John Wiley Jones Outstanding Students in Science


Karla Hatfield

Karla Hatfield

Karla Hatfield is an outstanding fourth-year student in Imaging Science for whom the learning experience goes well beyond getting good grades. That is a quality that motivates any instructor.


Karla’s work ethic is outstanding. She is a very efficient worker regardless of the task. Since her first year in the program she’s been working through the academic year as an office aid and each summer she has joined a different research group. This experience has prepared her well to work with others, either as a team member or assuming a leadership role. She is currently the president of the student chapter of the Imaging Science and Technology Society.


Karla’s senior project investigated the use of high-frequency ultrasound to image and characterize bioflims formed by bacteria. The focus is on non-typeable Haemophilus influenzae, NTHi, harvested from the middle ear fluid of a case of acute otitis media (AOM). Biofilms grown in vitro on coverslips and rubber substrates are interrogated with high-frequency ultrasound to determine the feasibility of detecting and characterizing parameters such as biofilm thickness, viscosity, density, macrostructure and microstructure. These parameters are needed to understand image properties and design an efficient non-invasive protocol to identify, map the progression over time, and differentiate between single-species and multiple-species biofilms. Her work was part of a research collaboration between the Biomedical and Materials Multimodal Imaging Laboratory in the Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science and the Rochester General Research Institute.


Karla presented her work at the Undergraduate Summer Research Symposium in August 2010, the student chapter of the Imaging Science and Technology Society in September 2010, and the RIT-RGHS Alliance Research Reception and Poster Session on March 2011. She is currently working on a manuscript to be submitted to the Journal of Microbiological Methods in the spring of 2011.


We, the faculty, would love to see Karla stay and continue her graduate education at the Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science, unfortunately (for us) she has been admitted to the PhD program in Biomedical Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis, where she is also a recipient of the Olin Fellowship. We wish her all the best.

Mohammed Mostajo Radji

Mohammed is a 4th year student in our Biotechnology program who has not only excelled academically at RIT but his interest in science has been fostered by some remarkable experiences both within and outside of RIT.  Last year he published an abstract in the Biophysical Journal that resulted from research he conducted through the RIT-U of R Summer Undergraduate Research Exchange Program.  That same work was presented in the form of a poster at the annual meeting of the Biophysical Society in San Francisco.  Last summer he earned an opportunity to pursue research at the University of California in San Diego in the Department of Pharmacology, a department that has produced more than one Nobel Prize winner.


At RIT Mo is a participant in the Research Scholar Program and has worked with Dr. Dina Newman studying the gene which encodes pyrroline 5-carboxylate sythetase, a gene implicated in late onset hearing loss or presbycusis.  Among his many accomplishments Mo was recognized with a merit award by his native country Bolivia for his academic success in the biological sciences.  He is the youngest person ever to receive that award.


Next year Mo plans to continue his education in order to earn a Ph.D.  He has been accepted to Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Duke among other preeminent universities.  Duke has offered him a prestigious scholarship in addition to their normal stipend but Mo has decided to attend Harvard.  When asked why he made that decision his reply was “because it is Harvard”.  Clearly his insightfulness extends beyond the biological sciences.

Sebastian Rameriez

Sebastian Ramirez is a 4th year Biochemistry major from Horseheads NY. He has been involved in undergraduate research since his freshman year, first studying eye crystallin proteins with applications to better understanding and treating cataracts, with Dr. George Thurston. Since his sophomore year, he has been conducting research in the laboratory of Dr. Suzanne O’Handley, working toward the structural determination of several enzymes: YZGD pyridoxal phosphatase has a human homolog and may be involved in vitamin B6 metabolism, and two  phosphoglycolate phosphatases, one from S. aureus and the other from baker’s yeast. The enzyme from S. aureus is a virulence factor and may be a potential novel antibiotic target. Sebastian has presented his work at three national meetings (American Chemical Society (ACS), American Society for Microbiology (ASM), and the American Society of  Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB)), for which he won travel awards, and several regional and RIT undergraduate symposia.

