The Martinez Lab

Julius Towers

Graduate student at Harvard Medical School

Julius is currently a Masters in Science candidate in Bioethics, concentrating on Neuroscience and Research Ethics, at Harvard Medical School. He previously earned an MPH at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health in General Public Health with concentrations in Environmental Health Sciences and Epidemiology. Prior to Columbia, Julius practiced intellectual property and corporate law in New York City in the biotech, healthcare, and consumer products industries, after earning his law degree at Penn Law. Julius is interested in the intersection of law, medical research, public health, and bioethics in interrogating and addressing persistent socioeconomic inequality, institutional racism, and systemic prejudice, particularly as it relates to minoritized and vulnerable communities. He is especially interested in the intersection of disability and race, and his current work focuses on autism spectrum disorders and other developmental disorders. Dr. Martinez is Julius’ Harvard Medical School capstone project advisor for the 2022-23 academic year and previously taught and mentored Julius at Columbia.  

Dee Jordan

Postdoc at Emory University

Dr. Demetrice “Dee” Jordan is a Dean’s Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Department of
Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School. She holds a dual doctorate in
Geography and Environmental Science and Policy from Michigan State University (MSU). Dee is
completing a postdoctoral Master of Public Health at Harvard Chan School of Public Health in
the Global Health Infectious Diseases. Her research focuses on the spatial-ecological
determinants of disease risk for emerging infectious diseases, Neglected Tropical Diseases of
sub-Saharan Africa, health equity, social and environmental justice. Dr. Jordan is a
councilmember of the American Geographical Society and the recipient of numerous awards
including the Burroughs Wellcome Fund Postdoctoral Diversity Enrichment Program Fellowship,
the NIH Loan Repayment Program award for health disparities research from the National
Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease. Dee is the founder of the Advancing Geography
Through Diversity Program (AGTDP) at MSU, a cohort-based recruitment and retention program
which seeks to address the persistent underrepresentation of African Americans, Latinx
Americans, and Native Americans in US geography doctoral programs and provides fully funded
graduate education opportunities.

Julianna Christman

Research Specialist

Julianna received her BS in biology from Emory University. She joined the Martinez lab in August of 2022 and has been researching the efficacy of measles vaccine schedules and how changes to recommended schedules might be implemented in a post-COVID-19 public health landscape. Julianna plans to pursue a MSPH in biostatistics and continue to explore how public health data can shape policy and health outcomes.

Grace Ward

Undergraduate at Emory University

Grace is a sophomore at Emory majoring in Biology and Anthropology with Human Biology. Starting in Fall 2021, Grace worked with Dr. Martinez to compile literature and data regarding maternal health and health disparities in New York City for Dr. Martinez’s involvement in Mayor Eric Adams’ Social Justice Citizen’s Commission. Since the completion of this report, Grace has been using R to digitize and analyze data to explore the impacts of race and poverty on infant mortality rate in United States regions. Grace plans to pursue a PhD after she graduates with the ultimate goal of a career in biomedical research focusing on endocrinology.

Danielle Mangabat

Undergraduate at Emory University

Danielle is a junior studying Human Biology and Anthropology. She began working with Dr. Martinez in Fall 2022 to conduct interdisciplinary research on food justice for the Report on Social Justice Recommendations for Mayor-Elect Eric Adams (December 2021). Danielle continues to work with Dr. Martinez to analyze and visualize racial health disparities on the local, state, and national levels. She hopes to pursue a joint JD/MPH degree after graduation.

Charlie Decker

Undergraduate at Emory University

Charlie is majoring in biology and Spanish and has been studying hormonal rhythmicity with Dr. Martinez since September 2021. This work has included literature review and writing, data scrubbing, and various types of mathematical modeling of sex hormones, cortisol, and melatonin. Charlie is currently on the pre-dental track.

Former Members

Jacqueline Leung

Postdoc at Columbia University

Jacqueline earned her PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University. Her research focused on the ecology and immunology of infectious and inflammatory diseases. She has a particular interest in understanding within-host immune processes and how they contribute to heterogeneity in disease susceptibility. As a postdoc in the Martinez Lab, Jacqueline characterized seasonal and circadian rhythms in the human immune system to determine whether functional changes in immune responses occur throughout the year that may impact susceptibility to disease.

Tigidankay (TK) Saccoh

Undergraduate at Columbia University

Tigidankay was a junior majoring in psychology and concentrating in public health. She worked in the Martinez Lab since the Spring 2019 semester. Using the R program and existing scientific literature, she worked on a paper that explores the best measles vaccination schedules for children. She hopes to study how maternal immunity is implicated in the development of the infant immune system. TK is especially interested in reproductive justice and improving health outcomes for mothers and infants in the developing world. She plans to pursue a joint JD/MPH degree after she graduates and ultimately hopes to improve reproductive health for women in Sierra Leone, where she was born.

