The Fellows are distributed among five of UT Dallas’s eight schools, in fields ranging from chemistry to neuroscience and management. Eleven current Fellows hold federally-funded research fellowships, including the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship (NSF GRF), the National Institutes of Health’s National Research Service Award (NIH NRSA) and Blueprint D-SPAN Award, and the Department of Energy’s Office of Science Graduate Student Research (SCGSR) award. Collectively the Fellows have achieved to date more than 100 academic publications, numerous patents, and several spin-out companies. Their research collaborations span the globe, and they have mentored dozens of research trainees.


Diana L. Alatalo

Faculty Host: Fatemeh Hassanipour, Ph.D.

Diana Alatalo earned a B.S. in electrical engineering (2015) and M.S. in mechanical engineering (2016) from UT Dallas and is now at work on a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering. A 2017 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship awardee, Diana studies biotransport phenomena in human lactation to improve both short- and long-term health outcomes for mothers and infants.

Alexandra Arteaga

Faculty Host: Danieli B. C. Rodrigues, Ph.D.

Alexandra Arteaga graduated cum laude with a B.S. in biology and a minor in math from UT El Paso in 2010. She earned an M.S. in molecular biology in 2013.  She is pursuing a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering. As an awardee of the 2019 NIH National Research Service Award Fellowship (F31), her research focuses on making orthopedic implants more successful for diabetic patients.

Candace E. Benjamin

Faculty Host: Jeremiah J. Gassensmith, Ph.D.

Candace Benjamin earned a B.S. in chemistry with a concentration in biochemistry from Saint John Fisher College in 2014. As a 2017 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship winner, Candace is pursuing a Ph.D. in chemistry and investigating the production of more localized drug delivery methods to reduce side effects.

Matthew Bergschneider

Faculty Host: Kyeongjae Cho, Ph.D.

Matthew Bergschneider earned a B.S. in engineering physics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2016. He is pursuing a Ph.D. in materials science at UT Dallas, researching solid state battery materials with ab initio material design and experimental validation.

Federico Bernardoni

Faculty Host: Stefano Leonardi, Ph.D.

Federico Bernardoni earned his B.S. (2014) and M.Sc. (2018) in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Pisa, Italy, with a minor in aerodynamics. In 2018 he presented his Master thesis results on the flow over rough surfaces at iTi Conference on Turbulence VIII held in Bertinoro, Italy, at the 71st Annual Meeting of the APS Division of fluid dynamics held in Atlanta, USA, and in 2019 at DLES12 held in Madrid, Spain. He is currently pursuing his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering. His work is focused on the aerodynamic interactions of wind turbines for large wind-farms control.

Jennifer M. Boothby

Faculty Host: Taylor H. Ware, Ph.D.

Jenny Boothby graduated from Georgia Tech in 2014 with a B.S. in biomedical engineering (minor in biology). Jenny won an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship in 2017. She is pursuing a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering and develops stimuli-responsive polymers, such as morphing tissue scaffolds or color-changing biosensors, for biomedical applications.

Melanie H. Bowler

Faculty Host: Jason D. Slinker, Ph.D.

Melanie Bowler earned a B.S. in physics at UT Dallas in 2017. A 2018 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship winner, Melanie is pursuing a Ph.D. in physics. She works with light-emitting electrochemical cells to improve their performance as high efficiency emitters.

Sara Benham

Faculty Host: Lisa Goffman, Ph.D.

Sara Benham graduated from Southwestern University in 2006 with a B.A. in Spanish and M.S. in Speech-Language Pathology from Purdue University in 2016. She is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Communication Sciences and Disorders. She was awarded an NIH Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award Individual Predoctoral Fellowship F31 (NIDCD) for her research in the lexical, phonological and speech motor contributions to word and sound learning in early typical and atypical language development.

Avamarie S. Brueggeman

Faculty Host: John H. L. Hansen, Ph.D.

