student presenting at Casabona Competition

Spring 2022 Competition

The Mario M. Casabona Future Scientists Program encourages students to recognize the importance of oral communication skills and the ability to discuss the results of scholarship effectively with various audiences and at all levels. The Program motivates, trains and rewards students for the preparation and delivery of effective communication of scientific research to the general public and non-science professionals. Such presentation and communication skills provide students with the capacity to be distinctly competitive and successful in their subsequent educational and career paths. Students/Mentors will be selected from each department to compete.

On April 27 2022 from 2:00 – 5:30 pm in CELS, and streamed for online viewing, students presented five minute, five slide presentations judged by our panel of professionals for awards. Students presented their research in both a poster session and the five-minute oral presentations.


First Place Second Place Third Place Best Mentor Audience Favorite
$2000 $1500 $1000 $1500 $500
Sarah Krisak Ellia Daniel Mariam Mchedlidze Dr. Nina Goodey Ellia Daniel

Student Participants

Sarah Krisak – First Place

Can a contaminated, barren, and dead soil be transformed into a healthy functional soil?
Dr. Nina GoodeyBest Mentor
Biochemistry BS

Ellia Daniel – Second Place & Audience Favorite

Evidence of a ciliar role for Tau in Alzheimer’s Disease
Dr. Robert O’Hagan
Biology BS

Mariam Mchedlidze – Third Place

Improving Faraday isolators for future gravitational-wave detectors
Dr. Rodica Martin
Physics BS

Gelber Castillo

Predicting solar flares with machine learning
School of Computing
Dr. Katherine Herbert
Computer Science BS

Omar Obidat

Understanding dynamic intentions of humans to improve human-robot collaboration-quality in advanced manufacturing contexts
School of Computing
Dr. Weitian Wang
Computer Science BS/MS

Diego Vazquez

Forest Fire Impacts on Soil Chemistry in an Appalachian Forest: Factors of Temperature, Moisture, and Organic Matter
Earth and Environmental Studies
Dr. Greg Pope
Earth and Environmental Science BS/MS

Ella Oren-Dahan

Three colored bipartite Ramsey numbers of double stars
Dr. Deepak Bal
Mathematics BS and Visual Arts BA


Mario Casabona

Mr. Mario Casabona

Mario is an entrepreneur and active angel investor. In 2012, he founded TechLaunch, committed to identifying and nurturing early stage tech ventures by mentoring, coaching, and providing access to resources and capital. To date, TechLaunch has supported over 100 tech companies and mentored over 200 aspiring entrepreneurs. In 2006, he founded Casabona Ventures, investing in over 30 seed and early stage companies. In 1982, he founded Electro-Radiation Inc., which was acquired by Honeywell International in 2004.

Mario received the Small Business Administration National Tibbett’s Award for his contributions in technology, and was listed as one of the top five most influential persons in New Jersey technology by The Star-Ledger. He was twice recognized by the New Jersey Technology Council, (now TechUnited:NJ) first as the recipient of their Financier of the Year Award and subsequently their Legend of Technology Award. He is Chairman Emeritus of Jumpstart NJ Angel Network and Chairman Emeritus of the R&D Council of New Jersey. He also enjoys serving on the Boards of various for-profit and non-for-profit organizations. Mario is an electrical engineer and holds twelve national and international patents in the field of satellite-based navigation and communications.

Grigori Burdea

Dr. Grigore (Greg) Burdea

Grigore (Greg) Burdea PhD is Emeritus Professor at Rutgers University where he invented the first haptic glove for Virtual Reality and wrote the first textbook on this fast growing field. As an entrepreneur, Dr. Burdea has founded Bright Cloud International, a medical device establishment using Virtual Reality to disrupt healthcare for patients with Alzheimer’s, stroke or chronic pain. Dr. Burdea has recently been inducted in the IEEE Virtual Reality Academy and is a world leader in the field.

Jonathan Kakakian

Mr. Jonathan Hakakian

In 2012 Jonathan co-founded SoundBoard Venture Fund with Richard Magid to build a community of experienced entrepreneurs to formally invest in early-stage companies outside the major city centers. He has raised capital for the fund, directed the diligence process into a growing portfolio of 45 companies, and coached many of the portfolio’s entrepreneurs on their journeys. Jonathan is a fellow with the Kauffman Fellows Program (Class 19) where he focused his studies on being an innovative venture investor.

Locally, Jonathan is an Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR) at Stevens Institute of Technology Venture Center and an advisory board member of MCW (a non-profit focused on empowering current and future leaders to better their local communities).

Sherrie Pietranico-Cole

Dr. Sherrie Pietranico-Cole

Dr. Sherrie Pietranico-Cole received a B.A. in Chemistry from Douglass College, Rutgers University, and became the first African-American woman to graduate with a Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Pennsylvania in 1992. Dr. Pietranico-Cole has over 25 years of experience in pharmaceutical development with a record of accomplishment of successfully advancing medicines. Dr. Pietranico-Cole started her career in Discovery Chemistry at Hoffmann-La Roche where she rose to Sr. Research Leader, one of the highest positions on the science ladder at Roche. Dr. Pietranico-Cole was awarded the 2008 TWIN (Tribute to Women in Industry) award for her contributions to the industry. In 2011, Dr. Pietranico-Cole transitioned careers to Drug Regulatory Affairs at Roche and helped file a sNDA for Tamiflu, which achieved approval for the treatment of Influenza A and B in children under 1 year of age. In 2012, Dr. Pietranico-Cole joined Early Development Drug Regulatory Affairs at Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation when Roche closed the Nutley, NJ site. As a Global Program Regulatory Director, Dr. Pietranico-Cole provides global regulatory expertise to the research teams at the Novartis Institute of Biomedical Research (NIBR) to advance a diverse portfolio of transformative biologic and small molecule drugs. Dr. Pietranico-Cole is deeply committed to mentoring students and promoting diversity and inclusion. She was recently featured in the book African American Women Chemists in the Modern Era. Dr. Pietranico-Cole is looking forward to interacting with the diverse student population in the College of Science and Mathematics at Montclair State and creating more internship and mentoring opportunities.

Mr. Richard Russo

Mr. Richard Russo, MBA

Mr. Richard Russo is a 30+ year Medtech veteran. He is currently CEO of Endomedix Inc., a start-up working with biopolymer chemistry to develop a hemostat for use in brain surgery. Prior to Endomedix, he was the CEO of a start-up that became the largest processor in Europe of human tissue for transplantation, OST Développement in Clermont-Ferrand, France. OST serviced customers throughout Europe, Latin America and Asia. He had previously helped successfully develop and commercialize devices using pulsed electromagnetic field and ultrasound technologies to stimulate bone formation. Functionally, he has worked in sales and marketing, clinical research, regulatory affairs and strategic planning, in addition to general management. Richard earned a BA cum laude in philosophy from Boston College before pursuing graduate studies in philosophy at the Université de Fribourg in Switzerland. Richard also earned an MBA from Columbia Business School in NYC.


Poster Session (CELS Atrium)
Welcome, Opening Remarks, and Introductions
Dean Lora Billings
Student Presentations (CELS 120)
Moderator, Associate Dean Scott Kight
Awards Ceremony & Closing Remarks
Mario M. Casabona and Lora Billings