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Meet our program mentors and leadership team.



Zach Chalmers, G1

Originally from Eugene, Oregon, Zach is a first year graduate student in the Abdulkadir Lab within the Department of Urology. His research is focused on understanding of the molecular mechanisms that drive prostate cancer, with an emphasis on bioinformatics. When he is not busy doing research, he likes to run, climb, explore the Chicago food scene, and play in the mountains. He joined PRISM to teach, inspire young students to peruse their passions in STEM fields, and to help sculpt the next generation of investigators in what little way he can.

Suvai Gunasekaran, G5

I'm originally from Madison, Wisconsin, and went to college at Harvard, where I studied biomedical engineering. Now at Northwestern I'm a fifth-year graduate student in Dr. Dan Kim's lab where I study cardiac MRI, specifically how to improve imaging in patients with atrial fibrillation. Outside of research, I enjoy photography, wheel pottery and exploring restaurants and festivals in Chicago. I've always had a passion for volunteering, especially with kids, so I was eager to join PRISM during graduate school. The students are always so excited to learn, so it is great to be part of the team encouraging them to continue to foster their interests in science and medicine.

Stephen Lander, M2

Originally from Denver, Colorado, I went to Calvin College to study mechanical engineering and biochemistry. I am now in my second year of medical school and will be joining the Prindle Lab to study bacteria in their structured communities, biofilms. I am interested in leveraging any findings to address biomedical challenges such as antibiotic resistance, diagnosis and treatment of cancer, or understanding our microbiome.  In my free time, I enjoy cooking, running along the lake and spending time with friends. I am volunteering with PRISM because I had excellent mentors that helped me develop my interests in science and medicine, and I hope to do the same for these high school students.

Greg McElroy, G3

I am originally from Wyckoff, New Jersey, and I attended Williams College in western Massachusetts where I majored in biology. I am now a third year graduate student in Nav Chandel’s lab in the Pulmonary Division at Feinberg School of Medicine. I study the role of mitochondrial metabolism in the brain and in cancer cells. When I am not in the lab I like playing soccer, running with my two dogs, and biking along the lakefront trail. I enjoy interacting with students and I strive to foster their curiosity and wonder in biology and nature. ​

Sage Morison, M2

Originally from the woods of New Hampshire, I am starting as a graduate student in the Awatramani Lab here at Northwestern. I study the interactions between chronic pain and opioids in the brain, in hopes of finding novel targets for pain relief. When I'm not in lab or watching mice swim, I like to drink tea, go salsa dancing and write. I'm in PRISM because programs like this sparked my interest in science, and I hope to pass on that passion to younger generations.


Emily Pinheiro, G1

I am a first-year graduate student from Champaign, Illinois, working in the lab of Paul Burridge in the Department of Pharmacology. Our lab uses human-induced pluripotent stem cells to study cardiovascular adverse effects of chemotherapaeutics. Outside of research, I enjoy cooking, being active and exploring Chicago’s performing arts scene. I’m excited to be involved with PRISM and share my enthusiasm for science and medicine with students in the community.​

Qiuyin Ren, M2

I was born in China and grew up mostly in Southeastern CT, then ended up in Baltimore where I studied BME at Johns Hopkins. There, I gained a love for design and drug delivery, which are themes I will continue to pursue during my PhD. Outside of medicine, I love to sleep, be by the ocean, and put IKEA furniture together. I have always loved mentoring and the PRISM students are an incredibly curious and driven group that are so fun and rewarding to work with. I'm blown away by both their knowledge and how quickly they learn, and I hope that this program will continue to inspire both the mentors and mentees.