Ava Brueggeman graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville in 2018 with a B.S. in electrical engineering and a minor in computer science. She is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in electrical engineering. A 2018 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship awardee, Ava studies digital signal processing for improving speech recognition in cochlear implant users.

E. Ammon Butcher

Faculty Host: Gil Sadka, Ph.D.

Ammon Butcher earned a B.S. in accounting at Brigham Young University, Idaho, in 2013 and an M.A. in accounting at the Ohio State University in 2015. He is pursuing a Ph.D. in management science, with a concentration in accounting. Ammon is currently interested in analytical research, specifically research that pertains to agency theory, incentives, innovation and disclosure.

Maria G. Castaneda

Maria Castaneda earned a B.S. in biochemistry (2014) at The University of Tulsa and a doctorate in chemistry (2019) from UT Dallas (mentor: Jiyong Lee, Ph.D.). During her graduate career Maria studied the inhibition of cancer metastasis by discovering a small molecule inhibitor of the transcription factor FOXC2, helping her earn the 2016 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. Most recently Maria was awarded the NIH T32 fellowship in translational genomics and precision medicine approaches in cancer (2019) as a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Dr. Sendurai Mani at MD Anderson Cancer Research Center. While at MD Anderson Cancer Research Center, Maria will be investigating the role of FOXC2 in cancer stem cell determination.

Haokun Du

Faculty Host: Elena Katok, Ph.D.

Haokun Du graduated from Sun Yat-sen University in 2019 with Honors (Excellent Dissertation Award and Excellent Graduate Award). His bachelor’s degree is Economics (finance concentration). He is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in management science with a concentration in operations management, and has research interests in various topics, both traditional areas of OM and interdisciplinary subjects. Currently, his main focus is supply chain management, but he’s always open to possible collaborations.

Gregory T. Ellson

Greg Ellson earned a B.S. in mechanical engineering from Georgia Tech in 2014 and his doctorate in materials science and engineering from UT Dallas in 2017 (mentor: Walter E. Voit, Ph.D.). Greg’s research centers on the development of high-performance photopolymers for 3D printing, bioelectronics, and artificial muscle applications. Currently head of process control at MIT spin-out Inkbit, LLC, Greg works with industrial partners to develop novel 3D-printed products.

Blair A. Flicker

Blair Flicker earned a B.S. in computer science and a B.S. in psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2006 and an MBA (2012) and Ph.D. in management science (mentor: Elena Katok, Ph.D., 2019) from UT Dallas. In 2017, Blair received an NSF Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant to support his research into human-computer integration as it relates to economic decision-making. Currently, Blair is an Assistant Professor of Management Science at the Darla Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina.

Alex Garcia Topete

Faculty Host: Roger F. Malina, Ph.D.

Alex Garcia Topete earned a B.A. in arts and performance in 2011 and a M.A. in arts & technology in 2017, both from UT Dallas. He is pursuing a Ph.D. in arts, technology, and emerging communication focusing on multidisciplinary collaboration methods that foster innovation and creativity, spanning media studios, design firms, business incubators, and research labs.

Tuhin Harit

Faculty Host: Vikram Nanda, Ph.D.

Tuhin Harit has earned a B.Tech in Production Engineering from Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee in 2009 and an MBA from Indian School of Business in 2016. He is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Finance, and has research interests in asset pricing and agency problems, largely using empirical methods. Tuhin also has nine years of work experience with firms such as J.P. Morgan, and KPMG and has worked in geographies such as Australia, Africa and Middle East.

Jianyao “Janelle” He

Faculty Host: Vikram Nanda, Ph.D.

Jianyao graduated first class honors with a BSc in quantitative finance from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology in 2019. She is pursuing a Ph.D. in management science, with a concentration in finance. Jianyao is currently interested in asset pricing and behavioral finance.

David M. Heidtman

Faculty Host: Michael J. Rebello, Ph.D.

David Heidtman earned a B.S. in molecular biology and chemistry at UT Dallas in 2010, and an MBA in finance at the University of Michigan-Flint in 2016. Pursuing a Ph.D. in finance, he researches fraud and corruption, contract design, and game theory.

