Peer Research Mentor Program

The Office of Undergraduate Research Peer Research Mentor Program connects students undertaking research for the first time with a community of their peers and a mentor.


What do the Peer research mentors do?

Peer Research Mentors cultivate a sense of community among Northwestern's student researchers, by serving as an example of the high-quality research currently undertaken by Northwestern undergraduates. They also serve as peer mentors for recipients of OUR summer research grants who are undertaking independent research over the summer.




>>>Click on names for more information!<<

Top Row, L-R:

Avery Van Etten, Journalism

Caroline Alvarez, Neuroscience

Caroline Hsu, English

Cherie Zhang, Economics and Social Policy

Christy Parzyszek, Sociology


Second Row, L-R:

Femi Nyabingi, Neuroscience

Gabriel Petersen, Mathematics and ISP

Isabella Spinelli, Musicology and Music Composition

Jade Marcum, History 

Third Row, L-R:

 Jessica Tartakovsky, Neuroscience

 Karan Gowda, Biological Sciences

 Kelsey Leslie, Biomedical Engineering

 Leo Georgopoulos, Materials Science and Engineering

 Louis Ingram, Psychology

Fourth Row, L-R:

Natalie Welber, Theatre and Religious Studies

Nathan White, Computer Science and Mathematics 

Nikol Kralimarkova, Neuroscience

Rebecca Ayiku, Human Development/Psych Services

Russ Steans, Biological Sciences


Getting to know them!


Name: Avery Van Etten; she/her/hers

Hometown: Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania


Year: 2020 

Major(s): Journalism (minors in religious studies and EPC)

Schools: Medill School of Journalism

Involvement on Campus: WNUR News, Northwestern News Network, Extreme Measure A Cappella

Special Interests: Music, reading, photography, podcasts, the environment

Where will you be this summer? Mostly Evanston, IL

Research grants won: OUR SURG

Research experience according to disciplinary field, methodology, and geographic region:

I have conducted research in the field of journalism. I gathered information through background research, photography, and interviews with Florida Keys environmental experts, government officials, and residents. I then edited the interview audio together into podcasts.


Research description: I was delighted to receive an SURG last summer to develop three podcast episodes about sea level rise in the Florida Keys. I spent two weeks in the Keys interviewing members of environmental groups, members of Keys government, and Keys residents about how sea level rise is impacting the area and how people are preparing for it. I also took many, many photographs. After leaving Florida, I transcribed the interviews, put together scripts for the podcasts, and finally edited them all together. They were published, along with some of my photos, by Planet Forward.



Name: Carina (Caroline) Alvarez; She/Her/Hers

Hometown: Stickney, IL, Central Time


Year: 2021

Major(s): Neuroscience with Biology Concentration

Schools: Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences

Involvement on Campus: Multicultural Greek Council, HIRCULES, Neuroscience Club, Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority, Inc., Red WATCH Band Training

Special Interests: Memes, Gardening, Cooking, Crafts

Where will you be this summer? I received a summer grant (SIGP) to do remote research for my lab.

Research grants won: OUR Conference Travel Grant, Posner Fellowship, Summer Undergraduate Research Program on Health Disparities (at the University of Illinois at Chicago), Summer Internship Grant Program (SIGP), Weinberg Conference Travel Grant

Research experience according to disciplinary field, methodology, and geographic region:

-Lab work in neurobiology and neurochemistry at Northwestern (Evanston campus)
-Performing quantitative surveys/assessments and HIV testing on patients (at UIC)

Research description: Through the Posner Fellowship, I began doing research on Alzheimer’s Disease through a neurobiology lab. This first lab experience made me knowledgeable in a variety of lab techniques and become more familiar with the research process. Being involved in research has also led to professional networking and research conference opportunities. I am currently working in a neurochemistry lab investigating methods to increase proteomic quantities, discover glycoprotein biomarkers in Alzheimer’s, and develop a bioinformatic tool for an array of diseases. Overall, research as allowed me to grow in my field and further appreciate how bench work contributes to the advancement of medicine.