Leadership Team

Nina Calantone, G3, PRISM MSTP Student Co-Director

I grew up in Calgary, Canada, prior to attending Stanford, where I studied biology. I then spent a couple of years studying virus-host dynamics at the NIH while applying to MD/PhD programs. I am now a third-year graduate student studying aberrant monocyte activation and cardiovascular disease in the setting of chronic HIV infection under the guidance of Rich D’Aquila, who heads the Third Coast Center for AIDS Research. I am also a lifelong student and patron of the arts, and I am always delighted by the rich offerings of the city we call home. Through the PRISM program, I have gained meaningful relationships with students and fellow mentors alike and, for that, I am grateful.


Sam Bowers, G3, PRISM MSTP Student Co-Director

I grew up in Boulder, Colorado, and attended college at Stanford University. I am currently a third-year graduate student in the laboratory of Fred Turek, in the Ken & Ruth Davee Department of Neurology. My dissertation project investigates how sleep deprivation may be manipulating the microbes in our guts, resulting in vulnerability to lasting effects of stress. I grew up playing hockey and played through college, but I have taken up running since moving to Chicago and love running up and down the lakefront path. PRISM, to me, is simply an opportunity to share how awe-inspiring and exciting science and medicine can be, hopefully lighting that spark in someone else in the process.


Max Edmonds, G4, PRISM MSTP Module Leader

I'm a fourth-year graduate student in the Woodruff Laboratory in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. I study male fertility and develop bioengineered tools for use in the study of male reproductive physiology. For fun, I am an amateur Olympic weightlifting competitor in the Chicago area, and I also love playing guitar, cooking and reading during my free time.​ I love volunteering with PRISM because of the privilege I feel to share my own passion for serving others and investigating science with young students. I probably learn more from my students than they learn from me. I have been blown away by how much creativity and insight they bring to each of our modules. One of the most rewarding parts of PRISM for me is being able to mentor some of my students from and through high school and into college.


Karl Guo, G4, PRISM MSTP Module Leader

Originally born in Henan, China, I moved to New York at age 9. I attended Columbia University in NYC to study biomedical engineering and then moved to Chicago for the Northwestern MSTP program. I am currently a fourth-year graduate student in Gordon Shepherd's lab in the Department of Neuroscience. We study neuro-circuits, specifically motor-related circuits, using optogenetic and electrophysiological methods. Specifically, I am using these methods to dissect cell-type specific thalamocortical circuits that may be used for short-term memory. Outside of the lab, I love to cook, play soccer and read. My favorite food is Chinese dumplings, my favorite soccer team is Chelsea FC and I love to read/listen to fantasy/sci-fi novels. I participate in PRISM because I love teaching, and I think it’s important to pass on the knowledge I have accumulated. When I was younger, I attended similar programs before going off to college and beyond. In those programs, the mentors encouraged me to dream big and helped me achieve what I am today. Now, I would like to give back in the same way to the next generation of physician-scientists.

Mike Scott, G2, PRISM MSTP Module Leader

I’m a second-year graduate student from Los Angeles. I studied mechanical engineering at UCLA, and now that I’m at Northwestern I work in the lab of Michael Markl. I’m interested in imaging blood flow in the heart and aorta using MRI and evaluating how the flow changes in patients with cardiovascular disease. I’m also interested in automated image analysis for medical images. When I’m not in lab, I like to run along the lakeshore and cook. I volunteer with PRISM because I really enjoy working with the high school students and introducing them to new scientific concepts through a hands-on, medically oriented approach, and I’d like to show the students that there are lots of research opportunities, even outside of traditional pre-medical fields.


Celeste Fang, G2, PRISM MSTP Module Leader

I am a second-year grad student in the Ntziachristos lab in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics, where we study epigenetic regulatory mechanisms and chromatin interactions in leukemia. Originally from Vancouver, Canada, I ventured out state-side to study computational biology and economics in college. Outside of lab and class, I like to dabble in graphic design and other art projects, play some classic piano every now and then and explore the Chicago food scene. I'm volunteering with PRISM because I want to share how fun science and learning can be.


Blanca Sandoval, Education Coordinator, Pedersen-McCormick Club