Jeffrey A. Hullfish

Jeff Hullfish earned his B.S.E. in acoustical engineering and music with a minor in mathematics from the University of Hartford in 2013, his M.Sc. in engineering acoustics from the Technical University of Denmark in 2015, and his Ph.D. in cognition and neuroscience from UT Dallas in 2019 (mentor: Sven Vanneste, Ph.D.). His doctoral research produced several papers investigating the pathological changes underlying tinnitus. Jeff is currently a data scientist with the Biosignature Analytics division at Design Interactive, Inc.

Mai T. Huynh

Faculty Hosts: Paul Pantano, Ph.D. and Rockford K. Draper, Ph. D.

Mai Huynh, a 2018 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship winner, graduated from UT Dallas in 2016 with a B.S. in chemistry as a Terry Foundation Scholar. Now pursuing a Ph.D. in chemistry, she studies the interactions of various carbon nanotubes with mammalian macrophage cells in order to inform the design of safer nanomaterials.

Dominique James

Faculty Host: Kenneth Hoyt, Ph.D.

Dominique James earned a B.S. in biomedical engineering from the University of Rochester in 2019. She is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering. Her research will focus on using phase-change contrast agents and ultrasound strategies to estimate pressure noninvasively. Applications of this topic may apply to tumor interstitial pressure and/or portal vein hypertension pressure estimation.

Taek Kang

Faculty Host: Leonidas Bleris, Ph.D.

Taek Kang earned a B.S. in chemical and biomolecular engineering from the Johns Hopkins University in 2009. He is pursuing a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering. Taek’s research focuses on building and studying biological circuits in mammalian cells to decipher the underlying principles that guide their function.

Eric J. Kildebeck

Eric Kildebeck earned a B.S. in biology from UT Dallas in 2005 as part of the inaugural cohort of Eugene McDermott Scholars. He earned an M.D./Ph.D. in cancer biology and gene therapeutics from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School (Ph.D. mentor: Matthew Porteus, M.D./Ph.D. Stanford University) in 2016. His research centers on therapeutic applications of CRISPR/Cas9 for neurologic and autoimmune diseases.

Daria Kurandina

Faculty Host: Vladimir Gevorgyan, Ph.D.

Daria Kurandina earned a B.S. degree in chemistry from Saint Petersburg State University, Russia. She currently pursues her Ph.D. in organic chemistry. Her research focuses on discovery and development of novel synthetic methodologies and investigation of reaction mechanisms.

Allycen R. Kurup

Faculty Host: Marion K. Underwood, Ph.D.

Allycen Kurup earned a B.S. in psychology with a minor in gender, women and sexuality studies from the University of Washington in 2015. She is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in psychological sciences, and investigates social aggression and digital communication with a focus on gender development.

Yingdong Mao

Faculty Host: Feng Zhao, Ph.D.

Mao earned a B.S. in applied mathematics and economics from Yunnan University of Finance and Economics in 2015, and an M.S. in mathematical finance from Bentley University in 2017. He is pursuing a Ph.D. in management science, with a concentration in finance. He focuses on asset pricing and risk management.

Ryan Margolis

Faculty Host: Kenneth Hoyt, Ph.D.

Ryan Margolis earned his B.S. in Physics and Industrial Mathematics from West Chester in 2013. He graduated with his M.S. in Biomedical Engineering in 2018 from Drexel University. He is pursuing his Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering with a focus on image-guided focused ultrasound for improved cancer treatment.

Eric “Shad” Miller

Faculty Host: Monica J. Evans, Ph.D.

Eric “Shad” Miller holds a B.A. in creative writing and literature from Illinois College (2007), an M.F.A. in creative writing from Temple University (2011), and a diploma in game design from Vancouver Film School (2013). A writer and game designer, he has worked in places as diverse as Vancouver and Switzerland. Pursuing a Ph.D. in arts, technology, and emerging communication, he studies education, artificial intelligence, narrative, and game design.

