Research Summer for Nashville State STEM Group


Seven Nashville State students from the School of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics have been learning and enhancing scientific research skills with hands-on experience during an eight-week paid summer program from June 5 to July 28.

Dr. Rastgo Hawrami from Fisk University’s Materials Science and Applications Group and Center for Biological Signatures and Sensing (BioSS) contacted Nashville State Instructor of Physics Dr. Bir Bohara to inquire about the College’s interest in getting students involved.

After initial meetings between Dr. Hawrami, Dr. Arnold Burger (Fisk), Dr. Elsa Ariesanti (Fisk), Dr. Bohara, and Nashville State Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Jeff Green, information was shared with students. The program elicited a great deal of interest. Seven students sought and were accepted. They include:

  • James Copp, Associate of Science in Mathematics
  • Zaki Daouk, Associate of Science in Electrical Engineering
  • Ibrahim Ibrahim, Non-degree seeking student
  • Jacob Rodriquez, Associate of Science in Mechanical Engineering ‘23
  • Jake Scott, Associate of Science in Mechanical Engineering ‘23
  • Walker Williams, Associate of Science in Mechanical Engineering ‘23
  • Jacob Pickos, Associate of Science in Computer Science

Summer Research Program participants are paired with Fisk University researchers and conduct mentored research projects related to their advisor’s expertise. Participants will do research in the following areas: (1) Biological sensors and molecular signatures, (2) revealing the regulatory role of Mn2+ in diverse biological processes via the development and implementation of a biochemical Mn2+ sensor, and (3) development and implementation of novel radiation sensors for biological applications, which includes hands-on training in crystal growth, crystal processing, radiation detection, and detector characterization.

Associate of Science in Mechanical Engineering graduate Jake Scott said, “My ultimate goals are to get involved with nuclear energy, energy storage, atomic supercomputers, or artificial intelligence as I am not entirely sure which doors may open.” Scott plans on transferring to TSU to pursue his bachelor’s degree.

While Ibrahim, who was at a four-year university in Boston for one year, decided to attend Nashville State to accumulate some credits and determine his next steps. Starting this fall, he will begin working toward a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering at Cleveland State University in Cleveland, Ohio.

Research Summer for Nashville State STEM Group
Ibrahim Ibrahim and Jacob Pickos present on their summer research project.

BioSS is a product of The Center of Research Excellence in Science and Technology (CREST) at Fisk and is supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation. The program includes biology, chemistry, physics, education and outreach. They work together on interdisciplinary projects within the Center. The Crest - Bioss program is one of the programs at Fisk that also provides Fisk’s master’s students the opportunity to get their doctorates at Vanderbilt through its Masters to Ph.D. Bridge Program. (

Copp said of his summer internship, “I'm essentially getting a crash course on graduate-level genetics, neurology, developmental biology, and microbiology.” He plans on earning his bachelor’s in math and master’s in quantitative methods. Depending on what a career in operations research demands, he may pursue a doctorate.

Nashville State's Dean of the School of STEM Dr. Johannah Williams said of this growing partnership, "This is a great opportunity for our students and I'm very excited that they're having this experience. I commend Dr. Bohara for the follow-through he gave this and the time he put into recruiting."

Summer students involved in the development of novel radiation sensors in the Physics division are also being sponsored by the Department of Defense’s Defense Threat Reduction Agency Interaction of Ionizing Radiation in Matter University Research Alliance (DTRA IIRM URA). The IIRM-URA is led by Penn State and is dedicated to conducting basic research in (1) Materials, (2) Devices and Integration, (3) Survivability and Response, (4) Cross-Cutting Research Initiative (CCRI), (5) Workforce Development and Student Pipeline.

Dr. Hawrami, research professor in the Physics Division in the Life & Physical Sciences Department and co-principal investigator of the Educational and Outreach arm of the BioSS Center as well as the institutional PI for DTRA IIRM URA, remarked that the “Summer program has been very successful” and that they “hope to get even more Nashville State students in the summer of 2024 and beyond.” He plans to give informational seminars at Nashville State to attract more students.

BioSS also plans to promote the Summer Research Program to area high school students.

Daouk, along with Pickos, participated and returned from a Spring 2023 TNCIS study abroad program to Japan a week before this internship started, said, “I feel that I can speak for all of us by saying we will be actively promoting this program to other Nashville State students. It has been a tremendous opportunity.”


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