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Inspiring Research and Sharing Success Stories – PNW Faculty Panel

April 18 @ 12:30 pm - 1:30 pm

Join us on Days of Discovery for a panel discussion with PNW faculty members!

See more Days of Discovery information


SULB 321

Panel Moderator

John DurocherJohn J. Durocher, PhD, ASCM-EP, CSCS, is a Nils K. Nelson Professor of Integrative Human Health, and Director of the Integrative Physiology and Health Sciences Center. He obtained his BS and PhD degrees in Biological Sciences from Michigan Tech, and his MS in Exercise Science from Northern Michigan University. His research focuses on exercise and other lifestyle interventions that can improve human health and performance. He has mentored dozens of undergraduate and graduate students who have secured numerous grants, scholarships, and awards. Dr. Durocher currently serves as the Chair Elect of the PNW Faculty Research Board. Dr. Durocher has been a Certified Exercise Physiologist through the American College of Sports Medicine since 2008 and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association since 2009. John is an advisory board member for the Center for Physiology Education of the American Physiological Society, and is also an editorial board member of the American Journal of Physiology – Heart and Circulatory Physiology. Dr. Durocher has helped to lead over $3.25 million in funding to-date.

Purdue University Northwest Faculty Panel Members

Gisele Casanova

Giselé M. Casanova, PhD, is an Associate Professor of Psychology, a Licensed Clinical Psychologist and Interim Chair of the Department of Psychology at Purdue University Northwest. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Illinois Wesleyan University, Bloomington, Illinois, where she graduated with honors. She earned her Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology and her Doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology from Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Illinois. Dr. Casanova has the distinct honor of being the first African American student to earn a Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology and a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Northern Illinois University’s Graduate Program in Psychology.

Dr. Casanova has worked in private practice, for psychiatric hospitals, and as a clinician at for-profit and not-for-profit agencies. She is a published researcher/author and conference presenter. A few of her areas of interest include child abuse and neglect (childhood trauma), family violence, psychopathology, multicultural issues, racial trauma, anti-racist therapy, and the mental health (wellness) of people of color. As a first- generation college student, Dr. Casanova is a strong supporter of Purdue’s TRIO Programs, including Upward Bound and the Ronald E. McNair Post Baccalaureate Achievement Program, where she has served as a faculty research mentor to 78 students.

She has received the “Outstanding Teacher” award and served as Director of the Ethnic Studies Program. Dr. Casanova has been selected as a recipient of the 2024 Purdue University Martin Luther King, Jr. “Dreamer Award.” The Dreamer Award recognizes individuals or an organization within the Purdue University community whose contributions embody Dr. King’s vision of service to others and furthers the university’s commitment to diversity. She has worked tirelessly with many student groups and committees across campus as a faculty advisor and leader and is a sought-after mentor for students who desire to seek post-baccalaureate degrees. Dr. Casanova’s drive to empower students to reach their full potential has, like Dr. King, become a ministry.

Farai Gombedza

Farai Gombedza, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Biochemistry in the Department of Chemistry and Physics. He holds a BS. Biochemistry degree from Lafayette College; MS. Chemistry and PhD in Chemistry (2017) degrees from the University of Akron. His research interests include Chemical Education Research, where he focuses on improving student outcomes in General Chemistry through active learning and leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) assistive tools; and Molecular Biochemistry Research where he investigates the pathogenesis of lung diseases associated with vaping/e-cigarettes use, utilizing large datasets and in vitro experimentation to analyze their impact on inflammatory and oxidative stress biomarkers.

Omeed Ilchi stands outdoors

Omeed Ilchi, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice in the Department of Behavioral Sciences at Purdue University Northwest, a position he has held since 2021. Previously, he was an assistant professor in the Department of Criminal Justice at Westfield State University from 2018 to 2021. He received a PhD in criminal justice from the University of Cincinnati in 2018. His research interests include criminological theory, attitudes toward the police, and support for police accountability.

