2020 Graduate Student Contribution to Community Life Award Recipients

Ramisa Fariha, Master of Science in Biomedical Engineering

Born and raised in Narayanganj, Bangladesh, Ramisa is the first Ivy League student from her hometown. She was the first single female to leave her hometown to pursue her bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Engineering from Penn State, where she was the first international student to receive ‘Freshman of the Year’ award. Ramisa joined Brown University in Fall 2018, working on a research collaboration with Dr. Jonghwan Lee and her research inspiration, Dr. Jeff Morgan, pursuing her master’s degree in Biomedical Engineering. During her time at Brown, Ramisa has served in the International Student Advisory Board, and was featured in the prestigious NAFSA Magazine when Brown was awarded the Senator Paul Simon Award for Comprehensive Internationalization. During her time at Brown, Ramisa was selected as the Graduate Community Fellow for International Students (2018-2019, 2019-2020), and she organized various events, including the ‘Graduate Student Self-Care Series’ with Global Brown Center for International Students (GBC). Ramisa also served as one of the three Graduate Assistants for International Graduate Orientation, and as a Peer Mentor and Tour Guide for Graduate Student Orientation. She also served as the first Graduate Coordinator for GBC, and together with Community Fellow Shuai Xie, executed several community building initiatives, specifically for International Graduate Students. Not only for the international student community, Ramisa has served in various career panels and search committees for different campus centers, and organizations. She was an active part of the Biomedical Engineering DIAP Committee, and also led several Diversity and Inclusion initiatives as an active member of the Brown Biomedical Engineering and Biotechnology (BMEB) Graduate Advisory Board. She has also been featured in various science blogs due to her activism as a womxn of color in STEM. Ramisa is currently planning to transition to the industry, looking for research positions. Her goal is to become an independent research scientist, specializing on female reproductive diseases such as Ovarian Cancer, while continuing to inspire more international students and womxn of color in STEM to pursue their dreams. 

John Santiago, Ph D. Molecular Biology, Cellular Biology and Biochemistry

John Santiago grew up in Watertown, New York and will be graduating with a PhD in Molecular Biology, Cellular Biology and Biochemistry (MCBGP). He is a father of three and the first in his family to attain a college degree. When he started his graduate work, with guidance from the MCBGP he became involved with the Brown Initiative to Maximize Student Development (IMSD) program and joined Brown’s Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) chapter. This involvement brought him to a few national conferences where he became aware of the impact he could have on those from similar backgrounds. He began taking opportunities to provide mentoring through activities such as participating in the MCB graduate student peer mentoring program, assisting with IMSD modules as a senior scholar, and working with the Summer Research - Early Identification Program (SR-EIP) for three summers. Additionally, he founded the Brown University junior researchers program (BjRP) to provide relatable role models in science for elementary school kids. The program worked with after school programs at local public schools to provide weekly science lessons for the past five years. The activities were completely organized and funded by graduate student volunteers across several graduate programs speaking to the compassion of our graduate school community. He credits the support and guidance of his mentor David Rand, the MCBGP and the IMSD program for his success in these efforts. After graduations, he will continue these efforts locally from his post-doc position in Jennifer Sander’s lab here at Brown. His goal is to pursue a career in academia with his own research lab while continuing his efforts to empower upcoming generations of scientists

Benjamin Wilks, Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering


Ben Wilks grew up in Chicago, Illinois and will be receiving a PhD in Biomedical Engineering in May 2020. During their time at Brown, both as an undergraduate and graduate student, building community has been a central component of their experience. These sometimes disparate communities of scientist and LGBTQ+ mentors, mentees, colleagues, and lifelong friends have been critical to Ben’s personal and professional development and are by far the most valuable reward of a Brown University degree. To bridge these communities, Ben co-founded a chapter of Out in STEM (oSTEM) with fellow graduate student Patrick Freeman ’20 MSc that had three main goals: 1) to build a network of LGBTQ+ scientists that spanned the breadth of positions and titles at Brown University including undergrads, graduate students, postdocs, staff, faculty, deans, and anyone else in search of community 2) to increase visible representation and support of LGBTQ+ folks at Brown by identifying affirming mentors, bringing in role models, and developing visibility campaigns and 3) to advocate for increased institutional support to address systematic issues within departments and the University that impact all minoritzed identities by facilitating community conversations and directly addressing departments, chairs, and administrators with tangible ideas and action items.

In collaboration with oSTEM leadership and a wide array of fantastic University sponsors, Ben proposed, secured funding, and administered numerous initiatives such as a yearly “You Are Welcome Here” campaign that has been distributed to thousands of Brown University community members, departmental collaborations to bring openly LGBTQ+ speakers to speak about their work, identity, and the intersection of the two, professional development events to discuss navigating the workplace as an LGBTQ+ individual, and the development of a new speaker series called the DiversiTeas. While building the DiversiTeas series, Ben applied for and was awarded funding through the Graduate Community Fellows Program and invited GSOCnSTEM and SACNAS to co-facilitate the series with oSTEM. At the same time, Ben advocated for increased student support within his own program leading to the development of a Center for Biomedical Engineering DIAP committee in which he co-wrote the first draft of the DIAP document.
After graduation, Ben will be taking some time to rest, reconnect with family and friends, and work as a Visiting Scholar at Brown while applying for funding to start a biotech venture. www.ostematbrown.com