The NASA fellowship program has been an opportunity for Brookdale students for seven years. During the 2021 Student Achievement Virtual Showcase, the NASA fellows presented their research projects.  

The NASA Stem Grant Program’s mission at Brookdale is to address the STEM skills gap and to promote competence and critical thinking among the workforce for tomorrow. “Through this program, we get to see young minds expand their knowledge and experience beyond the classroom, explore their research interest and expose them to the fields that they thought never existed, and were thrilled to discover, said Dr. Gitanjali Kundu, associate professor in biology, who introduced the panel of fellows. 

Over the years, Brookdale has earned a prestigious NASA affiliate status, which means that the College can play an enhanced role in various NASA programs and has received nearly $300,000 in grants. This year marks the seventh cohort program with eight fellows who will each receive $2,500 towards their fellowship and an additional $225 to support some of their research expenses.  

NASA Fellow, Antoinette White, has been mentored by Professor Jim Crowder from Brookdale’s biology department. “You know you have a good student when right from the beginning she was asking questions about the implications, and the ramifications, she was always going past what we were talking about in the class, she kept me on my toes,” said Crowder “I am so proud and blessed to have had her as a student.”  

White is continuing at Rutgers in the fall, studying biology. Her presentation was on Glyphosate & Microbiome. Glyphosate, the highly popular herbicide, has been recognized as safe since 1974. However, new research is showing that it might not be as safe as once thought. White’s research presentation explores glyphosate’s interaction with the microbiome and how mental health may be affected in the process. 

Brookdale’s Professor Ana Teodorescu, assistant professor in mathematics, introduced NASA Fellow Bobby Caze, graduating with an associate degree in computer science. He is the president of the black student union and the treasurer of the student life board and a member of the crew club. His fellowship was mentored by Ali Naqvi, who works at the cybersecurity team at Con Edison in NYC and set out to learn how companies provide cybersecurity.  

Caze’s presentation was on the Vulnerability Scanner. His presentation showed us how to run a Nessus Vulnerability Scan using a laptop. When the scan is complete, it will display the variety of vulnerabilities that the Nessus Scan found.  

NASA Fellow Gary Roberts was mentored by Lisa Hailey, professor of engineering and technology at Brookdale, and has been with the NASA program at Brookdale since 2014. Roberts is a consistent member of the deans’ list at Brookdale Community College. He spent six years working in the heavy construction industry before deciding to return to school to pursue a degree in civil engineering. Roberts is an officer in the physics club and an active member of the engineering and math club. He will be graduating with an associate degree in civil engineering and pursuing a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering at New Jersey Institute of Technology this fall. 

Roberts researched finding safer alternatives to traditional pressure treatment chemicals. He presented alternative and more eco-friendly methods to treat wood for commercial and marine use.  

Dr. Pendram Daneshgar from Monmouth University mentored NASA Fellow Megan O’Hare. O’Hare is a math and science major at Brookdale and Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society memberAfter graduation, O’Hare is interested in pursuing a career in healthcare. 

O’Hare’s project seeks to investigate whether the drinking water source for Monmouth County, Swimming River Reservoir, contains toxic metals. She collected samples from different water passages throughout Monmouth County, all which branch from the reservoir. She sent samples to a lab where they will be tested for toxic metals. Toxic metals can profoundly affect human health, which is why it is crucial to determine if our drinking water source contains any worrisome substances. 

NASA Fellow Nora Thompson was mentored by Dr. Robert Hughes, who lives in Berkley, California. He considers himself a drug discovery guy and biotech. Dr. Hughes has a long history as a professor in biochemistry and has mentored postdoctoral fellows. Working with an undergraduate was a new experience which he enjoyedThompson had reached out to Dr. Hughes to learn about Alzheimer’s and neurodegeneration. 

Thompson will be graduating with full honors with an Associate in Applied Science degree in biology. She is a member of the biology club and the Phi Theta Kappa Honors Society and hopes to pursue a career in healthcareHer research was on Alzheimer’s disease, a devastating neurodegenerative disorder increasing in the U.S. and worldwide. She said, “I love puzzles, whether it is a jigsaw puzzle, crossword puzzle, or riddles. I like being able to look at a problem from different perspectives and find an innovative way to fix it, but there is one puzzle that I would especially like to solve, and that is Alzheimer’s.”  

Her presentation reviewed the role of the cardiovascular system in Alzheimer’s Disease, including the pathology, diagnosis, and applications in the treatment of the disease, based on scientific literature. With the guidance of her mentor, Dr. Hughes, Thompson was able to help advance the current research on Alzheimer’s Disease. 

NASA Fellow Julio Santiago – Reyes was mentored by Kevin Holl, assistant professor in Brookdale’s computer science department and advisor of the computer science club. Santiago-Reyes is from Long Branch, NJ, currently president of the environmental club and secretary of the computer science club. He is a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and a first-generation college student.  

Prototyping with Microcontrollers was Santiago-Reyes’ research topic. He explored the capabilities of microcontroller boards to create a device that could assist the user in the performance of CPR.  

Professor Lisa Hailey mentored NASA Fellow Dorothy Speers. Speers will be graduating with an associate degree in mathematics. She plans to transfer to a four-year institution to study physics, mathematics, and engineering. Speers is vice president of both the math and physics club. She has built cloud chambers to visualize the traces of subatomic particles with the physics club and is building a gocart with the physics and engineering clubs. She is a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, engineering club, dance club and is an assistant coach for the New Jersey Junior Pistol Team. 

Motion Tracking Technology in Precision Pistol Shooting was Speers’ research project. She hopes that this project will enable her to be a better coach and give others the ability to analyze their shooting techniques better.

NASA Fellow Ashley Castillo Gutierez was mentored by Exelon Nuclear Engineer Doran Declan and Professor Eric Goll from Brookdale’s chemistry department. Gutierez will be graduating in the fall of 2021 with an associate degree in mathematics and biology. She is vice president of the West Club and helped run the STEM quiz bowl earlier this month. She is a member of the National Society of Leadership and SuccessGutierez said, “I enjoy doing math problems when I am stressed out, and I love chemistry because it fulfills my curiosity, and I like to read in my free time.” After extended conversations with Doreen Declan, she discovered a passion and curiosity for nuclear energy and would one day work in a nuclear power plant. Ashley moved to New Jersey from Peru to pursue a chemical engineering degree. She will transfer to Rutgers University in the spring of 2022. 

Her presentation was about overcoming the challenges of nuclear waste. She chose this topic because she wanted to learn more about nuclear reactors in the USA. 

Since its inception, the NASA grant program has assisted 30 Brookdale students in furthering their research studies.