Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy

To ignite and nurture creative, ethical, scientific minds that advance the human condition.

Alumni Trailblazer Wall Brings IMSA Mission to Life

IMSA recently unveiled 10 new profiles of alumni who exemplify IMSA’s mission to “ignite and nurture creative, ethical scientific minds that advance the human condition.”

The Alumni Trailblazer wall at IMSA features a cancer researcher, fighter pilot, mathematics professor, entrepreneurs and other accomplished graduates who exemplify IMSA’s mission and who “strive each day to stretch their talents and skills so that they can shape the world around them.”

Students, staff , alumni and thousands of visitors from throughout the world who come to IMSA’s campus every year often stop to gather by the wall and admire the outstanding accomplishments of IMSA graduates.

Here are the featured alumni. Click on each name to view a poster that includes a photo, graphics and an expanded profile.

Michael Brody ’96, who supports IMSA’s mission to “advance the human condition” through his chosen career path in public service. Brody is Reporting Chief at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) - National Preparedness Assessment Division. He is a participant in the Naval Post Graduate School, Center for Homeland Security and Defense Masters Degree Program.  The program is structured around the key policy and organizational design problems that homeland security leaders are likely to confront.

Dr. Thandeka Chapman ’89, an Associate Professor of Urban Education in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.  She has conducted research on the implementation and documentation of multicultural education practices, the effects of school desegregation policy on urban students and teachers, and student success factors in urban high schools. She is the author of numerous publications on multicultural education.

Julie Comerford, Ph. D. ’98, a W.J. McDonald Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Texas, Austin and a nationally recognized astronomer.  The U.S. News and World report article, “A Black Hole Dance Party” highlights Comerford’s work on “waltzing” black holes discovered in galaxies.  In the Discovery Channel program Through the Wormhole, hosted by actor Morgan Freeman, she is the featured expert on super massive black holes.

Lt. Alex Dietrich ‘97, one of the Navy’s few female fighter pilots.  As an F-18 pilot, Lt. Dietrich served as a member of the “Black Aces” Strike Fighter Squadron and has earned numerous decorations.  She now works in the Pentagon as the aide to the chief of naval personnel in Washington, D.C.

Dr. Piyush Gupta ’95, cancer researcher at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research and assistant professor of Biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T). Dr. Gupta is discovering new methods in the fight against cancer. He made news headlines around the world in Reuters, The New York Times and Bloomberg News, just to name a few, as co-first author of a study published in the journal Cell showcasing the discovery of a chemical that can kill cancer stem cells.  

Sendhil Revuluri ’90, is a mathematics educator who wants to help students receive an education that can open doors “to both social mobility and intellectual satisfaction.”  As Senior Curriculum Developer at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Revuluri is working on an algebra curriculum for struggling learners. “Students, whatever their background, can benefit from dedicated educators, a lesson I learned well from my own experience at IMSA and continue learning when I work with IMSA educators to date.”

Travis Schedler, Ph.D. ’98, an instructor in mathematics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he holds a five-year fellowship from the American Institute of Mathematics (AIM).  Schedler was the sole recipient of the 2008 AIM Fellowship, an award that is “intended for an absolutely first-rate new Ph.D. -- someone with the potential to leave a lasting mark on mathematics.” Schedler has written or co-authored 19 research articles, including one that appeared in the Journal of the American Mathematical Society and another in the Duke Mathematical Journal.

Clara Shih ’00, who combines her keen knowledge and entrepreneurship savvy to help influence, improve and innovate business technology applications nationwide.  Shih was named one of the Most Influential Women in Technology 2010 (The Entrepreneurs group) by Fast Company magazine and authored The Facebook Era:  Tapping Online Social Networks to Build Better Products, Reach New Audiences, and Sell More Stuff, now used as a textbook at the Harvard Business School.

Russ Simmons ’95, co-founder of Yelp, Inc (, an online community that enables people to write and share reviews of local businesses with others. Founded in 2004, Yelp draws an audience of millions of visitors each month and has expanded to major metropolitan areas in the U.S. and in countries including Austria, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

Lynn Sosa, M.D. ’94, who is using her medical degree to serve citizens in the state of Connecticut by working to combat infectious diseases. “My main responsibilities include oversight of the management of patients with tuberculosis and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in the state, providing medical consultations on vaccine-preventable diseases and assisting in the oversight of disease investigations and outbreaks,” said Sosa, deputy state epidemiologist at the Connecticut Department of Public Heath.