Karan Kataria is a graduate from the college of education at Michigan State University, East Lansing, majoring in Kinesiology, with a minor in Exercise Physiology. Since his first anatomy class in High-School Karan knew he wanted to pursue a career that allowed him to be a lifelong learner of the sciences, while also giving him the opportunity to help others. Throughout college Karan has TA’d and tutored for various anatomy classes. Furthermore he worked with read to succeed to tutor at risk elementary students. He also had the opportunity to work as an undergraduate researcher under Dr. Pamela Harding at the Henry Ford Hypertension and vascular research lab. In fall of 2020, he founded the Michigan State chapter of the Brain Exercise Initiative. Upon graduating, he joined the National Executive Committee of BEI and is currently taking his gap year applying to medical school.
Shiva Areff is a recent graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara with a major in Biopsychology and a minor in Philosophy. She began her involvement with the Brain Exercise Initiative in 2019, selected as President to begin a Chapter at UCSB. By the time of her departure, UCSB was working with 10 retirement homes and had over 90 volunteers. Although a graduate, she is still heavily involved in research at UCSB as an Undergraduate Researcher in the Miller Memory Lab. She has also volunteered at her local hospital, tutored her peers in STEM classes, and fulfilled leadership roles in other school organizations. Her passions involve helping others and understanding how brain mechanisms and circuitry translate into human behavior. This led her to pursue a path in medicine, as she currently takes a gap year in preparation for applying to Medical Schools.
Southern West Coast and International Regions
Founder and President
Esin Gumustekin, the founder and president of the Brain Exercise Initiative, is a first year medical student at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA (DGSOM) and is a recipient of the DGSOM Dean’s Merit Based Scholarship. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from UCLA with a B.S. in Neuroscience and 4.0 cumulative GPA. At UCLA, she received the Chancellor’s Service Award and UCLA Library Prize for Humanities and Social Science. She was a Program Development Team Member for the Learning Assistant Program and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Undergraduate Researcher of the Ozcan Research Group. She is a co-author of 4 scientific manuscripts, three of which are published in Nature. Some of her earlier recognitions include being Salutatorian of her high school, Francis Parker, and being invited to present her research at the Oncofertility Consortium at Northwestern University’s School of Medicine.
Northern West Coast Region
Yousif Jafar is a fourth year undergraduate studying Neuroscience at the University of California, Los Angeles. From a young age, Yousif has been intrigued by the limitless capabilities of the human brain, and this has inspired his current trajectory and career path. It began with shadowing a neurologist, understanding the intricacies of the human brain. As he progressed through his undergraduate career, his interests only grew more, and he began to conduct research at both UCI and UCLA. As an undergraduate researcher at the Akbari Lab and the Wassum Lab, Yousif has been able to understand the clinical applications of neuroscience and the neurocircuitry involved in certain behaviors. Yousif continues to grow alongside the Brain Exercise Initiative, starting his journey as a volunteer for the UCLA chapter, Financial Director, and now a member of the National Executive Committee.
In 2019, Goodwin House President & CEO Rob Liebreich founded Stronger Memory, a brain exercise program which, like BEI, is based on the research of Dr. Kawashima. Through our partnership, student volunteers from BEI will host 30-minute, online check-ins for Stronger Memory participants every weekday. Check out more information about our partnership with Goodwin House here.
Cole Woulbroun oversees the Northeastern BEI Chapters. He is a rising third-year undergraduate at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) majoring in Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology and looking ahead to graduate school after college. With a 4.0 cumulative GPA, Cole has worked as an undergraduate researcher in the Jones Lab during his 1st and 2nd years, conducting literature review and data analysis projects on the aging midgut of Drosophila melanogaster. The midgut, in a similar fashion to multiple human tissues, undergoes an age-related expansion of resident, multipotent stem cells, which in this case are intestinal stem cells (ISCs). Starting late in his second year, Cole has also had the opportunity to work in the Hartenstein Lab. Here, he will be assessing the interactome of neuroglian, a septate-junction protein that helps drive age-related ISC expansion, and changes to the protein in glia of the aged Drosophila brain. His studies of the Drosophila midgut and ISCs continued in the summer of 2021, where he worked as a student intern at UCSF. Reflective of his graduate school aspirations, Cole is a reviewer on the UCLA Undergraduate Science Journal, an annual journal consisting of articles written and reviewed by UCLA undergraduates.
Juliet Stephenson is a fourth year undergraduate studying Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics at the University of California, Los Angeles. Throughout high school, Juliet was involved in student government, serving as both the school board’s Student Representative and as Student Body President. She was selected as the Young Woman of the Year of her hometown in 2018. Though she started her studies at UCLA in the Political Science department, Juliet changed her career path after volunteering at an Adult Respite Care facility and realizing her passion for caring for older adults. She is an undergraduate researcher at the Ozcan Lab at UCLA under Dr. Hatice Koydemir. Juliet has enjoyed tutoring students of all ages in math, science, english, and history for the past seven years. Juliet has been a part of the Brain Exercise Initiative since Fall 2019.
Mia Utayde is a recent graduate from Purdue University in West Lafayette, IN, where she received a B.S. in Neurobiology & Physiology, B.S. in Brain and Behavioral Sciences, a minor in English, and a Certificate in Entrepreneurship and Innovation. During her undergrad, she completed her honors thesis on the effects of the neurotoxicant PFAS on cognitive function and neurotransmitter dysfunction, combining her work in the PACER Lab and Cannon Lab. She also became Crisis Counselor volunteer for Crisis Text Line and held several leadership positions in organizations at Purdue, such as Mock Trial, Psi Chi, and her sorority. Mia founded the BEI Purdue Chapter in January 2021. During her presidency, the chapter was recognized through a couple of university-affiliated awards for its service, as the chapter recruited 12 retirement homes and almost 100 volunteers within a year. These experiences contributed to the development of her passion for learning about the inner workings of the brain, cognition, and mental health. Mia joined the National Executive Committee after graduation and is currently taking a gap year applying to graduate schools for Clinical Neuropsychology.