Founder and President
Esin Gumustekin, the founder and president of the Brain Exercise Initiative, is an MD/JD candidate at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine (DGSOM) and Harvard Law School. She is a recipient of the DGSOM Dean’s Merit Based Scholarship. Esin graduated Summa Cum Laude from UCLA with a B.S. in Neuroscience and 4.0 cumulative GPA in 2021. 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.
Juliet Stephenson graduated from UCLA with her B.S in Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics in 2022. 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 currently working as a teaching assistant. 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.
Director of Communications
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.
Director of Operations, West Coast + International
Advait, Finance Chair on NEC, is a junior at Penn studying biology and finance and has been building BEI at Penn since 2021. Long-term, he is interested in health policy, internal medicine, and biostatistical methods in health care research.
Director of Finance
Director of Marketing and Events
Katherine (Katie) Downs is a fourth year student at UCLA majoring in Biochemistry, and minoring in Bioinformatics. She has been a member of the BEI since 2021, where she has found a fun and impactful way to connect and support her community. She has had the honor of being the Chapter President for the UCLA BEI chapter for the past two years, before recently joining the National Executive Committee. She is also the finance director of the Alumni Scholars Club, and serves on the executive board of the BiochemASE club. Katie is also active in bioinformatics research in the Ping Lab at UCLA, and pharmaceutical research in the Dorrestein Lab at UCSD.
Director of Development
Abraham Hong is a senior studying Molecular Cell Biology at Berkeley. He is a research assistant at the Smith Lab in UCSF, where he is currently studying Acute Myeloid Leukemia there. Abraham aspires to become a radiologist and has a strong passion in helping others and allowing healthcare to be more accessible to all. Abraham is currently the President of TASSEL at Berkeley, where he primarily provides English education to rural Cambodians and teaches new volunteers how to properly teach and enrich their students' lives. Abraham also volunteers at homeless shelters and provides food to them. He especially enjoys talking to the homeless, and he has a strong passion in eradicating the negative stigma of people experiencing homelessness.
Ermina Hassan is a recent graduate from Loyola University Chicago. She finished her undergraduate degree in Biology a year early and is now pursuing her MBA as she applies to medical school. Ermina began her involvement with BEI by establishing Loyola’s chapter in August 2021. During her presidency, Loyola’s Chapter of BEI was awarded “Best Sponsored Student Organization '' in 2023 and has contributed over 200 volunteer hours to local Alzheimer’s residents in the Chicago land area. Along with BEI, Ermina has been working in the Steidl Lab, doing research on the effects of dopamine in brain systems and behaviors, as well as several other Loyola organizations such as the Thaakat Foundation and Muslim Student Association. Ermina has also been published in her research with Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease and was awarded the Gold Congressional Award from the United States Congress in 2020 in recognition for her leadership and commitment to community service. She is so excited to work alongside the NEC in BEI to further help the Alzheimer’s community.
Director of Operations, Central US
Director of Operations, Midwest-Southeast US
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.
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.
Elise Catherine Larson
Director of Research
Elise is a third-year Honors undergraduate at the University of Georgia studying to get a B.A. in Music alongside pre-requisite courses for medical school. She is currently the co-president of the UGA BEI chapter and is passionate about the way BEI investigates and utilizes non-pharmacological interventions for disease. She is an aspiring psychiatrist and analyst and hopes to bring her diverse humanities background to her practice by advocating for talk therapy and other therapeutic interventions alongside the medical model.