Dr. Soulakova (Professor of Medicine) joined the Department of Population Health Sciences at UCF College of Medicine in April of 2020. Before that, she was a faculty member at Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences (BSBS, since August of 2016). She continues to be a graduate faculty at the BSBS. Dr. Soulakova Biostatistics team conducts independent and collaborative research related to public health and biomedicine, e.g., smoking cessation, racial and ethnic disparities in health and health care, biopharmaceutical statistics. The team conducts statistical methodological work, performs simulations and computing—including analyses of big data—and collaborates with psychologists, sociologists, epidemiologists, biologists and other sciences within and outside UCF. The team has diverse backgrounds and research interests!

Team Members (2021-current)


Michael (Zhenyang) Ren (Volunteer, April 2024-current) is an undergraduate student majoring in Data Science. He plans to attend a graduate school of public health and pursue a Master’s degree in biostatistics after completing his undergraduate studies. He is a member of the Phi Eta Sigma Honor Society. Outside of school, Michael enjoys learning about different cultures through traveling, watching Formula 1 races, and making tasty food. 

Ambika Ramjawam (UCF Medical Mentorship & Shadowing Program: Summer Research Program, June-August 2023; volunteer, September 2023-current) is currently working on a bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Sciences with a minor in Psychology. In addition, she serves on the e-board of UCF’s Village Mentors club, a group that tutors students in Africa. She plans to attend medical school. She plans to conduct research in health care to help promote health and health care equity. In her free time, Ambika likes to play tennis, piano, and travel.

Ayushi Jain (volunteer, undergraduate student, August 2022- May 2023) is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry with a Minor in Biomedical Sciences. In addition, she is the President of Delta Phi Omega Sorority, Inc., a South Asian interest sorority on UCF campus. In addition, Ayushi is a volunteer in Dr. Santra’s Nanoscience/Chemistry lab where she performs testing and helps develop nanoparticle solutions to combat black algae growth on concrete. After graduating, she plans to pursue a master’s degree in Biostatistics and work within this field. In her free time, Ayushi likes to read, take care of my plants, and go on hikes. 

Elika Hashemi

Elika Hashemi (volunteer, undergraduate student, September 2022) is an undergraduate student majoring in Health Services Administration with a minor in Psychology. She plans to attend graduate school for public health concentrating on biostatistics and epidemiology. Elika’s research interests include racial and ethnic disparities in healthcare, language barriers and health literacy, and mixed methods research. In addition to the lab, she serves as the director of service for Knights for Medical Refugee Relief, a UCF organization that raises awareness for the plight of refugees in Central Florida and beyond. In her free time, Elika likes to volunteer, learn languages, and travel.

Kristi-Anna McDaniel

Kristi-Anna McDaniel (volunteer, undergraduate student, August-September 2022) is an undergraduate biology student recently returning to school for a career change from data entry and administrative support. Kristi-Anna is a Transfer-Student Research and Integration Program (T.R.I.P.) scholar and feels her research interests can be best supported with experience in biostatistics. Following her anticipated Spring 2023 graduation, she plans to pursue a master’s degree in infectious diseases. In her spare time, she enjoys learning new languages and doing outdoor activities with her family.

Wesley Matthiesen (part-time volunteer, undergraduate student, November 2021-July 2022) is planning to graduate with his Bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Sciences in 2023.  Wesley is also a member of the 2021-2022 L.E.A.R.N. research program cohort. After graduating, he plans to continue his education by pursuing the dual M.D./Ph.D. program at UCF. In his free time, Wesley enjoys playing games with friends, watching movies, and playing the violin.

Tara Pattilachan (part-time volunteer, undergraduate student, August 2021) is an undergraduate student double majoring in Neuroscience and Biotechnology with a minor in Computer Science. She plans to attend medical or graduate school with the goal of concentrating on neurotechnology and AI-based therapeutics and innovations in startups. She previously worked with MIT and Northwestern University on computational neuroscience and medical imaging projects. Tara is also an avid writer and science journalist, having been published in Teen Vogue, Huffington Post, StartUp Health, and other publications. In her free time, you can find Tara reading intriguing books, searching for the best boba or ice cream place, running around, or creating digital art.

Alia Sarwar, B.S.

Alia Sarwar (part-time volunteer, graduate student, May 2021) is pursuing a Master’s degree in Infectious Diseases. Alia graduated from UCF with a BS in Biomedical Sciences in spring 2021. In addition to working in the lab, Alia serves as the treasurer for Knights Exemplar, a UCF organization that supports and works with the school’s Inclusive Education Services. In her free time, Alia likes to volunteer, paint, and travel. 

