OppNet SSRP Staff

When it became clear that COVID-19 would prevent 11th and 12th grade OppNet Fellows from interning in laboratories or hospitals during the summer of 2020, OppNet Career Success Team staff members Gabriel Reyes, Omar Naimi, and Stephanie Nudelman collaborated to conceptualize the OppNet Summer Science Research Program: a six-week virtual research intensive for OppNet Fellows entering their first year in college or senior year in high school. 

With the framework of the program in place, Stephanie and Omar then hired four OppNet College Fellows to be the SSRP Curriculum, Facilitation, and Operations Team: Belissa Baez, Denise Navarrete, Imane Cherif El Farissy, and Sultana Bhuiyan. With their passion for science and research experience in a diversified set of fields, the SSRP Curriculum, Facilitation, and Operations Team collaborated to create, manage, and facilitate all of the content for OppNet SSRP, including:

  • Interactive Core Classes in Solidifying a Research Question, Using Research Databases, Networking with STEM Professionals, Peer Review and Feedback, and Presenting Your Research

  • Discussion-based Journal Clubs for SSRP Fellows to hone their skills in scientific reading and discourse

  • Student-Centered Weekly Lab Meetings and Office Hours, in which Belissa, Denise, Imane, and Sultana supported a consistent group of SSRP Fellows with developing the core scientific research skills necessary to complete the five main OppNet SSRP Assignments: the Research Question, Research Log, Research Statement, Peer Review, and Research Project

  • Administrative systems to track and follow up with SSRP Fellows regarding program logistics including but not limited to attendance, assignment completion, Zoom support, and Google Calendar troubleshooting

Throughout their eight-week tenure with OppNet SSRP, Belissa, Denise, Imane, and Sultana engaged in weekly Class Prep Meetings and Pedagogy Workshop, strengthening their science research mentorship skills with guidance from Omar, and their curriculum, facilitation, and operations skills with guidance from Stephanie.

Belissa Baez

Front End Developer and Interdisciplinary Science Research Educator

Belissa is currently a senior at Union College. She will obtain a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree in Computer Science with a minor in Astronomy in 2021. At Union, she is part of the AOP/HEOP Program and is also a residential advisor (RA). Belissa enjoys spending time listening to music, watching anime, exercising, and cooking Dominican food because she loves to eat! She was also a Senior Consultant at her college’s Language Center where she hosted events to spread exposure to her campus about different cultures and their languages. Belissa’s past research experience includes NASA L’Space Academy where she helped co-create a PDR on landing a rover to Mars. In addition to this, she has done research with other peers to interpret data from TESS, by confirming or rejecting exoplanets candidates. For the summer of 2020, Belissa participated in The Opportunity Network’s Summer Science Research Program where she mentored current high school students, in Astronomy and other sciences, by helping them gain research skills for scientific research opportunities at college and beyond. Furthermore, Belissa used her Computer Science background by becoming the front end developer for SSRP. She designed and created this website so that the students had a place to host and showcase their final projects for future research employers to view the student’s work.

Sultana Bhuiyan

Neuroscience Research Educator and Event Coordinator

Sultana attends Brandeis University (Class of 2021) as a Posse Scholar and she is pursuing her Bachelor of Science in Biology with a minor in Islamic Middle Eastern Studies while on the premed track. Sultana is very passionate about the medical field, access to healthcare and teaching. When she is not in class or studying, she facilitates meaningful conversations on spirituality and Islamic beliefs with the Muslim Student Association or she is holding office hours for her Biolab students. Sultana loves spending time with her friends who are also driven in STEM, she believes that science is a field of collaboration rather than competition. This summer (2020), she worked with The Opportunity Network and the Summer Science Research Team to cultivate and contribute to this program which allows rising high school seniors and college freshmen to pursue their future passions in STEM. As the Event Coordinator of SSRP, Sultana managed external communications and logistics of a Networking Event with SSRP Fellows and STEM Professionals. 

Imane Cherif El Farissy

Health Equity and Promotion Science Research Educator

Imane is a rising junior Posse Scholar at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. She is a candidate for a Bachelor of Science in Health Promotion and Health Equity with Minors in Global Health and Public Policy. Through her studies, Imane is interested in studying and investigating healthcare inequalities and inequities in the Global South. On-campus, Imane is an Undergraduate Research Assistant at The Hull Lab where she studies genetic mutations in Cryptococcus Neoformans to determine which genes are essential for spore germination. Through SSRP this summer, Imane focused on creating curriculum and facilitating learning sessions for fellows. Additionally, she focused on making STEM spaces and the idea of pursuing STEM less intimidating through a positive and collaborative learning environment with fellows.

Denise Navarrete

Social and Public Health Science Research Educator 

Denise is a rising junior at the University of Rochester as a candidate for a Health, Behavior, and Society Major and a Minor in Political Science. She focuses on understanding health inequalities and social determinants of health in her studies. In addition, she was the Senior Peer Health Advocate where she created a health-focused curriculum and facilitated it across campus. Her main focus was to create a curriculum for students of color and expand the outreach of the office to BIPOC/POC students. Lastly, she is a part of Sigma Psi Zeta Sorority, Inc and the President of the Multicultural Greek Council where she represents 12 MGC organizations. Denise worked this summer as a Public Health Science Researcher for the Summer Science Research Program at the Opportunity Network. She focused on creating curriculum and facilitating for Fellows in the program.

Omar Naimi

Guest Instructor

With a B.S. in Biochemistry and Mathematics from Stony Brook University. Omar comes to SSRP with a background in research and education in chemical biology. From synthesizing new antibiotics to training new STEM educators, he sought to improve the representation and retention of underrepresented populations in STEM research fields. He is passionate about culturally relevant pedagogy and incorporating nontraditional topics into the curriculum like hip hop artistry, soccer, and stand-up comedy. In the future, Omar hopes to become a biochemistry professor and further blend disciplines in his work.

Stephanie Nudelman

Program Director

Throughout the summer of 2020, Stephanie supported the OppNet SSRP Staff with activating their science research knowledge to create and facilitate student-centered curriculum and programming, while developing their own skills in teaching and mentorship. In addition to serving as OppNet SSRP Program Director, Stephanie works with The Opportunity Network as the Senior Program Coordinator of Internships and Career Success, leveraging her data science skills to ensure 320 high school Fellows secure summer internships and enrichment opportunities aligned with their career goals. Prior to joining The Opportunity Network, Stephanie worked with Breaker, planning and facilitating social entrepreneurship workshops for students and teachers. Stephanie graduated from Illinois Wesleyan University with a B.A. in Secondary English Education and began her career as a high school English teacher in Chicago Public Schools.

Oreo (SSRP Mascot)

Official Science Research Pup

Oreo is a lazy and happy dog that loves to say hi to people! He is always willing to be a friend and is happy to be a part of the SSRP Team by providing love and happiness! 


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