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Student Ambassadors

2020-2021 Student Ambassadors

Frank Adarkwa

Frank Adarkwa

Expected Graduation Date: Spring 2022

Major: Clinical Neuroscience, minor in Digital Marketing Strategy 

Bio: Hey Guys! My name is Frank Adarkwa and I am a Junior majoring in cognitive and behavioral neuroscience with a minor in digital marketing strategies. I was born in Accra, Ghana and moved to the United States when I was 4 years old. I currently live in Dumfries, Virginia and I am a first-generation college student. Growing up I was fascinated with the neuroscience and wanted to learn as much about it as I could, I would always watch TV shows and movies about the complexity of the brain or about outwitting others in a social experiment. The Virginia Tech School of Neuroscience has helped me to embrace my individuality and creativity and I believe being a Neuroscience Ambassador allows me to share my positivity and enthusiasm about neuroscience with students of all backgrounds. I want to be a friendly face for other students in the School of Neuroscience and truly be a resource when others need it. I am excited to meet many new people and continue sharing my love of neuroscience!

Ava Bir

Ava Bir

Expected Graduation Date: Spring 2022

Major:  Cognitive and Behavioral Neuroscience and Psychology double major 

Bio: Hey everyone! My name is Ava Bir and I am currently a junior from Falls Church, Virginia. I am double majoring in Cognitive and Behavioral Neuroscience and Psychology. When I first started at Virginia Tech, I originally chose a major in a different department and after my first semester I made the best choice I could have by transferring into the School of Neuroscience. I am excited to serve as an ambassador for this program to share my passion for neuroscience and Virginia Tech with other students as they navigate their own undergraduate careers. The faculty and students have been there to help and provide me with numerous resources and opportunities to succeed, and I am thrilled to be able to do the same for others in my role as an ambassador!

After graduation, I plan to pursue a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology to work with children and adolescents struggling with different aspects of their mental health. As I work towards that goal, I have been participating in research on and off-campus- working in Dr. Koeun Choi’s CoDeS Lab, studying the impact of media on the development of young children, and with Dr. Michelle Cornette on her suicide prevention research at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. When I am not busy with school and research, I also serve as a Director of Philanthropy of Delta Epsilon Mu, a pre-health fraternity, and participate in service around the Blacksburg community with Epsilon Sigma Alpha. In my free time, I enjoy going on runs, riding my stationary bike, and binding TV shows.

Feel free to reach out to with any questions you may have!

Saket Bitmal

Saket Bikmal

Expected Graduation Date: Spring 2022

Major:  Computational and Systems Neuroscience, minor in innovation

Bio: Hey everyone! I'm Saket, a junior Computational and Systems Neuroscience with a minor in Innovation from Ashburn, VA! I plan to combine my interests in brain machine interfaces and assistive technologies with my passion for entrepreneurship to create medical devices for kids with special needs. After graduation, I plan to pursue an MD/PhD in neural engineering. I am currently pursuing virtual research with Georgetown University on computational modeling of neuronal networks, and would love to talk about research or anything neuroscience! Outside of neuroscience, I also am on Bioactivity, a biomedical engineering design team, and also love to run and cook.

Please feel free to talk to me and send me any interesting recipes or challenges!

Maame Boateng

Maame Boateng

Expected Graduation Date: Spring 2021

Major:  Clinical Neuroscience

Bio: Hey everyone! My name is Maame Boateng, from Stafford, VA, and I am a first-generation senior at Virginia Tech. I transferred from Northern Virginia Community College after receiving my associates’s degree. While I was at community college I did research fellowships in neuroscience labs (B2B and neuroSURF) at Virginia Tech which drawed me into their Neuroscience program. So to those of you who are transfers, hello and welcome! As a transfer student, I have found ways in getting involved. I am an Undergraduate Research Ambassador, so to those of you who want to get into research I can help you out! I am a part of Tau Sigma Executive Board (transfer honor society) where we coordinate events for transfers to meet others and get acquainted with the Hokie community. I work in the Robel lab at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute studying the effects of astrocytes on traumatic brain injury and volunteer through Synapse to help those with traumatic brain injury. When I'm not in lab or class, I am either working out with friends, thrifting for goods, or cooking!

