Curci 2022-2023 scholars.

With the generous gift from the Shurl and Kay Curci Foundation, the Curci Scholars program was first established in 2022 at CU Boulder.  Since the program's inauguration, every year six scholars receive full scholarships and living expenses for the first two years of their Ph.D. programs in various life-science fields.  Of the 2 cohorts of scholars, we have students from all over the world bringing their exceptional and diverse cultural, professional, and academic backgrounds to the graduate program.

The impact of the program goes beyond lessening the financial burden and breaking down barriers for underrepresented international students who normally are not eligible for U.S. scholarships, it also creates a valuable community for them to meet other bright scholars from around the world and to support each other to overcome the challenges they face in a new country. Without exception, every Curci scholar expressed deep appreciation for such a wonderful program that has made their scientific journey possible and meaningful.


2022 Curci Scholars Biography


Angie (Chang) Liu
Angie (Chang) Liu

Department: Biochemistry

Home Country: Henan, China

I grew up in Luoyang, China. I obtained my BA in chemistry from Colby College, where I worked with Dr. Lindsey Madison to investigate the intermolecular interactions that facilitate guest molecule migration in clathrate hydrate. I am now a PhD student in biochemistry at the University of Colorado-Boulder. I work in Dr. Rob Batey’s lab, and my project focuses on using in solution biochemical assays and X-ray crystallography to understand how nuclear hormone receptors interact and form a complex with RNA.

What does it mean to be a Curci scholar?

Being a Curci scholar is important to me as it offers me the opportunity to help other underrepresented students in STEM. I hope to get involved with more outreach and mentorship programs through the Curci fellowship!


Emily PrevostEmily Prevost

Department: Psychology and Neuroscience

Home Country: United States

In my home state of Arizona, I attended Barrett, The Honors College at Arizona State University, where I earned bachelor's degrees in biology and psychology. I volunteered in a canine science research lab and studied canine cognitive dysfunction and nutritional factors influencing dogs’ food preferences. I then received a scholarship from the German Academic Exchange Service to pursue a master’s degree in neurobiology at Ulm University in Ulm, Germany. My thesis work concerned navigational capabilities and sensory modalities in scorpions. I returned to the United States to work as laboratory technician under David Root at the University of Colorado Boulder, where I maintained the breeding colony of transgenic mice, trained in modern neuroscience methods, and oversaw many aspects of lab management and research. I led a project to map the whole-brain neuronal connections to neurons in the brain’s reward center, the ventral tegmental area. In 2022, my role in the lab evolved as I joined the Behavioral Neuroscience PhD program. My research projects all concern different neuronal subtypes in the ventral tegmental area and how they contribute to opioid addiction, cannabis use, and basic rewarding and aversive processes.

What does it mean to be a Curci scholar?

I am honored to be among the first cohort of Curci Scholars at the University of Colorado Boulder. One day, I hope to start my own research lab and continue the important work of tackling the opioid epidemic. The support of the Curci Foundation has allowed me to pursue a career in neuroscience research and hopefully make this goal a reality.


Emily YeoEmily Yeo

Department: Integrative Physiology

Home Country: South Africa

Growing up in South Africa, I couldn't ignore the glaring disparities in social and healthcare systems and sparked my curiosity about the complex underpinnings of human health. This fascination prompted my undergraduate degree in Human Life Sciences at the University of Stellenbosch, and then an Honors year in Biochemistry. Aiming to delve even deeper into the complexities of human metabolism (and with a ruthless travel bug), I completed an MSc in Biochemical and Molecular Nutrition at Tufts University's Friedman School of Nutritional Science and Policy, in Boston. Here I realized the vast potential, and the myriad of unanswered questions, surrounding the interplay between the human microbiome and health. My current research as a 2nd year CU Boulder PhD student focuses on unraveling how the infant gut microbiome might be influencing neurocognitive development in early life. I get to play with big data, try out new and existing metagenomic and multiomic tools, and learn from incredible researchers on a daily basis. I look forward to exploring explanations to complex health questions, continuing to learn new skills and tools, and making meaningful contributions to the field of health and science as I continue the program and beyond.

What does it mean to be a Curci scholar?
Having worked two part-time jobs during my MSc degree in Boston, the financial and networking support as a Curci scholar during my PhD at CU Boulder has been an unimaginable gift. Many of the milestones and achievements I have reached in my PhD progress would not have been possible without the extra time I now have, and the resources provided from the Curci program. I also get to meet and share my PhD journey with incredibly bright students from all over the world. I have made wonderful friends I elsewise wouldn’t have gotten to connect with, and I am overall, hugely grateful for the Curci Foundation.  