Maged Mikhail

Maged Mikhail, PhD, holds the position of Associate Professor in Mechatronics Engineering Technology, and is Interim Associate Chair of the Engineering Technology Department. He obtained his Master’s and PhD degrees from Tennessee State University in 2009 and 2013, respectively. His academic journey was marked by a focus on AI applications for aircraft control engines and robotics, with his thesis and research receiving funding from prestigious entities such as the US Air Force and Boeing Inc. Upon joining PNW, Dr. Mikhail continued his research pursuits, specializing in control automation and robotics. His vision encompasses the establishment of a robust research area in robotics and automation, aimed at guiding both graduate and undergraduate students while fostering collaborations with industry stakeholders, scientists, and researchers. In addition, his current research interests extend to exploring physical and cyber-security aspects within advanced manufacturing systems

Robin MillerRobin Miller, MSW, LCSW, ACSW, is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Social Work. She also serves as the Practicum Education Director for the social work program. Robin has been a clinical social worker for the past 29 years and works in the community in private practice serving clients struggling with complex trauma and related complications. She has been teaching and leading in the social work program since 2015 and was instrumental in earning initial accreditation for the program through the Council on Social Work Education. Robin teaches courses across the curriculum of the social work program and has developed several elective courses in social work. As the Practicum Education Director, Robin builds relationships with agencies in the community, works to place students in their internships, and coordinates activities in the implicit curriculum to support the mission and goals of community partners. Robin is also working to structure the practicum curriculum for the upcoming Master’s degree in Social Work (MSW) program, which is scheduled to begin offering courses in the Fall of 2025.

Ezra MutaiEzra Mutai, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Food and Nutrition at the White Lodging School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at Purdue University Northwest (PNW). Dr. Mutai’s teaching involves instructing undergraduate students in the Essentials of Nutrition, Food Safety, Sanitation and Health courses. His goal as an instructor is to help students come to see the course concepts as part of a toolkit for navigating the world, so that learning extends beyond the classroom. His research interests include understanding the role and mechanisms through which bioactive food compounds play on the prevention and/or treatment of chronic diseases such as obesity and heart disease. Dr. Mutai believes that students’ college experiences go far beyond the curriculum in their programs. As such, he involves undergraduate students in other opportunities such as course-based research and other research-related opportunities that allow students to gain skills and experiences. Dr. Mutai is currently working with PNW undergraduate students on a Barilla Inc.-funded research study on the role of mindfulness and the effects of mindful eating on factors such as satiety and satisfaction among college students.

Grace Pigozzi

Grace Pigozzi, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Literacy at Purdue University Northwest and teaches Early Elementary and Intermediate Literacy Methods, English for New Learners, Children’s Media, and Literacy Intervention for Diverse learners. Significant areas of scholarship include reading fluency, adolescent writing, multilingualism, and multimodality. Conference presentations encompass research on reading intervention, and learner engagement and identity as expressed in writing in online spaces. Her current Scholarship of Engagement highlights the creation of a longitudinal family literacy initiative and study through Hammond Public Library, bringing parent/child activities, child development, and parent education services to emergent bilingual families in the region. Dr. Pigozzi’s research interests endeavor to discover unique pathways to guide and support learners who strive for academic success through creative self-expression.

Beth VotteroBeth Vottero, PhD, RN, CNE, ANEF, is a Professor in the College of Nursing at Purdue University Northwest. She currently teaches quality and safety, as well as the capstone course where she guides students to address a clinical problem for regional health settings using an evidence-based quality improvement approach. She teaches graduate courses in informatics and education, as well as teaches evidence-based practice and knowledge translation courses in the DNP program. She is the Director of the Indiana Center for Evidence-Based Nursing Practice, a JBI Center of Excellence. As such, she conducts systematic reviews and provides systematic review training globally. Her research program seeks to improve the quality of teaching and assessment in nursing education through the development of evidence-based teaching strategies. She has led or participated in over 12 multisite studies with nursing programs throughout the country, including seminal work on developing the Substance Use Disorder Nursing Antecedents Model and the Just Culture Assessment Tool for Nursing Education (JCAT-NE). Her current work includes the 3rd Edition of the Quality and Safety Education for Nurses textbook (Springer).

La Tonia Winston

La Tonia Winston, PhD, is the Director of TRIO – Ronald E. McNair Achievement Program at PNW. Dr. Winston is originally from Milwaukee, WI, where she graduated with her Bachelor’s degree and Master’s degrees in both Human Resources and Labor Relations from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, as well as a History and Christian doctrine from Regent University. She completed her Ph.D. in Educational Studies with an emphasis in Higher Education at Trinity International University. She is also an alumna of the McNair Achievement program. Dr. Winston works to assist students with honing their critical thinking and research skills while they also develop other competencies needed for academic study, vocational work, and life. She is committed to stimulating the holistic and academic formation of students.


To request a disability-related accommodation, please contact the Office of Institutional Equity at oie@pnw.edu or (219) 989-2163 five days prior to the event.