The School of Neuroscience has given me a lot of opportunities to challenge myself, grow, and explore the many avenues of career paths I want to take. I'm excited for the opportunity to help and mentor you all as a School of Neuroscience Ambassador. I hope to become a physician with a strong background in public health. I hope to be able to meet you all, if you have questions please reach out!

Ryan D'Onofrio

Ryan D'Onofrio

Expected Graduation Date: Fall 2020

Major: Clinical Neuroscience

Bio: Hello! My name is Ryan D'Onofrio I am a senior in Clinical Neuro from Leesburg, VA! I have been working in Dr. Bower's Lab since my Freshman year studying how meaningful communication works using rats as an animal model. I am very interested in computational neuroscience and the development of Brain-Computer Interfaces in order to restore speech following an aphasic event.

Outside of lab I serve as Co-Director of Training for Hokie Ambassadors, our wonderful tour guides here! I am also the Treasurer for Nu Rho Psi our Neuroscience Honors Society! Following graduation I hope to pursue my doctorate in Dynamical Neuroscience to help work towards allowing people to communicate who have lost the ability.

Natasha Gaito

Natasha Gaito

Expected Graduation Date: Spring 2021

Major: Clinical Neuroscience and Psychology double major, minor in Integrative Health and Wellness

Bio: Hi! Im Natasha Gaito and Im a Senior dual majoring in Clinical Neuroscience and Psychology with a minor in Integrative Health and Wellness. I am so excited to be a Neuroscience Ambassador and be able to help represent the amazing School of Neuroscience here at Virginia Tech. I was drawn to Virginia Tech because of the incredible opportunities available to students to connect with faculty, get involved in research, and thrive academically. Currently I am doing research with Dr. Good and Dr. Jarome in DNA methylation in the promoter region of various genes involved in appetite to better understand the heritability of obesity. Additionally I am president of Doctors Without Borders at Virginia Tech, secretary of the Dance Company at Virginia Tech and a volunteer with the Hero Care Sector of the American Red Cross. I also work with traumatic brain injury patients to aide in their rehabilitation process. In my free time I love to hike and hang out with my dog, Stitch, and watch the office on repeat. I can't wait to share my love of Neuroscience with others and represent the student ambassador program. Feel Free to reach out to me about anything! I love to meet new people!! Go Hokies!!

Katie Gradinetti

Katie Grandinetti

Expected Graduation Date: Spring 2021

Major: Clinical Neuroscience, minor in Spanish 

Bio: Hi! My name is Katie and I am a senior finishing up my Clinical Neuroscience major. Growing up, I had always been fascinated by the way we think and how the brain regulates our body and our decisions. I later figured out the “how” and the “why” when I decided to attend Virginia Tech’s School of Neuroscience. The faculty and staff have not only taught me everything I need to know for my major but have also instilled in me a passion for scientific discovery and communication. If I am not working at my research lab, you can find me attempting to hike all of the “hikes” around Blacksburg, helping out at Adult Day Services, assisting with my sorority’s philanthropy events or seeking out the best, new artist. Last year, I was given the opportunity to attend the SoN’s first study abroad program, where I experienced what we normally learn in the classroom applied globally across the fields of medicine and research. After graduation, I hope to attend medical school. Throughout the past few years, I experienced a lot of joy being an ambassador for this department and I will be sad to leave this incredible place. I have loved seeing this school continually grow in our ability to support and inspire each other as classmates, scholars and friends. Please feel free to reach out to me at any time. I am so proud to be a (neuroscience) Hokie!

Seth Herndon

Seth Herndon

Expected Graduation Date: Spring 2021

Major: Cognitive and Behavioral Neuroscience, minor in Women and Gender Studies and Leadership and Social Change

Bio: Hi! My name is Seth Herndon and I am a senior studying Cognitive and Behavioral Neuroscience! I also have minors in Women and Gender Studies as well as Leadership and Social Change. I absolutely love my major and being a part of the School of Neuroscience. Virginia Tech was actually the only school I applied to. Ever since I was young I knew I wanted to be a student at VT. The past four years have been an amazing time filled with great memories and top notch academics. I have been involved with numerous organizations and offices on campus such as the VT Women's Center, New Student and Family Programs, Dining Services Student Advisory Committee, Title IX Student Advisory Committee, India and Social Justice Study Abroad, and I am a brother of Alpha Phi Omega, and currently a 2020-2021 Homecoming Candidate. Being thoroughly involved across campus has allowed me to meet so many awesome new students and faculty. I decided to become a School of Neuroscience ambassador because I wanted to help new Hokies in their transition to college life. The great thing about being a SoN ambassador is I already have something in common with my mentees, our love for neuroscience and academia. I hope to inspire and lead first year neuroscience students to create the best undergraduate career for themselves!

