Alumni News

Rowe Alumni Spotlight: Sarah Ollayos

UConn Year of Graduation (Undergraduate): 2017
Undergraduate Major(s): Nutritional Science
Currently Employed By: Yale New Haven Hospital, Registered Dietitian
Updates: I am currently working as a Clinical Dietitian in acute rehab / long term care. I oversee both a 120 and 124 bed skilled nursing facility to assure quality nutritional services are provided to all residents, including patients with enteral and parenteral nutrition requirements, pressure injuries, chewing and swallowing difficulties, and significant weight loss. I am hoping to pursue my certification in nutrition support in the near future!

Rowe Alumni Spotlight: Mallory Perry

UConn Year of Graduation (Undergraduate): 2014
Undergraduate Major(s): Nursing
Currently Employed By: Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Postdoctoral Fellow
Updates: I graduated with my PhD in May 2019 from UConn School of Nursing. In August, I began my tenure as a postdoctoral fellow for academic diversity at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, in a joint effort with the University of Pennsylvania.

2019 Holster Scholars Announced

2019 Holster Scholars, with mentors (May 3, 2019)

Introducing the 2019 Holster Scholars

The Holster Scholars Program is a selective enrichment opportunity for curious first-year Honors students that supports a small number of motivated students interested in independent research the summer following their first year. Holster projects are in-depth, individualized learning experiences.  Beyond some basic requirements, projects are self-designed.  The Holster Scholars Program is made possible by a generous gift from Robert (’68) and Carlotta (’68) Holster.

Applications, due in early November, are reviewed by an interdisciplinary committee of faculty and staff who then invite about 12-15 students to enroll in a one-credit proposal development seminar in the spring.  Finalists spend the first half of the spring semester refining their proposals before submitting them mid-semester.  At that point, the committee reviews the proposals and interviews the finalists before naming the new cohort of Holster Scholars.  Most years, the cohort is approximately 7-10 students.  Scholars conduct their research over the summer under the guidance of a faculty mentor and then present their research to the university community at the Holster Scholars Research Symposium in September.

Arman Chowdhury, from West Hartford, CT is an undecided major. His interest in South Asian heritage linguistics is informed by his own background as a heritage speaker of Bengali. He graduated from Hall High School, where he was an arts writer for the school newspaper and a member of the chamber choir.  At UConn, he is a member of Collegium Musicum (an early chamber music ensemble), Concert Choir, and Husky Hungama, a South Asian-Western fusion a capella group.

Project: Focus and Intonation in Heritage Hindi Speakers

Mentor: Prof. Diane Lillo-Martin, Dept. of Linguistics

  Stella Kozloski, from New Fairfield, CT is an artist and student pursuing a BFA with a concentration in printmaking. In HS, she discovered a strong interest in print media after working as a graphic designer and editor for her school newspaper. Her work in cartooning has received recognition from the National Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. Stella is curious about “low-tech” forms of mass-media like the woodblock print, the unconscious processes that inform the development of an artwork, and art’s ever-changing role and purpose in a post-modern world. She enjoys gardening and hiking.

Project: Art as a Craft: The Interaction Between the Immaterial and the Material

Mentor: Prof. Ray DiCapua, Dept. of Art & Art History

  Hollianne Lao, from Wallingford, CT is a political science major in the Special Program in Law. At Lyman Hall High School, she was two time captain of the Girls’ Swim and Dive Team, Student Council President, and a member of the National Honor Society. At UConn, Hollianne serves as Chief of Staff to the Office of the Speaker and as a residential Senator for the Undergraduate Student Government, and a Student Coordinator for the Honors Initiative for Prospective Students. You can also catch her articles in the Life section of The Daily Campus. This past year, she has worked with Professor Virginia Hettinger as a Bennett and SHARE Award Research Assistant. In her free time, she likes watching the women’s basketball team, spying Jonathan the Husky by Mirror Lake, and spending time with her friends.

Project: The Use of Social Media to Propel Women and Minority Political Candidates and the Engagement of their Voting Constituencies

Mentor: Prof. Virginia Hettinger, Dept. of Political Science

Sai Manasani, from South Windsor, CT is a Mathematics-Actuarial Science-Finance major who is interested in the ideas of big data analytics and public healthcare policies. She graduated from South Windsor HS where she was the Secretary-General of Model UN, Vice President of the National Honor Society, a member of the Science Olympiad Team, and a member of the Math Team. In her free time, she loves to play her viola and has attended numerous music festivals across New England. Currently, on campus, she is the Director of Alumni Relations of Gamma Iota Sigma, a passionate member of the Mock Wall Street Club, and a violist for the University Symphony Orchestra.