Name: Caroline Hsu; she/her/hers

Hometown: Deerfield, IL


Year: 2021

Major(s): English, with minors in Linguistics & Film/Media studies

Schools: Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences

Involvement on Campus: Transfer Student Organization, Chinese Student Association

Special Interests: film, cooking

Where will you be this summer? Deerfield, IL

Research grants won: OUR SURG, WCAS SURG

Research experience according to disciplinary field, methodology, and geographic region:

I worked on a SURG last summer that investigated the influence of Hays Code censorship on film adaptations of Tennessee Williams plays in the 1950s, specifically A Streetcar Named Desire, the Glass Menagerie, and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. I spent most of my time close reading the scripts of the plays and the films against each other, and also spent 2 weeks in Los Angeles conducting archival research. I got to examine production notes, censorship documents, and screenplay drafts that illuminated the progression from stage play to film, as well as the interference of censorship boards in certain controversial scenes.

Research description:

My SURG last summer gave me a glimpse of the opportunities available to me in the worlds of English literature and film studies. It also gave me a crash course in conducting archival research, which is one of the coolest things I’ve ever gotten to do in my life. Although I don’t currently plan on extending my project from last summer, it did help inform my decision to pursue an honors thesis in the English department, which will also bridge the fields of English lit and film by investigating the function of nostalgia in 1980s throwback films produced in the 2010s.



Name: Cherie Zhang; she/her/hers

Hometown: Suzhou, China, GMT+8


Year: 2021

Major(s): Major: Economics, Social Policy, Minor: Legal Studies

Schools: School of Education and Social Policy

Involvement on Campus: Chinese International Student Association, NU Women in Law

Special Interests: Cooking and Chinese painting

Where will you be this summer? I will be conducting research in Suzhou, China during the summer.

Research grants won: OUR SURG

Research experience according to disciplinary field, methodology, and geographic region: * Cultural anthropology, Ethnographic research methods (survey, observation and interviews), Evanston (course-related); Sociology and legal studies, interviews and case analysis, Evanston (course-related);
Sociology, ethnographic research methods (observation), Chicago (at State Attorney’s Office)

Research description: Most of my research concerns sociological topics and human subjects. My most memorable project is an independent socio-legal study on peremptory challenges for jury selection. Through conducting the research, I was able to engage with a range of social science research methods, such as interviews, doctrinal and case analysis. I  designed a full-fledged survey at the first stage but had to abandon it because it was too difficult for me to recruit enough eligible participants (defense lawyers and public defenders) within the time frame of one quarter. Nevertheless, I was able to conduct research on the statutes and case laws, of which the process is similar to historical archival research on first-hand materials. I learned how to boil down the information contained in more than 100 case opinions and recruit interview participants who tend to ignore such emails. More importantly, I understood that the help from faculty members is the most valuable asset for undergraduate researchers.



Name: Christy Parzyszek; she/her/hers

Hometown: Bolingbrook, IL


Year: 2021

Major(s): Sociology, Environmental Science

Schools: Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences

Involvement on Campus: Slivka Residential College, Residential College Board, NUBioscientist 

Special Interests: Baking, knitting, reading, video games

Where will you be this summer? Bolingbrook, IL working remotely with Northwestern’s IPR

Research grants won: OUR SURG

Research experience according to disciplinary field, methodology, and geographic region: I completed a SURG studying perinatal mental health at Northwestern’s Chicago campus in Prentice and Feinberg. I worked with electronic medical records (filling in missing data and extracting data) and analyzed data from the EMR and from survey data (collected in RedCap).