Analee Huber

Analee Huber

Expected Graduation Date: Spring 2022

Major: Clinical Neuroscience, minor in Disability studies

Bio: Hi there! I'm Analee Huber and I am a Roanoke, Virginia native in my third year as a Clinical Neuroscience major with a minor in Disability Studies. Though I have past experience in research, I tend to spend my time nowadays volunteering at a free clinic in my hometown and have discovered that I love working with people. My dream career would be to work with recovering addicts and others with psychiatric disabilities in a clinical setting. Along with being a neuroscience ambassador I am a member of Omega Phi Alpha national service sorority, Synapse, Honor Panel student member, and a peer educator for SAVES (Sexual Assault Violence Education and Education by Students). When I'm not in class, you can probably find me working at the Breakzone bowling alley in Squires. Outside of work and school I enjoy exercising, cooking, reading, and spending all extra money I have on concerts.

While I am from Roanoke, Virginia Tech was not on my radar until I discovered the School of Neuroscience. I knew within the first month of college that the School of Neuroscience would be a pivotal source for my future as a Hokie and beyond. The School of Neuroscience has an abundant amount of opportunities and without those opportunities I would still be on a track for something I wasn't truly passionate about. I am beyond grateful for the opportunities given to me through this school and I am truly excited to give back to the students and school that have served me so much.

Asma Ibrahim

Asma Ibrahim

Expected Graduation Date: Spring 2021

Major: Clinical Neuroscience with a minor in Arabic

Bio: Hey guys! My name is Asma (pronounced us-ma) and I am a senior majoring in clinical neuroscience with a minor in Arabic from Reston, Virginia. Although I had initially entered as a chemistry major, I was fascinated by the nervous system and how it propels every movement, breath, and thought we formulate. I knew it was my passion and what I wanted to study for the rest of my life. Since my time here at Tech, I have done a year of research at the Robel Lab in the Virginia Tech Carilion Center studying the correlation between traumatic brain injury and epileptic seizures, as well as taken on other exciting opportunities. I am a part of Nu Rho Psi, Virginia Tech’s National Neuroscience Honor Society, a member of the COS’s Dean’s Leadership Council, and have worked as the building and IT coordinator for Virginia Tech’s new neuroscience building, Sandy Hall. I was also a Teaching Assistant for the second semester of neuroscience lab where I got to utilize my off-campus lab research experience in my assisting approach. These opportunities have given me the chance to volunteer at the School of Neuroscience’s graduation and speak on advising panels, as well as to prospective students and parents. They have also grown my appreciation for the School of Neuroscience and Virginia Tech as a whole, and help me learn more about the resources and programs offered here. After graduation, I hope to become a neurologist or researcher for the National Institutes of Health.

In my free time, I love throwing bottle caps for my cat, Nala, to catch and reading. It’s a hobby I would like to pick up again, so if you have any book suggestions let me know! I also love hanging out with friends and talking to new people. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions or to just say hey!

Kelly Mogensen

Kelly Mogensen

Expected Graduation Date: Spring 2022

Major: Clinical Neuroscience, minor in German

Bio: Hi! My name is Kelly Mogensen and I’m a junior studying Clinical Neuroscience with a minor in German. Being a Resident Advisor helped enhance my passion for mentoring my peers, and I am so excited to be a School of Neuroscience Ambassador this year. I want to help expand the knowledge of students to see all the amazing opportunities the School of Neuroscience and Virginia Tech have to offer!

Outside of academics, you may see me singing with my a cappella group, Mixed Emotions, at events around campus, raising money to fight against cancer with Relay for Life, or serving our Hokie Nation with the Virginia Tech Rescue Squad! I have really enjoyed getting hands on experience in Dr. Howe’s lab, where we study the underlying neurobiological mechanisms of reward learning, motivation, and executive control. After graduation, I hope to get involved in research studying pharmacological treatment of psychiatric disorders and attend medical school. I’m so grateful for this opportunity to meet people and share my love for neuroscience and Virginia Tech. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions or just want to chat!

