2020 SPARKlers
Alexis James, a Black female undergraduate with shoulder length curly hair, learns against a reflective wall. She is smiling, her arms are folding at her hips, and she's wearing a black sweater and jeans.

Alexis James

Majoring in Human Health Sciences, James intends to go to medical school and says the SPARK program piqued her interest as she wanted a diverse undergraduate research experience. Working with faculty sponsor Danelle Stevens-Watkins in the College of Education, James’ project focuses on mental health in Black men who are incarcerated in Kentucky.



Hope Makumbi, a female, Black undergraduate, smiles and leans against a reflective wall. She's wearing a white button up sweater and jeans, and her short hair is behind a headband.

Hope Makumbi

Makumbi, a neuroscience major bound for medical school, says her plans to go to Uganda for a summer internship focused on women’s health changed directions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. SPARK ended up being the perfect opportunity because it was a different type of research experience where she was still able to focus on women’s health issues, Makumbi says.

Makumbi’s SPARK focus is on maternal healthcare, specifically how a mother’s pre-pregnancy level of education is related to concerns about her child's early development.


Roberto Obregon Garcia

Roberto Obregon Garcia, an undergraduate white male with short blond hair, smiles and leans against a reflective wall. He's wearing a black, patterned button-down shirt and his arms are crossed at his chest.

Psychology major Obregon Garcia was matched with Rafael E. Pérez-Figueroa in the College of Public Health. His study examines whether co-using other drugs determines the likelihood of fatal opioid overdoses among a primarily Latinx male population experiencing homelessness.

Originally from Mexico, Obregon Garcia says one of the things that attracted him to SPARK was the focus on multicultural perspectives in his research not only for this project, but in the future.