Current Schmitt Leadership Fellows

Elyse AdlerElyse Adler

Program: Clinical Psychology

Hometown: San Mateo, CA

Research Interests: Autism Spectrum Disorder, Child/Adolescent Psychopathology, Social Development, Dissemination of Evidence-Based Practice, Patient/Family Perspectives on Telehealth



Elyse's Biography, Scholarship & Leadership

About Elyse: I was raised in San Mateo, California. I graduated with my B.S. from Haverford College in Pennsylvania with a major in Psychology and minors in Fine Arts and History of Art. My experience as an undergraduate student at Haverford shaped my research and clinical career goals, as the Quaker-rooted values of trust, concern, and respect provide a roadmap for how to balance seeking scientific advancement and meeting the current needs and preferences of families. In addition to my research, I have engaged in clinical work and training at local hospitals and community practices in child, family, and couples therapy, specifically behavioral intervention of pediatric feeding disorders, cognitive behavioral therapy, and dialectical behavior therapy, as well as pediatric neuropsychological and developmental assessment. In my free time, I enjoy exploring Milwaukee’s craft breweries, searching for the best local coffee shops, baking recipes passed down from my mom, playing beach volleyball, and watching the San Francisco Giants.

Scholarship: Following my graduation from Haverford, I spent two years in a postbaccalaureate research position at the UC Davis MIND Institute as a study coordinator and research assistant for studies aimed at examining longitudinal outcomes and emotion, memory, and cognitive processing in autism. These experiences led me to pursue my Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology with Dr. Amy Van Hecke’s lab, the Marquette Autism Project. My M.S. research explored mental health outcomes related to the broad autism phenotype and intolerance of uncertainty. My current research centers around an evaluation of a telehealth adaptation of PEERS®, a social skills intervention for autistic adolescents and their families. Current peer-reviewed publications include examinations of the PEERS® intervention, emotion processing and memory in autism, and the broad autism phenotype. It is my career goal to continue doing research and therapy with autistic people and their families, as I hope to further improve upon the current best practices in assessment and treatment for people with autism.

Leadership: My perspective on leadership is grounded in valuing collaboration, inclusion, and a strength-based approach to communication and action. At Marquette, I served as a graduate student representative for the department of Psychology and peer supervisor for the Center for Psychological Services. As a part of the PEERS® intervention, I trained undergraduate research assistants in behavioral management and research protocols, in addition to organizing graduate students and faculty to transition our protocol to telehealth during the pandemic. I contributed to the development and implementation of the On Your Marq program and led trainings on neurodiversity and inclusion for resident assistants to make campus life more accessible to autistic students. As a Wisconsin LEND trainee, I also received integral training in interdisciplinary leadership specific to a career in neurodevelopmental disabilities. Outside of academics, I captained my collegiate lacrosse team and coached youth sports. As a Schmitt Fellow, I hope to develop my leadership skills in an interdisciplinary environment to continue to grow as a clinician and researcher.

Peter Battaglia

Peter Battaglia

Program: Religious Studies

Hometown: East Burke, Vermont

Research Interests: Ritual and symbolic movement in early Jewish and Christian texts, Epistle to the Hebrews, Greek linguistics




Peter's Biography, Scholarship & Leadership

About Peter: Growing up in a rural Vermont community taught me the value of doing your work with excellence and that serving others around you carries a great intrinsic reward. The private high school I attended greatly emphasized the positive impact that liberal arts education can have on people, particularly with respect to developing critical thinking skills and engaging in civil discourse. These values and other significant experiences from my formative years ultimately have led me to pursue a career that is centered on doing research at the highest level while engaging in deep mentorship opportunities with students whom I teach and support in various roles. While academic life necessarily involves solitary tasks, I am constantly seeking to integrate the academic and mentorship aspects of my vocation. I have discovered that one of the ways to fruitfully integrate scholarship and teaching/mentorship is to incorporate mental and relational pursuits within my active lifestyle. For example, I love the outdoors and engage in all sorts of outdoor activities (e.g., hiking, running, camping, cycling). These activities afford time to formulate and mull over a research idea when done by myself, or on the other hand can be turned into an opportunity for building mentorship relationships when done with students. The most impactful professors I have had were those who endeavored to know me and care for my whole person, rather than simply imparting information to me. That is the kind of professor I endeavor to become. 