Project: A Cost-Benefit Analysis in the use of Technology in Life Insurance Underwriting

Mentor: Prof. Jeyaraj Vadiveloo, Dept. of Mathematics

  Roshni Mehta is a STEM Scholar from Scarsdale, NY double majoring in Molecular and Cell Biology and French. She grew fascinated with research in high school, where she studied prevention and detection techniques for oral cancer and lung cancer, respectively. Throughout high school, she volunteered at local elementary schools and hospitals and played the flute for her high school’s wind ensemble. On campus, she is the current Vice President for the Undergraduate Organization for Molecular and Cell Biology, and she enjoys doing community service through the STEM Scholar community and the Pre-Medical Society.  She loves traveling, painting, and reading.

Project: Who Let the DoGs Out? An Analysis of RNA Transcription Readthrough and Termination

Mentor: Prof. Leighton Core, Dept. of Molecular & Cell Biology

  Amisha Paul, from Southington, CT is a STEM Scholar majoring in Physiology & Neurobiology and Economics with a minor in Global Health. Passionate about social entrepreneurship, she started a non-profit that aids in the development of rural areas in India through the development of sustainable development initiatives. Currently, Amisha is an active member of UConn’s Global Health Symposium Organizing Committee, encouraging campus-wide dialogue surrounding global health. She is also a member of and dancer on UConn Sanskriti, an organization dedicated to the preservation of Indian Classical Arts. Amisha hopes to combine her passions for medicine, public service, and business to increase access to affordable and quality healthcare all around the globe.

Project: Ventricular and Proximal Structure Configuration in Patients with Hydrocephalus

Mentor: Dr. Joanne Conover, Dept. of Physiology and Neurobiology

  Pooja Prasad , from Westford, MA, is a Molecular and Cell Biology major and STEM Scholar in the Special Program in Medicine. She first forayed into research as a HS intern under Dr. Faherty at the MGH Mucosal Immunology and Biology Research Center, where she investigated the Shigella pathogen genome. In HS, she was a member of the Speech and Debate Team and co-founded a STEM advocacy club. She also sings Carnatic Classical Music, presenting a concert in 2017 with the support of a NH State Council on the Arts grant. On campus, she is a member of the CLAS Student Leadership Board and an undergraduate student researcher at Dr. Thanh Nguyen’s lab. Her interest in engineering-based medicine drew her to investigate tissue engineering with piezoelectric materials. In her free time, you can catch her running on campus or fangirling over all things Marvel.

Project: A Novel Biodegradable Piezoelectric Scaffold for Muscular Tissue Regeneration

Mentor: Prof. Thanh Nguyen, Dept. of Mechanical Engineering

Xavier Rouleau, from West Hartford, CT, is a Linguistic/Philosophy major who plans to pursue a career in postsecondary education. He graduated from Hall High where he led a comedy improv troupe named The Answer and was heavily involved in theatre. In his free time, Xavier enjoys playing guitar and making others laugh. He began investigating American discourse surrounding sexual assault due to its underrepresentation in scientific research. He hopes to contribute to a discourse on how Americans can discuss sexual assault in a more constructive manner.

Project: Writing About Rape: Use of Passive Voice as an Expression of Perceived Responsibility of the Victim

Mentors: Prof. Marie Coppola, Dept. of Psychological Sciences and Prof. William Snyder, Dept. of Linguistics

Aditi Sirsikar, from Acton, MA, is a STEM Scholar majoring in Physiology and Neurobiology. She graduated from Acton-Boxborough HS where she served as the Captain of the varsity swim and dive team. Aditi’s first research experience was a summer internship at Brain Power LLC., a technology startup that develops neuroscience-based software for individuals on the autism spectrum. Through moving conversations and additional research, Aditi became interested in understanding how to improve mental health services for individuals with autism. She hopes to continue research in this field by pursuing a medical degree or through a PhD. On campus, Aditi is involved through Community Outreach and is the Marketing and Recruitment Coordinator for the Peer Allies through Honors program.

Project: Self and Informant Reports of Depression and Autism Questionnaires in Young Adults

Mentor: Prof. Inge-Marie Eigsti, Dept. of Psychological Sciences

Liam Smego, from Greenwich, CT, is a Mechanical Engineering major and English minor with aspirations to pursue a career in flight control systems. He graduated from Regis High School in Manhattan, and as Captain led the cross-country team to its first state championship meet in fifteen years. He also published poetry and fiction in the school literary journal and served as a mentor for middle school students preparing for high school admissions. At UConn, Liam is a member of the club running team, Alpha Lambda Delta National Honor Society, and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). Liam enjoys discovering music in a large range of genres, from indie rock to jazz to experimental folk.

Project: Implementing a Problem-Based Game to Promote Student Learning: Lunar Landing

Mentor: Prof. Scott Brown, Dept. of Educational Psychology


Shreya Sreenivas, from Coppell, TX, is a STEM Scholar majoring in computer science and physiology and neurobiology. She graduated from West Windsor Plainsboro HS South in NJ, but spent most of her high school years at Coppell HS, where she was involved on the Solar Car Racing Team, robotics, and was captain of her swim and volleyball teams. Since coming to UConn, she has joined Dr. Fumiko Hoeft’s BrainLENS lab, where she is exploring developmental cognitive neuroscience research with the goal of maximizing children’s potential in the academic domain. On campus, Shreya is involved with UConn’s Genetic Engineering Team (iGEM), Kids and UConn Bridging Education, and the CLAS Leadership Board.