Madeline Musaus

Madeline Musaus

Expected Graduation Date: Spring 2021

Major(s): Clinical Neuroscience and Psychology and minor in Medicine and Society

Bio: Hey y’all! I’m Madeline Musaus and I’m a senior from Raleigh, North Carolina majoring in Clinical Neuroscience. Along with the beautiful campus and friendly atmosphere, I chose Virginia Tech because of all the research and academic programs the School of Neuroscience has to offer. I knew it was the place for to become a competitive applicant on my journey to attend medical school and become a practicing physician. As a student ambassador, I have had the opportunity to mentor others, share my love for Virginia Tech, and build close relationships with the faculty members. I am currently doing research in Dr. Jarome's Lab, studying an epigenetic role for the ubiquitin-proteasome system in memory formation through the use of rodent models. Additionally, I’m a member of the pre-health fraternity Delta Epsilon Mu, I'm a volunteer for Hospice, and a member of MEDLIFE, which is an organization that partners with low-income communities in foreign countries to help combat medical inequality and developmental issues. In my free time I enjoy playing with my dogs, going on hikes, and watching Grey’s Anatomy. I am thrilled to represent our student ambassador program and I’m excited to continue spreading my passion for neuroscience, as well as encouraging and inspiring other students. Feel free to reach out to me any time about anything! Go Hokies!

Pratishtha Panigrahi

Pratishtha Panigrahi

Expected Graduation Date: Spring 2021

Major: Clinical Neuroscience, minor in Public Health

Bio: Hello there! My name is Pratishtha Panigrahi and I am currently a third-year student studying Clinical Neuroscience from Ashburn, VA! I love being a student in the School of Neuroscience at Virginia Tech because it allows me to pursue my research interests while also taking challenging classes that has exposed me to the various aspects of neuroscience. Whether I am investigating the effect of astrocytic dysfunction on epilepsy at Robel Lab at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute or studying pediatric headaches at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, I love being able to apply what I learn in my neuroscience courses outside the classroom. I am also part of the Stem Research Conference Commission to help organize the 2020 Mid-Atlantic Research Undergraduate Conference at Virginia Tech that will let other undergraduate researchers share their unique projects.

Outside of the world of research, you can find me working with traumatic brain injury individuals through Synapse or serving the New River Valley Community through Alpha Epilson Delta. I am part of Silhouette, the Literary and Art Magazine here at Virginia Tech, that has given me a platform to write and follow art, both things that I love to do! Being a neuroscience student has allowed me to be a part of a greater community actively involved in unique scientific ventures while serving others. I hope to take these experiences with me as I pursue a career in medicine as a physician actively involved in clinical research. The School of Neuroscience has given me a plethora of resources that has helped me succeed in my career. As an ambassador, I hope to pass these resources along to future neuroscience students so that they can build their own experiences at Virginia Tech! 

Lauren Sears
Lauren Sears

Lauren Sears

Expected Graduation Date: Spring 2022

Major: Clinical Neuroscience

Bio: Hey Hokies! Im Lauren Sears and I’m a first-generation sophomore from Manassas, VA. I chose to continue my education at Virginia Tech because it provides plentiful academic and research opportunities that help push me to become a better student and future scientist. During my first year in the School of Neuroscience, I began undergraduate research in Dr. Buczynski’s Lab studying the effects of nicotine vaporization in mice. I’m so thankful for the opportunity to be a Neuroscience Ambassador as it allows me to connect with my fellow Hokies and share my passion for neuroscience. 

Maddy Sifford

Maddy Sifford

Expected Graduation Date: Spring 2023

Major: Clinical Neuroscience

Bio: Hello Hokies! My name is Maddy Sifford and I am currently a sophomore studying clinical neuroscience. The School of Neuroscience at Virginia Tech has provided me with so many fantastic opportunities involving research, leadership, and academics. I have been involved in the Buczynski research lab, studying the effects of nicotine addiction on the brain, since fall of my freshman year. I am so grateful to have the opportunity to be a neuroscience ambassador to be able to share my knowledge with my peers and better myself as a mentor and as a future physician!