Research description: I worked with a group called COMPASS, which is a collaborative care program attempting to treat and support women perinatally with their mental health. My independent project involved figuring out determinants of participation in our collaborative care program (and thus receiving mental health care during and after pregnancy).  My day-to-day involved pulling data from the electronic medical records and filling in the database we had for program participants that included information such as birth details, mental health, and demographic information. I also compiled survey data from depression and anxiety screenings that program participants took regularly and analyzed that data in Excel. In the last few weeks of summer, I worked on drafting a poster for my project and writing an abstract; the poster was accepted for the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine conference. I also created surveys for program research and attended weekly team meetings.




Name: Olufemi (Femi) Shakuur Nyabingi; she/her/hers

Hometown: Silver Spring, MD


Year: 2021

Major(s): Neuroscience and Spanish

Schools: Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences

Involvement on Campus: Undergrad research assistant LEARN Lab, President of Te Con Te student group (Spanish conversation group), Nous Fe Medical Service organization, Student employee at Norris Center

Special Interests: I love plants, maps, cooking, listening to music, art

Where will you be this summer? Evanston, IL.

Research grants won: OUR SURG, Weinberg Summer Grant

Research experience according to disciplinary field, methodology, and geographic region: I am currently researching language and behavioral development in toddlers through developmental, neuroscience, and linguistic lenses in LEARN lab with Dr. Elizabeth Spencer. In my time thus far I've had the opportunity to experience a variety of facets of the research process, including: independent project design, participant recruitment, running participant visits, data organization, processing raw data, review of research literature and publications, and interdepartmental communication of research.

Research description: This summer I will be doing research on the role of maternal engagement in the language development of toddlers. It is well known that parental engagement with children is critical in the language development of children, and I will be investigating to what extent the quality of behavioral interaction between mothers and their toddlers relates to the toddler’s language ability.



Name: Gabriel Petersen; he/him/his

Hometown: Santa Cruz, CA, PST (-2 CST)


Year: 2022

Major(s): Mathematics, Integrated Science

Schools: Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences

Involvement on Campus: First-year Peer Adviser, Peer-Guided Study Group Facilitator, Engineers without Borders, NU World Cup, Intramural Soccer

Special Interests: soccer, running, biking, reading, video games

Where will you be this summer? Evanston, IL

Research grants won: SURG (2019), DAAD RISE Northwestern Co-funding (2020), NSF-Simons Center Quantitative Biology Research Grant (2020)

Research experience according to disciplinary field, methodology, and geographic region: Last Summer, I worked in Professor Driscoll’s soft matter physics lab on campus where I studied colloids, viscous fluids with relatively-large particles suspended in them. As part of my SURG research, I worked on two projects. For the first, I built a colloidal sample chamber, and the second, I measured colloidal sedimentation. More recently, I have been researching the mathematics behind dimensional reduction techniques, used to compress large high-dimensional data sets, with Professor Auffinger (Tuca) and will continue to do so this Summer.

Research description: While my research has recently taken a sharp turn from what I have done previously - going from laboratory physics to the mathematics of computer algorithms, I have enjoyed it across the board. A common point that I have found is the importance of knowing Python. In fact, I am in the process of learning how to analyze large data sets in Python and will use this knowledge for my research this Summer. Another commonality I have found is the value in firmly understanding the theory behind your project, even when it is experimental. This Summer, I am excited to learn advanced linear algebra, which plays an important role in dimensional reduction, for this reason.



Name: Isabella Spinelli; she/her/hers

Hometown: Willowbrook, IL


Year: 2021

Major(s): Musicology and Music Composition, minor in Music Theory

Schools: Bienen School of Music

Involvement on Campus: Research, performing in student recitals!

Special Interests: Cooking, Running, Yoga

Where will you be this summer? I will be at home in Willowbrook, IL.  My current plans are to continue researching and developing my ideas about historical composition. I will also be working remotely with Northwestern's Charlotte Moorman collections as a way to study reception history and feminisms in the avant-garde music scene.  Finally, I will be getting ready to apply to grad schools!