Hope TownsendHope Townsend

Department: Molecular, Cellular, & Developmental Biology

Home Country: United States

I did my undergraduate studies at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio and obtained a Bachelor of Science in microbiology and minor in bioinformatics. I also had the honor of receiving two national science merit scholarships: the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Astronaut Scholarship. My undergraduate research primarily focused on explaining the transcriptional landscape of light-mediated regulation in human bacterial pathogen Acinetobacter baumannii. After graduating, I wanted to ensure my research continued in being interdisciplinary and therefore most translational to treatment development. Therefore, I joined the Interdisciplinary Quantitative Biology program at CU-Boulder while pursuing a PhD in molecular, cellular, and developmental biology and master’s in computer science. I am currently a graduate student in Dr. Robin Dowell’s and Dr. Mary Allen’s lab integrating multiomics data to identify and annotate functional noncoding genetic variants and their implied regulatory networks explaining Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease risk in response to air pollution.


What does it mean to be a Curci scholar?

I am very grateful to be a part of the family of Curci Scholars. The support of the Curci Foundation program has allowed me to devote time to encourage other students who feel like graduate school and quantitative research are not realistic options. My long-term career goal is to use statistical models to integrate multiomics and demographic data to predict potential drug targets for treatments. I intend to continue supporting the education of both non-scientists and scientists in quantitative biology to encourage scientific collaboration to achieve larger goals.


Josiah PeterJosiah Peter

Department: Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology

Home Country: Nigeria

I was born and raised in Nigeria, where I attended Kaduna State University for undergraduate studies and earned a degree in Biochemistry in 2021. In late 2021 I proceeded to serve my country in Nigeria’s capital Abuja and coincidentally I was selected as an Opportunity Fund Scholar in Education USA program at US embassy Abuja, where they guided me during my graduate school application. In the fall of 2022, I got a graduate school plus Curci Foundation offer in the department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology at CU Boulder. I joined the Niswander Lab where I am studying the Rett Syndrome risk gene MeCP2 and its interaction with RNAs.

What does it mean to be a Curci scholar?

As a student from an underrepresented background, being awarded this scholarship holds immense significance to me. It represents not only the recognition of my academic potential but also the affirmation of my unique experiences and perspective. With an extra 20 hours a week (because I don’t have to be a teaching assistant), this opportunity allows me to pursue my passion for research and contribute to my field of neurodevelopmental science. It serves as a catalyst for breaking down barriers and opening doors for further opportunities. Finally, I see this scholarship as a tangible symbol of support and belief in my abilities, fueling my determination to succeed and inspire others like me.


Sophie BreunigSophie Breunig

Department: Psychology and Neuroscience

Home Country: Germany

I grew up in a small town in Germany where I completed my high school education and later moved to Konstanz in Germany to study psychology at the University of Konstanz. There I worked as a teaching assistant and a research assistant alongside my studies which really helped me shape my interests and develop a passion for research. I wanted to know more about how much of our behavior and especially our psychological health was determined by our biology as opposed to being the product of our environment. Following my undergraduate studies, my interest in how genetic variations translate into differences in behavior and how they manifest in individuals in diverse environments led me to pursue a research Master’s program called “Genes in Behaviour and Health” at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam in the Netherlands. This program has prepared me for a career in research and has given me the theoretical and practical tools to investigate the genetic and environmental influences on psychopathological phenotypes. Currently, I am a second-year PhD student in the Behavioral, Psychiatric, and Statistical Genetics program at CU Boulder where I work in the lab of Dr. Andrew Grotzinger to learn more about the genetic architecture of psychiatric disorders as well as the genetic relationships among them. We hope that learning more about the biological pathways of psychiatric disorders and modifiable environmental effects that influence the expression will ultimately result in better treatment and prevention.

What does it mean to be a Curci scholar?

I feel honored to be a Curci scholar. Being on this scholarship has enabled me to focus on my research in graduate school. Being an international student prevents me from obtaining a lot of other sources of funding that support other students in my program. Because of the Curci fellowship, I am able to focus on my career goals and my research. Beyond the financial aspect, the Curci program, as well as CUs representatives of the Curci fellowship and the other students have made me feel at home here in Colorado from the moment I arrived. It is incredibly valuable to feel this sense of community with other students and have people to turn to who might have gone through the same visa issues, cultural shock, or whatever it is I am going through. The Curci representatives of CU Boulder have made it a point to show us the area and plan fun activities for us, which has helped me adjust to life in a different country and in graduate school.


