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Student Profiles

Headshot of Julio arroyo, GEM Cohort 2023

Julia Arroyo

PhD, Biomedical Engineering

Biomedical Engineering, Texas A&M University

Being a GEM Fellow offers a multitude of opportunities to broaden my network and discover career options that other underrepresented individuals have paved the way for others.

From Virginia Tech, I have developed many professional and soft skills which are utilized everyday when discussing my research to labmates and collaborators. I hope to continue sharpening these skills as I continue within my program and hope to gain further opportunities to display my research for various audiences to continue developing myself as a speaker and a researcher.

Ryan Banks - Cohort 2015

Ryan Banks

PhD, Electrical and Computer Engineering

There are opportunities that become available to you and you become a part of a prestigious organization.

I have learned that your path through school is not a linear or a straight line but enjoy the ride the best you can.

Headshot of Sherlock Banks, GEM Cohort 2023

Sherlock Banks

Masters, Construction Engineering and Management

Civil Engineering, Virginia Tech

Being a part of the prominent GEM Fellowship program will help broaden my soft skills, create a firm foundation for my technical research skills, and enhance my networking opportunities to another level!

Since being at VT, after my tenure in community college, I have learned that you don't need to 'recreate the wheel'. Virginia Tech has a great foundation of resources for all students, no matter their background. Our 'UT Prosim' culture speaks to our multi-generational faculty/student servitude; I witnessed this on my first day visiting the campus as a prospective transfer student.

Audra Barnes - Cohort 2021

Audra Barnes

PhD, Biomedical Engineering

Biomedical Engineering, Florida A&M University

To be able to earn a graduate degree without worrying about funding. Also to be in a network of other who either earned or are in the process of earning a graduate degree. This network can be a great place for mentors and to have people in your corner who relate to you.

I hope to gain more knowledge on cardiovascular engineering through both classes and research.

Zach Boykin - Cohort 2019

Zach Boykin

PhD, Civil Engineering

Civil Engineering, Clemson University

I wanted to be a GEM Fellow to connect with other incredible scholars who look like me!

Rafael Chontos - cohort 2019

Rafael Chontos

Masters, Mechanical Engineering

Mechanical Engineering, Virginia Tech

The GEM Fellowship secured funding for my graduate school education while also providing resources to help me throughout my experience as a masters student. The GEM Fellowship offers a chance to meet other graduate students. They were also helpful when I ultimately decided to switch to a PhD in Engineering Mechanics instead of continuing with my masters degree.

I learned about how to right papers in graduate school and I'm currently learning how to use LS-Dyna for the purposes of creating Finite Element Models.

Headshot of Angel Collins, GEM Cohort 2023

Angel Collins

PhD Student, Engineering Mechanics

Biomedical Engineering, Florida Institute of Technology

Being a GEM fellow will allow students to begin making professional relationships via summer internships prior to receiving their degree. This opportunity is very important in developing a network especially for individuals seeking to work outside of academia following their graduate education.

I hope that Virginia Tech will continue to foster a community that will enhance my professional career by providing the space to interact with my peers of diverse pathways. During my time at Virginia Tech, as of now, on campus organizations have gone above and beyond to assist in making connections with other graduate students while also prioritizing best practices to Virginia Tech as a stepping stone to your goals through workshops and seminars. Virginia Tech would not be the force it currently is without the community that has grown here and the faculty/graduate students that make it amazing.

Headshot of Cherelle Connor, GEM Cohort 2023

Cherelle Connor

PhD, Computer Science

Neuroscience, Bates College

Being a Gem Fellow gives me the opportunity to interact with GEM alumni and mentors would can help me outline strategies to attain my career goals.

At Virginia Tech, I am able to conduct interdisciplinary research that capitalizes on my previous experiences in industry. I am also able to work with state-of-the-art technologies that may have been inaccessible to me otherwise.