Scholarship:  My intellectual journey has continually been deeply rooted in interest for understanding the sacred scriptures of Judaism and Christianity, both the Hebrew Bible and New Testament. I am especially interested in using my education and scholarship to bring the relevance of these ancient texts to faith communities in the present; I want to show that Scripture still has something “to say” to people today. On the other hand, my educational journey has been quite broad both in scope of content and physical location, taking me to pursue three degrees at three institutions in three different states over the course of the last decade. As I move towards completing my Ph.D. at Marquette University, I am writing my dissertation on ritual and symbolic movement in the Epistle to the Hebrews. This New Testament homily combines Jewish cultic language of entrance into the Tabernacle and narrative Israel’s movement into the Promised land to articulate for the audience their basis for hope and endurance in Christ. While the message of this text is distinctively Christian, I hope that my research will demonstrate that everyone needs a kind of ultimate orientation in life that goes beyond our biological and neurological processes. While Hebrews orients its audience toward a Christian telos, I believe it carries implications for broader discussions of meaning and hope from a variety of world views.

Leadership: The need for orientation in life (regardless of one’s religious perspective) has become quite evident to me in my work with young adults over the past several years. Whether as a summer camp counselor in high school, a Resident Assistant in college, a Young Adult community leader at churches in graduate school, or my current work as a Marquette Theology Instructor and Hall Minister (live-in residential chaplain) at Marquette University, I am constantly working to help young people find their way in life. At Marquette I have found my vocation as a “professor-in-training” and as a campus minister to offer unique opportunities for leadership development among college students. I help them to advocate for themselves, give them the space to take risks and fail, and provide the resources for them to begin answering the big questions of orientation in life (Who am I? Where am I going? Who should I become?). I try to initiate positive change in whatever institution I find myself in by investing in relationships and using my scholarship to initiate constructive dialogue. 

Adam Knier Adam Knier

Program: Biological Sciences

Hometown: Cleveland, Wisconsin

Research Interests: Chaperone interactions with amyloidogenic protein




Adam's Biography, Scholarship & Leadership

About Adam: I have been a Wisconsin resident my entire life, being born and raised in a small town on the shores of Lake Michigan. My educational journey, from the very first days of school, has taught me how to be persistent and resilient. I firmly believe that the reason for my success today is because of my choice to remain diligent in pursuing an education. I completed two undergraduate degrees at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, initially in Biological Sciences and then again in Biomedical Laboratory Sciences a short time later. I spent the next several years working in clinical and diagnostic testing laboratories throughout Wisconsin before being accepted to Marquette University.

Scholarship: Proteins generated in organisms fold into specific shapes. However, misfolding, or altered shapes, can occur when a protein experiences stress or aging. There are intracellular components called chaperones that help refold misfolded proteins or clear them from the cell. If the ratio of misfolded proteins to chaperones is too high, misfolded proteins can aggregate. Depending on the biochemistry of the proteins involved, these aggregates can form a new fold called an amyloid that is incredibly difficult for chaperones to disassemble or clear. In humans, the transthyretin protein can form this amyloid, which is associated with the lethal disease transthyretin amyloidosis. I am researching chaperone interactions with intracellular amyloid, currently focusing on if the transthyretin amyloid can be prevented or cleared.

Leadership: My value as a leader comes from maintaining a decorum of calm and resiliency in the face of adversity and uncertainty, all while remaining engaged in the well-being of individuals. As a former Graduate Student Representative in the Department of Biological Sciences, I represented and fought for the well-being of my fellow graduate students. I connected with constituents on a personal level by listening to their needs in their preferred communication style and led conversation that addressed the roots of their concerns in the context of what could be tangibly achieved both in the immediate and long-term future. Thus, I was able to be an efficient advocate when representing their needs to the department. I applied these same approaches while leading the education of students in a classroom. However, unlike a representative, the authoritative position of a teacher’s aide requires much more decisive decision making to maintain the focus of the class. In a recent experience with a visiting instructor who lacked the skills for decisive action and commitment, I combined my interpersonal skills with my position as an authority to mitigate the lack of trust forming between students and instructor. This allowed me to refocus the class towards the central tenants of the material in which they were studying. Through this experience, I have found that some of my best leadership qualities come through when I am mentoring others. 