Shelby Mohr-Allen

Faculty Host: Victor Varner, Ph.D.

Shelby graduated from Oklahoma State University in 2019 with a B.S in chemical engineering and a minor in biochemistry. She is pursuing a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering. Shelby is currently studying lung development, specifically how pressure and other mechanical factors effect lung branching morphogenesis.

Salvador Moreno

Faculty Host: Majid Minary-Jolandan, Ph.D.

Salvador Moreno earned a B.S. (2014) and M.S. (2015) in mechanical engineering from UT Dallas and is now at work on a mechanical engineering Ph.D. A 2015 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship awardee, Salvador studies biomaterials, particularly collagen, for flexible electronics applications.

Candler A. Paige

Faculty Host: Theodore J. Price

Candler Paige earned a B.S. in biological sciences from the University of South Carolina in 2012 and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in systems neuroscience. As a 2019 NIH DSPAN Scholar, Candler is focusing on discovering new drug targets for chronic pain.

Benjamin R. Perez

Faculty Host: Walter E. Voit, Ph.D.

Ben Perez graduated from Coe College in 2016 with a B.A. in physics. He is pursuing a Ph.D. in materials science and investigates novel materials for additive manufacturing for a variety of applications.

Aarron J. Phensy

Faculty Host: Sven Kroener, Ph.D.

Aarron graduated from UT Dallas with a B.S. in computer science in 2014; he is now pursuing a Ph.D. in systems neuroscience. His research on the role of mitochondrial-induced oxidative stress in schizophrenia was recognized in 2018 with an NIH Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award Individual Predoctoral Fellowship (F31).

Jonathan T. Reeder

Jonathan Reeder earned a B.S. in mechanical engineering (2012) and a doctorate in materials science and engineering (2016) from UT Dallas (mentor: Walter E. Voit, Ph.D.). A 2013 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship winner, he researches flexible and stretchable electronics for biomedical applications. After a stint running tech startup Pascalor, Inc., Jonathan is now a postdoctoral fellow with the John A. Rogers group at Northwestern University.

Radu Reit

Radu Reit earned his B.S. in biomedical engineering at Georgia Tech in 2012 and his doctorate in biomedical engineering at UT Dallas in 2016 (mentor: Walter E. Voit, Ph.D.). He won an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship in 2013 for his work developing novel polymers for electronic device applications. Radu is currently the CTO of materials research firm Ares Materials.

Peter D. Reyntjens

Faculty Host: William G. Vandenberghe, Ph.D.

Peter Reyntjens earned a B.S. in electrical engineering at KU Leuven, Belgium, in 2016, and an Erasmus Mundus dual-degree M.S. in nanoscience and nanotechnology from KU Leuven, Belgium, and Chalmers Technical University, Sweden, in 2018. He is pursuing a joint Ph.D. in materials science at UT Dallas and Imec/KU Leuven. Peter’s research is in the field of spintronics, looking for new materials that can be used for memory storage.

Jonathan R. Riley

Faculty Host: Michael P. Kilgard, Ph.D.

Jonathan Riley graduated from UT Dallas in 2008 with a B.A. in biology. He is pursuing a Ph.D. in cognition and neuroscience and investigates the mechanisms that govern cortical plasticity and their application to treatment of neurological disorders.

Arun Kumar Rout

Faculty Host: Elena Katok, Ph.D.

Arun Kumar Rout earned a B.Tech. in mechanical engineering from Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur in 2007, and an MBA from Indian School of Business in 2013. He is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in management science with a concentration in operations management, and has research interests in the renewable energy sector with focus on policy decisions. Arun also has eight years of work experience with Schlumberger, The Boston Consulting Group, and a startup.

Danyal A. Siddiqui

Faculty Host: Danieli B. C. Rodrigues, Ph.D.

Danyal Siddiqui graduated summa cum laude with a B.S. in biomedical engineering from UT Dallas in 2015. He earned an M.S. in 2016 and is pursuing a Ph.D., both in biomedical engineering. A 2017 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship awardee, his research focuses on how bacterial adhesion and mechanical loading influence degradation of the bioceramic zirconia in the context of dental implant systems.