GEM Headshot of Eugene Crump

Eugene Crump

Masters, Biomedical Engineering

Engineering Science and Mechanics, Virginia Tech

GEM helps by allowing me to further my education for free and connect me with people that can help me get where I want to career wise. And it also gives me a great opportunity to be in a community of people I can connect with based on what they have been through or are going through at the same time as me.

After doing my undergraduate at Virginia Tech I learned how to work with people that does look of think like me. Especially coming from a small place where the majority of people looked like me. It also helps me to take more initiative to reach out to people for help when I need it instead of trying to figure out everything on my own.

GEM Headshot of Avery Cunningham

Avery Cunningham

PhD, Industrial & Systems Engineering - Management Systems Engineering Concentration

Electronics Engineering, Norfolk State University

The GEM Fellowship provided an amazing opportunity to further my studies and pursue my PhD in Industrial & Systems Engineering. Aside from the funding opportunities, GEM allows for Fellows to continue to grow through a variety of workshops, conferences, and the opportunity to network with scholars and technical professionals who excel within their fields. I look forward to all that GEM has to offer and truly grateful to be awarded this honor!

Here at Virginia Tech I hope to sharpen my skills as a researcher, network with the faculty here on campus, and continue to develop both technically and professionally. With the abundance of resources at my disposal and the support of my advising committee, I believe through my research, I will be able to make a significant contribution not only to science, but to my community as a whole!

Adrian Davila - cohort 2020

Adrian Dávila

PhD, Materials Science and Engineering

Mechanical Engineering, University of Houston

I decided to apply for a GEM Fellowship because I wanted to attend graduate school for free and to make inroads at some of the top companies in my field. What I didn't expect though, was the value of joining such a large and welcoming network of fellow MS and PhD students and recipients. Every conference I've attended, professional society I've joined, company I've worked for, has had GEM Fellows. Although we have different backgrounds, we each have similar graduate school experiences as URM's in our chosen fields. Being able to reach out and connect or ask for advice from anyone within the GEM network has been invaluable and to me, is the greatest part of the GEM Fellowship Program.

I've learned a lot about my abilities to grow into a leader while at Virginia Tech (VT). I've been involved in many on-campus organizations and societies (SHPE, Tau Beta Pi, VT Men's Water Polo) and each has given me valuable leadership experiences which I hope to leverage in my future roles post graduation.

Jonathan Diaz-Ramos - Cohort 2021

Jonathan Diaz-Ramos

Masters, Electrical Engineering

Physics, College of William and Mary

You are given the platform to show the next generation of students that it is possible to continue your studies no matter where you come from.

Continuing the support First Gen. students receive at Virginia Tech will be a goal of mine.

GEM Headshot of Luis Franco-Argueta

Luis Franco-Argueta

Masters, Electrical Engineering

Electrical Engineering, Virginia Commonwealth University

As a GEM fellow, your graduate studies will be funded and you will have access to a network of people that can help you reach your goals. This will improve your odds of succeeding.

My main goal is to become more knowledgeable in the area of integrated circuits. My other goals include becoming better at networking and at doing research.

Headshot of Gausto German Jimenez, GEM Cohort 2023

Fausto German Jimenez

Masters, Computer Science

Computer Science, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

The GEM Fellowship offers a unique blend of professional development, academic support, financial assistance, and community-building, which makes it one of the best choices for students pursuing graduate studies in STEM. Through the GEM Fellowship, I had the opportunity to intern at one of the top national laboratories in the U.S., helping me obtain hands-on experience with technologies in a new discipline while staying relevant to my interests. Additionally, the program provides fellows with access to an immense network of alums and like-minded people who create a vibrant community within STEM.

I look forward to furthering my computer science and machine learning knowledge at Virginia Tech by interacting with the professors and students who shine new light on these technologies through their research. I am also excited to meet new people and create new memories in Blacksburg!

