Old Dominion University’s Center for Bioelectronics inducted its third cohort of Graduate Research Training Initiative for Student Enhancement (G-RISE) scholars as well four G-RISE affiliates during its recent research retreat.

The G-RISE program is designed to increase the diversity of biomedical researchers by attracting underrepresented students from minority, military, socioeconomically disadvantaged and disability groups to the field.

The program is funded by a $1.6 million renewable grant from the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) that was awarded to principal investigator Gymama Slaughter, executive director of the Center for Bioelectronics, and co-PI Alvin Holder, associate professor of chemistry and director of ODU's Maximizing Access to Research Careers Program (MARC).

The award also comes with a $1.1 million institutional match from ODU.

This year’s seven scholars are:

Kevin Garner, computer science

Garner holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in computer science from ODU. His doctoral research focuses on parallel mesh generation, as applicable to computational fluid dynamics simulations within the context of aerospace engineering and medical image computing. Garner, who grew up in Virginia Beach and has volunteered at Vineyard Community Church, is also a Southern Regional Education Board State Doctoral Scholar, a recipient of the Virginia Space Grant Consortium Graduate Fellowship and earned the ODU Computer Science Outstanding Graduate Researcher Award.

Quentin Richards, biomedical engineering

Richards earned a B.S. in computer science in the spring of 2023 from the University of Maryland Baltimore County, where he was a Meyerhoff Scholar, a program that provides financial assistance, mentoring, advising and research experience to African American male undergraduate students committed to obtaining Ph.D. degrees in math, science and engineering. In the G-RISE program, he will pursue a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering, focusing on the use of intelligent biosensor technology.

Taylor Patrick, electrical and computer engineering

Patrick studied computer engineering at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, where he was also a Meyerhoff and MARC U*Star (Maximizing Access to Research Careers – Undergraduate Student Training in Academic Research). With the G-RISE program, his research goal is to integrate and develop inexpensive sensing devices and algorithms with precise and inexpensive solutions for point-of-care diagnostics with the intent to reduce diagnosis times and inaccuracies and lead to better treatment options and health outcomes.

Brent Lake, biomedical sciences

Lake enrolled at the University of Montana after graduating from high school in Spokane, Washington in 2006. After a few years, he dropped out and began working with disabled individuals, where he said he developed a passion for helping others and learning about human biology. “That interest increased tenfold after I developed stage-one renal cell carcinoma,” he said. He returned to the University of Montana eight years after dropping out and earned a degree in biology. He went on to earn a master’s degree in biology from Elizabeth City State University, where he “developed an interest in research by participating in COVID-19 surveillance, lung cancer research and mentoring undergraduate students.”

Zuri Jules-Culver, biomedical sciences

Jules-Culver is an ODU alum, having earned a B.S. in biology in 2020. She was a member of ODU’s first cohort to graduate from the Monarchs-MARC U*STAR program. “I am extremely grateful to be accepted into the G-RISE Program at ODU,” she said. “This program is such an honor and will allow me to discover more about myself, as well as dive deeper into research.”

Rebecca Richardson, chemistry

Richardson is investigating the potential pathological role of Par-4 tumor suppressor proteins in neurodegenerative diseases. She has served as a teaching assistant for general chemistry labs, an adjunct chemistry professor at Norfolk State University and a supplemental instructor at Tidewater Community College. She has also provided private and volunteer tutoring to high school and collegiate students for more than a decade. ​She earned an Associate of Science degree from Tidewater Community College, a Bachelor of Science in biology with a minor in chemistry from Bluefield College and a master's degree in chemistry from ODU. Her research on the cytotoxic and therapeutic effects of silver nanoparticles against colon tumor cells was presented at the 2019 American Chemical Society National Meeting & Expo, as well as seminars for Bluefield College and ODU. Among her numerous awards and distinctions are the Marvin G. Williams Outstanding Graduate in Biology, the Tidewater Community College Academic Excellence Award and the Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society. ​In 2014, she co-founded the Fight Hunger, Feed Hope Feed the People initiative to assist families struggling with food insecurity in Hampton Roads and surrounding areas. She has volunteered with the Kempsville Presbyterian Church’s Clothing Ministry; Operation Inasmuch (OIAM), an annual Portsmouth Baptist Association-sponsored community outreach initiative; local food banks; community gardens; and the Portsmouth Humane Society. ​

Zaria Booth, mechanical engineering (starts in January)

Booth earned her bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from ODU and is now pursuing her Ph.D.  My undergraduate research and my senior capstone project have had a huge role in opening my eyes to the possibilities that graduate school can present to me,” Booth said. “I am beyond excited to continue my studies and pursue my Ph.D. now that I am in graduate school, and with assistance through the G-RISE program I can better my learning and myself.” She added that among her goals are “protecting the community from potential harm and presenting ideas that can meet the needs of consumers.”

The four affiliates, who participate in NIH G-RISE professional and career development programming and are supported through ODU’s Teaching and Research Assistantship, are:

Reagan Aviha, electrical and computer engineering

Aviha holds a bachelor’s degree in physics and mathematics from the University of Nairobi in Kenya and a master’s degree in electronics engineering from Norfolk State University. Aviha was hired as an intern at Micron Technology Inc. in the summer of 2022, serving as project engineer. Aviha plans to focus on biosensor technology.​

Alexander Hunt, biomedical engineering

Hunt, a Norfolk native, graduated from ODU with a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry. His research involves developing an electrochemical biosensor for the early detection and monitoring of prostate cancer. Last year, he was one of eight G-RISE scholars who traveled to South Africa for a conference.​​

Megha Shinde, biomedical engineering

Shinde, who earned degrees in electronics, telecommunications engineering and psychology in India, is focusing her research on electrochemical biosensors and machine learning, which bridge the gap between technology and medical sciences. “The idea of serving others has greatly impacted both my personal and professional life,” she said.

Amit Sarode, electrical and computer engineering

Amit Sarode joined the Center for Bioelectronics as a research assistant in the fall of 2022. He holds a bachelor's degree in electronics and telecommunication from Savitribai Phule Pune University and pursued his master's degree at G H Raisoni College of Engineering in Nagpur in India. Sarode’s research focuses on self-powered biofuel cells for sensors.

Pictured above, back row, from left: Amit Sarode, Chris Animashaun, Erem Ujah, Alex Hunt, Marcus Easterling, Brent Lake and Quentin Richards. Front row, from left: Zuri Jules-Culver, Layla Rashad, Dr. Barbara Hargrave, Megha Shinde, Dr. Gymama Slaughter, Kevin Garner, Brain Hanson, Jr., Shaina Sanderson, Rebecca Richardson and Taylor Patrick.