2023 Curci Scholars Biography


Ana Sofia Leon GonzalezAna Sofia (Sofi) Leon Gonzalez

Department: Molecular, Cellular, & Developmental Biology

Home Country: Mexico City, Mexico

I was born and raised in Mexico City, Mexico. Before joining the Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology graduate program at CU Boulder, I obtained a bachelor degree in Biology from the Boise State University Honors College. As an undergraduate, I researched the effect of inflammatory cytokines on breast cancer progression through the regulation of an autophagy-associated apolipoprotein. After graduating in 2022, I fulfilled two research positions at Boise State. I worked as a research technician studying the genetic bases of Alzheimer’s disease, where I helped develop a transgenic mutant Zebrafish model in which I assessed variations in cardiac output associated with the mutation. I also received an NSF post-baccalaureate fellowship to evaluate mechanisms of toxin tolerance in wild herbivores, where I observed differences in digestion, gut microbial community composition, and chemical signatures of ingested plants. Despite my diverse research background, I aim to expand knowledge on the molecular bases of disease.

What does it mean to be a Curci scholar?

I am grateful to be a Curci scholar and value the Foundation’s contribution to increasing the participation of international students in the life sciences. In the future, I hope to become a professor and primary investigator researching the molecular mechanisms of disease to reveal new targets for treatment development. The support of the Curci Foundation will enable me to complete the first step towards achieving this goal.


Coralie PhanordCoralie Phanord 

Department: Psychology and Neuroscience

Home Country: Port-au-Prince, Haiti

I grew up in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and moved to Long Island, New York, following the 2010 earthquake. In 2016, I graduated from Dartmouth College with a Bachelor of Engineering. After three years as a software engineer in the virtual-reality industry in Los Angeles, I transitioned to the field of neuroscience and psychology. In 2019, I joined the Neural Plasticity and Neurorehabilitation Laboratory (NPNL) at the University of Southern California (USC) to develop virtual-reality neurofeedback-based games for stroke rehabilitation. Subsequently, I joined the Cognitive and Affective Laboratory (CAR Lab) at USC, where I worked with physiological data to study emotion regulation in individuals with a history of depression or suicidal ideation. Currently, I am a graduate student in the Research on Affective Disorders and Development Laboratory (RADD Lab) at CU Boulder. My research focuses on using digital markers and physiological data to explore mood, stress, and emotion regulation.

What does it mean to be a Curci scholar?

Being awarded the Curci PhD Scholarship is highly meaningful to me. Beyond financial support, the Curci PhD Scholarship signifies recognition of my potential to contribute significantly to the field of Psychology and Neuroscience and support towards my research and academic goals. Receiving the Curci PhD Scholarship strengthens my confidence and dedication towards excelling in my research. Further, it alleviates the financial burden of my doctoral studies, enabling me to do my best.


Negar RahimiNegar Rahimi

Department: Integrative Physiology

Home Country:  Iran

I grew up in Iran, Tehran. I did my undergraduate studies in the biomedical (bioelectric) department at the Amirkabir University of Technology (AUT), one of the best universities in Iran, with a scholarship. My bachelor thesis focused on “Designing an anti-saccade detector based on recorded videos by webcam”. I enrolled in AUT for my master's degree in the biomedical engineering department immediately after graduating with my undergraduate degree. I gained precious teaching experiences as a teaching assistant in “Electrical Circuits I” and laboratory instructor of “Instrumentation & Medical Measurement”, “Electronics Lab I”, and “Electrical Circuit Lab I” at AUT. I also worked for about one year in the research and development unit of Salamat Andishan Momtaz Mad Co., a science-based biomedical equipment company. We produced a neuromuscular stimulation device using circuit design techniques and signal processing. Furthermore, I developed my skills in writing and have an article under review entitled “Stabilization of center of mass during eyes-closed walking: uncontrolled manifold hypothesis,” Journal of Biomechanics. My master’s thesis is focused on “Modeling the impact of visual disturbance on walking on the treadmill”. I am currently a Ph.D. student in the Neurophysiology of Movement lab studying under the supervision of Professor Enoka.

What does it mean to be a Curci scholar?

It means a lot to me, especially as an international student. With this scholarship, I can focus only on my studies and goals instead of worrying about my financial problems. It also helped me a lot emotionally, when moving to a new country you need time to adapt, and being a teaching assistant or other tasks will put you under much extra pressure. I believe that with the support from the Curci Foundation, I will be able to accomplish my goal.