Wendell Grinton - Cohort 2020

Wendell Grinton

PhD, Civil Engineering

Civil Engineering, North Carolina A&T State University

Being a GEM Fellow has allowed me to network with countless young scholars, both in my area of expertise and outside!

Virginia Tech has given me the opportunity to network with countless individuals from various disciplines. Also, VT has given me the opportunity to travel and present my research all across the United States. Further, while attending VT, I've been able to make some lifetime friendships and partnerships!

Cory Ilo - Cohort 2019

Cory Ilo

PhD, Computer Science

Computer Engineering, Rochester Institute of Technology

Funding! Besides that, I've gained a network of friends trailblazing through the same struggles that I will inevitably have to face. Community is key. No one makes it alone and through GEM I've gained support dedicated to seeing me succeed.

I hope to develop the skills needed to be a world-class researcher.

Headshot of Alazar Izkinder, GEM Cohort 2023

Alazar Izkinder

Masters, Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics

Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics, Virginia Tech

I liked the idea of connecting students directly to the industry as well as joining an organization of highly motivated and exceptional graduate students and supporters.

I hope to improve my research skills and technical writing.
Dwayne Jefferson - Cohort 2020

Dwayne Jefferson

PhD, Civil Engineering with a focus in Construction Engineering and Management

Civil Engineering, North Carolina A&T State University

GEM is a great opportunity to connect with other graduate-level researchers going through some of the same experiences as yourself. The industry side of the fellowship gives individuals the chance to connect with industry personnel and develop industry ties early in their careers.

Virginia Tech has given me the opportunity to grow more as a professional as well expressing my creativity throughout my projects regardless of them being research, classroom, or community. I hope to continue growing as a person in the coming years and improving my personality.

Headshot of Evar Jones, GEM Cohort 2023

Evar Jones

PhD, Computer Science

Computer & Information Technology, Purdue University

Looking at previous GEM Fellows, and their success in both academia and industry, motivated me to be a part of the GEM community. I look forward to developing meaningful relationships with like-minded individuals.

I hope to gain a real sense of community while at Virginia Tech. Even as an incoming graduate student, Virginia Tech has immediately demonstrated its commitment to initiating meaningful pathways for all graduate students to be successful.

GEM Headshot of Bright Katey

Bright Katey

PhD, Mechanical Engineering

Mechanical Engineering, University of Mines and Technology, Tarkwa, Ghana

I would like to be a GEM Fellow to have the opportunity to do something impactful and also serve as what is possible for people with similar backgrounds as mine. It is also an opportunity to join a life-long cohort of people serving as leaders, role models and mentors to provide continuous career opportunities for others from less privilege societies. Finally it serves as a means to finance my graduate education.

I hope to gain my graduate degree from a highly rated educational institution like Virginia Tech which will serve as the springboard for me to be in the position to contribute to the betterment of the world.

Daniel Keku Headshot - Cohort 2020

Daniel Keku

PhD, Civil Engineering

Civil Engineering, North Carolina A&T State University

Being a GEM Fellow allows the opportunity for me and my colleagues to meet with the top engineering and science firms and universities in the nation. Whether I'm studying at one of the universities, working for one of the GEM employers, or talking with other GEM students, I believe these experiences will be beneficial to everyone in their career path.

I have learned to be more open towards others and finding opportunities for my colleagues to interact outside of professional and academic spaces to know each other better. I have come to know most of my colleagues outside of these spaces in a vulnerable and welcoming atmosphere.

GEM Headshot of Albert Kodua

Albert Kodua

Masters, Materials Science and Engineering

Materials Science and Engineering, Virginia Tech

Being a GEM fellow means having access to a large network of people all interested in making sure that I can succeed throughout my graduate studies.

I have learned that the Virginia Tech community is a place that truly feels like home and that I am so glad to have found a place that has given me so many opportunities to grow and learn.

David Kormos - Cohort 2019

David Kormos

PhD, Environmental Engineering

Environmental Engineering, Ohio State University

Being a GEM fellow allows for a community of other students going through the same/similar experiences.

