2020-2021 FERBS Fellows

Amy Vidal

FERBS Fellow 2020-24

Lab, Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics

Amy hails from Lancaster, PA and is a 4th year undergraduate in the College of Arts & Sciences, pursuing a degree in Biochemistry with a minor in Chemistry and American Sign Language & Deaf Studies. Currently, she is synthesizing a heterobifunctional, bivalent inhibitor and assessing its impact on signaling activity in melanoma cells. With her work, she hopes to reduce off-target effects of cancer treatments and create a new class of inhibitors. She plans on completing a Ph.D. in Chemical Biology following her time at Penn and would love to continue encouraging students to pursue research careers. Outside of academics, Amy enjoys playing the violin, chilling with friends, shuffling her varied Spotify playlists, and going on spontaneous adventures around Philly.

Olivia Howard

FERBS Fellow 2020-24

Lab, Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics

Olivia is originally from New Orleans, Louisiana. At Penn, she is in the College of Arts and Sciences studying Biology with a concentration in Neurobiology and minoring in Psychology. As a PennFERBS fellow, she conducts research in the Lynch Lab by studying the innate immune system and working to understand the IRF7 type 1 interferon signaling pathway. After Penn, she plans to go to medical school but is not certain on what field. Outside of research, Olivia serves as the sisterhood director in her sorority Zeta Tau Alpha, works as the house manager in Harrison College House, and has recently become a Director of SPEC Pop-Up, a branch of Penn’s student government. During her free time, Olivia loves to experiment in the kitchen and watch new TV shows on Netflix. 

Amy Fernandez

FERBS Fellow 2020-24

Lab, Department of Biology

Amy is originally from Woodbridge, New Jersey and is in the College of Arts and Sciences majoring in Biology and Hispanic Studies. Her current research in the Sniegowski Lab focuses on understanding ploidy and resistance in opportunistic fungal pathogens of humans. Much of the current research does not focus on how ploidy can contribute to anti-fungal resistance so Amy wishes to further explore this. She is on the Pre-Med track aspiring to complete an MD/PhD. Outside of school, Amy volunteers with Puentes de Salud, a non-profit organization that is actively working to increase access to healthcare and wellness programs for Latinx immigrant communities in Philadelphia. As a mentor and a first-generation immigrant she hopes to engrain in other students the need to pave your own paths, fight for your dreams, and aspire to higher education. During her free time, Amy enjoys spending time with friends, listening to music, and painting.

Criston Young

FERBS Fellow 202023

Pohlschroder Lab, Department of Biology

Criston is from the City of Camden, New Jersey currently in the College of Arts and Sciences pursuing a General Biology major on the Pre-Med track. As a PennFERBS fellow, he conducts research in the Pohlschroder lab using biochemical tools to analyze the circadian rhythm of archaeon Haloferax volcanii. He hopes to use the knowledge and experience gained at Penn in the pursuit of his journey toward an MD in Anesthesiology. Aside from research he also is very involved on campus, participating and leading in clubs such as the Penn Band,  New Spirit of Penn Gospel Choir, Alpha Chi Rho fraternal organization, and even working with Penn alumni to start up a black-owned magazine [black] Citizen Magazine. During his free time, you can find him either practicing for his next gig as a part-time DJ or watching his new favorite anime Naruto. 

Aleena Alex

FERBS Fellow 202024

Paralkar Lab, Perelman School of Medicine

Aleena is originally from Philadelphia and moved to the US from India 5 years ago. She is currently a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences, majoring in Molecular and Cellular Biology and minoring in Chemistry and Bioethics. She is also in the Pre-med track aspiring to complete an MD or MD/Ph.D. after graduation.  Since high school, Aleena has been passionate about biological sciences, especially the intricate details of molecular and cellular processes. The program has helped her to explore and understand the various research options on campus and helped me to discover my interest in Cancer Biology. Through investigating Leukemia and protein dysregulation in blood cell development, she has gained more interest in cancer research and is currently in the workings of starting an individual project in the lab!

Outside of my academics, Aleena enjoys traveling, dancing, and catching up on the latest movies and shows. 

Kevin Huang

FERBS Fellow 2020-24

Marmorstein Lab, Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics

Kevin is originally from Bellmawr, New Jersey. At Penn, he is in the College of Arts and Sciences pursuing a Molecular and Cell Biology major alongside a Chemistry minor. As a PennFERBS fellow, he conducts research in the Marmorstein lab using biochemical, biophysical, and structural research tools to characterize the metabolic enzymes ATP citrate lyase (ACLY) and acyl-CoA Synthetase (ACS/ACSS2) involved in acetyl-CoA metabolism and acyl-CoA production. His current studies are on the pre-medical track in the aspiration of attaining an MD-PhD and joining the field of oncology to conduct novel cancer research and patient care. Outside of research, he is a proud FGLI student, passionate in mentorship, education, and community engagement. He has served as a peer mentor for Penn’s Pre-First Year program through P1P/PennCAP and is currently a peer mentor for the PennFERBS program. He also is a volunteer at CHOP through the WaWa Volunteer Services Program. During his free time, he enjoys catching up with friends over boba and ‘exploring’ (a.k.a. getting lost because he can’t read maps) in the city!

Daniel Ruiz de Castilla

FERBS Fellow 2020-24

Vinogradov Lab, Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics

Daniel is a biophysics major and has been working in the Vinogradov lab where he has worked with a postdoctoral fellow to synthesize a porphyrin probe donor acceptor system that would indicate magnetic field dependency for electron transfer through the probe. Outside of lab Daniel is interested in fashion and garment construction. He works as a part-time tailor apprentice at Joan Schepp in Philadelphia and is a designer for the Penn Fashion Collective. He is also a free lance pattern maker! Daniel maintains is interest in chemistry and interesting in fluid dynamics and applying his major to his research.

Sean Hilgendorf

FERBS Fellow 2020-24

Gregory Lab, Department of Biology

Sean Hilgendorf is from Queens, New York. At Penn he is in the College of Arts and Sciences as a Biochemistry major on the Pre-Medical track. As a FERBS fellow, he conducts research in the Gregory lab by analyzing the trends of Arabidopsis plant development within the field of post-transcriptional modifications. More specifically he focuses on the N6-methyladenosine (m6A) modification which methylates adenine residues on mRNA, allowing them to be read and translated. The current model for m6A depletion doesn’t show global m6A removal and Sean hopes to help create a model that does. Outside of research Sean is the Vice President of Recruitment for Phi Delta Epsilon (Penn’s pre-med fraternity), he tutors for organic chemistry, and he volunteers at the VA hospital and netter center educational pipeline program. Although he knows for sure that he wants to go to medical school, he is undecided on what field of medicine he wants to go into but he is open to trying anything and seeing where it takes him. During his free time he loves to binge watch shows on netflix or hang out with his roommates.