Spring 2017 Recipients

Andrew Bertoli, Ph.D. Dr. Bertoli completed his Ph.D. in Political Science at UC Berkeley in August 2016 and is currently a postdoctoral research fellow at USC’s Center for International Studies. His research focuses on the domestic sources of international conflict. He will be attending the International Studies Association’s annual conference in Baltimore, where he will present three papers. These papers look at how nationalism, partisan politics, and reckless leaders affect state aggression. The following week, he will give a talk at the University of Pennsylvania on the recent resurgence of nationalism across the globe and what it means for international relations.

Hillary Plummer, Ph.D. Dr. Plummer received her Ph.D in Kinesiology from Auburn University and her educational background is in athletic training and biomechanics. She is currently a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Clinical Biomechanics, Orthopaedic and Sports Outcomes Research Laboratory under the direction of Dr. Lori Michener. Dr. Plummer’s research interests include investigating upper extremity injury mechanisms as well as developing and implementing training protocols for injury prevention and performance optimization in athletes. She will be co-leading a workshop on The Overhead Athlete: Fatigue & Injury Prevention. The goal of this workshop is to provide an overview of the effects of localized fatigue on overhead throwing mechanics as well as evidence-based exercises that can be incorporated into injury prevention protocols.

Sanjay Purushotham, Ph.D. Dr. Purushotham is a Postdoctoral Scholar Research Associate in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Southern California (USC). He obtained his MS and Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from USC. His research interests are in machine learning, data mining, statistics and its applications to health care & bioinformatics, computer vision and social networks analysis. Recently, he has been developing deep learning solutions for Big Data and Healthcare Analytics.


Panagiotis Tsilifis, Ph.D. Dr. Tsilifis received his B.Sc. and M.Sc in Applied Mathematics in ’09 and ’11 from the National Technical University of Athens, Greece. He completed his M.A. and Ph.D. in Applied Mathematics in ’14 and ’16 respectively from the Department of Mathematics at the University of Southern California. Dr. Tsilifis is currently a Postdoctoral Scholar – Research Associate at the Department of Civil Engineering at USC. His latest work focuses on Polynomial Chaos basis adaptation techniques with applications to efficient computation in contaminant transport in the subsurface.

Stephanie Shishido, Ph.D. Dr. Shishido is a molecular oncologist currently focusing on the identification and characterization of circulating tumor cells from the liquid biopsy received from clinical trial patients. She is interested in the interactions between the neoplastic cell and its microenvironment, specifically in relation to adhesion and intracellular communication. Dr. Shishido’s personal research centers on cellular imaging and molecular analysis of cancer cells. She is pursuing a career in biomedical research in conjunction with teaching responsibilities at an academic institution, ultimately contributing to the scientific community by performing innovative, high-impact cancer research throughout my career and ideally improve the quality of life for cancer patients undergoing treatment.

Jonathan Eyer, Ph.D. Dr. Eyer is a postdoctoral research associate in the Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events. He received his Ph.D. in economics from North Carolina State University in 2015. His research is focused on energy and environmental economics. Dr. Eyer presented one of his current research papers at the American Economic Association meetings in Chicago. His paper, joint with USC Economics Professor Matthew Kahn, titled “Prolonging Coal’s Sunset: The Causes and Consequences of Local Protectionism for a Declining Polluting Industry”, examined the effort of utilities to support local coal mines by disproportionately purchasing locally-mined coal. This research is aimed at understanding the rate at which coal consumption in the United States is declining, as well as understanding the environmental impacts associated with protecting “dirty” jobs.

Justin Schaal, Ph.D. Dr. Schaal graduated with a BS in Biological Sciences from UC Irvine and in 2016 he completed his doctorate in Medical Biology at USC Keck School of Medicine. He is currently a postdoctoral scholar in Michael Selsted’s lab. As both an undergraduate and graduate student he focused his research on defensins, a class of antimicrobial peptides associated with the innate immune system. His doctoral thesis focused on determining the immune modulating properties of theta defensins in the context of infection and autoimmunity. The goal of Dr. Schaal’s research is to utilize defensins in the treatment of human diseases such as bacterial sepsis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Lily FitzGibbon, Ph.D. Dr. FitzGibbon is a Postdoctoral Research Scholar working in the USC Minds in Development Lab directed by Dr. Henrike Moll. Her research investigates the development of counterfactual reasoning, thinking about “what might have been,” in young children. In her latest studies, she has been investigating the role that curiosity about what might have been plays in adaptive decision making in 4- and 5-year-old children. Dr. FitzGibbon presented this work at the Interdisciplinary Workshop on Counterfactual Thinking in Toronto in November 2016. The work was very well received by experts in the field and she was awarded the prize for the best poster.

