TEDxUConn 2015 Team

Katie Hires

English & Political Science ’15

I’m an undergrad at the University of Connecticut from Bethel, Connecticut, a small town you have probably never heard of unless you are a circus history enthusiast, because it is the hometown of PT Barnum. I am involved in many extracurricular organizations, such as Poetic Release, the spoken word group on campus, LAVA, an art activism group, and Idealists United, a not-art activism group. In addition to planning TEDxUConn, I enjoy reading books by Kurt Vonnegut, watching movies with explosions, falling asleep in unusual places, and writing quotes on windows with dry erase markers.

Lior Trestman
Vice President and CFO

Biomedical Engineering ’15

An engineer with a passion for giving back. The TED Conference is a definitive statement of prestige, so I am very excited to be a part of a group that is bringing TED to UConn as part of the University’s climb in repute. Outside of TED, I have the privilege of participating in many exciting projects and research opportunities, as well as travel abroad, working with UConn Empower and being a part of a number of other great groups on campus.

Aiden Ford

Physiology and Neurobiology

I’m a listener at heart, which is what drew me to TED, and the opportunity to hear students and faculty explain their passions and be a part of that process is what drew me to TEDxUConn. I’m a sophomore, Physiology and Neurobiology major with a serious love of snow, UConn basketball, and naps. As someone working towards an MD, I believe that health and humanity are inextricably intertwined, and the more that is realized, the more healthcare will improve on both a national and international scale.

Alexis Garkusha

BA Music; Arabic and Hebrew

Senior at the University of Connecticut in Storrs. I have gotten the chance to live in the U.S., Canada, and Russia. I’m aware of the myriad of ways we can transmit information and the power of communication. I’ve been involved in TEDxUConn since 2013. Outside of TEDx, I powerlift (Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1), hike, and read books on history. In the future, I hope to work for the FBI or the State Department as a linguist for Arabic, Hebrew, and Russian.

Brock Chimileski

Physiology and Neurobiology ’17

A budding physician interested in the biology of the most powerful device in the history of the world– the human brain. For years I’ve been inspired by TEDs motto of “ideas worth spreading,” so I find it extremely rewarding to help organize this prestigious event for the UConn community. In my free time I enjoy following UConn sports, exercising, and exploring the pristine Adirondack mountains of upstate New York.

Leila Shwayhat
Environmental Engineering ‘18

A freshman from Windsor, the first town in Connecticut, I am an aspiring environmental engineer at UConn. I enjoy anything from musicals to soccer to chocolate, and love that TEDxUConn embraces and embodies well-roundedness. TEDxUConn helps spread important ideas and messages that the community needs to hear, because ideas like these can help change the world, something I hope to contribute to in my career.

Megan Rugar
International Business ‘17

I am originally from Berlin, CT, a small town in the middle of the state, that you are most likely pronouncing wrong. I am currently pursuing a minor in Middle Eastern studies, while trying my best to learn Arabic. When I am not reading textbooks or at TEDxUConn meetings, I also divide my time between my work with UNICEF here at UConn and Community Outreach. I love to volunteer my time, but I mostly identify myself as an artist, a movie junkie, and a guacamole enthusiast.

Savannah Smith
Cognitive Science ’18

I am a dancer on the UConn Dance Company, “Many Mentor” for high school students interested in STEM fields, reader of various topics- particularly the mind, mathematics doer, and dancer of some Swing ‘n Blues! I also take pride in my quiet, warm nature, that is both focused and creative. Ted Talks share amazing ideas, which ultimately adds beauty to our lives.

Shaharyar Zuberi
Physiology & Neurobiology ’17

From Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Canada, and the small town of Rocky Hill, CT, I try to take the most out of every opportunity I encounter. As a (hopeful) future physician-scientist, I am interested in what makes humans tick and want to play my role in the betterment of society. TedxUConn is an excellent opportunity to introduce fresh novel ideas into the lively UConn community to not only cultivate an enriching learning environment, but to also act as a catalyst for future discoveries.

Tasneem Ahmed
Economics and Human Rights ’17

Currently a sophomore student studying Economics and Human Rights, I hope to work on international development in my future. I have a fascination with different cultures and languages – learning Arabic is my latest language endeavor – and a passion for traveling. I believe that every conversation provides an opportunity for learning and the random “hellos” to strangers on a train that turn into two hour conversations are my absolute favorite. It is this curiosity of peoples’ experiences and TED’s interdisciplinary approach to learning that brings me to TedxUconn. I love coffee, music, New York City, warm weather and the outdoors.

Alexa Santos
Marketing ’17

I am a sophomore majoring in Marketing, with a minor in Spanish and a longing to travel just about everywhere. While I can probably be found dancing, singing, or laughing at something not even remotely funny, it is my interest in learning from the experiences and perspectives of others that brought me to TEDxUConn. I’m a lover of fresh notebooks, sleeping in on a rainy day, and spontaneous decisions—oh and naps, I like naps.

Hamsa Ganapathi
Chemistry ’17

Hamsa Ganapathi is a sophomore who is studying chemistry and healthcare management at the University of Connecticut. Her beautifully altruistic passion is providing competent healthcare to the masses in an accessible and affordable way, as well as She enjoys dancing fabulously and is currently the CFO of the awesome dance team Husky Bhangra, which you should totally check out in your free time. Her other interests include cool socks, the color navy blue, and eating lots of Reese’s Peanut butter cups.

Elizabeth Bujwid
Political Science & Chinese ’18

Originally from Lexington, Massachusetts, I am a freshman at the University of Connecticut majoring in Political Science. I love games of capture the flag, spontaneous debates, and finding dawdle-worthy books. As a member of Amnesty International, health and inhumanity are topics about which I am excited to promote discussion. I am grateful and privileged to help organize this TEDx UConn event.

Sarah Moessner
Economics and Human Rights ’17

I’m originally from the fine state of Pennsylvania (you know, the place with guns and bibles). Looking for an exciting and exotic experience, I moseyed my way up to the mysterious land that is Connecticut. In addition to TED, I keep myself busy as a member of the UConn Free Press and the UConn branch of Lawyers Without Borders. I am currently still trying to figure out my calling in life, though the allure of running away with the circus continues to become more and more appealing as graduation draws nearer.

Adrian Coscia
Molecular & Cellular Biology ‘17

I’m excited to be part of a team that uses the TEDx brand and philosophy to share some of the ongoing research here at UConn. TEDxUConn is a great platform, not only to share ideas within the UConn community, but also to demonstrate the world-class research and resources the university has to offer.