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Spring 2021 Instructors


Garrett Flynn is a fourth-year progressive degree student in the Computational Neuroscience and Media Arts, Games, and Health programs. Working at the intersection of neuroscience, ethics, and interactive media, he manages several interdisciplinary projects out of the USC Neural Modeling and Interface Lab and Brains@Play: an international research collective seeking to enable the responsible development of brain-responsive multiplayer experiences through the production of public design workshops, educational resources, and open-source software tools. To this end, Garrett currently develops innovative experiences for the general public—and, of course, Shaukat Initiative students—to participate in emerging discussions on neurotechnology.

Garrett Flynn


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My name is Maria Vardapetyan. I was born and raised in Yerevan, Armenia. I moved to the United States at the age of 19 to pursue my dream of becoming a doctor. My pronouns are she/her/hers. Currently, I’m a senior at USC majoring in Biology. I’m the founder and the president of American Medical Women’s Association, Pre-Med Chapter at USC and the director of alumni relations of Transfer Student Assambly. I’m interested in learning absolutely anything starting with how to fix cars ending with a stem cell research. I’m also very passionate about passing my knowledge to others who are eager to learn.

Maria Vardapetyan

Medical Forensics

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Hi! My name is Riya Valaulikar, and I’m from Memphis, Tennessee. My pronouns are she/her/hers. I’m a freshman at USC majoring in Environmental Science and Health with a minor in East Asian Languages and Culture. I’m super excited to be a part of the Shaukat Initiative this semester and have the opportunity to teach about topics that interest me. Besides Shaukat, I’m also a part of Peer Health Exchange and Dear Asian Youth. In my free time, I enjoy dancing, cooking, and watching figure skating (even though I can barely stand on ice).

Riya Valaulikar

The Truth Behind the Beauty Industry

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My name is Omer! like Homer Simpson without the “H” and I am super enthusiastic about playing sports such as soccer, surfing, and volleyball. I was born and raised in Pakistan, where I completed my High School education. Recently I graduated from USC with a BS in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. As of now, I’m taking part in colorectal cancer research and studying for the MCAT to pursue medical school. My main goal in life is to serve humanity by establishing my own social work organization that empowers underprivileged children through education and character development. 

Omer Zaffer

Medical Forensics

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Hi, my name is Zachary Gee and I am a junior here at USC. I am majoring in Classics and minoring in Linguistics. I was born here in Los Angeles and grew up in Sacramento, California. I am a tutor for the USC Athletics Department, as well as an ambassador in the Dornsife Transfer Ambassador Program. For fun, I am a part of Troy Philippines, USC’s Filipinx Organization, and a catcher for Trojans Club Baseball. My pronouns are he/him/his.

Zachary Gee

Modern Life in Ancient Rome

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Hi! I’m Neha (think neigh-ha, like a laughing horse :)) Yadav. My pronouns are she/her/hers. I am a second-year undergraduate student majoring in Biomedical Engineering, with a possible minor in either Health Innovation or Human Rights. On campus, I’m involved with Engineers Without Borders, UNICEF USC, and the Associated Students of Biomedical Engineering’s STEM outreach initiative, Project in a Box. I also helped found and am currently working on a startup that provides nutrition education to students in underfunded schools. I have always been passionate about education and I firmly believe that equal access to education can revolutionize the world for the better. Furthermore, I’m very passionate about social justice and activism, and I’m extremely excited to join the Shaukat Initiative because it allows me to fuse these three interests into one course! In my spare time, I’m usually reading, playing tennis, procrastinating heavily on assignments, or attempting to learn how to skateboard (the number of falls I’ve had is atrocious). In the future, I hope to help maintain more equitability in healthcare by designing low-cost medical technologies and providing them to those who need them.

Neha Yadav

Race in America

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My name is Sean Silvia! I am from Washington, D.C. and my pronouns are he/him/his. I am a junior History and Archaeology double major with a minor in Classics. I am the President of USC’s chapter of Phi Alpha Theta the History honors society, Vice President of STARC the student Archaeology organization, founder and Student Editor/Advisor for The Scroll History
Research Journal, an Undergraduate Student Consultant for the American Language Institute, a History Department Research Assistant, and creator of the educational Archaeologists Anonymous YouTube series. I am also a member of the Alpha Lambda Delta and Phi Kappa Phi honors societies.

Sean Silvia

Modern Life in Ancient Rome

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Lana Bridi is pursuing a B.S. degree in Human Biology from the University of Southern California with minors in Mathematics and Medical Anthropology. This is her fifth semester teaching for the Shaukat Initiative, and she is very excited to meet her students. Lana is involved in other activities at USC including serving as a Resident Assistant, working with the Office for Health Promotion Strategy, assisting Dornsife Admissions as a Dornsife Ambassador, and serving as the Assistant Director for the Student Assembly for Accessibility.

Lana Bridi

Painting Through a Global Perspective

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Advaita Chandramohan is a third-year undergraduate student studying Biomedical Engineering at the University of Southern California. She volunteered as a tutor throughout her high school years for students of all ages, teaching different cohorts of students everything from reading and writing to science and engineering. Combined with her love for literature, she is very excited to be working with Shaukat Initiative this semester! She hopes to teach students not only how to engage deeply with what they are reading, but also impart lessons from the books into their own lives. In her free time, Advaita enjoys baking, napping, and of course, reading.