Daniel Mueller

Daniel Mueller

Program: Theology

Hometown: Louisville, KY

Research Interests: : Places in Ancient Literature, Luke-Acts, the Reception of Greek Comedy and Tragedy in Ancient Jewish and Early Christian Literature



Daniel's Biography, Scholarship & Leadership

About Daniel: I grew up in Louisville, KY, the son of two engineers and the brother of another. I planned on entering undergraduate as an engineering major, but I fell in love with the possibilities in the fields of theology and biblical studies. From the first day I set foot on my undergraduate campus, that has been my intellectual pursuit, completing a bachelor’s and two masters’ degrees before coming to Marquette. In Milwaukee, I live with my wife, Chelsea, and our four-year-old dog named Katie. My hobbies revolve around three main areas: my dog, cycling, and my love of books. Therefore, I can often be found on walks or at the dog park with wife and my dog, cycling, or reading both for pleasure and for school at local coffee shops. 

Scholarship: In my research I examine space as an interpretive category in the study of the biblical text. Behind narrative space is the author, the maker of the narrative world. Readers are then invited to enter the narrative world as a means of rethinking the spaces, relations, values, and ideas that govern their own worlds. My research attends to both the ways in which ancient authors present spaces as part of their rhetorical agendas as well as how readers receive these spaces to make sense of their own experience. Though my dissertation is limited to the author’s portrayal of certain spaces in Luke-Acts, my research will continue to develop beyond my dissertation in an examination of how Luke’s narrative world has been received and transformed through people’s own understanding of the place of the synagogue or the temple. That is, how does the audience’s prior experience with and knowledge of places affect how they receive and are shaped by the narrative world envisioned by the author? 

Leadership: When I was young, I was taught to leave any place in a better state when I left it than when I entered it. My leadership within the department of Theology has largely been about making the process of being a student and the community better for future students. During my tenure as both a member and president of the Association of Graduate Students in Theology at Marquette (AnGST), I identified problem areas for student progress through the required processes. These steps in the doctoral process increased student stress, delayed submission and approval of necessary forms, and distracted student energy from their studies. In response to these areas of stress, I developed and implemented a series of workshops to meet student needs, clarify expectations, and explain administrative processes. Through the creation of workshop materials and the inclusion of additional support from other graduate students and faculty, I created a sustainable model for continued student success. I empowered the next leaders of AnGST to continue these workshops and they have continued in the years since. 

 Shima SadriShima Sadri 

Program: Biomedical Engineering 

Hometown: Tehran, Iran 

Research Interests: Computational Modeling, Molecular Biology, Redox Biology, Oxidative Stress, and Mitochondrial Bioenergetics. 



Shima's Biography, Scholarship & Leadership

About Shima: I was raised in Tehran, Iran. Being raised in a metropolitan city benefited me in many ways. Being exposed to diverse opportunities and people lead me to plan out an ambitious future, develop opinions independent of other’s viewpoints, and be respectful of others’ beliefs. My parents raised me to be an independent individual and encouraged and supported me to pursue high-level education. I did my B.S. and M.S. in Electrical Engineering. During my master’s, I felt lack of altruism in my work, and became interested in the application of electrical engineering in biomedical sciences. To this end, I joined the Joint MU-MCW Graduate Program in Biomedical Engineering to pursue my Ph.D. 

Scholarship: I have been working on mitochondrial and cellular mechanisms of reactive oxygen species (ROS) production, oxidative stress, and metabolic dysfunction during development of salt-sensitive hypertension. Hypertension is a leading cause of global morbidity and mortality. Worldwide, it affects 31.1% of the adult population and is responsible for 13.5% of total death annually. It is known that salt-sensitive hypertension is associated with oxidative stress and increases the risk of cardiovascular and chronic renal diseases. Hence the focus of my research is to experimentally and computationally understand the kinetics and mechanisms involved in ROS regulation and oxidative stress in the heart and kidney in progressive salt-sensitive hypertension. My mechanistic computational model enables us to simulate in silico molecular and cellular mechanisms for therapeutic purposes toward healthcare improvement.

Leadership: In an academic environment, a combination of democratic and transformational leadership philosophies will maximize the efficiency and work product of the team members. I believe considering opinions of the involved members in a project for decision-making, followed by setting milestones with specific deadlines to bring inspiration and motivation to members, will result in an efficient work environment. I’ve served as a teaching assistant in “Computer Applications in Biomedical Engineering” for two semesters. I have been elected as the representative of the BME department at the MCW graduate student association for two consecutive years. I serve on two committees: Women in Science, and the Graduate Outreach and Recruitment Planning Group, where I help with prospective students and outreach. I’ve been serving as a consultant and outreach lead in Catalyst Bio Consulting where we provide consultations for established firms and startups. I think establishing trust and good relationships among team members are the keys to effective leadership. I have had the opportunity to learn leadership skills from fantastic leaders in my work environment such as my P.I., Dr. Ranjan Dash, and co-P.I.s, Dr. Allen Cowley and Dr. Said Audi. I always look forward to further improving my leadership skills by observing such effective leaders and receiving feedback from my colleagues.  