Research grants won: OUR SURG, AYURG, Undergraduate Research & Arts Expo Presentation

Research experience according to disciplinary field, methodology, and geographic region:

OUR SURG- Morgan Library and Museum, NY: archival study of Gustav Mahler’s Piano Quartet in A minor; composing a completion of the unfinished second movement

AY URG- Evanston, IL: observation and qualitative research to understand musician and audience perception of completions of unfinished works

Research description: For my Summer URG, I traveled to New York and conducted archival research in the Morgan Library and Museum.  I also conducted biographical research and musical analysis, all with the goal of composing a completion of Gustav Mahler’s Piano Quartet in A minor in as historically accurate a manner as possible.  I also considered many of the ethical and practical implications of the practice of completing unfinished music.  For my AY URG, I organized rehearsals with a piano quartet and coordinated a performance of the work I composed.  Also, I conducted a survey of my audience members in order to understand their perception of my work.



Name: Jade Marcum; she/her/hers

Hometown: Montgomery, AL


Year: 2021

Major(s): History, geographic concentration in the Americas

Schools: Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences

Involvement on Campus: Compass Mentorship Program, Homecoming Executive Board, B. Burlesque Executive Board

Special Interests: The Civil Rights Movement

Where will you be this summer? Montgomery, Alabama

Research grants won: OUR SURG.

Research experience according to disciplinary field, methodology, and geographic region:

• Northwestern Summer Research Opportunity Program - The Alabama Sovereignty Commission's stance on voting rights: history; archival work; the American South

• Mellon Mays Undergraduate Research Fellowship - multiple year fellowship working on different projects

• Leopold Fellowship - working with Professor Henry Binford on his project, "Small business in poor, urban communities."

•Franke Fellowship - The Alabama Sovereignty Commission's stance on school desegregation: history; archival work; the American South

Research description: My research projects have all been a continuation of work that I have previously done, in an attempt to put together a brief history of the Alabama Sovereignty Commission, a secretive government agency created by Governor George Wallace in order to circumvent prominent Civil Rights legislation. There has not been much research done on this group but the project is necessary because the Commission is responsible for many issues the state still faces today like black voter suppression and informal school segregation. I previously looked at how they managed to dilute and suppress black voters even after the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act and am currently working on their efforts to fight desegregation in schools after landmark cases like Brown v Board of Education. I also partially began this project because I feel that it is important for people to know that the battle for civil rights did not immediately end after the important legal cases and government legislation, and the struggle has often continued even to this day. After I complete work on their school desegregation efforts, I will continue working on this project and will be submitting the finished product for my history thesis. I hope that this project can eventually turn into an actual complete history of the Commission as I enter into graduate school after leaving Northwestern.



Name: Jessica Tartakovsky; she/her/hers

Hometown: Vernon Hills, IL


Year: 2021

Major(s): Neuroscience major, Psychology minor, Pre-med track

Schools: Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences

Involvement on Campus: Panhellenic Association Vice President of Membership; Northwestern Tour Guide; Previous Subcommittee head of Community Engagement for Dance Marathon; Previous Public Relations Chair for Associates Student Government

Special Interests: tennis, bullet journaling, and binge-watching new Netflix series

Where will you be this summer? I will be staying in Evanston for the summer!

Research grants won: Summer Undergraduate Research Grant (2018), Northwestern's Summer Internship Grant Program (2019)

Research experience according to disciplinary field, methodology, and geographic region: My research experience began with the NU Bioscientist Prepatory program, where I learned how to write a grant proposal and find a successful environment for my research interests. Since then, I have been working for two years (since Spring 2018) in Dr. Sue Hespos' Northwestern Infant Cognition Lab in Evanston, conducting psychology participant research on infants. The lab studies the ability of infants to understand the world around us, ranging in topics from object permanence to numerical relationships. During the fall of my freshman year, I also worked remotely for a preventative medicine research lab in Feinberg, analyzing data on Google maps to observe correlations between the onset of cardiovascular diseases and a patient’s surrounding environment