Project: Genetic Variability and Reading Abilities in Dyslexia

Mentor: Prof. Fumiko Hoeft, Dept. of Psychological Sciences


Congratulations to the eleven outstanding students who comprise the 9th cohort of Holster Scholars!


To learn more about the Holster Scholars Program, contact


Vincent G. Moscardelli, PhD

Director, Office of National Scholarships and Fellowships

Coordinator, Holster Scholars Program

Rowe Researcher: Rat Models and Human Hearing

Rat Models and Human Hearing: The Categorical Perception of Species-Specific Rate Vocalization

Spring 2018

Principle Investigator: Heather Read

Contributors: Sharon Cherian, Caitlyn Cody, Mackenzie Zapata, Timothy Nolan, Peter Satonick

Several studies have shown that humans and rats are able to differentiate timing cues in sound sequences. The importance of timing cues for speech and word recognition in normal hearing of adults has been recognized by Shannon (1995) and Souza (2015) who outlined the significance of timing cues for speech recognition among the aging human population, that commonly encounter tone frequency hearing loss. Rats are able to communicate and recognize non-speech vocalizations, as do humans.

We will use the two-alternative forced choice (2AFC) task to train rats to discriminate vocalizations (Gaese et al., 2006; Zarillow and Zador, 2014).  The rats will be placed in a sound proof training booth that have nose poke ports on the inside. In the first stage (early stage) of the task, the rats will be receiving a “direct reward” for learning to associate one vocalization with sound delivery with a reward from a port located on the right, and another with sound delivery and reward from a port on the left. First rats are trained incrementally to hold in the Central Nose Port for 150-600 milliseconds to initiate their trial. After holding and hearing the sound play for this duration, the rat needs to navigate to the correct port to receive their reward. The reward is in the form of strawberry or chocolate Ensure protein solution. Once the performance criterion reaches 70-100% for discriminating, the rats will be switched to the “Indirect” phase for the 2AFC paradigm. The sounds in this stage will all be delivered from a central speaker, removing the location cue indicating where the reward might be. Once the rats reach 70-100% correct for the “indirect phase,” they can now be tested in the 2AFC task for discrimination of sound sequences that vary in: timing cues only or timing plus tonal cues combined together.

My research project is essential to understanding more about the auditory system through the examination of interactions between tonal and timing perceptual cues. The results from this research project will allow us to have a more in-depth understanding about not only the auditory system, but how humans perceive specific vocalization sequences and discrimination abilities. Using these results, this will be able to provide valuable insight about human hearing and aging. Hearing aids are widely used by the elderly population, so the results will allow us to optimize hearing aids, as humans do rely heavily on temporal cues to speech. Thus, these results will not only add more to our general understanding about the auditory system, but also allow for improvement for hearing aid devices and other related advancements in clinical settings.


Rowe Alumni Spotlight: Leonela Villegas

UConn Year of Graduation (Undergraduate): 2012
Undergraduate Major(s): Chemical Engineering
Currently Employed By: Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Pediatric Resident – PL2
Updates: I’m currently in the 2nd year of my Pediatric Residency at CHOP and enjoying the challenges that come with higher acuity patients!

I am slowly figuring out where my interests lie and deciding between Primary Care and Nephrology. However, my passion for Global Health is my main driving factor and I was able to participate in a Primary Care elective in the Dominican Republic last year. I look forward to engaging in different experiences within the next year and a half!

Rowe Alumni Spotlight: Devorah Donnell

UConn Year of Graduation (Undergraduate): 2009
Undergraduate Major(s): Biology
Updates: I am finishing Family Medicine Residency at Tufts Family Medicine Residency at Cambridge Health Alliance. After I finish residency this year, I will be moving back to CT to begin working as a PCP this coming Fall! I have been serving as Resident Director for MassAFP, and Mentor for Primary Care Progress chapters. I enjoy leadership, full spectrum reproductive health, medical education, and spending time with my family and adorable nieces and nephew.

Rowe Alumni Spotlight: Mallory Perry

UConn Year of Graduation (Undergraduate): 2014
Undergraduate Major(s): Nursing
Currently Employed By: Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, Registered Nurse (Pediatric Intensive Care Unit)
Updates: Currently enrolled in UConn School of Nursing’s BS-PhD program. I successfully defended my general exam in June 2017 and was awarded my Masters of Science. I also am a certified pediatric nurse (CPN) as of May 2017. I am currently in my dissertation phase of studies with an expected graduation date of May 2019.