Priyanka Susarla

Priyanka Susarla

Expected Graduation Date: Spring 2021

Major: Clinical Neuroscience, minor in Spanish

Bio: Hello! I am a junior from McLean, VA majoring in Clinical Neuroscience with a minor in Spanish. During my time at Virginia Tech, I have found various ways to get involved with the Hokie community whether it be mentoring transfer students within the College of Science, being a part of College Mentors for Kids, or participating in research in the Olsen lab investigating the role of astrocytes in the central nervous system function. In my free time you can find me hiking, reading, or trying to improve my cooking skills! 

The School of Neuroscience has given me  many opportunities to grow and expand my knowledge and I am excited to share that with other students as an ambassador! If you have any questions about any of the organizations I am involved with, please do not hesitate to reach out. Go Hokies!

Sarah Thorpe
Sarah Thorpe

Sarah Thorpe

Expected Graduation: Spring 2022

Major: Clinical Neuroscience, minor in Spanish

Bio:  I am a sophomore from Fredericksburg, Virginia, and I am studying Clinical Neuroscience with a minor in Spanish. I love Virginia Tech, and I am really excited to continue my studies in Neuroscience and Spanish. Currently, I am shadowing a neurologist and hope to one day attend medical school. I am very excited to work as a Neuroscience Ambassador, because I enjoy working with students and providing help and guidance whenever possible. The advisors, professors, and students in the Neuroscience Department have been extremely helpful and welcoming, so I hope to continue to help new students find their passions and succeed. At Virginia Tech I am also involved in College Mentors for Kids and the Leadership and Social Change Residential College. I am always willing to help out and love meeting new people, and I am so thankful for the opportunity to serve as a Neuroscience Ambassador. 

Breanna Wakeling

Breanna Wakeling

Expected Graduation Date: Spring 2021

Major: Clinical Neuroscience

Bio: Hello! My name is Breanna Wakeling, and I am a senior from Winston-Salem, NC majoring in Clinical Neuroscience. Additionally, I am a member of the Honors College and Nu Rho Psi, The National Honor Society in Neuroscience. After I graduate, I plan to attend medical school and pursue my childhood aspirations of becoming a physician, and I firmly intend to bring the Hokie Spirit of Ut Prosim with me wherever I may go! I am a member of various organizations, both on campus and off, as well as a TA for the second semester of Neuroscience Laboratory with Dr. McDaniel. I am very honored to have the opportunity to serve as a Neuroscience Ambassador and help students achieve both their personal and their academic goals while watching them grow in their love of learning and service. Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions or would just like to chat, I look forward to it!

Cori Whisman

Cori Whisman

Expected Graduation Date: Spring 2021

Major: Clinical Neuroscience, minor in French 

Bio: Hi guys! My name is Cori Whisman and I am a senior at Virginia Tech majoring in Clinical Neuroscience with a minor in French. I grew up moving all around the country and even overseas, but the place that I call home is Annapolis, Maryland--that is until I came to Blacksburg and became a Hokie! As someone who is very passionate about learning and science, I quickly found a home within the School of Neuroscience and have loved every minute of it! Because of this, I have found myself getting involved with the department in whatever way I can, including joining, and now running, the Neuroscience Club; becoming a member of Nu Rho Psi, the Neuroscience Honor Society; studying abroad in Switzerland with the School of Neuroscience in 2019; working in one of the many Neuroscience labs here on campus; and now becoming a Neuroscience Ambassador and peer mentor! The Neuroscience department is so diverse, and yet we all have a common love of science and the brain that brings us together as a community and as a family, and I think that's what makes us so special!

I am currently involved in several on- and off-campus extracurriculars! Being very passionate about service to my community, I am an active member of Alpha Phi Omega, the National Service Fraternity, as well as Global Medical Brigades. I am also the president of the Neuroscience Club and an active member of Nu Rho Psi this year! Last fall, I became an EMT in hopes of expanding my knowledge of emergency medicine as well as broadening my opportunities for service to the community. I am now volunteering as an EMT at Christiansburg Rescue! But what I am most excited about this semester is being a Neuroscience Ambassador and being able to have an impact in students’ lives and helping them reach their goals!

In my free time, I enjoy painting, running, and hiking. After college, I plan to attend medical school with hopes of one day becoming a neurosurgeon.