I have gained so much from working with Dr. Linsey Marr and others in the Environmental Engineering department about working for the benefit of others in the community.

Kathryn Lopez - Cohort 2018

Kathryn Lopez

PhD, Environmental Engineering

Chemical Engineering, Florida State University

The GEM program opened up many doors for me and made my goal of attending graduate school more feasible by reducing application costs and guaranteeing funding. The GEM community is also vibrant and welcoming and I am grateful to be a part of it.

Throughout graduate school, I have learned more about the field of environmental engineering and drinking water quality as expected. What I did not expect but am grateful for is that I also became aware of alternative career paths, explored more about my identity, and built friendships that will last a lifetime.

Victor Lopez - Cohort 2021

Victor Lopez

Masters, Biomedical Engineering

Biomedical Engineering, University of Florida

Simply applying for the GEM Fellowship opens up opportunities, even more so if selected. GEM has supported me during my application process for grad school. As a Masters applicant, funding was definitely a concern but GEM gave me options when choosing schools. On top of the financial support, being a GEM Fellow gives you access to a network of industry partners and other GEM members across the nation, opening up even more opportunities.

I hope to become a better researcher and mentor during my time at Virginia Tech. Virginia Tech is full of bright minds which I hope to work with and learn from.

Headshot of Amelie Lutz, GEM Cohort 2023

Amelie Lutz

Masters, Aerospace Engineering

Mechanical Engineering, Virginia Commonwealth University

The GEM Fellowship has opened a world of opportunity by sponsoring my continued education. I am excited to connect with GEM Fellows within and outside Virginia Tech.

By attending Virginia Tech, I hope to gain not just experience but a sense of community. I look forward to the programs Virginia Tech has to offer.

Headshot of Leo Olivera, GEM Cohort 2023

Leo Olivera

Masters, Mechanical Engineering

Mechanical Engineering, Virginia Tech

GEM creates an environment of inspiration and support. Where you don't just grow on a professional level, but on a personal one as well.

I have learned what it means to be a leader, and how to use it to inspire others!

Joshua Pulliam - Cohort 2018

Joshua Pulliam

PhD, Engineering Mechanics

Applied Physics; Mechanical Engineering, Morehouse College; Auburn University

The GEM Fellowship provides the opportunity to fund and network within graduate level studies, with a focus on forwarding minority growth and achievement in these fields. It connects you to people and positions that will help format the pathway for your career, all with the knowledge that others within the Fellowship understand what it means to be a minority within graduate studies. Being a GEM Fellow offers funding, fellowship, and a brighter future. It is well worth becoming one.

I came directly from an undergraduate program into a PhD program. While I had research experience prior to arriving, adapting quickly was imperative. While there were, of course, the scholastic as well as technical aspects of research that had to be rapidly absorbed, what I feel I've truly learned is an appreciation for independence. A PhD program has afforded me the chance to put forward the work that fascinates me and allow it to format my career. I have Virginia Tech, in large part, to thank for that.

GEM Headshot of Wilson Smith, Cohort 2023

Wilson Smith

Masters, Computer Engineering

Electronics Engineering and Technology, Southern University and A&M College

To extend my career as a engineer through graduate studies and research, and to be a part of a prestigious fellowship that has paved the way for minorities involved in STEM.

I have come to learn Virginia Tech is extremely diverse. People across the planet gather here in the name of education. I plan to gain a better understanding of electromagnetic waves as well as become a better engineer by going through the Virginia Tech graduate program.

Headshot of Cesar Smokowski, GEM Cohort 2023

Cesar Smokowski

Masters, Computer Science

Computer Science, Virginia Tech

Being a GEM Fellow grants you access to an incredible network of supportive colleagues and mentors. Creating a strong support system can be an invaluable tool at every stage of a career.

I hope to become an inspired writer, thoughtful researcher, creative thinker and supportive classmate.