Advaita Chandramohan

Let's Talk Politics: Then and Now


My name is Soroush Ershadifar! I am a rising senior studying Human Biology and Mathematics at USC. My passion in education led me in becoming an instructor in Shaukat and I have been an instructor in the program since its start. Other than Shaukat, I am also part of the JEP family and Troy Camp on campus. Outside of campus for the following semester, you can find me social distancing at home back in the bay area looking for the newest food spots in LA to visit after quarantining! 

Soroush Ershadifar

Painting Through a Global Perspective


Emily is a Junior from Ventura County who is studying French, and Law History Culture. After originally coming to USC as a business student, she took time to realize her passion in the humanities, particularly history. As an undergraduate, she is interested in exploring the formation of early societies; thinking of the intersecting roles of religion, law, and community. Outside of Shaukat, she is a Trip Lead with Peaks and Professors, a social media coordinator for the Secular Student Fellowship, a member of the First Generation service organization, Fisher Fellows, and the Treasurer for Clio, the History department’s Student Association. In her free time she enjoys reading in her hammock, skating, baking random desserts, and thinking of
our position in the universe!

Emily Johnson

American Citizenship and Law

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Ben Blum is a second-year undergraduate studying International Relations with a minor in Cinematic Arts. Originally from San Francisco, California, Ben lived in Japan for two years in an international study abroad program before coming to USC. He is a Trip Lead for Peaks and Professors, a research assistant in the School of International Relations, and a fellow at the Global Policy Institute, as well as a student worker at the American Film Showcase. In his spare time, he enjoys watching obscure films, brewing coffee and chasing sunsets (but not so much sunrises).

Benjamin Blum

Why Movies Matter

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My name is Amrita Singh, and I am a senior completing a dual degree in Astronautical Engineering (B.S.) and Theatre (B.A.). Through analyzing problems from not only an engineering perspective, but also an artistic one, I create new, interdisciplinary solutions to problems we currently face in the space industry. I have worked as an actor, director, designer, and editor in theatre, as well as in various engineering roles involving integration, testing, product development, and research.

Amrita Singh

An Introduction to Rocket Science


My name is Haemin (Jenny) Lee and I am a third-year undergraduate student studying computer science and computer engineering. I usually go by Jenny, and I use she/her/hers pronouns.  I am from San Diego, California, and some of my interests include hiking, finding good eateries, creating art, and making cool things! On campus, I am the Director of Technical Resources for USC Makers, an undergraduate TA for an electrical engineering course, and a researcher at the Interaction Lab. I'm super excited to teach with the Shaukat Initiative this year (first time!) and I can't wait to see how it goes!

Jenny Lee

Let's Talk Politics: Then and Now


Nishan Sohoni is a third year undergraduate student majoring in Neuroscience, with the eventual goal of pursuing a masters in Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine. On campus, he serves as a supplemental instructor for biochemistry, community outreach director of a pre-health centered organization, Inter-Health Council, a counselor for Troy Camp, and an undergraduate research assistant in a lab that focuses on neural stem cells. Throughout high school and college, Nishan has been passionate about both mentorship and education as powerful tools to instill confidence and inspire his peers. He sees critical thinking as the most important skill for students to have in order to become well rounded, thoughtful, and sharp members of society. Nishan is extremely excited to become involved with Shaukat Initiative this spring! In his free time, he enjoys playing the piano, baking cakes for his friends, and exploring new restaurants in Los Angeles.

Nishan Sohoni

Conspiracy Theories

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Yinan Su is a fourth-year undergraduate student studying Neuroscience. She is passionate about exploring the links between food and medicine and putting these ideas into practice by educating students. On campus, she is involved with neuroscience research where she is able to explore how visual inputs are processed in the brain. Off campus, she is involved with nonprofits Take Back the Night and the Garden School Foundation, an organization that engages youth in a garden based education to promote community health. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking, making fermented foods, growing herbs and houseplants, and running. 

Yinan Su

The Intersectionality Between Food and Health

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My name is Jason and I am a recent USC graduate from the class of 2020 with a B.S. in Neuroscience. Born and raised in Southern California, I grew up falling in love with the Los Angeles food scene. On my quest to explore the culinary arts, I trained as a chef at the Gourmandaise School of Sweets and Savories in Santa Monica and served as a kitchen volunteer at St. Vincent’s Meals on Wheels to deliver meals to communities throughout Los Angeles. On campus, I have served as an instructor for both biochemistry and organic chemistry. Throughout my time learning and teaching these scientific subjects, I loved discovering the intersection between science and food, and understanding how cooking can be explained in terms of chemical reactions. If you haven’t guessed already, my hobbies include cooking, baking a variety of breads and pastries, and eating my delicious creations. Additionally, I enjoy triathlon sports which helps to burn off the calories I gain from my culinary endeavors. During my gap year, I aspire to master the art of making a good croissant and complete my first triathlon. Afterwards, I aim to continue my education in medical school.

Jason Tsoi

The Intersectionality Between Food and Health

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