• Grand Challenges Initiative fellow working with Chapman students
Grand Challenges Initiative

Our People

» Meet the GCI Team

photo of Dr. Gregory  Goldsmith

Dr. Gregory Goldsmith

Director of the Grand Challenges Initiative
Dr. Goldsmith is an assistant professor of biological sciences and the first director of the Grand Challenges Initiative. Goldsmith is a plant physiological ecologist who studies the flow of water and carbon through forest ecosystems. Goldsmith has a longstanding interest in researching formal and informal science education. He is a member of education section of the Ecological Society of America, a founding member of the education section of the American Geophysical Union and a former director of the non-profit science education organization Ecology Project International. Goldsmith is a National Geographic Explorer and an early career fellow of the Ecological Society of America.
photo of Dr. Tom Piechota

Dr. Tom Piechota

Assistant Director of Grand Challenges Initiative
Dr. Piechota’s research interests center around the investigation of climate impacts on regional water resources and society using high resolution climate data/information, forecasting of water supply under changing climate conditions, drought and flood impacts in urban stormwater in urban environments, use of remote sensing data and geographic information systems for improved evaluation of hydrology and water systems.
photo of Dr. Joshua Fisher

Dr. Joshua Fisher

Presidential Fellow
Dr. Fisher is the Presidential Fellow of Ecosystem Science focusing on terrestrial ecosystems, water, carbon, and nutrient cycling using a combination of supercomputer models, remote sensing, and field campaigns from the Amazon to the Arctic. Dr. Fisher completed his undergraduate and graduate degrees from UC Berkeley, and postdoctoral work from the University of Oxford. Dr. Fisher was at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) for over a decade, where he was the Science Lead of the ECOSTRESS mission. Dr. Fisher is currently the Science Lead for Hydrosat, a space company focused on plant water/use stress. Dr. Fisher has been named one of the world’s “most influential” researchers, in the top 0.1% of scientists with papers in the top 1% by citations for the past 3 years in a row.
photo of Dr. Cassandra Donatelli

Dr. Cassandra Donatelli

Dr. Donatelli’s research focuses on biomechanics and bioinspired design using fishes as a model group. Specific projects include investigating the multi-functional role of armor in fishes, such as protection, performance, and hydrodynamics, locomotion in elongate fishes, and bio-inspired devices such as protective equipment and robots.
photo of Rebecca Green, M.S.

Rebecca Green, M.S.

Operations Administrator
Ms. Green manages the logistics for the Grand Challenges Initiative, supporting student and faculty success. She holds a master of science in educational research, evaluation, and assessment from Northern Illinois University. Her research interests include neurodiversity in education, as well as equity and inclusion issues at large.

Current Fellows

Every Grand Challenges Initiative team is mentored by a Postdoctoral Fellow. Our fellows are world-class early-career teacher-scholars. They come from diverse research backgrounds, ranging from cancer genetics to atmospheric chemistry. 

What the Fellows all have in common is a desire to share their passion for science and engineering with students. GCI student teams are assigned a fellow at the beginning of each semester.

photo of Dr. Miranda Aiken

Dr. Miranda Aiken

Dr. Aiken is a biogeochemist researching the release of toxic, naturally-occurring soil metals into our groundwater. Her work is highly-interdisciplinary and investigates metal release from individual soil aggregates, all the way up to entire groundwater basins. The goal of her work is to understand the mineral, chemical, and biological controls of metal release and how human activity may impact water quality in the long-term. Ask her about manganese (a personal favorite), chromium, or arsenic! Dr. Aiken holds a Ph.D. from University of California, Riverside.
photo of Dr. Hector Camarillo Abad

Dr. Hector Camarillo Abad

Dr. Camarillo Abad’s research focuses on new interactions aimed at improving human activities. The interaction occurs between users and intelligent systems through wearable devices. During his Ph.D. he developed haptic-based interactions for dance-related applications. His specific interests include human-computer interaction, wearables, ubiquitous and assistive technology, sensing devices, nonverbal communication through technology, motor skills, and sensor-based classification. He holds a Ph.D. in Intelligent Systems from Universidad de las Américas Puebla in Mexico.
photo of Dr. Kamal Diki

Dr. Kamal Diki

Dr. Diki obtained his Ph.D. in Mathematical Models and Methods in Engineering from Politecnico di Milano where he was a Marie Sklodowska-Curie fellow of the Istituto Nazionale di Alta Matematica (INdAM). His research interest is in (hyper)-complex analysis and operator theory with potential applications in quantum mechanics and time-frequency analysis. Recently, Dr. Diki started exploring new research directions in theoretical machine learning (ML), with particular interest in neural networks (NN) and support vector machines (SVMs). His research in this area consists of investigating new algorithms for NN and developing further properties of some RBF kernels used in SVMs.
photo of Dr. Desiree Forsythe

Dr. Desiree Forsythe

Dr. Forsythe (she/her) has a background in both the biological sciences and education. She is a STEM education researcher and focuses on how to disrupt oppressions in the sciences through the use of critical, feminist, and queer theorizations. Dr. Forsythe has several lines of research including how those with privileged identities in STEM work at incorporating social justice into pedagogical and professional practice and how STEM students with marginalized identities experience and navigate STEM environments (such as classrooms, advising, office hours, etc.). She holds a Ph.D. from the University of Rhode Island.
photo of Dr. Daniel Gardner