 Parisa Shabani NezhadParisa Shabani Nezhad

Program: Mechanical Engineering

Hometown: Bandar-E-Mahshahr, Khuzestan, Iran

Research interests: Materials, Mechanical properties, Microstructure-properties behavior.




Parisa's Biography, Scholarship & Leadership

About Parisa: I was born in Bandar-Mahshahr, a small town in a tropical area of southern Iran. I was brought up in a family that has strong inclinations towards art and science. So, pursuing art and science has always been my goal. After finishing my high school with outstanding grades, I concluded that engineering was the most suitable major for me. I completed both my undergraduate and master's degree in Material Science and Engineering in the top engineering school Sharif University of Technology (SUT) in Iran. Later, my research interests got more and more specific. To extend my knowledge and unlock more career opportunities, I decided to continue my academic goals. Therefore, I decided to pursue a Ph.D. and seek my fortune in the United States. After looking around extensively for a position that well aligned with my interests and background, I found an opportunity at Marquette University under supervision of Dr. John Moore in collaboration with Dr. Dinc Erdeniz.

Scholarship: My current research focuses on prediction and improvement of fatigue life of superelastic nitinol. Nitinol is a metal alloy of nickel and titanium with unique properties, known as superelasticity and shape memory effect. This allows for incredible flexibility compared to conventional materials. These properties along with biocombability, high strength and extraordinary fatigue life make superelastic nitinol an attractive material for many industries including aerospace, automotive, dental, and medical. However, the inevitable microstructural defects that are introduced through the material production and processing, limit the materials useful lifetime and reliability. The failure of long-lifespan devices (e.g., artificial heart valves or Mars rovers that operate for 20 years) are difficult to characterize experimentally due to the time and cost of testing and the statistical nature of fatigue life in high cycle fatigue regimes. However, if an understanding of the mechanical state that causes nitinol fatigue cracks to nucleate is established, then this understanding will guide materials processing improvements toward processes that increase the fatigue life of a material.

Leadership: Leadership is the art of creating a condition that motivates a group of people to complete a given task. As a Ph.D. student, I strive to build strong leadership skills to help me to work better in teams and find future opportunities. In industrial and academic careers, it is necessary to learn how to manage budgets, troubleshoot problems, and coordinate with other team members to accomplish common goals.

Zoua Pa VangZoua Pa Vang

Program: Chemistry

Hometown: Minneapolis, MN

Research Interests: Reaction discovery of precise deuterium incorporation into small organic molecules using transfer deuteration and transfer hydrodeuteration




Zoua's Biography, Scholarship & Leadership

About Zoua Pa: My refugee parents are my biggest influencers and supporters in receiving a higher education. My parents always worked and never had a chance to receive a better education after settling in Minneapolis. Through their hardships, they believe that education is the key to success. Therefore, they encouraged my siblings and me to pursue higher education. From the beginning of my chemistry career, conducting research in chemistry has always appealed to me. I believe that research will continually change the world due to new theories, problems, and solutions. As I continue to dive more into research and publish my work, I find myself incredibly passionate and proud about the work I accomplish. Therefore, I feel very fortunate to continue to do what I love and am passionate about. Aside from spending most of my time in the lab, I enjoy traveling and hanging out with friends whether it’s going to our favorite restaurant in town - Tu Casa, going to a Brewer’s game, or going to Kopp’s Frozen Custard for our favorite flavor of the day: ultimate cookie dough and strawberry cheesecake! 

Scholarship: The health of many people today has improved due to the advances made in modern medicine. As a result, the quality of life and life expectancy has increased over the past decade. Central to the development of medicine is organic chemistry and new reactions for the synthesis of future drug candidates will play a critical role in advancing modern medicine. My graduate research career highlights on new reaction discovery of copper-catalyzed transfer deuteration and hydrodeuteration reactions of alkene- and alkyne- containing molecules. The goal of these important transformations is to precisely install deuterium into small molecules. By installing deuterium at metabolically labile positions within drug-type molecules, this method can be employed in new pharmaceutical developments for the potential to improve the development of safer therapeutics without altering the potency and efficacy of the parent drug. In addition to pharmaceutical benefits, deuterated small molecules are also used as probes for mechanistic studies and to determine a kinetic isotope effect. During my graduate career, I have been grateful to receive multiple awards such as the distinguished John J. Eisch Fellowship for the 2021-2022, the MGS Endowed Summer Fellowship, and the R.A Bournique Memorial Fellowship for the summer of 2022, in which all have all supported my research. 