Norah NyangauNorah Nyangau

Department: Integrative Physiology

Home Country: Nairobi, Kenya

Growing up in a developing community then immigrating into a new environment brimming with potential and opportunities shaped the researcher I aspire to be. I explored different extracurricular activities in my early life that ignited my passion for movement and rehabilitation. While pursuing my undergraduate Biomedical Engineering degree, I was awarded a 2-year NIH-funded BUILD (Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity) Research Trainee Fellowship which provided hands-on experience that improved my knowledge and skills in technical research, teamwork, time management, communication, and perseverance. This experience exposed me to different focus areas in human movement research and clinical applications in populations with physical disabilities. After graduating, I worked at the Retina Foundation of the Southwest, a nonprofit organization that aims to prevent loss of vision and restore sight through innovative research. In this role, I understood the importance of providing accessible services for improvement in preventive and rehabilitative efforts in under-resourced communities. I am currently a doctoral student in the Sensorimotor Recovery and Neuroplasticity Lab at University of Colorado, Boulder on the Curci Fellowship studying the effects of low oxygen treatments and non-invasive brain stimulation on neural plasticity and motor function in individuals with incomplete spinal cord injuries. In the future, I aim to merge my drive for working with vulnerable communities with my passion for human body movement to succeed as a biomechanics and rehabilitation researcher investigating innovative strategies to improve the quality of life of individuals living with mobility disabilities.

What does it mean to be a Curci scholar?

Receiving a Curci Fellowship has been such a blessing to be supported as I begin my journey in higher education. Being able to focus my efforts into classes and propelling my research is fundamental for establishing a strong foundation for my success in the graduate program. I am grateful that as a first-generation higher education student my needs are recognized and addressed. This support gives me even more motivation to engage in initiatives that provide resources to underrepresented communities in research and academic spaces.


Oscar CordovaOscar Cordova

Department: Molecular, Cellular, & Developmental Biology

Home Country: Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

I was born in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. My family and I immigrated to San Diego, CA at a young age. I received my associates degree at Palomar College in San Diego County and transferred to California State University San Marcos where I received by bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry in 2019. During my undergraduate studies, I became fascinated about scientific research when I began working alongside my mentor, Dr. Karno Ng, to develop analytical chemistry tools to analyze antibiotic contaminants in cow milk samples.

After graduating, I worked as an analytical chemist for a contract research organization where I analyzed samples through mass spectrometry methods. Later, I joined Proteogenomics Research Institute for Systems Medicine (PRISM), a research institute focused on developing novel therapeutics. As a research associate, I characterized and purified antibodies under the supervision of my mentor Dr. Mike Levin. At PRISM, I learned that many biological processes are still not well characterized or understood, and it magnified my curiosity to continue doing research in biological characterization. I found that to really learn how to conduct my own research, I needed to receive training through a PhD or doctoral program. I applied to the MCDB PhD program at CU Boulder because I was interested in their research and the learning environment. I chose the MCDB program, because I really enjoyed meeting my potential mentors during my interview process. Currently, my goals during my PhD program are to find a good mentor who will guide me to become a good scientist and to become a good mentor myself so that I can inspire future generations of underserved people in the academic sciences.

What does it mean to be a Curci Scholar?

Personally, being a Curci Scholar is having an opportunity and a platform to contribute and make a difference in making scientific research more accessible for all students regardless of their background, race, nationality, and socioeconomic status. It also means having the core understanding of the challenges faced by underserved groups. It is finding growth and wisdom in overcoming those challenges that will serve as values to become a mentor. I am grateful for this opportunity because as a non-traditional student, I needed to work multiple jobs to finance my schooling. As a Curci Scholar, I now have the opportunity to solely focus on research and learning.


Sen WangSen Wang

Department:  Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology

Home Country: HeGang, China

My hometown is a small city in northeast China. I graduated from Shanghai Ocean University with a bachelor’s degree in Aquaculture. And then I was recommended to Shanghai Tech University to pursue a Master study in developmental biology. My Master’s project was to study the mechanism that calcineurin-kcnk5b signals regulate zebrafish caudal fin size. After graduation, I moved to America last year. Before I joined the graduate program at the University of Colorado Boulder. I volunteer in Michael Stowell’s lab to learn protein purification and cryo-EM. Now I am a first-year graduate student on lab rotation trail.

What does it mean to be a Curci scholar?

I was encouraged by being awarded a Curci Scholarship. As an international student, I just moved to a new Country and met with culture shock and a different language. With the Curci Foundation's support, I have enough time to adapt to the new environment and focus on studying and research.