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Dr. Nagaraj Rao, Program Director

Dr. Nagaraj Rao is a professor in the Department Mathematics and Computer Sciences and has served as Interim Dean of the school and Chairman of the department for nineteen years. He led the push to start our cyber security programs. Dr. Rao has been the recipient of several grants from US Department of Education (DOE), National Science Foundation (NSF), Mathematical Association of America (MAA), CISCO and private foundations. He has been running Mathematical Modeling at Mercy College since 1994.

Dr. Rao has BSc and MSc from University of Mysore, India, an MS in Mathematics and a Ph.D. in Applied Mathematical Sciences from University of Rhode Island, and an MS in Computer Science from The City College of New York. Dr. Rao teaches both mathematics and computer science courses.


Emily Cunningham, Assistant Program Director

As the assistant program director, Emily provides operational support for Team STEM, a Department of Education-funded program that includes peer STEM mentoring and teaching, faculty advising, and a range of other services for math and science majors. Prior to joining Mercy College, Emily was the associate director for Black Rock Forest, a biological field station, where she was instrumental in funding and helping to administer a Summer Science Camp that is now in its eleventh year. As the former managing director of New York Sun Works, a nonprofit dedicated to urban farming, Emily secured two-year permitting for the Science Barge's visit to Manhattan waterfront parks. She is the former director of major gifts for Human Rights Watch. Emily holds a B.A. and an M.A. in English literature from Stanford University.


Kelly Colby, Data Analyst

Kelly works with Mercy College faculty, staff, and students to gather data and determine the effectiveness of Team STEM activities. She is currently completing her Master’s Degree in Psychology from the State University of New York at New Paltz.

Dr. Anthony Canger, Activity Director

Dr. Anthony K. Canger is an Associate Professor in the Department of Natural Sciences and served as chair of the department from 2012 - 2016.  Dr.  Canger received his doctoral degree in Cellular and Molecular Biology from Stony Brook University in 1998 and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Sloan Kettering Institute in 2004. He has continued to conduct neuroscience research with undergraduates using the chick embryo as a model system. Dr. Canger studies the molecular mechanisms of nervous system development focusing on neuronal cell migration and formation of neural connections. In 2017 he received funding from the National Science Foundation’s S-STEM grant program and is currently co-director of the Tri-Point Advising Program funded by the Department of Education. 


Dr. Julia Zavala, Activity Director

Dr. Zavala is an Assistant Professor in Psychology at Mercy College. She holds a Ph.D. in developmental psychology from Teachers College at Columbia University. Her research focuses on epistemic perspectives, which is how people understand information. Currently she is working on research examining how epistemic perspectives influences the relationship between social media use and academic performance.   

  • Dr. Anthony Canger, Biology
  • Dr. Renee Haskew-Layton, Biology
  • Dr. Julia Zavala, Psychology 
  • Dr. Rebecca Trenz, Psychology
  • Dr. Andrew Lin, Psychology
  • Dr. Dana Manzel, Psychology
  • Dr. Alberto Manzi, Psychology
  • Dr. Narasimhasway Banavara, Computer Science
  • Dr. Charles Li, Mathematics

Dr. Renee Haskew Layton, Activity Director

Dr. Renée Haskew-Layton is a Assistant Professor and Program Head in Biology. Dr. Haskew-Layton received her doctoral degree in Neuropharmacology and Neuroscience from Albany Medical College in 2005 and completed her postdoctoral fellowship in neurobiology in 2011 at Burke Medical Research Institute of Weill Cornell Medical College. She continues to conduct neuroscience research with undergraduate students. Using a chick embryo model, Dr. Haskew-Layton studies the glial subtype cell – astrocytes – and their ability to protect neurons from neurodegenerative diseases (e.g. Alzheimer Disease, Parkinson Disease, Huntington Disease) characterized by oxidative stress.


Dr. Narasimhaswamy (Narasim) Banavara, Activity Director

Dr. Narasimhaswamy (Narasim) Banavara is a faculty member and Program Head for Computer Science and Computer Information Systems. He teaches courses in mathematics, computer science, computer information systems, and cybersecurity. Dr. Banavara's research interests include: systems analysis and design, joint application design, strategy and information systems in organizations, ethics and information systems, intelligent animated agents and their utilization in development of foundational skills for college students, qualitative research methods in information systems, information partnerships and knowledge partnerships in organizations, group dynamics and group process in information systems development. Dr. Banavara earned his Ph.D. in Management Planning and Information Systems at the City University of New York -- Baruch College. He earned his M.B.A. in Management at St. John's University, an M.A. in German at Goethe Institut, Munich, Germany, and a B.E. in Computer Science & Engineering at Bangalore University, Bangalore, India.


Grace Favilla, Westchester Community College/Mercy College Transfer Coach

Grace serves as Transfer Coach for Team STEM. She completed her bachelor’s degree in 2015 at Mercy College after transferring from Westchester Community College and received her master’s degree in 2017 from Mercy College. Grace especially enjoys working with undergraduates to help them find success in their chosen fields of study.


Diane, Krusko, Program Specialist

Diane Krusko brings both skills and experience to her role as the lead for STEM programs at SUNY – Westchester Community College. She has worked with students in all three New York Medical College schools –School of Medicine, Graduate School of Basic Medical Sciences, and Graduate School of Health Sciences and Practice. Diane has also developed various alumni engagements to assist students on a productive academic and professional path. 

Davida Smyth, Activity Director

Dr. Davida S. Smyth serves as Associate Professor in the Department of Natural Sciences, where she teaches environmental science, introductory biology, microbiology, environmental science and genetics. Prior to joining Mercy, Dr. Smyth was an adjunct instructor at Stern College of Yeshiva University and Assistant Professor of Biology at New York City College of Technology (NYCCT). Committed to integrating research and teaching, at Mercy, she has developed a classroom undergraduate research experience called: "The Microbiology of Urban Spaces.” Recently, Dr. Smyth was awarded a grant from the Department of Defense to establish the Initiative for Undergraduate Research and Education in Genomics and to purchase an Ion S5 DNA sequencer.

Dr. Smyth holds a Ph.D. in Microbiology from the University of Dublin, Trinity College, Ireland and completed her postdoctoral training at New York Medical College, the University of Mississippi Medical Center, and New York University.