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Who we are

We are a passionate group of students interested in delivering cutting-edge scientific research to local high school students (with plans to expand this globally) through seminars. These seminars take place at various high schools and non-profit youth organizations in the Triangle, and are streamed live on our Youtube channel. We also welcome new collaborations and members. Please feel free to send us a brief description of your organization/self! Our email address is

Here are the biographies of our leadership committee.

President: Melyssa Minto

Melyssa Minto is a Ph.D. student at Duke University in the Computational Biology and Bioinformatics program. She is a long time Durham resident and a proud graduate of Meredith College in Raleigh. As a member of the West Lab (Neurobiology), she focuses on studying the epigenomic and genomic changes in neurons throughout cellular maturation and in response to stimuli. Melyssa is passionate about motivating middle and high school students to pursue STEM, especially those from underrepresented communities. She regularly volunteers for Black Girls Code and is excited about bringing the work of students at Duke to local high schools. 

Director of Diversity and Inclusion: Ammara Aqeel 

Ammara graduated summa cum laude from Duke University in May 2019 with a B.S. in Biology (Concentration in Cell and molecular Biology) along with a Certificate in Science and Society. Currently residing in the US, she is originally from Faisalabad, Pakistan. During her time as an undergraduate, Ammara was involved in multiple research projects, particularly those in the field of antibiotic resistance. She was a member of the Bass Connections Duke Blue Devil Resistome Project which aimed to develop a map of resistant bacterial species and their abundance at various sites on campus. She further completed a dissertation under the supervision of Dr. Lingchong You, Department of Biomedical Engineering, working on a project to dramatically increase the throughput of drug screening platforms using DNA barcoding. Ammara has previously worked as a college counselor and is passionate about mentoring and helping high school students succeed.

Ammara has received a number of accolades in her educational career so far. She was elected in her junior year to Phi Beta Kappa for her dedication to and excellence in scholarship. She was also nominated by the Biology department at Duke for the Faculty Scholar Award as one of two top candidates from the department. Ammara was further awarded the Karsh International Scholarship by the Duke Office of Undergraduate Scholars and Fellows for the duration of her undergraduate studies.

Director of Social Media: Erin Conley

Erin is a Ph.D. candidate at Duke University. She is a collaborator on the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE); she performs studies focusing on supernova neutrino detection and analysis. She also volunteers with Communities in Schools (CIS) and the Animal Protection Society (APS) of Durham. Erin is passionate about creating and maintaining opportunities for education within her local community.

Erin’s LinkedIn Page

Director of STEM Circles/Secretary: Sarah Brandsen

Image result for sarah brandsen duke

Sarah Brandsen is a Ph.D. candidate at Duke University researching algorithms for quantum computing. She previously obtained a B.S. in Physics at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), and was awarded the Haren Lee Fisher Memorial Award in Junior Physics for great promise of future contributions to the physics field. Some of her research has been published in journals like Physical Review Letters. She is especially passionate about helping students learn the art of scientific writing.

Sarah’s Google Scholar Profile Page

Treasurer: Justin Ma

Justin is a first-year M.D. candidate at the Duke University School Of Medicine. He earned a B.S. in Microbiology & Immunology from the University of Miami in 2018, where he graduated with Honors as a Foote Fellow. Justin is excited to be a part of the education and mentorship of future students, and to advance the goals of community scientific literacy and competency.

As a former student researcher at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, and in and in the Departments of Biology and Microbiology & Immunology at the University of Miami, his past research experience includes a variety of subjects such as immunology, neurodegenerative disease, electron microscopy and mass spectrometry.


We also have an outstanding volunteer, Kevin Zhou, who is our UNC-Chapel Hill liaison.

UNC-Chapel Hill Liaison: Kevin Zhou

Kevin graduated from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with B.S. in both Biology and Computer Science along with a minor in Chemistry. He received Taylor Honors Mentored Research Fellowship, which fully funded his research, during his junior summer and earned highest honors in biology for his dissertation. He is currently continuing his work at the Matsushima Lab (Neuroscience) to further enrich his skills and to complete his project about remyelination in multiple sclerosis. Being passionate about science since high school, Kevin has research experience across numerous scientific fields, including molecular biology, microbiology and immunology, sociology, and neuroscience at institutions including Tongji University, Wake Forest University, and UNC Chapel Hill. Kevin also has ample volunteering experience, including big buddy programs, peer tutoring/advising, and medical interpreter at a local clinic. He is excited about inspiring people and promoting community awareness, especially that related to science.