Salwa Najmi

Undergraduate at Macaulay Honors College at Hunter

Salwa was a Junior majoring in Arabic Language and Culture. Starting in the summer of 2020, she worked with Dr. Martinez on digitizing and analyzing data from the NYC Department of Health on the disparities of the COVID-19 public health crisis. As an aspiring physician, she hopes to combine her interests in science with her passion for patient advocacy in her research projects. She was accepted into the FlexMed program and thereby will be attending the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai following her undergraduate studies.

Dennis Khodasevich

Graduate Student at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health

Dennis earned his Master of Public Health in Environmental Health Sciences at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. His research interests revolved around working with complex datasets to improve understanding of environmental exposures and improve population health. Dennis worked with Dr. Martinez to characterize seasonal variation in daily light exposure among residents of the New York City area, and identify associations between differential exposure to light at night and circadian biology.

Emma Gorin

PhD Student at Columbia University

Emma was a PhD student in Environmental Health Sciences at Columbia. Before starting at Columbia, she completed her MSPH in Global Disease Epidemiology and Control at Johns Hopkins University in 2019, where her research included investigating sanitation availability in northern India and mobility among female sex workers in Guinea-Bissau. Prior to her master’s program, she worked in health education, clinical research, and international non-profit settings. Emma worked with Dr. Martinez on using traffic data to model population mobility at the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak in NYC.

Susan Tsui 

Graduate Student at Columbia University

Susan was a Master of Public Health candidate in Epidemiology at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. Her interests lie in social epidemiology and health equity. Susan worked with Dr. Martinez to study the impact of light pollution on circadian rhythms in residents of Northern Manhattan and the Bronx. She earned a B.A. in biology from Boston University where she also conducted undergraduate research on mycorrhizal fungi. Prior to working with Dr. Martinez, she completed a year of service with AmeriCorps in East Harlem, New York City.

Jesús Cantu

Manager and Research Associate

Jesús Cantu received his BA in Sociology from Princeton University. He is interested in the transmission dynamics and control of infectious diseases, as well as the implementation of cutting-edge epidemiological/statistical modeling in the analysis of big data for use in population health management. His previous research has focused on measuring the impact of migration on varicella (i.e., chickenpox) transmission along the U.S.-Mexico border and analyzing the relationship between changing infant vaccination and breastfeeding rates and the incidence of flu-related hospitalizations among children in the United States. He worked on building a dynamic transmission model to estimate the efficacy of the varicella vaccine.

Darwin Keung

Graduate Student at Columbia University

Darwin was a Master of Public Health candidate in Environmental Health Sciences at Columbia. He previously studied C. elegans innate immunity and murine blood stem cell differentiation while completing his bachelor’s thesis at Haverford College. Darwin is interested in environmental health challenges that arise from modernization and urbanization. He investigated the effects of light pollution and artificial lighting on circadian rhythms.

Aria Alexander

Postbacc at University of Rochester

Aria was a member of the Martinez Lab for three years. Her primary research was focused on maternal immunity and early vaccination against measles. In 2018, she defended her thesis “Reassessing the Measles and Rubella Vaccination Schedule” and received her BS in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton. Aria also worked on polio vaccine efficacy and contributed to forthcoming work on OPV efficacy.

Daniel Navarette

Undergraduate at Princeton University

Daniel worked with Dr. Martinez for four years, conducting research on rubella serology and circadian biology. His thesis was on the within host dynamics of African Sleeping Sickness and the relationship between circadian rhythms in the host and parasite dynamics.

Busola Alabi

Undergraduate at the University of Michigan

Busola worked with Dr. Martinez at the University of Michigan studying polio outbreaks. She is now a Biomedical engineering Ph.D. candidate at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, working on creating ex-vivo 3D models to study colorectal cancer. Busola “hopes to be part of the next generation of scientific researchers that are helping to bridge the gap between science and engineering in order to find more effective solutions to diseases. Outside of academic work, I like taking long walks, dancing salsa and trying out new cooking recipes.”

Emilia Iglesias

Undergraduate at the University of Michigan

Emilia worked with Dr. Martinez as an undergraduate summer research student at the University of Michigan. She is now a graduate student at Wayne State University studying Biomedical Instrumentation. Emi has “an aspiration to work with underserved populations. After working on the seasonality of Alzheimer’s disease with Micaela Martinez, I was fortunate enough to experience conducting research abroad thanks to her strong recommendation.”

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