GEM Headshot of Axel Soto

Axel Soto

Masters, Civil Engineering

Civil Engineering, Florida State University

To be a GEM Fellow is to live up to the entrusted legacy by our previous fellows and the GEM mission, while also making an impact in our community by being the representation of minorities that do not normally get their deserved representation.

I hope to able to find my community and support system at Virginia Tech while also being a support to my community. I also hope to gain exposure to a multitude of diverse cultures, personalities, and perspectives that will give me a better understanding of our society.

Charles Sterling Headshot - Cohort 2020

Charles Sterling

PhD, Biological Systems Engineering

Biological Engineering, North Carolina A&T University

It offers an incredible opportunity for career development! I’ll be well equipped to join the corporate world after I graduate.

I hope to gain more knowledge about the inner workings of industry.

Aileen Suarez - Cohort 2020

Aileen Suarez

PhD, Biomedical Engineering

Biomedical Engineering, Georgia Tech

GEM has helped me attend graduate school in a program that actually cares about Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. It has given me great opportunities for networking and community building.

Virginia Tech has shown me the strength in community and how graduate school is not a solitary journey. You need to lean on others to keep on the path to success.

GEM Headshot of Chantaly

Chantaly Villalona

Masters, Civil and Environmental Engineering

Geoscience, Wellesley College

Students should consider becoming GEM fellows to join a larger community of incredibly talented and diverse peers. The National GEM Consortium aims to increase the advancement of underrepresented groups in STEM at the graduate level and in the workforce. GEM is able to nullify barriers to advanced degrees for underrepresented groups by securing funding for their graduate education and promoting professional development via networking, internships and national conferences. GEM is a growing national consortium that every student from an underrepresented group should consider joining and of which I am grateful to take part in.

As an incoming masters student, I hope to gain world-class training and research experience in drinking water quality. Beyond the lab, I hope to explore teaching and science outreach opportunities to strengthen my science communication and public speaking skills.

GEM Headshot of Lemara Williams

Lemara Williams

Masters, Computer Science and Applications

Computer Science and Music, Amherst College

I want to be a model for someone I wish I had when I was younger. Throughout high school and college, I always felt as if I stood out. I was either the only or one of a few Black people in classes, and it was difficult to connect to other students in my major and even harder with professors (of which there was one woman and no faculty of color). I did not think many options were available after graduation; however, connecting with alumni and mentorship programs enabled me to craft a different path. Though those experiences significantly contributed to my personal growth, I can't help but think of the missed opportunities due to not being able to learn from someone who looked like me earlier in my college career. To be a GEM Fellow is to inspire and generate change. Therefore, I hope to inspire others with my journey and work to generate change. I'm grateful for this opportunity; I look forward to seeing how I grow and help others, especially young POC in STEM, craft their own path.

I look forward to improving my technical skills and creating meaningful connections with others in my cohort and my professors. I'm excited to be in a new environment and take advantage of the opportunities presented.

Jorjie - Cohort 2021

Jorjie Wilson

Masters, Biomedical Engineering

Bioengineering, North Carolina A&T

Being a GEM fellow is a prestigious opportunity for underrepresented groups to take advantage of. GEM provides a great opportunity for funding, internships, and networking while furthering your education.

I hope to build great relationships while gaining more technical and verbal skills. Additionally, I hope to learn how to apply my research to real world applications in preparation for industry jobs.

GEM Headshot of Amirah Wright

Amirah Wright

PhD, Biomedical Engineering

Biomedical Engineering, University of Miami

To be a GEM fellow means you get to be able to pursue higher education without worrying about funding. Especially for people of color who are often underrepresented in graduate school. It also opens up opportunities for connections to other GEM fellows both past and present which helps build community within your career.

VT allows me to conduct research in my area of interest while also allowing me to explore my interests outside of research and school. It has also helped me connect to people in other disciplines as well as those from different backgrounds who have helped open my eyes to so many different topics in the world.