June 9th, 2022

Meet the 2022 mentors!

Our Finalists make it to the Genes in Space finals through their grit, hard work, ingenuity... and with a little help from their mentors. Genes in Space mentors serve as advisors, coaches, teachers, and cheerleaders, all while completing their own research in the background. Meet our all-star team of Genes in Space mentors below.

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Stu Adamson

4th-year PhD student, Harvard University

What I study: I’m interested in how minor rearrangements of chemicals can often be the difference between life and death. Even slight imbalances can cause systemic disease. Currently, I study the cellular mechanisms whereby trimethylamine, a common dietary molecule, can cause cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and kidney failure.

Why I'm a mentor: I’ve long thought about how the most creative ideas can be molded into a scientific approach that will advance our understanding of the universe. Genes in Space allows anyone to turn an idea into a reality, and, as a mentor, I’m thrilled to be a part of that. Science is at its best when the only limit is our collective imagination and creativity!

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Ana Karla Cepeda Diaz

3rd-year PhD student, Harvard University

What I study: My research is about the unexpected cell division strategies of Plasmodium falciparum, the parasite that causes malaria. I am interested in neglected tropical diseases both because of their public health importance and because the organisms which cause them have fascinating cell biology.

Why I'm a mentor: I love being a mentor for Genes in Space because it brings together a fantastic group of people with diverse life experiences and scientific interests who are eager to share their ideas and learn from each other. I am excited to work with this year's finalists and bring science to new horizons together!

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Fran Navarro

2nd-year PhD student, Harvard University

What I study: I am fascinated by the beauty and complexity that can be found in a single cell. My research is focused on understanding the means by which Plasmodium falciparum, the malaria parasite, remodels its cell shape to invade and inhabit both human and mosquito tissues.

Why I'm a mentor: Genes in Space is an incredible opportunity for creative minds to come together and think about hard questions! Science is a collaborative experience made all the better (and more fun) by the people we meet and connections we make. I am excited to be a first-year mentor for Genes in Space and look forward to working with this year’s finalists!


Kayleigh Ingersoll Omdahl

4th-year PhD student, Harvard University

What I study: I am a 4th year PhD candidate interested in improving treatment for patients. Right now I'm studying graft versus host disease which arises when donor cells from a bone marrow transplant attack the recipient's body.

Why I'm a mentor: I am a NASA nerd at heart. In high school, I was an Idaho Science and Aerospace Scholar, and that experience helped me make connections, get involved in research programs and decide which college to attend. As a mentor, I hope to provide some of those experiences for Genes in Space students, especially those that may not have access to them otherwise.

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Aleks Radakovic

Aleks Radakovic

4th-year Ph.D. student, Harvard University

What I study: I am interested in how amazing biological complexity can evolve from simple chemical processes. Specifically, I am curious about the processes that drove the coevolution of nucleic acids and proteins to establish the Central Dogma. The intellectual freedom to pursue exciting questions and ideas regardless of the exact field is what I love about science!

Why I'm a mentor: Meeting my mentees over the last two years blew my mind! The crisp energy, the fresh ideas, and the unrelenting passion for cool science electrified all of our meetings and culminated in a finale of projects that promised to make our world (and solar system!) a better place. Now, I am excitedly returning to be a mentor again, and I cannot wait to engage with the brightest space scientists that this solar system has seen – you!

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