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.

Julia Derk, B.S., M.S., Neuroscience

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.

Phil Thomas, B.S., M.S. Biology

Director of Academies and Programs, 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.

Erica Briggs, B.S., M.S., Biology

Director of Outreach and Recruitment, Mentor

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

Director of Finance, 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.

Mary Rossillo, B.S., M.S., Biology

Chief Administrator, Board of Directors

Mary is from Long Island, New York. She became inspired to pursue a career in science by her AP chemistry teacher; therefore she understands the importance of having a mentor in science. She is currently in her third year of the MD/PhD program, studying mechanisms of chemosensation in the nematode C. elegans in the lab of Niels Ringstad.

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.

Jessica Minder, B.S., M.S., Biology


Jessica was born and raised on Long Island, NY and received her BS. degree from St. Joseph’s College in biology and secondary education. She received her M.S. from Stony Brook University in Biochemistry and Cell Biology. Currently, Jessica is a PhD student in the neuroscience program at NYU. She studies the role of neuropeptides as modulators of synaptic transmission and signaling pathways. Her training as a high school educator has instilled in her a passion for education. Through Clear Direction Mentoring Jessica aims to help all students, regardless of their backgrounds, to achieve their education goals in STEM through exposure and new experiences.

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.

Criseyda Martinez, B.S., M.S., Biology


Criseyda was born and raised in Los Angeles (LA county), California by immigrant parents from Central America. She is the first in her family to attend college and pursue scientific research. Criseyda attended UCLA and majored in Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics with a minor in Latin American Studies. As an undergraduate she started to work in a research lab where she studied Trypanosomes, the causative agent of African sleeping sickness. After falling in love with parasites she went to San Francisco State University to complete her Master’s working on avian malaria. She ventured to the east coast to complete her Ph.D. on the regulation of protein synthesis during cell stress. Throughout her life she has been involved in various organizations focused on STEM education and political advocacy. Besides her interest in science and mentoring she loves sports, food and traveling.

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.

Shushan Sargsian, B.S. Microbiology and Immunology


Shushan was born in Armenia and moved from Tel-Aviv to Munich to Seattle as a child before finally settling down in Miami, Florida. She attended the University of Miami where she first got involved in research and discovered her passion for host pathogen interactions. She was fortunate to find a lab in which to do research as an undergraduate, but felt that many students did not always have access to adequate guidance and opportunities to get involved in science. Thus, she made it one of her primary goals as president of the University of Miami Microbiology & Immunology Club to help underclassmen get excited about and find opportunities to do research. She is happy to be a Clear Direction mentor so she can continue to help younger students, especially minorities underrepresented in STEM, get excited about science and have the tools they need to pursue their passions.

Shushan is currently a second year graduate student in Ken Cadwell’s lab at NYU School of Medicine where she studies the role of the gut microbiome in inflammatory bowel disease.

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


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


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.