Robert “Joey” J. Steininger

Joey Steininger earned a B.S. in chemical engineering from MIT in 2006 and a Ph.D. in cellular regulation and pharmacology (mentors: Steven J. Altschuler, Ph.D. and Lani F. Wu, Ph.D.) from the University of Texas Southwestern Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences in 2014. Joey’s work focuses on gene editing applications for allergies and autoimmune disease.

Allison M. Stiller

Faculty Host: Joseph J. Pancrazio, Ph.D.

Allison Stiller earned a B.S. in biomedical engineering from the University of Rochester in 2016. She is pursuing a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering with a focus in neural engineering. Her research centers on improving the design of softening intracortical electrodes for mitigating long-term tissue response.

Ashley Weiland

Faculty Host: Julia Y Chan, Ph.D.

Ashley Weiland earned a B.S. in environmental chemistry with a mathematics minor (2017) at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. Ashley is pursuing a Ph.D. in chemistry and is studying structure-property relationships of new quantum materials. As part of her DOE Science Graduate Student Research (SCGSR) Fellowship, Ashley spent three months at Argonne National Laboratory’s Advanced Photon Source performing in situ experiments on the formation of rare earth intermetallics.

Peng Xie

Peng Xie graduated from Tsinghua University in 2013 with a B.S. in physics and an M.S. in control science and engineering. He earned his doctorate in molecular and cell biology from UT Dallas in 2018 (mentor: Michael Q. Zhang, Ph.D). Peng’s research focuses on computational biology, gene regulation and machine learning.

Jiadi “Kevin” Xu

Faculty Host: Umit Gurun, Ph.D.

Kevin earned a B.S. in material chemistry and a B.Econ. in finance at Nankai University in 2013, and an M.S. in finance at Syracuse University in 2015. Pursuing a Ph.D. in management science (finance concentration), he focuses on asset pricing, investment, and portfolio management.

Hang Yang

Faculty Host: Michael Rebello, Ph.D.

Hang Yang earned a B.S. in mathematics from Gordon College in 2011 and an M.S. in financial mathematics from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in 2014. He is pursuing a Ph.D. in management science with a concentration in finance; his research focuses on risk management and game theory.

Cong Zhang

Faculty Host: Min Chen, Ph.D.

Cong Zhang earned degrees in basic medical science (2013) and pathology (2016) from Peking University; she is pursuing a Ph.D. in statistics at UT Dallas. Cong’s research is centered on integrating pan-omics data to reveal mechanisms driving cancer, translating -omics data to personalized medicine, and modeling pheromone-inducible conjugation in Enterococcus faecalis contributing to antibiotic resistance.

Rui Zhang

Faculty Host: Dong Qian, Ph.D.

Rui Zhang graduated from Northwestern Polytechnical University with a B.S. (2011) and a M.S. (2014) in aerospace engineering; he is pursuing a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering. Rui’s research focuses on computational solid mechanics, multiscale and multiphysics methods for advanced materials, and parallel computing techniques.

Zehan “Allen” Zhao

Faculty Host: Vijay S. Mookerjee, Ph.D.

Allen Zhao earned a B.S. in information management from the University of International Business and Economics in 2015, and an M.S. in management science and engineering from Tsinghua University in 2018. He is pursuing a Ph.D. in management science with a concentrating in information systems. Allen is interested in helping business utilize the power of information technology, and applying state-of-the-art technologies in business environments.

Hanqi “Leon” Zhu

Faculty Host: Robert D. Gregg, Ph.D.

Leon Zhu earned B.S. (2011) and M.S. (2013) degrees in mechanical engineering from the Xi’an Jiaotong University. He is pursuing a second M.S. degree and a Ph.D. in electrical engineering. Recently an electromechanical engineer at Modbot, Inc., he works on advanced mechatronics systems for application in wearable rehabilitation robots.