Julia Derk, B.S., M.S., Neuroscience, Pathobiology, and Translational Medicine

Vice President, Co-Founder, Mentor

Julia was born and raised in Greeley, Colorado and has always had an innate fascination with the brain, how it functions, and how it declines during Alzheimer’s disease. She obtained her B.S. from Brandeis University in Neuroscience and Psychology and is now conducting research in the Schmidt Lab of the Diabetes Research Program at NYU to better understand how diabetes, obesity, and aging contribute to Alzheimer’s disease. Julia is a passionate advocate for human rights, education, and health care access.  She joined forces with Russell in 2014 to help found Clear Direction  because she believes everyone should have access to a scientific education and career opportunities, not just a few. She’s devoted to helping to diversify science and work towards helping the general public foster a better understanding and trust of science at large.

Russell Ledet, B.S., M.S. in Molecular Oncology and Tumor Immunology

President, Co-Founder, Mentor

Russell Ledet was born and educated in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. After serving in active duty and military intelligence for the United States Navy, he earned his bachelors from Southern University and has since matriculated into the NYU School of Medicine to study Prostate Cancer as part of the Molecular Oncology and Tumor Immunology Training Program. Growing up as a Black male, Russell observed the striking disparities as he searched for mentors and opportunities within STEM. Thus, he aimed to provide a program in which no student would vacated from the pipeline of education and success because of color, creed, or socioeconomic hardship. In founding Clear Direction, he aims to mitigate the “leaky pipeline” into STEM for underrepresented minorities in order to foster greater opportunities for those that follow behind him.

Phil Thomas, B.S. Biology

Board of Directors, Mentor

Phil comes from Duram, North Carolina, with exuberant pride and enthusiasm. He attended North Carolina A&M to earn his Bachelors in Science before matriculating into the NYU School of Medicine Sackler Graduate Program, where he’s now completing his Second year. He studies Prostate Cancer and Tumor Immunology, when not busy MC’ing Clear Direction’s many events. He is a passionate supporter of all of our fellows and as well as a variety of football and basketball teams and a nice home cooked meal. Since joining Clear Direction’s mentoring team, he’s helped to turn a vision into reality, and he’s very excited to see what we can all accomplish moving forward together.

Steven Hoang-Phou, B.S. Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Board of Directors, Mentor

Steven was born and raised in Sacramento, California by immigrant parents. His passion for science and research comes from his realization that he wasn’t rich, but he still aspired to make a long lasting positive contribution to society. What better way than by pushing the boundaries of human knowledge and understanding? He hopes to impart some of the guidance and direction that he was missing at the high school stage that would have been extremely beneficial in saving a few years of life to his mentees.
Steven has a B.S. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from UC Davis and is currently a second year graduate student in Dr. Markus Schober’s lab at NYU School of Medicine. He is interested in how tumors form and the origin of cancer.

Alessandro Bailetti, M.S. Cell Biology Role: Board of Directors, Mentor

Board of Directors, Mentor

Alessandro was born in Lima, Peru and raised in Pisco, Peru (a port in the south of Peru). He was always in contact with science, since his family had a farm and he worked and lived there. However, he got interested in Genetics when he learned about DNA and nucleotides, he found the fact that these 4 molecules make up what all living organisms are, including humans, is amazing. He moved to the United States 12 years ago. As an immigrant and a first generation college student, he found navigating through the college application process very difficult. He enrolled in Pensacola State College and studied Biology and Mathematics. There, he was an active member and leader of Phi Theta Kappa, the International Honors Society for the 2-year-college. He was awarded the prestigious Jack Kent Cooke Transfer Scholarship and transferred to Cornell University where he majored in Biological Science with a concentration in Genetics and Development.It was at Cornell where he was introduced to research. His undergraduate research focused on the role of Jagged1, a Notch pathway ligand, in mice fetal nerogenesis. He was awarded a NSF-CornellUndergraduate Research Fellowship to pursue his research while at Cornell. He graduated from Cornell University in 2012 with honors in research. He started his PhD career in 2012 and joined the laboratory of Dr. Erika Bach. His current thesis work focuses on finding new genes involved on blood development. He uses a leukemia model in Drosophila for this work. To do his PhD work, Alessandro was awarded the Jack Kent Cooke Graduate Scholarship and the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship.

