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Announcing the 2022 AJ Drexel Autism Institute Summer Scholars

Posted on June 10, 2022

The A.J. Drexel Autism Institute Summer Scholars Program aims to provide talented undergraduate students from diverse ethnic, cultural, socio-economic, and neurodiverse backgrounds with the opportunity to immerse in rich and innovative mentored research experiences in autism with a focus on public health community impact. After a successful inaugural year in 2021, we’re excited to begin our second year with Summer Scholars. This year’s program is sponsored by Quadrant Biosciences, a molecular diagnostics company with a focus on the early detection of neurological disorders and other large-scale health issues. 

Our scholars this year are Nate Medina, who will be working with Dr. Diana Schendel in the Modifiable Risk Factors Research Program, as well as Dr. Andrea Wiekcowski in the Early Detection and Intervention Research Program, and Melissa Rivera, who will be working primarily with Dr. Elizabeth McGhee Hassrick and the SoDI Lab in the Life Course Outcomes Research Program. Both scholars will also be getting some clinical exposure and experience with Dr. Elisabeth Sheridan and the Clinical Core. 

Nate Medina is going into the second year of his BS in Premedical Studies at Thomas Jefferson University in East Falls, where he serves as the secretary of the Jefferson East Falls Queer Student Union. His long-term goal is to become an emergency medicine physician, “because of its opportunities to be involved in public health and research.” Nate’s interest in public health and research has led him to considering pursuing an MPH. He hopes his experience at the Institute will help him learn more about how research is conducted, to develop research skills, and to help him understand more about the type of research he’d like to pursue in the future. In his free time, he likes reading, creative writing, collecting vinyl, and exploring what Philadelphia has to offer. 

Melissa Rivera is a 3rd-year student at Thomas Jefferson University studying Biopsychology. Melissa’s path hasn’t been a traditional one – after growing up in North Philly and becoming a young parent to two children on the autism spectrum, she spent over a decade as a community organizer and a social service advocate before pursuing her degree with the goal of becoming a clinical health psychologist. “I now seek a more formal understanding of improving organizations' cooperation and the communities they serve, bridging community gaps effectively and sustainably. Our society tends to compartmentalize our needs and the services rendered; however, I want to be a part of a program that takes on a holistic approach.”