Research description: I have had an extremely positive and impactful experience doing research throughout the summer and consecutive Psych/Neuro 399 academic quarters. I have really appreciated the ability to be involved in the entire research process in the Infant Cognition Lab, from recruiting new participants to running experiments and getting to work through the methodologies of new experiments. Specifically, the projects I have been most involved in utilize live “puppet show” demonstrations with a looking-time paradigm. Since infants have shown to look longer at demonstrations that are nuanced or surprising over ones that are habituated or expected, these studies provide details that infants under a year-old would otherwise not be able to provide through language. I can confidently say that the welcoming learning environment that my lab creates fostered my love for research, especially with projects that involve human participants. I am excited to finish my senior year in my lab, pursuing a senior thesis and new studies for the year.



Name: Karan Gowda; he/him/his

Hometown: Algonquin, IL, central time


Year: 2022

Major(s): Biological Sciences, minor is Classics and Global Health Studies

Schools: Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences

Involvement on Campus: Northwestern Model UN, NU World Cup, WNUR Sports, InclusionNU

Special Interests: Avid reader (historical fiction/fantasy/science fiction), sports, video game

Where will you be this summer? As of right now, I will be at my home in Algonquin, IL.

Research grants won: OUR SURG, Quantitative Biology Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship

Research experience according to disciplinary field, methodology, and geographic region: Worked in the Hultquist lab summer of 2019 in infectious diseases, specifically Ebola. I will be working in the Anderson lab this summer focusing on genetics and computation.

Research description: My primary research interest is in infectious diseases/pathology and epidemiology. I worked in the Hultquist lab under the SURG last summer where I studied the protein interactions between an Ebola viral protein and host human cell proteins. This experience involved a wide variety of wet lab procedures such as PCR, transfections, Western blots, etc.



Name: Kelsey-Ann (Kelsey) Leslie; she, her, hers

Hometown: Montego Bay, Jamaica


Year: 2021

Major(s): Biomedical Engineering

Schools: McCormick School of Engineering

Involvement on Campus: EXCEL Summer 2017, Former Vice-President of NSBE

Special Interests: Reading, knitting, cooking and sleeping as much as physically possible.

Where will you be this summer? Most likely summer classes in Evanston

Research grants won: OUR SURG, URAP, Undergraduate Research & Arts Expo Presentation

Research experience according to disciplinary field, methodology, and geographic region: Department of Chemical Engineering; Torkelson Lab-Undergraduate Research Assistant
Department of Physics; Driscoll Lab Group- Undergraduate Research Assistant and Undergraduate Researcher.

Research description: I started my research in the Torkelson Lab Group in the ChemE department through the OUR Academic Year URAP. There I prepared polymer samples in order to replicate super hydrophobic surfaces in nature, investigated different photo polymerization techniques to determine how to improve upon existing methods and then analyzed the hydrophobic nature of the polymers. That summer I was awarded the SURG and created and executed an individual research project focused on developing a method to create surfaces that mimic super hydrophobic surfaces in nature using photo masking.
My experience in the Torkelson lab led me to the Driscoll Physics Lab my sophomore year, the summer after that and also my junior year. There I work with polymer gels, looking at the birefringence of soft materials and synthesizing the gels in order to study gel mechanics and understand failure mechanisms of these materials under mechanical strain.



Name: Leonidas (Leo) Georgopoulos; he/him/his

Hometown: Chicago, IL


Year: 2022

Major(s): Materials Science and Engineering, B.S.

Schools: McCormick

Involvement on Campus: Slivka Residential College Exec, MatSci Club, NanoNU, NU Swim Club

Special Interests: Swimming, Pokémon Go, walking/exploring

Where will you be this summer? Chicago, Evanston sporadically

Research grants won: OUR SURG, MRSEC URI

Research experience according to disciplinary field, methodology, and geographic region: My research broadly stands between the intersection of materials science, nanotechnology, and solid-state electrical engineering. I use various chemical synthesis techniques as well as optical, chemical, and electrical characterization techniques to examine the unique properties of atomically thin layered materials. This work is completely experimental and completed at facilities within the Materials Science and Engineering Department at Northwestern’s Evanston campus.