Not only has Sebastian carried out his research during the academic years, but also as an ASM summer research fellow and a McNair Scholar. His research along with a 3.94 GPA has also garnered him a highly competitive national Goldwater Scholarship. Sebastian’s list of accolades is long: the RIT honors program; the RIT Outstanding Scholar Award; Nathanial Rochester, Frederick Douglass, Randall Andrews, Ibero/Pryd, and Presidential Scholarships; Chemistry department First Year, Second Year, and Biochemistry Awards; the Henry and Mary Kearse Student Honor Award; and most recently, election into the ASBMB Honor Society ΧΩΛ. Sebastian’s outreach includes: teaching science to 5th graders as well as at the RMSC through the RIT ASBMB student affiliates, and tutoring and mentoring through the NSF Enrichment Program. To maintain a healthy balance to his life, Sebastian has completed a minor in Philosophy and is the president of the RIT Zen Club. Upon graduation, Sebastian will enter a PhD program in Biochemistry, most likely at Johns Hopkins University.

Matthew Wahila

Matthew J. Wahila, a fourth-year student in the RIT Department of Physics, is from Endwell, NY.  He has a 3.57 GPA, and his studies include a Minor in Computer Science and a Minor in Japanese Language and Culture.  Matt participates in the RIT Honors Program and is a member of the Society of Physics Students.  He is also a recipient of an RIT Presidential Scholarship.



Prior to his freshman year, Matt participated in the RIT Summer Science Research Scholar’s Program, working with Dr. George Thurston in the Physics Department on measuring the intermolecular attractions involved in the formation of cataracts in the lens of the eye.  In 2010, he was a coauthor with Dr. KSV Santhanam in the Department of Chemistry on a publication entitled A Laboratory Experiment with PEMFC Oriented Towards Evaluation of the Fuel Cell for Failure Analysis in Automobiles.  His superb Physics Senior Capstone Project on Magnetic Measurements and Investigation of Novel Heusler Alloys under the supervision of Dr. Linda Barton makes Matt eligible for designation as a Distinguished Research Scholar in the Department of Physics.



Matt has served as a teaching assistant for University Physics and is a resident advisor for Residence Life.  He has contributed significantly to the RIT Honors Program as a Peer Mentor and Orientation Mentor, and Matt is the chairperson of the RIT Honors Program Steering Committee.  He has presented on global warming science for the Imagine RIT Festival and has participated in Habitat for Humanity.



Following graduation from RIT, Matt will be attending graduate school at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where he will be working toward his Ph.D. in Physics.

Thomas Ward

Tom Ward is finishing his third year as an Applied Mathematics major in the School of Mathematical Sciences. Tom came to RIT from Des Moines, Iowa, which already puts him in rare company! High as it is, Tom’s gpa is one of the least remarkable facts about him. A wonderful student, Tom sought out the most difficult material as early as he could. By the winter quarter of his first year Tom's interest in using mathematics to model and understand biological systems was already emerging. That early independent study course was just the start of Tom's exploration of the ways mathematics and biology inform one another. As with many fine students, Tom is strong in more than one discipline. He excels in computer science, and has sought to gain insight into artificial intelligence, and intelligence systems that are inspired by biological systems.

A talented trumpet player, Tom has found time while at RIT to express and share his love of music, and his school spirit, as a member of both the concert band and the jazz ensemble.

Apart from all he has achieved academically, Tom is notable for what he has contributed to the life of the School of Mathematical Sciences during his time here. Tom is a consultant for work that comes into our Center for Applied and Computational Mathematics. He has, for two years, been president of piRIT, our mathematics and statistics club. In fact the prosperity and the many worthwhile activities of the club are almost wholly due to Tom's fine leadership. More than at any time in memory, the club has achieved a good balance between academic and social activities. Finally, Tom is a highly regarded tutor in the Bates center. Tom's generosity, ideas, and willingness to work add much to what his fellow students will take away from their experience at RIT.