Dr. Daniel Gardner

Dr. Gardner is an interdisciplinary scholar, with a background in informatics, human-computer interaction, information sciences and security, social science, and media studies. He studies how the cultural values and systems of authority that manifest in the design of digital games and media can influence or inhibit our experiences. Specifically, his work has looked at how authentication interfaces, physical interfaces, and virtual avatar/character creation systems can govern access to digital games, media, and other domains. His research helps better illustrate the values and structures of power underlying everyday digital technologies. Dr. Gardner holds a Ph.D. in Informatics from University of California, Irvine.
photo of Dr. Nana Baah Pepra-Ameyaw

Dr. Nana Baah Pepra-Ameyaw

Dr. Pepra-Ameyaw is a food scientist, with a background in chemistry. His research involves studying the interactions between polyphenol compounds and major food components like carbohydrates and proteins. These interactions have applications in the development of novel food products and processes. He holds a Ph.D. in Food Science from Michigan State University.
photo of Dr. Indrajit Sen

Dr. Indrajit Sen

Dr. Sen is a theoretical physicist who works in the foundations of quantum mechanics. His doctoral research focused on the question whether there exist alternatives to quantum nonlocality in a single-universe framework. His research interests include hidden-variable models that circumvent Bell's theorem, the relationship between quantum mechanics and the theory of relativity, and experimental and theoretical methods to differentiate various classes of hidden-variable models. He holds a Ph.D. in physics from Clemson University.
photo of Dr. Mario Stipcic

Dr. Mario Stipcic

Dr. Stipčić is a mathematician whose research includes topics in harmonic analysis and its applications in other branches of mathematics. His specific topics of interest are a theory of multilinear singular integrals with applications to ergodic theory, stochastic integration, arithmetic combinatorics, and general applications of real analysis to various linear, multilinear and nonlinear problems. Dr. Stipčić holds a Ph.D. from the University of Zagreb in Croatia.

Previous Fellows

photo of Dr. Carter Berry

Dr. Carter Berry

Current Position: Research Assistant Professor, Wake Forest University
GCI Fellow 2017-2020
photo of Dr. Robert  de Bruijn

Dr. Robert de Bruijn

Current Position: Lecturer, Biology, Tufts University
GCI Fellow 2018-2020
photo of Dr. Cristhiano  Duarte Silva

Dr. Cristhiano Duarte Silva

Current Position: Postdoctoral Research Associate, Leeds University
GCI Fellow 2018-2020
photo of Dr. José Raúl  González Alonso

Dr. José Raúl González Alonso

Current Position: Data Science Manager at Neustar, Inc.
GCI Fellow 2017-2019
photo of Dr. Brenna Gormally

Dr. Brenna Gormally

Current Position: Associate Director of Project Based Learning, Seventh College, University of California, San Diego
GCI Fellow 2020 - 2021
photo of Dr. Aaron Harrison

Dr. Aaron Harrison

Current Position: Assistant Professor of Chemistry, Austin College
GCI Fellow 2018-2021
photo of Dr. Brian Hoover

Dr. Brian Hoover

Current Position: Principle Investigator, Farallon Institute
GCI Fellow 2019-2022
photo of Dr. Charlene McCord

Dr. Charlene McCord

Current Position: Assistant Professor of Marine Biology, California State University, Dominguez Hills
GCI Fellow 2017-2019
photo of Dr. Crystal  Ng

Dr. Crystal Ng

Current Position: Visiting Assistant Professor, Sarah Lawrence College
GCI Fellow 2019-2020
photo of Dr. Kenjiro Quides

Dr. Kenjiro Quides

Current Position: Assistant Professor of Teaching, Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, University of California, Davis
GCI Fellow 2019-2022
photo of Dr. Anne Sonnenschein

Dr. Anne Sonnenschein

Current Position: Senior Bioinformatics Scientist, Tempus Labs
GCI Fellow 2017-2019
photo of Dr. Zachary Thammavongsy

Dr. Zachary Thammavongsy

Current Position: Instructor of Chemistry, Schmid College of Science and Technology, Chapman University
GCI Fellow 2019-2022
photo of Dr. Shana Welles

Dr. Shana Welles

Current Position: Academic Coordinator, University of California, Riverside
GCI Fellow 2017-2020
photo of Dr. Bingjie Zhang

Dr. Bingjie Zhang

Current Position: Postdoctoral Chemist, Behr Paint Company
GCI Fellow 2019-2022

Interested in Becoming a Fellow?

Our fellows are passionate about inspiring and empowering the next generation of science and engineering students. They strive to learn new teaching methods and work hard to produce world-class research. 

Fellows teach exclusively in the GCI program and collaborate on research with a faculty mentor from the Schmid College of Science and Technology or the Fowler School of Engineering. Fellows have access to work spaces, labs and computing resources in the brand-new Keck Center for Science and Engineering

Fellow appointments begin in late summer and can be extended for up to three years on mutual agreement. The program offers a highly competitive salary, full benefits and an annual research/travel stipend. If you would like to learn more about the application process or have any questions about the program, please email grandchallenges@chapman.edu.

Contact Us

Dr. Gregory R. Goldsmith
GCI Program Director

Rebecca Green
Operations Administrator

Become a GCI Mentor

The GCI program depends on the contributions of experienced mentors. They meet with students at networking events, provide feedback to teams about the grand challenge they are trying to solve and help identify exciting opportunities outside the classroom. If you are interested in becoming a GCI Mentor, please fill out the survey using the link below.