Research description: In the entirety of my research, I work with 2D materials; layered materials that are only few-atoms in thickness. These layered materials form 2D stacks held together via weak van der Waals (vdW) forces, when atoms within the layer are held together via strong covalent bonds. It has been found that when exfoliated down to the few-layer limit, incredibly unique electrical properties emerge in these materials, making them promising candidates for the next generation of atomically thin electrical devices (i.e. transistors, memristors, etc.). Thus, in my research specifically, I set out to synthesize and characterize the electrical, chemical, and optical properties of such materials in order to better understand their novel properties.



Name: Louis (LT) Ingram; he/him/his or they/them/theirs

Hometown: Winchester Va, USA, EST


Year: 2021

Major(s): Psychology and Neuroscience with a Concentration in Linguistics

Schools: Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences

Involvement on Campus: PHE, Residential College of Culture and Community Studies, Rapp Lab, Barista at BrewBike

Special Interests: I am a caffeine nut and love trying new types of caffeinated beverages, particularly coffee and Earl Grey tea. My other major non-academic interests are rock climbing and hiking. I have backpacked the Grand Canyon and am looking forward to the next adventure.

Where will you be this summer? I will be in Evanston, studying for the GRE and working part time online as a TA at Center for Talent Development.

Research grants won: OUR SURG, OUR URAP

Research experience according to disciplinary field, methodology, and geographic region: The discipline my research has been in is Psychology, primarily with memory, language and misinformation. All of my research so far has been either done in Evanston or remotely. I have worked in the Rapp Reading Comprehension lab since Winter quarter 2019 and run Psych 110 students through the lab as well as help with creating and coding surveys. One of these projects I worked on, focusing on how single exposure to false information can lead to reliance on it, I got to present at the Undergraduate Research Expo which was a great experience. My independent research has also been done via survey, although mostly through MTurk. I have been performing this remotely last summer and am continuing phase two this summer. This research has been done through a qualtrics survey and has involved collaboration with other NU undergrads.

Research description: I have participated in undergraduate research since my first winter at NU. I have worked with coordinating between other research assistants and participants, as well as managing SONA. I have created numerous  qualtrics surveys and am experienced in survey flow. The research I work in the lab on has mostly been examining how misinformation or conspiracy theories can change people's judgements on information validity. My personal research has focused on how language and perception of race can alter how people remember events. I am currently starting phase two of this study, modifying the experiment by removing the IAT, as it yielded little value and was time consuming, and adding in the perception of guilt and punishment. I have also helped perform literature reviews for lab projects. Another fun fact about me is my first major research project was actually in high school, where I explored the possibility of using video games as a social cognitive tool to help austistic children.




Name: Natalie Welber; she/her/hers

Hometown: Bethesda, MD


Year: 2021

Major(s): Theatre and Religious Studies

School: School of Communication

Involvement on Campus: Artistic Director of Lipstick Theatre; Tour Guide

Special Interests: Playwriting; American Religion & Satanism; Baroque and Classical music

Where will you be this summer? Evanston & Maryland

Research Grants Won: SURG 2019

Research experience according to disciplinary field, methodology, and geographic region: Last summer I received an Undergraduate Research Grant to study the life of Anna Amalia, Princess of Prussia and baroque musician/composer/librarian, and write a play about her legacy (or, lack thereof). I mainly conducted archival and literary research by reading biographies, memoirs, and other writings. I also travelled to Germany and Austria, where I visited palaces and churches of Amalia’s time, attended classical concerts, and ultimately incorporated my findings into a full length play.