Daniel Garijo Verdejo, Ph.D. Dr. Garijo is a postdoctoral researcher at the Information Sciences Institute of the University of Southern California. He also collaborates with the Ontology Engineering Group at the Artificial Intelligence Department of the Computer Science Faculty of Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (Spain). Dr. Garijo’s research activities focus on e-Science and the Semantic Web, specifically on how to increase the understandability of scientific workflows using their outputs, inputs, provenance, metadata, etc. and exposing them as Linked Data on the Web.

Kelly McWilliams, Ph.D. Dr. McWilliams is a postdoctoral research associate with Dr. Thomas Lyon in the Gould School of Law. She received her Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology in 2014 from the University of California, Davis under the guidance of Dr. Gail S. Goodman. Dr. McWilliams utilizes a multimethod approach to examine theoretically and applied research questions that sit at the intersection of psychology and the law. Her research largely examines children’s cognitive and social development with a focus on children’s recall of stressful and traumatic events.

Monica Steinberg, Ph.D. Dr. Steinberg is the Doheny Postdoctoral Fellow at The Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West (ICW). She earned a Ph.D. in Art History from The Graduate Center of the City University of New York in 2016. Her research examines how artists in Southern California (working in the shadow of Hollywood’s fiction and invention) used humorous and alternative forms of authorship to creatively disrupt the socio-political climate of the Cold War and the Vietnam War. By highlighting the phenomena of assumed names, aliases, pseudonyms, alter egos, and heteronyms, Steinberg considers the role fictional artist-authors, and pseudonymous artworks and publications, have played in catalyzing events ranging from censorship and protest to laugh-ins and even legal cases. Steinberg presented a portion of her research at the College Art Association Conference in New York.

Michelle Hall, Ph.D. Dr. Hall’s research focuses on the politics of education with a specific focus on equity, community engagement, expanding accountability reforms, and governance. Her research grows out of her past work in workforce investment policy and as a public school and university educator and examines the ways in which power and politics affect and are affected by education reform policies. Dr. Hall’s current work is focusing on how leaders interpret equity and coherence mandates when implementing an equity-based decentralizing policy reform in California, the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF). She is also involved in a study that is identifying the role of multilevel governance actions that promote Social Emotional Learning by Latinx and African-American students in middle schools. Dr. Hall’s most recent publication The Point of No Return? Interest Groups, School Board Elections and the Sustainment of the Portfolio Management Model in Post-Katrina New Orleans is forthcoming in Teachers College Record.

Jeremy Mason, Ph.D. Dr. Mason is a computational biologist in the Kuhn-Hicks lab at The Bridge, building forecasting models of metastatic cancer progression. Both his doctoral and postdoctoral work have been aligned with producing these types of models in an effort to improve patient care. Dr. Mason will be attending the American Urological Association’s 2017 Annual Meeting to present his work derived from a longitudinal dataset of primary bladder cancer.


Kaori Noridomi, Ph.D. Dr. Noridomi is a postdoctoral scholar working with Dr. Richard Roberts at Mork Family Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science. She received her Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Southern California. Dr. Noridomi studied the molecular basis of Myasthenia gravis (MG) in her Ph.D. by solving structures of a nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) bound by a myasthenia gravis autoantibody. From the structures she solved during her Ph.D., she learned that autoantibodies from myasthenia gravis patients bind a common core region on the nAChR through a largely conserved mechanism. She will be attending the Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptor 2017 Conference held in Greece and will present possible therapeutic molecules for myasthenia gravis.

Yi Zhang, Ph.D. Dr. Zhang is a postdoctoral research associate in Roski Eye Institute at USC. He is working on the projects of developing medical implants for the retinal prosthesis. He intends to visit the group of Professor John Rogers at the Northwestern University to discuss and collaborate: fundamental approaches and the processes of design for fabricating stretchable and foldable electrodes, sensors and silicon integrated circuits on plastic substrates, which could be used to develop next generation retinal prosthesis.