Peer Advisors

Peer Advisors

Image of Nadia AlAjmi
Nadia AlAjmi - Media Studies & Political Science/URAP

Hi there! My name is Nadia (she/her/hers), and I'm a senior double majoring in Media Studies and Political Science. I was involved in URAP for a year as a research assistant with Dr. Anne MacLachlan with the Center for Studies in Higher Education. My research focused on learning about the different experiences that women, especially women of color, have faced in and after doctoral programs, especially when it comes to racism, sexism and elitism. Outside of academics, I'm involved with the Pre-Law Review at Berkeley as a Communications Associate, a Transfer Fellow at the Mixed Recruitment and Retention Center and I'm part of the marketing team at HerCampus Berkeley. When I'm not busy with my extracurriculars or academics, you can find me watching historical documentaries, baking heart-shaped cakes or exploring art galleries. 


Please feel free to reach out to me either via email or during office hours in order to discuss any questions you might have about URAP, research opportunities in general or anything Berkeley related for that matter! I look forward to helping you!


Alondra Camarena - Integrative Biology & Public Health (intended)/URAP

Hi everyone! My name is Alondra Camarena (she/they), and I am a second-year student intending to double major in Integrative Biology and Public Health with a double minor in Disability Studies and Public Policy. I am originally from the Central Valley (California) and on the pre-medical route. I joined URAP my first semester as a member of the Patient Support Corps at UCSF. Our group is focused on different avenues of health advocacy and providing support/resources for patients at UCSF, such as patient scribing. In addition, I am passionate about advocating for health equity in marginalized communities with a focus on environmental health impact. Outside of school, you can catch me skateboarding down Channing, listening to music on the Glade, or biking around Berkeley:)


Aleysha Chen - Bioengineering/SURF

Hey there! My name is Aleysha (she/her/hers), and I am a third-year majoring in Bioengineering with a Data Science minor. I enrolled in Cal with a background of working in a diabetes lab at City of Hope, a SoCal research hospital, through which I developed a growing interest in genetic pathways and gene editing. During my freshman year, I joined the Lammel Lab, and further learned about optogenetics methods of reprogramming neural pathways. Although SURF funding was provided for the subsequent summer, the pandemic prevented wetlab work, so I continued off-campus collaborations with City of Hope that further developed computational sequencing analysis skills useful for gene pathway studies. This summer I was able to dedicate a separate SURF fellowship to pursue my current research interests in gene therapy with the Schaffer Lab, investigating methods to optimize AAV gene therapy production. These transitions between different fields collectively built towards my future aim to use genetic editing in the development of targeted therapy against neurodegenerative illnesses. 


Aside from spending my days in lab, I enjoy exploring large cities with my camera, baking sweets, cafe-hopping, and trying the passion fruit green teas of local boba shops! 


Please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions or concerns you may have about ways to attain research experiences, SURF, off-campus research, publication drafting process, changing different research fields, or anything in general about student life and the research community at Cal! Feel free to shoot me an email or stop by my office hours, and I would love to chat and help you through anything that’s on your mind! 


My zoom link: (Wednesdays, 3-4 p.m.)

Diana Francis - Molecular & Cell Biology/URAP and SURF

Hi everyone! My name is Diana (she/her/hers), and I’m a third-year majoring in Molecular and Cell Biology. This fall will be my fourth semester with URAP since I joined the Harland Lab in my freshman year, and I was a SURF Rose Hills fellow this past summer. For my research project, I use molecular biology techniques to track the expression of sleep-related genes in the Cassiopea jellyfish, the first animal without a centralized nervous system shown to exhibit a sleep-like state. When I’m not spending late nights in the lab, I like to cook (badly), go thrifting, and watch sitcoms. 


Please don’t hesitate to drop by my office hours or shoot me an email if you have any questions about URAP, SURF, or writing research proposals. I’m also happy to chat about imposter syndrome and how to make the most out of your research experience.