Research description: Especially because I was working in a creative field, with the goal of producing a creative output, I spent a lot of the summer exploring and inventing new methods of historical research. Because there are barely any books/articles written explicitly about Amalia, I devised methods of isolating relevant information from lengthy writings about the more famous people that interacted with her. I was extremely lucky to engage with my Maryland and Northwestern communities throughout the project by publicly performing Amalia’s flute composition, hosting workshop readings of early drafts of the play, and keeping followers updated on a research instagram account (@annaamaliaplay). This May, an excerpt of the play was featured in the OUR’s Creative Arts Festival.



Name: Nathan White; he/him/his

Hometown: Los Angeles, CA


Year: 2022

Major(s): Computer Science and Mathematics

Schools: McCormick School of Engineering

Involvement on Campus: CS Peer Mentor, Math Undergraduate TA, Residential College Board

Special Interests: Algorithms, discrete math.  Less academic, I love walking.

Where will you be this summer? I have a remote internship with Argonne National Lab, but I’ll remain physically in LA for the summer.

Research grants won: OUR SURG

Research experience according to disciplinary field, methodology, and geographic region: I have done research in applied math (specifically quantitative biology), and recently moved to algorithms research within CS. I've mostly done pen-and-paper mathematical analysis , but I’ve also been involved with computational work.  All of my previous research experiences were done in Evanston; now, it’s remote.

Research description: My first research experience was focused on designing mathematical models to explain the prevalence of binary mating across the natural world.  We worked on making a general model based on defendable assumptions about evolution.  My contribution to this project was primarily focused on mathematical analysis; I found and proved general properties of the model and related them to biological implications.  Working on this project was a fantastic experience.  I gained useful technical skills in programming and math, and I also got to see the process behind research projects.  This summer, I’ll be working on designing new algorithms for quantum computers.



Name: Nikol Kralimarkova; she/her/hers

Hometown: Plovdiv, Bulgaria


Year: 2021

Major(s): Neuroscience Major, Comparative Literature Minor

Schools: Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences 

Involvement on Campus: I was the VP and Eco-Representative of Ayers CCI, my residential college, last year. I was also a mentor at College Mentors for Kids meant for students from CPS schools. I’m an ASLA peer coach and a peer guided study group facilitator for Biology. This year, I also founded a Northwestern student chapter of Doctors Without Borders. I love dancing, so I’m also part of Dale Duro Latin Dance .

Special Interests: I love doing yoga (as often as possible!) and photography. Swimming and hiking are also favorites of mine, if the location and weather allow.

Where will you be this summer? Sofia, Bulgaria (GMT+3 (8 hours ahead of Central Time)

Research grants won: OUR SURG

Research experience according to disciplinary field, methodology, and geographic region: I worked in a Molecular Biology Lab, Dr. Curt Horvath's lab on the Evanston Northwestern campus. The lab’s main focus is a human anti-viral pathway, the RLR pathway (RIG-I-like receptor signaling pathway) and the protein interactions in that pathway. The main techniques I used included PCR, making and running Western Blot and agarose gels, cell culture, subcloning, transfection, primer design, DNA purification and other techniques related to DNA work and some protein work. As an independent researcher, I was maintaining a lab notebook where I was writing down all procedural protocols and any adjustments made in a given experiment.

Research description: My project was focused on the protein-protein interaction that inhibits the RLR pathway. Although it is known that a protein, LGP2, negatively regulates the pathway, it is not known how, or what protein segment, exactly it interacts with on another protein from the RLR pathway, Ubc13. I also worked with a technique that was novel to the lab, called biotinylation in order to tag constructs and study protein-protein interactions, which could give me a broader range of interactions detected. Overall, I got invaluable "wet lab" experience in the lab, which taught me how to design and run an experiment from scratch, including preparing all my DNA constructs and running samples on gels I prepared myself. This experience has helped me think about the material learned in class in greater detail and has trained my reading of scientific literature.