Leadership: As a youth, in the summer, I spent my time volunteering in campaigns for Hmong candidates running for office by either door knocking or phone banking. I believe it’s important to have people of color represented and included in politics. During my time as a graduate student, I have had the opportunity to teach undergraduate students general and organic chemistry labs. Students usually do not take chemistry classes and labs due to their personal enjoyment; however, I try to actively boost their confidence in the lab and engage them with exciting content in chemistry. Additionally, I have mentored multiple undergraduate researchers in lab and had them participate in innovative and ground-breaking research projects. Thus, I am honored that several undergraduate researchers obtained authorship in major publications with me. I feel fortunate to be a mentor and teaching assistant because not only am I able to share my knowledge and experiences, but I am also able to improve my communication and leadership skills. Now, as a senior student in the lab, I am guiding and supporting other graduate students to help bring their projects to publication. I hope to continue sharing my skills and knowledge as I transition from graduate school into a post-doctoral position and my career. 

Michael SchmittMichael Werning

Program: English

Hometown: Scharmede, Germany 

Research Interests: African American literature, 19th-century American literature, American Gothic, the history of slavery 




Michael's Biography, Scholarship & Leadership

About Michael: When I visited the United States for the first time as an international student in 2012, I had no idea that five years later I would move from Germany to Wisconsin to get married and live here. Traveling has always been special to me, whether it was to the Alps with my family when I was younger or to more distant places when I was ready to explore more of the world on my own. My travel experiences have certainly had a big impact on who I am as a person today. Appreciating different people and cultures around the world as well as right here in the United States directs my approach to life. I have a strong interest in and passion for international relations, intercultural dialogue, and social justice. In my freshman year at Münster University, Germany, I read Frederick Douglass’s famous 1845 Narrative, an experience that has shaped not only my professional but my private life as well. Douglass’s resilience, power of will, and rhetorical craftsmanship inspired me greatly, and I knew then that my future academic endeavors would be in the service of racial justice. In addition to reading and writing, I enjoy playing tennis, going on runs, and participating in trivia events. I also joined “club fatherhood” this year and I’m loving it!  

Scholarship: My scholarly work focuses on African American life writings from the nineteenth century, with an emphasis on antebellum slave narratives. Through my research, I excavate voices from the past that were oppressed, silenced, and forgotten. Since the vast majority of enslaved men and women were denied the chance to tell their stories, I take a special interest in doing archival research to bring out of oblivion some of the lives of the people whose names only appear in, for example, the estate records of their enslavers. My dissertation, titled “Gothic Spaces in Antebellum African American Slave Narratives,” examines the use of Gothic discourses in autobiographies written by formerly enslaved men and women. In addition to re-examining well-known works such as Harriet Jacobs’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861), I am also bringing some lesser-known texts to light to expand our understanding of pre-Civil War African American literature. Reading about the stories of enslaved people – their resilience, their fight for freedom, and their struggle for political and social change – has always been a very humbling and inspiring experience for me. Honoring their lives by keeping their narratives alive is therefore at the heart of my academic work.  

Leadership: Before moving to the United States, I worked as a federal instructor of German in integration courses for immigrants and asylum seekers. In addition to teaching German, I was responsible for assisting and advising immigrants on matters such as living, working, and studying in Germany. I became very familiar with the struggles that many immigrants face in public and legal offices, and when applying to universities. The impact that this responsibility had on me as a person, educator, and leader cannot be overstated. This job opened my eyes to the essential nature of our work in the humanities. I believe that people with a background in the humanities play a vital part in bridging the gap that often exists between public offices and marginalized groups in our society, and thus in leading the way to secure the dignity of every individual. Currently, I am involved in the Narrative 4 chapter here at Marquette, which seeks to bring the campus community together and create empathy for one another through storytelling. I would like to expand my volunteer work for N4@MU as a Schmitt Fellow, potentially hosting a story exchange in my own community as well. Furthermore, I am planning to develop other leadership projects that relate to my academic work on racial justice. Since my dissertation has an architectural component, I envision developing a project that investigates the housing inequalities in Milwaukee as well as the (re-)distribution of space generally.