Lab Members

Dr. Melissa McCartney, Assistant Professor

(McCartney CV July 2022)

Melissa McCartney, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences and the STEM Transformation Institute at FIU.  Dr. McCartney’s research interests center on science identity and what educators can do to help our students begin to see themselves as scientists, especially as this relates to identifying a scientific career path and entering the STEM workforce.  Before coming to FIU, Dr. McCartney spent two years as a Senior Project Director in science education at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), five years at Science Editorial working on education and neuroscience manuscripts, and was a Mirzayan Science Policy Fellow at the National Academies where she worked with the Committee on Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine.  Dr. McCartney was a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Neurology at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and holds a PhD in Neuroscience from The George Washington University and a BS in Biochemistry from Binghamton University (SUNY). 

Dr. Kyriaki Chatzikyriakidou, postdoctoral fellow 


Kyriaki received her Doctoral degree in Food Science-Microbiology, followed by a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction, in 2014 and 2017 at UW-Madison. During her studies, Kyriaki completed her DELTA certificate in Research, Teaching, and Learning (CIRTL), as a fellow of the UW-DELTA program on scientific teaching. Kyriaki has assisted in designing and teaching various college-level courses, for a period of 5 years and in Spring 2018, she was affiliated with MATC (Madison Area Technical College), as a teaching faculty. Kyriaki is currently investigating ways to improve the scientific skills of undergraduate STEM students.


Catherine Guinovart, graduate student


Cathy Guinovart is Cuban American and grew up in Key Largo, Florida. She graduated from FIU with a B.A. in Sustainability and the Environment, certificates in Entrepreneurship and Coastal and Marine Affairs and a minor in Marine Biology. She is currently pursuing her master’s degree in the McCartney Lab. Her research focuses on culturally grounded biology education. She is working with Indigenous Maya communities in Quintana Roo, Mexico to assess a culturally grounded STEM curriculum designed by Marine Conservation without Borders. Her research focuses on the role of culturally grounded curricula in the development of science literacy. She is also exploring the relationship between science and cultural identity development. For the last eight years, she has also worked for FIU’s Coastlines and Oceans Division coordinating logistics, marketing, and education initiatives both as a Student Education and Outreach Coordinator and as a Coordinator of Administrative Services. 

Ashli Wright, graduate student

ashli with students

Ashli Wright was an Honors Biology, Advanced Placement, & Cambridge Biology Instructor at Maritime & Science Technology (MAST) Academy in Miami Dade Public Schools. Ashli has interned at the University of Miami Hussman Institute for Human Genomics and at the FIU Student Health Services. She holds a Master of Public Health, a BS in Health Education, and an Associate of Arts in Psychology. Ashli’s research interests center on STEM Identity, science communication, and STEM Equity. She is currently enrolled in the Biology Education Ph.D. program at FIU and has joined the lab to learn more about education research in biology.

Robin Castellano, research assistant


Robin Castellano graduated from Florida International University with a B.S. in Elementary Education with Reading and ESOL endorsements. Robin returned to Florida International University as an undergraduate Biological Sciences major. She was a Learning Assistant for Biology I during that time. Robin is interested in science and health education, particularly in relation to systemic and systematic disparities experienced by marginalized populations. She joined the lab to combine her experience in education and her interest in science to learn more about education research in biology.


Arielis Perez , research assistant


Arielis Perez is Spanish American and grew up in Valencia, Venezuela. She graduated from Albizu University, where she received the Outstanding Student Medal for graduating with the highest GPA (4.0) of her class. In 2019, she began her Undergraduate Post-Baccalaureate in Science at Florida International University. Arielis has received training on child exposure to substances and trauma by The National Child Traumatic Stress Network and a certification on The Challenges of Global Health by Duke University. She was a Learning Assistant for Biology II, where later she was appointed LA coordinator. Arielis is interested in child cognitive development, within a broader context including both the biological and social bases. She has joined the lab to learn more about scientific practices in STEM and is currently preparing for graduate school. 



Lab Alumni:

Eva2017Dr. Eva Knekta, Postdoctoral Fellow, now a Professor in Sweden! 




Dr. Tessy S. Ritchie, now the Chief Chemist and Director of the Instrumentation Core Facility at the Department of Chemistry at West Point! 


MJMarie Janelle (MJ) Tacloban, undergraduate research, now a middle and high school Biology teacher!




Chelsey Manrique, undergraduate research, now a high school biology teacher!


kiana picture

Kiana Kasmaii, undergraduate research, preparing for graduate school




Amy Acosta, undergraduate research, taking care of lots of animals and preparing for veterinary school




Dr. Matthew Kararo, Postdoctoral Fellow

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