Name: Rebecca Ayiku; she/her/hers

Hometown: Dolton, IL/USA, CT


Year: 2022

Major(s): Human Development & Psych Services (HDPS) on the pre-med track

Schools: School of Education and Social Policy

Involvement on Campus: Black Mentorship Program (BMP), The Impact Movement, Afrothunda Dance Troupe, African Student Association (ASA), Minority Association for Pre-med Students (MAPS)

Special Interests: Poetry/Spoken Word, Modeling/Photography, Pediatrics

Where will you be this summer? Dolton, IL

Research grants won: OUR SURG

Research experience according to disciplinary field, methodology, and geographic region: Summer 2019 I conducted research at the Duncan Laboratory located in the Robert H. Lurie Medical Center of Northwestern University in Downtown. My research was in the field of reproductive science. During my time there, I characterized and compared ovarian follicles in mice and human tissue to determine if biological factors, age and race, play a role in female reproductive aging.

Research description: Female reproductive aging is characterized by the decline in quantity and quality of eggs, referred to as loss of the ovarian reserve. It can lead to serious health consequences such as endocrine function loss, infertility, miscarriages, and birth defects. Last summer I used NDP.view software to characterize and compare ovarian follicles in female reproductively young and old mice to determine if age plays a role in female reproductive aging. I also used EVOS microscopy to view human tissue samples and capture images of various follicles in the ovaries of African American and Caucasian female cancer patients to determine if race plays a role in female reproductive aging.



Name: Russell (Russ) Steans; he/him/his

Hometown: Amarillo, TX/USA, CST.


Year: 2022

Major(s): Biological Sciences (Major), Chemistry (Minor)

Schools: Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences

Involvement on Campus: On campus you’re most likely to find me working/studying in the library or attending classes in Tech. In the evening I’m usually at various meetings for NU Ethics Bowl, NU Model UN, and/or Biology Students Association.

Special Interests: I’ve dabbled in various sports throughout my life including Basketball, Lacrosse, Fencing, and most recently Golf. I really enjoy having exercise as an outlet to release pent-up energy in the evening and on weekends. During quarantine, I picked up some mystery books and I discovered my dad’s old Fender Stratocaster in the basement. I fixed up the Strat and I’ve been re-learning guitar in my free time which has been really fun.

Where will you be this summer? I plan to continue living in Amarillo with my family during the summer. I'll continue remote work for my current lab position, pursue a remote internship, and complete a Northwestern biology lab course. I'll also continue local COVID-19 support work in the area.

Research grants won: Weinberg CoA Summer Undergraduate Research Grant (WSURG) May 2019 - Aug. 2019 and Undergraduate Research & Arts Expo Presentation

Research experience according to disciplinary field, methodology, and geographic region: - Lucks Lab, Northwestern University Evanston Campus, (Jan. 2019 - Present). I conduct biological engineering research on RNA structure and function with the Lucks Lab. Until recent complications due to the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, I worked in a wet-lab, but I’ve recently learned a lot of the necessary Python and R programming to develop computational aspects to my projects.

Research description: I currently research RNA structure and function. More specifically, my project focuses on the regulatory function of riboswitches, segments of RNA that regulate gene expression by altering their structure upon interactions with small molecule ligands. It is my hope that my research will uncover some fundamental regulatory mechanisms of common riboswitches and allow for their application as high-fidelity molecular biosensors in the near future.






By invitation only; students can apply through a link.

If you recieved funding for an independent research grant and are interested in serving as a peer mentor, please let us know by emailing


The OUR funds all kinds of research, so we need Peer Research Mentors with all kinds of experience! Students from the Natural Sciences, Engineering, Social Sciences, Arts, Humanities, and Design; with experience in labs, archives, creative projects, interviews, quantitative and qualitative methods, and more; based abroad, in Evanston, elsewhere in the US, or online.


Eligible students will be sent an email inviting them to apply. To apply to be a Peer Research Mentor in 2019-2020 you a) must have received an Academic Year or Summer URG from the Office of Undergraduate Research; 2) preferably be on campus in Spring and Fall Quarter 2019; 3) be available to conduct online or in-person office hours during the summer. If you have not received an invitation to apply but believe you are eligible, please contact