Meet RTI Interns

We host interns every year in a variety of research programs.  Meet a few of our interns and learn about their experience.


Raquan Cotton

Raquan Cotton

Raquan was an accounting intern in the Global Tax Group working with mentors Cassandra James and Michael Welner. While at RTI, Raquan assisted with global tax projects, performed BASICS testing of internal controls for various business processes, and researched tax requirements for international countries. During his internship, Raquan built his professional network and developed his auditing and research skills. Working across departments has helped him understand the organizational structure of a nonprofits and given him a greater appreciation for the different business processes at a global institute. Raquan is pursuing a bachelor’s in Accounting with a minor in Marketing Sales at NC Agricultural and Technical State University where he is also the Student University Activities Board President.

Laya Hess-Skinner

Laya Hess-Skinner

Laya interned with the International Urban Management and Markets (UMM) team within the Governance and Economic Development Division. She conducted analyses of UMM’s current capabilities statements, compiled research on the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development, and has contributed to the USAID/Iraq-Tarabot project. Laya is a regional editor for the Israel, Palestine, and the Levant section of Muftah, a foreign policy magazine. She is also a volunteer Arabic translator and grant writer for Nawal Mostaf (an Ashoka Arab World Fellow). She holds a bachelor’s in Sociology and Middle East Studies from St. Olaf College and is obtaining a MPA at Cornell University, she plans to pursue a career in economic development, social entrepreneurship, and postconflict reconstruction.

Eeshan Khandekar

Eeshan Khandekar

Eeshan interned under Jeremiah Ngondi with RTI’s Global Health division in Zanzibar, Tanzania. He helped develop background briefs on malaria elimination strategies, including mass drug administration, active case detection, and mass screening and treatment. Eeshan conducted a program evaluation of Zanzibar’s Malaria Case Notification system, a surveillance system developed for Zanzibar’s malaria elimination goals. This internship provided Eeshan novel experience in public health evaluation, which helped build a strong foundation for his long-term goals in scaling up health care delivery models. Eeshan has lived in Saudi Arabia, India, England, Wales, and the US—but this RTI internship was his first experience in Africa. Eeshan is pursuing a master’s degree in Global Health at Duke University and holds a bachelor’s in Public Policy from UNC Chapel Hill.

Jason Nance

Jason Nance

Jason interned with the Center for Data Science, assisting data scientists Clay Heaton and Rob Chew with several data science projects in the social and environmental sciences and public health, with tasks including exploratory text analysis, database development, data cleaning, data visualization, and the creation of various data science tools. During the course of this internship in the summer of 2014, Jason used various technologies and tools, including Python, Javascript, Tableau, and any kind of relational database. He is pursuing bachelor’s degrees in Mathematics and Computer Science at the University of Alabama, where his a member of Theta Tau, a co-ed engineering fraternity.

Paola M. Paniagua Tavarez

Paola M. Paniagua Tavarez

Paola was an international and bilingual research intern collecting data and providing translation for the HIV/AIDS prevention project with military Personnel of Central America (Prevention with Positives). She has contributed to the NC migrant farmer’s project, Belize Defense Force project, and the Sexual Assault Kit Backlog reduction project. From her RTI internship, she has gained experience in social and behavioral research with human subjects, ethics standards, IRB protocols, and research methods. Paola holds a bachelor’s in Social Communication from Pontifica Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra in the Dominican Republic. When she completes her master’s degree in Communications from Western Michigan University, she plans to work as a researcher with nonprofit organizations on health and international development projects.

Courtney Whitaker

Courtney Whitaker

Courtney interned at the RTI Eastern Regional Comprehensive Metabolomics Resource Core, under the guidance of Susan Sumner and Suraj Dhungana. Courtney studied the liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) broad spectrum metabolomics pipeline and expanded the LC-MS/MS metabolites library needed for rapid and accurate metabolite identification. She also contributed to an RTI RCMRC core collaboration with NC State University, analyzing the gills of endangered fresh water mussels to identify the metabolic markers associated with mussel population decline. She previously worked at UNC-Chapel Hill where she studied enzymatic activities in Vibrio cholera and metabolite production in Pseudomonas syringae. Courtney holds a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from UNC Chapel Hill and aspires to pursue a graduate degree in analytical chemistry.

Jiayi Xu

Jiayi Xu

Jiayi interned with the Supplier Intelligence and Monitoring team, researching industry best practices and current process of monitoring suppliers with key performance indicators. She also analyzed internal stakeholder needs for supplier scorecards by conducting surveys and interviews. Jiayi proposed several automated and Web-based system solutions, and completed a business case report to analyze the solutions in detail and make recommendations for improving the current scorecarding process. In the process, Jiayi learned about government requirements for a U.S.-based nonprofit to monitor suppliers and the challenges that a diverse and global research organization faces in managing its suppliers. Jiayi holds a bachelor’s in Logistics Engineering and Management from Hong Kong Polytechnic University and is pursuing a master’s degree in Engineering Management concentrating in Operations and Supply Chain at Duke University.