Meet the 2015 OUTPACE Team!

JaKara Brown

Jakara Brown

I am a native of Mobile, AL but I currently attend UAB. I am a senior Biology/pre-med major here with minors in Chemistry and Psychology. A fun fact about me is that I have a twin sister who attends Troy University. I hope to gain greater knowledge as it pertains to research, specifically plant research. I believe that the OUTPACE Program will assist me in attaining this knowledge.

Nicole Lassiter

Nicole Lassiter

Nicole is a pre-medicine student whose majors are English and Spanish. She plans to practice medicine and author stories and poetry in both languages. Her many interests include music, culture, traveling, and learning. One fun fact about her is she loves to make snow angels whenever the opportunity presents itself. By participating in OUTPACE, she hopes to gain experience in research, practice communicating scientific ideas to others, collaborate with fellow scientists, and make lasting contributions to her community.

Rajan Patel

Rajan Patel

My name is Rajan Patel and I am a senior biology major and chemistry minor at UAB. After I graduate, I plan to become a genetic counselor. I like to play around with new technology and fix computers as a side business. A fun fact is that I like to draw and create different types of art in my free time and plan to get a telescope soon so I can stargaze. I hope to achieve a better understanding about how plant pathology works and maybe someday it will help me with my own garden in the future.

Ryan Tillman

Ryan Tillman

My name is Ryan Tillman, I am from Lillian, Alabama, and I am a Sophomore at UAB. I am majoring in molecular biology, and plan on a career in either genetics or pathology after college. In my free time I like to cook and watch movies. By being part of the OUTPACE program, I hope to gain a better understanding of pathogens and the immune defenses of plants.

Andrew Sunwood

Andrew Sunwood

Hi! My name is Andrew Sunwood and I’m a sophomore Biology major at UAB.  I love music, playing soccer, and doing really random things (see fun fact below).  By participating in the OUTPACE program, I hope to learn more about plants – as of now, I only know how to eat them. Fun Fact: I can fold a shirt in 2 seconds.

Ciara Duncan

Ciara Duncan

My name is Ciara Duncan and I’m a senior at UAB majoring in Biology. I joined the Outpace program to learn more about the plant kingdom and how they interact with and fight off pathogens as well as to gain valuable knowledge in a research lab setting.

Ashley Bridgmon

Ashley Bridgmon

My name is Ashley Bridgmon. I am a senior at UAB majoring in biology, with minors in chemistry, psychology, and Spanish. While studying in this program, I look forward to learning new lab techniques while also putting to use what I already know. I am also eager to learn more about the different types of plant pathogens, and how they affect plants differently.

Johnathan Mitchell

Johnathan Mitchell

My name is Johnathan Mitchell and I am currently a Junior Biology Major at UAB. I am from Huntsville, AL and attended Bob Jones High School. I plan on pursuing an MD/PhD degree upon the completion of receiving my bachelor’s degree in Biology. I hope to learn more about plant pathology, and to see how their response differs from human when fighting off diseases. Fun Fact:I used to play soccer at Marshall University before transferring to UAB.

Iba Iyegha


My name is Iba Iyegha. I’m from Prattville, AL, and I just graduated from UAB with a B.S. degree in Biology. I plan on going to Medical School in 2016. Even though plant pathology doesn’t fall under my chosen career path, I developed a greater appreciation for plants in Dr. Mukhtar’s plant biology course and hope to learn even more about the fascinating topic through hands on experience. Fun fact: I am the 9th of 13 siblings to graduate from college.

Amir Ahmed


My name is Amir Ahmed and I’m a freshman majoring in Biomedical Sciences here at UAB. I’m from Madison, Alabama which is a city where you could drive by a field of cows and a research institute just on the way to school. When I’m not studying, I’m hanging out with my friends or reading. I love to play basketball and soccer.

One fun fact about me is that on my father’s side of the family, they have been fruit growers and sellers for generations and I spend a lot of my summers at our family orchard, where we grow mangoes and citrus fruits.

I hope, through the OUTPACE program, that I can gain a more complete understanding of how diseases attack plants and of how plants fight back against them. I also hope to gain practical experience and become more proficient in my lab skills through the program.

Chris Szlenk


Hello my name is Chris Szlenk, I am a junior/senior studying chemistry with a biochemistry focus. I enjoy spending time outdoors and being active whenever I’m not studying. A fun fact about myself is i am fluent in Polish. I would like to gain a better understanding of plants and how to spot diseases and what can be done to prevent them. Also I’m very interested in learning about the signaling pathways and receptors involved in these processes.

Jess Eddington

jess edding

My name is Jess Eddington, and I’m one of five children born in Birmingham, Al. I played basketball and soccer growing up and was in choir for most of my life. I started working at Chick-fil-A at 16 and worked my way up to opening the 5 Points Inline store as the Operations Manager by 20. Currently, I am a senior at UAB majoring in Chemistry and Psychology while working in Dr. Austad’s lab doing mice and hydra husbandry work. I hope to earn my way into the biology graduate program after I graduate. Through OUTPACE, I hope to gain experience working with plants and become a better gardener. A fun fact about myself is that I am not fun.




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