Hope Clinard (undergraduate student volunteer, April-May 2021) is majoring in Psychology. Hope is interested in enhancing her computing skills using SAS and applied statistics knowledge.

Albert Osom (full-time researcher, Statistics major, May 2020 – August 2020, volunteer in Fall 2020 and Spring 2021) is pursuing Master’s degree in Statistical Computing. Before joining the team, he was working as a graduate teaching assistant at the Department of Statistics. Albert earned his B.S. in Mathematics with a minor in Statistics from the University of Ghana, Legon. Albert developed an interest in biostatistics when he performed data analysis in the field of infectious diseases during his undergraduate studies. Upon his graduation, Albert intends to continue his education and join a Statistics or Biostatistics PhD program with a focus on public health. Albert’s current research interests include Bayesian frameworks and applications of nonparametric Bayesian methods. In his free time, he enjoys paintballing and playing soccer.

Jordan Wilk (undergraduate student researcher, January-April 2021) is pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics (UCF Mathematical Biology track) with a Minor in Statistics, and expects to graduate in Fall 2022. Currently a Biomedical Equipment Technician with the Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences, Jordan’s research interests include mathematical disease modeling, stochastic processes, epidemiology, and biostatistics, and is currently an active participant in Dr. Zhisheng Shuai’s Mathematical Biology Seminars. Upon his graduation, Jordan plans on either pursing an MPH in Epidemiology/Biostatistics, or pursing a PhD in Applied Mathematics, Statistics, or Epidemiology. In his free time, he enjoys reading, photography, and spending time with his friends.

Jeremy Sheiber (undergraduate student volunteer, major: Biomedical Sciences, Molecular Microbiology track, December 2018 – April 2019 and January – April 2020) plans to graduate in Spring 2021. Jeremy has successfully completed his SURE project in 2019 and is working on a new SURE project. Jeremy wants to pursue either an M.D. or a Ph.D. program upon his graduation. Additional information about Jeremy can be found here.

Jarod Barnhart (undergraduate student, volunteer, October 2020 – April 2020) is majoring in Statistics. Jarod has interests in Biostatistical applications and methodology development. Jarod expects to graduate from the UCF in Spring 2022. Upon his graduation, Jarod plans to enter a graduate school where he hopes to continue studying biostatistics and earn his PhD. Outside of school, his interests include playing music, watching football, and playing Magic: the Gathering.

Joel Prosper (undergraduate student, major: Biomedical Sciences, minor: Statistics, Volunteer, January – February 2021). Joel is interested in biostatistics and plans on getting Masters in Biostatistics upon completion of his undergraduate program. When Joel is not in class or studying he enjoys going to the beach, attending concerts and playing soccer.

Katelyn Ramirez (undergraduate student, majors: Statistics and Political Science, Volunteer, January – February 2021) is interested in international relations, as well as data analysis and research. Recently, Katelyn became more interested in biostatistics, among other interesting disciplines in statistics. She is eager to learn more from others through their experiences about statistics. Katelyn plans to pursue a career in national intelligence. She plans to graduate Fall 2023, and then continue her education towards a master’s degree. Currently, Katelyn serves as a Resident Assistant for UCF Housing and Residence Life. At this position she takes care of the residents in a building. Outside of school, her interests include learning piano, practicing new languages, going on outdoor adventures, animals, and being with my family.


Dr. Barbara St. Pierre Schneider (Professor, University of Nevada, Las Vegas) studies biological influences on health with expertise in detecting white blood cells during muscle healing. She has led research funded by the Department of Defense and other entities, which have influenced the science of white blood cell infiltration by expanding understanding of (a) antigen profiles during initial muscle healing processes and (b) hormonal/environmental factors influencing white blood cell function during healing. She has determined and differentiated between proteins expressed by white blood cells prior to and during muscle regeneration in clinically relevant muscle injury models. She has also studied the influence of ovarian hormones on the expression of these cells and proteins within individual muscle fibers and connective tissue. Overall, her research has been integral to health care in amplifying our nascent knowledge of the muscle healing process, which will reduce issues such as prolonged healing and disability and ideally improve patients’ quality of life.

Dr. Lisa Crockett (Professor, Department of Psychology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln) is our primary long-term collaborator. She examines youth risk behavior, including substance use, and racial/ethnic differences in youth development using large scale longitudinal studies. Dr. Crockett is the President of the Society for Research on Adolescence and serves on the editorial boards of Developmental Psychology, the Journal of Early Adolescence, and Culture, Diversity, and Ethnic Minority Psychology. More information about her research can be found at https://psychology.unl.edu/lisa-crockett.