Undergraduate Mentors

Tia Bertz

Tia Bertz

IDATA mentor Tia Bentz is a student at the University of Wisconsin Marshfield. For many years, she has been involved with the Yerkes Observatory, a collaborator on the IDATA. She has a strong passion for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), evident in her desire to educate and empower people through that very field. Tia, who is visually impaired herself, has not allow her limitation to stand in the way of her life goals. Outside of the IDATA program, she enjoys daydreaming about future technology, spending time with friends and family, along with 3D printing and has made 3D models for a diverse clientele.

Katya Gozman

Katya Gozman

IDATA mentor Katya Gozman is in her second-year study of astrophysics at the University of Chicago. As a small child in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago, she fell in love with astronomy. And in high school, that love led her to work as a volunteer at a local community college observatory. There she helped run telescopes and addressed visitors during public viewing sessions. Katya is thrilled to be part of the IDATA undergrad work, which combines her love of astronomy and outreach.

Chris Mathews

Chris Mathews

I am Chris Mathews, a journalism major at the University of Wisconsin Whitewater. At first I wasn’t too sure about being on a project full of physics majors and smart people. There are days when I question the decision to include me on the team, especially when the others start speaking physics, a language involving complicated numbers and ridiculously ridiculous concepts that break my brain. As it is, I work on accesiblizing things throughout the project. This means I put dots and funny lines on stuff so students with low vision can suffer through endless hours of homework just as equally as anybody else. After all, I am one of our 3 BVI undergraduates. My role consists mostly of self deprecation and running into every conceivable obstacle placed around the observatory. Occasionally, I actually attempt to provide useful feedback as we plan lessons, learn photometry, and try to better understand what it is we are working towards and what IDATA means.

Kendall Mehling

Kendall Mehling

IDATA mentor Kendall Mehling is a second-year math and physics major at the University of Chicago. His work in the IDATA project to assist project leaders, teachers, and students is providing him and the students with amazing opportunities to learn and grow. Kendall is looking forward to the impact of the project on the blind and visually impaired student community. And is a personable individual from Cleveland, Tennessee who enjoys football, reading, biking and sharing a good laugh with anyone.

Andrea Salazar

Andrea Salazar

IDATA mentor Andrea Salazar is in her second-year studies of Astrophysics and Russian at the University of Chicago. She comes to the IDATA project from San Antonio, Texas, with beginner’s flight school experience and hopes to one day set foot on Mars. Andrea is a life-long learner who enjoys engaging new people and the amazing experiences made available through the IDATA project. Her love of science and astronomy is outdone only by her passion for theater and arts which began at an early age.

Ben Shafer

Benjamin Shafer

IDATA mentor Ben Shafer is a second-year student at the University of Chicago. Majoring in geophysics with a minor in Spanish. The IDATA program has been an enriching experience where he has come to grasp the perspective of the blind and visually impaired. He is eager to contribute to the design and research process of the IDATA program, which he considers to be a unique educational endeavor. Ben is an active leader of house and residence hall council as well as a campus literary journal. His interests outside of the classroom include environmental science and physics. And he dreams of one day working aboard.

Alex Traub

Alex Traub

My name is Alex Traub. I’m majoring in computer science, at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee. As a visually impaired person, who’s wanted to learn about astronomy for years, IDATA is such an appealing project, and I’m looking forward to working on it the next 3 years.

Sophia Vlahakis

Sophia Vlahakis

My name is Sophia Vlahakis, and I am a second year undergraduate physics student at the University of Chicago. I am a big fan of science fiction and hope to one day become involved in space exploration. I also love working with kids and during the school year I participate in a tutoring program, teaching students of all ages math, science, and literacy skills. I have always loved science and astronomy, and am excited to be a part of a project that can make this more accessible to everyone.

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