Graeme Koelwyn, B.Sc. Exercise Physiology, M.Sc. Clinical Exercise Physiology

Board of Directors, Mentor

Graeme was born and raised in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Graeme’s passion for research started during his undergraduate degree at the University of Calgary, where he was a Kinesiology student and speed skater at the Calgary Olympic Oval. Graeme Has a Bachelor of Science in Exercise Physiology from the University of Calgary, Canada, and a Master of Science in Clinical Exercise Physiology from the University of British Columbia, Canada. He is currently in the lab of Kathryn Moore studying macrophage inflammation.

Stephanie Lau, B.A. Molecular and Cell Biology


Stephanie was born and raised in Oakland, California by immigrant parents. She is the first in her family to graduate from college and pursue science. Her passion for research and discovery ignited from after school science programs (EBAYS, Catalyst) she participated in as a high school student. She hopes to reciprocate these experiences and long-term mentorship with the fellows in Clear Direction. Stephanie has a B.A. in Molecular and Cell Biology from UC Berkeley and is currently a second year graduate student in Dr. Holger Knaut’s lab at NYU School of Medicine. She is interested in developmental processes and studying cell biology in vivo.

Patty Martin, B.S. Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology


From running barefoot down dusty roads in the mountains of Northern California to living in a house with a canvas roof salvaged from an army tent, I grew up in a challenging, rural, unconventional lifestyle. My early life experience taught me resilience and fostered a passion to succeed. Most importantly it taught me to thrive off of challenges, an integral component in my love of science. As a clear direction mentor, I hope to help others discover the same awesome, puzzling, aw-inspiring curiosity that has driven me to pursue a scientific career. I received my B.S. in Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology from UC Santa Cruz. Currently a graduate student in the Cadwell Lab, I study host-pathogen interactions to understand some of the mechanisms pathogenic bacteria use to cause disease.

Michael Rabadi, B.S. Neuroscience


Michael has been fascinated by the engineering genius of the body his entire life. He thinks of the body as a machine that is controlled by a computer called the brain. He uses his research to develop novel machine learning technologies. Michael’s dream to puruse a research career became a reality through the guidance of the BP-ENDURE program and his mentors. Michael wants to help the fellows in Clear Direction make their own goals a reality by passing on the guidance and insight that he has received throughout his own career. Michael has a B.S. in Neuroscience from New York University and is currently a second year graduate student in the NYU Center for Neural Science. He studies how the brain learns to use vision to guide movement.

Jason Wong, B.S. Biology, The College of New Jersey (TCNJ)


Jason became infatuated by science as a freshman in high school. From each lesson learned, there was a million more questions which further fueled his ambition to learn more. Throughout undergraduate studies, Jason worked in a variety of labs and got a taste of laboratory research. After graduating he worked at Cold Spring Harbor Labs (CSHL) where he then solidified his decision to pursue a Ph.D in Biology. Given his interest in science, especially biology, Jason hopes that he can share his knowledge, experience and enthusiasm with the fellows in Clear Direction. Jason is currently a third year graduate student in Dr. Jane Skok’s lab at NYU School of Medicine. He currently works on understanding B and T cell developments well as how leukemias can arise

Jessica Douthit, B.S. Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


Jessica was born outside of Philadelphia, PA and received her degree in 2011 from Temple University. As an undergraduate student, she participated in the Minority Access to Research Careers program where she learned the importance of mentorship and extending a hand to those who follow behind you. She is currently a fifth year MD/PhD Candidate in Dr. Jessica Treisman’s lab. Jessica is interested in brain development and genetics.