining love as a social determinant of health.

SNMuller - Headshot - Sonya N Muller

Sonya Muller

Initially, Sonya N. Muller research journey began as a dedicated Data Coordinator, where she meticulously 


organized and managed complex datasets, laying the foundation for meaningful scientific exploration. After a year of showing her dedication and expertise, Sonya N. Muller was promoted to a Clinical Research Coordinator position. In this role, Sonya N. Muller seamlessly navigate the intersection of data and patient care, ensuring the smooth execution of clinical trials and contributing significantly to groundbreaking research initiatives (including working on COVID-19 trials through Pfizer). She is currently pursuing a Master’s in Health Informatics at Morehouse School of Medicine. To further nurture her deep commitment to scientific excellence, Sonya N. Muller is proud to have been chosen as a scientific research fellow with STEM US and is enthusiastic about the impactful discoveries that lie ahead.

Pitts_Headshot1 - Katrina Pitts

Katrina Pitts

Throughout Katrina Pitts’ higher education career, she has always had the task of completing progress


reports on programs that she served. To gain additional information on providing deeper impact, she enrolled in a few short-term courses to better understand the various ways to conduct program assessment. Katrina found the work exciting and impactful, so she decided to enroll in a doctoral program pursuing an EdD in Community College Leadership (Higher Education Administration) at Morgan State University. To merge her prior educational experiences and professional skills, she decided to conduct research to examine social engagement in the online environment and its effects on online course completion.

headshot - Reyniak Richards

Reyniak Richards

Reyniak Richards is currently pursuing a Doctorate in Science Education from Morgan State University. His research interest is to 


understand how students conceptualize and retain scientific knowledge. Use this information to better develop support systems and curriculum to improve student success.

thumbnail_IMG_9549 - Crystal Ukaegbu

Crystal Ukaegbu

Crystal Ukaegbu is a resilient and emerging leader in the field of public health, showcasing unwavering 


dedication and tenacity throughout her academic and professional journey. Born to Nigerian immigrant parents in the Bronx, New York, Crystal embarked on her educational journey by earning her first Bachelor of Science degree in Health Sciences, accompanied by a minor in Human Services, from the University of Bridgeport. Her thirst for knowledge and commitment to improving healthcare outcomes led her to pursue a Master’s degree in Public Health, specializing in Health Policy and Management, at SUNY Downstate Medical Center. Presently, she is a third-year Doctor of Public Health student at New York Medical College, with a focused concentration in Health Policy and Management.

Picture - Elizabeth Wrightsman - Elizabeth Wrightsman

Elizabeth Wrightsman

Elizabeth Wrightsman earned her B.S. in Mathematics from Texas State University where she is currently in  


her final year of earning her Ph.D. in mathematics education. Broadly, Elizabeth’s primary research interest involves identifying and better understanding teaching practices that lead to equitable student outcomes in mathematics. She is currently working on two NSF DRK-12 grant funded research projects which have equipped her with a myriad of qualitative research experience. She is also in the midst of her dissertation study that aims to tell the stories of students taking proof-based, inquiry-based mathematics courses. The hope is to understand how an inquiry approach may influence a student’s identity through participation and positioning. Elizabeth hopes this deeper investigation into student perspectives may shed light on why inquiry learning can lead to inequitable student outcomes.

Tracie_Yorke - Tracie Yorke

Tracie Yorke

Tracie Yorke journey in research and educational technology has been marked by a strong commitment to 


creating inclusive and engaging learning experiences. With expertise in online and technology-based educational design, my work has consistently pushed the boundaries of educational technology to make learning more accessible and immersive, particularly for underrepresented groups. Currently pursuing her doctorate in community engagement, her focus is on Critical UX design in the context of the Metaverse. Tracie Yorke is dedicated to understanding how to design immersive learning experiences that cater to the needs of historically marginalized communities, aiming to bridge the educational gap, enhance accessibility, and increase the joy of learning.