Carnegie Mellon University

Inaugural Fellowship Recipients

Travis Carless is a Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow at the RAND Corporation. He was awarded a PhD in Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University in May 2018 and is a 2015 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow. His research is centered around risk, life-cycle assessments, and nuclear energy and policy. 

As a doctoral student, Travis served as the President of the Graduate Student Assembly and President of the Black Graduate Student Organization. Prior to pursing doctoral studies, Carless served as a functional design engineer at Westinghouse Electric Company in the AP1000 Nuclear Application Programs group. He received his B.S. in Computer and Systems Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and an M.S. in Industrial Engineering from the University of Pittsburgh.


Jerard Vincent Gordon obtained his B.S. in mechanical engineering at Lehigh University in 2013. Jerard continued his studies at Lehigh University for graduate school under the guidance of Dr. Natasha Vermaak. After two years, he began research in additive manufacturing under the guidance of professors Gary Harlow and Christina Haden. For his doctoral research, he studied the fatigue behavior of wire and arc additive manufactured of type 304L stainless steel. Jerard hopes to gain further research experience through the President’s Postdoctoral Fellowship Program at CMU and eventually find employment as a tenure track professor at a research institution.


Kevin Jarbo will join Carnegie Mellon’s Department of Social and Decision Sciences to work under the guidance of SDS Department Head Dr. Linda Babcock and Visiting Assistant Professor Dr. Kody Manke in the Department of Psychology. Kevin’s doctoral research with Dr. Timothy Verstynen in CMU Psychology and the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition explores how the contextual framing of loss influences behavior during risky decisions. He has used functional neuroimaging to examine how an integrative network of brain regions represents information about our subjective perception of value. Kevin will apply his work on framing effects to study how social factors, like stereotype threat and sense of belonging, impact college students’ decisions to seek help for academic performance and personal wellbeing. Kevin will also continue to support programming for multicultural initiatives, intergroup dialogues on race and masculinity, and student activism through CMU’s Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion.


Diane Nelson is a post-doctorate in Chemical Engineering who is committed to exploring the unique properties of fluorinated materials and harnessing those properties to improve drug delivery vehicles. She has spent the last five years creating and testing her delivery system on various lung diseases, and is currently most passionate about the work she is doing to describe the process of drug deposition onto a surface. 

As a previous biomedical engineer turned chemical engineer, Diane has developed a unique perspective when it comes to utilizing a broad set of tools in her research. She aspires to share her enthusiasm for biology and engineering in both her lab and her classroom in the next stage of her career. 


Tlaloc Rivas is a stage director and theatre-maker who specializes in adventurous new work and reimagining classical plays. Tlaloc also directs bilingual plays, works actively in civic engagement, and promotes equity in all facets of the American theatre. He is a core founding member of the Latinx Theatre Commons and its online platform, Café Onda. He is a Usual Suspect with New York Theatre Workshop, a member of the Dramatists Guild, and an Associate Member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers union.

Tlaloc graduated with honors from the University of California Santa Cruz and the Professional Directors' Training Program at the University of Washington’s School of Drama. He is a recipient of the NEA/TCG Career Development Program, the Sir John Gielgud Fellowship in Classical Directing, and has trained with SITI Company (Saratoga Summer Intensive), Cornerstone Theater Company, and the National Association of Latinx Arts and Culture.


Sossena Wood is a Presidential Postdoctoral Fellow within the Biomedical Engineering department at Carnegie Mellon University.  She will further her research experience in neuroimaging while under the guidance of Professor Jana Kainerstorfer.  Sossena is focused on developing and designing medical devices that detect neurological damage and/or diseases and Professor Kainerstorfer is a leader in noninvasive optics imaging that monitors disease.  At the end of her fellowship, Sossena intends to become a tenure-track research faculty member.  Sossena completed her Ph.D. Bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh under the guidance of Professor Tamer S. Ibrahim and was a K. Leroy Irvis and National GEM Consortium Fellow.  She has a Bachelor’s of Science in electrical engineering.

Her dissertation work was featured in more than six peer-reviewed journal articles, 26 international abstracts, and two international talks.  She is one of the University of Pittsburgh’s Rising African American Leaders awardee, National Institutes of Health (NIH) F31 awardee, New Pittsburgh Courier’s FAB 40 awardee, NSBE’s 2017 Mike Shinn Distinguished Member of the Year (Female) Awardee, and Professional Women’s Network awardee.  Sossena served two-terms as the National Chairperson of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) as well as other leadership roles within the organization.  While committed to advancing neurological health, Sossena is also committed to engaging and empowering underrepresented youth to pursue STEM degrees locally and globally.