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Medical Student Research Assistants

J. Bailey Sanford ’23 

Bailey is a third-year medical student at UNC. He is interested in bringing trauma-informed care practices into primary care. He ultimately hopes to train in family medicine and practice in rural North Carolina. Bailey is also interested in the medical humanities and thinks of physicians primarily as storytellers. When he’s not in class, Bailey enjoys volunteering in local schools and getting kids excited about science.


Bryan Obika ’24

Bryan is in his first year with ITR. He is currently a MS2 at UNC School of Medicine and a recent graduate of UNC (Class of 2020). When he’s not studying or in class, he enjoys volunteering, working out at the gym, and hanging out with friends. Bryan is also a part of the Kenan Primary Care Scholars, the Student National Medical Association, the Anesthesiology Interest Group, and the Anesthesiology Preceptorship Enrichment Program. In the future, Bryan plans to apply for a residency in Anesthesiology and pursue a career in this field!


Masters-Level Research Assistants

Jessica Choi, MSc

Jessica Choi, MSc, earned her master’s degree in global health at Duke University. She has years of research experience in basic science and social science studies. Her current research interests include trauma, resilience, and supporting vulnerable populations. In her free time, Jessica loves food experimenting, painting, and connecting with the local community.


Yujung Choi, MSc

Yujung is a research coordinator in the Department of Population Health Sciences at Duke University supporting various projects aimed at reducing the harms of opioids in North Carolina. She received her Master of Science in Global Health from Duke University in 2017. Her research interests include women’s health, health equity, promoting health among socially marginalized groups, and using innovative community-based approaches to address health burdens.


Undergraduate Research Assistants

Jessie Ma

Jessie Ma, ’23

Majors:  Health Policy and Management, Medical Anthropology

Jessie is in her second year as a volunteer for the RISE study. She is a current first year at UNC and is originally from Potomac, Maryland. At UNC, she enjoys tutoring kids from local elementary schools, volunteering at the UNC children’s hospital, and introducing newcomers as an Honors Ambassador. In her free time, she likes to bake, take yoga classes, and play volleyball! After graduation from UNC, Jessie hopes to go to medical school or pursue a career in addressing health disparities and public health issues.

Emma Rowe, ’23

Major: Physics   Minor: Data Science

Emma is beginning her second year at ITR. She is currently in her freshman year coming from Cary, NC. She has a particular passion for working with children, so in her free time, she volunteers at the Pediatric Playroom at UNC and her church’s childrens ministry.  When she’s not in the lab or class, you may see her spending time at her sorority, Zeta Tau Alpha, running around campus, playing the piano, baking, or playing tennis. After graduation, she aspires to attend medical school and pursue a career in pediatrics.

Kaathya Kashyap, ‘23

Major: Neuroscience Minor: Chemistry

Kaathya is beginning her first year at ITR. She is currently a sophomore from Apex, North Carolina. She is passionate about serving underserved populations, so she volunteers as an English tutor to teach conversational and academic English to refugees. As a competitive dancer, Kaathya devotes her time to practicing and traveling with her team UNC Bhangra Elite. When she’s not in the lab or in class, she spends her free time baking, writing, and teaching dance to younger kids. After graduating from UNC, she hopes to attend medical school and become a pediatrician.

Rebecca Dasema, ’23 

Major: Psychology  Minors: Medical Anthropology, Health, and Society

Rebecca is beginning her first year at ITR. She is currently in her sophomore year at UNC and is from Garner, North Carolina. She is passionate about research topics such as transracial adoption, sexual assault mitigation, and the immigrant experience in America. At UNC, she enjoys mentoring African-American girls from local middle schools, volunteering at the Orange County Rape Center, and helping fellow first-generation students navigate through college. When she is not in lab or class, she spends her free time cooking, trying new restaurants, and watching Netflix. After graduation, she hopes to attend medical school to eventually become a neonatologist..

Cecelia Tucker, ’23

Major: Psychology   Minor: Creative Writing

Cecelia Tucker is a junior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill pursuing a major in Psychology and a minor in creative writing. Her interest in women’s health research derives from time spent volunteering with the Helpmate Women’s Shelter in Asheville, NC, and with the Orange County Rape Crisis Center in Chapel Hill. Cecelia will graduate in May 2023. In her free time, she can be found reading (or re-reading) anything by Franny Choi.

Emily Bell, ’25

Emily is beginning her first year at ITR as a first-year student from Cary, NC. When she’s not in class, she enjoys practicing at the rink as the vice president of the UNC figure skating club. Emily is also involved in the podcasting committee for the ActiveMinds. After graduating from UNC, she aspires to attend medical school and specialize in psychiatry or emergency medicine.

Divya Aikat, ’25

Major: Biostatistics and Sociology

Divya is starting her first year at the ITR-STAR lab. She is a Chancellor’s Science Scholar at UNC, studying Biostatistics and Sociology. Before joining ITR, she worked as a research assistant for the My Body, My Test study in the Epidemioogy Department of the Gillings School of Global Public Health. Outside of class and the lab, she enjoys tutoring elementary school students in math, taking care of her plants, and reading new books. After graduating, she hopes to pursue an MPH and work in social epidemiology.

Jenny Teague, ’23

This is Jenny’s first year with ITR. When she’s not in class or in the lab, Jenny works as an administrative assistant in the School of Medicine’s Dept. of Pharmacology and does grassroots organizing with the UNC Partners in Health chapter and Breastfeeding Friendly Communities Orange NC. In her free time, she enjoys reading, painting, and spending time with friends and family. She hopes to get her doula certification and pursue a career in women’s health and health advocacy.


Kara Petitt ‘24

Major: Psychology and Political Science

Kara is starting her first year at the ITR-STAR lab. She is entering into her third year at UNC, studying Psychology and Political Science. Outside of classes and the lab, she teaches swim lessons with Campus Recreation, is a member of the Order of the Bell Tower, and enjoys doing anything outside with friends. She hopes to pursue a career in therapy or psychology after graduating.



Chenoah Hassan ‘23

Major: Psychology     Minor: Sexuality Studies

Chenoah is starting her first year with ITR. She is a senior at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill majoring in Psychology with a minor in Sexuality Studies. Outside of the lab, she nannies two kids, mentors Black middle school girls in the Chapel Hill area, and works as a Direct Support Professional for people with cerebral palsy at InReach over the summer. In her free time, she loves to cuddle with her cat Saige, travel, and cook/bake. After graduation, she plans on going to graduate school to pursue a Master’s in Counseling.


Witnessa Taylor

Mariah Evans, BA 2020, is currently a Clinical Research Coordinator at the Duke Traumatic Stress and Health Research lab.

Grace Burud, BS 2021, is currently an Orange County EMT.

Kelly He, graduating from UNC in 2022.

Claire McLaughlin

Riya Thomas, BS 2022, is currently a Reserach Assistant in the Clinical Addictions Lab at the University of Chicago.

Mahlon Brady, BA 2022, is currently the ITR-STAR coordinator.

Priya Naik, BA 2022.