My zoom link:

Rithvik Ghankot - Molecular & Cell Biology/URAP

Hello! My name is Rithvik Ghankot (he/his) and I’m currently a second-year Molecular and Cellular Biology major from Edison, NJ with an interest in cell signaling and biological feedback loops. As a freshman at UC Berkeley, I was able to apply to the Andy Chang Lab as a research apprentice through the URAP program. Given the circumstances that resulted from the pandemic, I virtually contributed to the research efforts of the lab, utilizing data analysis tools such as spreadsheets, Google Scripts, and R to elucidate conclusions from the raw results of cellular imaging experiments. Moreover, I was able to engage in the scientific process by participating in journal clubs and literature review sessions as well as documenting protocols. As of now, I assist Dr. Chang with research on the chemosensory response to hypoxia in glomus cells. In my free time, I enjoy rock climbing, reading books, and watching movies. 


Feel free to reach out and discuss any questions you may have regarding the URAP application process or biological research in general!


Sanjana Manjeshwar - Sociology & Legal Studies/URAP

Hello! My name is Sanjana and I'm a junior double majoring in Sociology and Legal Studies. I'm currently a URAP research assistant at the Civil Justice Research Initiative, a think tank at Berkeley Law that studies how to make the civil justice system more accessible. As a research assistant, I help write and edit publications, brief legal cases, write newsletter articles, and more. I also had the opportunity to continue working with my URAP faculty mentor over this past summer. Outside of URAP, I'm a student research assistant at the Othering & Belonging Institute at Berkeley. 

 Aside from academics/research, I'm an editor at the Berkeley Political Review and a staff writer at the Daily Californian, and I formerly worked at the Oakland Mayor's Office. In my free time, I enjoy reading, taking nature walks, and exploring Bay Area museums and bookstores. 

 Please reach out with any questions (or just to chat!) about the URAP application process, social science research, or anything else! 

Sanjana's drop-in hour this spring is Mondays 11-noon. Please email her to arrange for the zoom meeting. 


Emily Nguyen - Computer Science/SURF

Hi everyone! My name is Emily (she/her) and I'm a fourth-year Computer Science major from San Diego, CA interested in computational neuroscience. In my second year, I joined the Bender Lab at UCSF and Bouchard Lab at LBNL (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory). I have had four semesters and 24 units of experience through URAP and supervised independent research. My research aims to enhance understanding of the complex neural computations in the brain using machine learning algorithms and NEURON simulated environment. With support from the SURF Rose Hill Independent fellowship, I'm currently working on my honors thesis, in which I will explore the link between neural systems and behavior in rats. In my free time, I enjoy spending time with friends, ice skating (Cal Figure Skating Team), memes, cats, and sunsets.

 I'm excited to work with y'all this year! Please feel free to come to discuss anything research-related with me!

 Emily's zoom link: (Mondays, 2-3 p.m.)

Esperanza Padilla - Sociology/URAP & Haas Scholars Program

Hi there! I’m an Autistic researcher and first-generation college student studying sociology at Cal. I transferred to Cal in 2019 with the intent to get involved in research. My research interests include medical sociology, sociology of disability, neurodiversity, and GWS (gender, women, and sexuality). In addition to qualitative methods, I also have experience with creating online surveys for my research.


I began my first venture into research as a research assistant through URAP where I gained hands-on experience with transcription and coding. Following this, I became a Ronald E. McNair Scholar where I began to investigate the experiences of Autistic adults. I expanded on this subject in the honors thesis program in the Sociology department, where I conducted my own independent research project that investigated the causes and consequences of masking of Autistic adults, and what conditions lead to unmasking? This research was supported by the Haas Scholars program, of which I am a recent alumnus.


As a multi-marginalized disabled student, I have found the research process to be both fulfilling and empowering! 


Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions about URAP, the McNair Scholars program, the Haas Scholars program, research in general, or if you need help with brainstorming or creating a research proposal of any kind!



Kenneth Trang - Microbial Biology/URAP & SURF

Hi friends! My name is Kenny and I’m a third year majoring in Microbial Biology. I’m currently working on two community ecology projects that I’m really excited about: one studying host-microbe (microbiome) interactions in the Shapira lab and another constructing ecological niche models of plant parasites (mistletoes). Outside of class and research, I religiously follow collegiate and international swimming and take care of my house plants.

I’ve participated in URAP since my freshman year and more recently received a SURF Rose-Hill Fellowship last summer. Feel free to reach out to me with any questions you might have about writing a successful URAP or SURF application or about research in general through my personal email or office hours!