Meet the 2015 Udall Nominees

Each year, on behalf of the University of Connecticut, the Office of National Scholarships & Fellowships nominates students to compete nationally for the prestigious Udall Scholarship.  Named for Representative Morris K. Udall and his brother, Secretary Stewart L. Udall, this $5,000 undergraduate scholarship is awarded to high-achieving students from any discipline who are either passionate about the environment or  are Native American students committed to tribal healthcare or tribal policy, following legacy of the Udalls, who supported legislation to protect both the environment and Native American interests.  Recipients are also invited into a strong network of committed environmentalists and Native American advocates.  If you are a UConn student and want more information about the scholarship and how to seek nomination, start here.

Jessica Eileen Griffin (CLAS ’17), from Salem, CT, is a junior honors student majoring in ecology and evolutionary biology and environmental science.  Her environmental research revolves around studying and preserving marine invertebrates.  She writes, “I want to become the Jane Goodall of marine worms.” She has been a research intern for Dr. Hans Dam in the Marine Sciences Department at UConn’s Avery Point campus.  She has also studied gene expression in stickleback fish in the laboratory of Dr. Eric Schultz in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and volunteered in the laboratory of Dr. Tracy Rittenhouse in the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment. In addition to her commitment to environmental research, Jessica is passionate about environmental education and advocacy. At UConn, she has served as a Research Assistant for the GlobalEd2 project with Dr. Scott Brown at the Neag School of Education, where she worked with middle school students to address the topic of water scarcity at a UN simulation.  Also at UConn, she has been a member of the Geology Club and the Wildlife Society and volunteered for an anthropological dig at the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation. In addition to being an active member of EcoHusky, Jessica is an intern for UConn’s Office of Environmental Policy, where she has worked on the Tree Campus U.S.A. recertification and reviewed data for the Sierra Club Cool Schools survey, among other environmental policy initiatives. Last December, she was among a select handful of student activists from UConn selected to travel to the UN Conference of the Parties in Paris (COP21), the international conference on climate change policy.  This spring, she has been studying abroad at University College Dublin.

Amy Robinson (ENGR ’18), from Old Saybrook, CT, is a sophomore honors student in electrical engineering with a keen interest in motor efficiency.  She aspires to earn a PhD with a focus in renewable energy.  Currently, she is involved in Advanced Power Electronics and Electric Drives Laboratory of Dr. Ali Bazzi at UConn’s Center for Clean Energy Engineering.  There, she is assisting a PhD student in modelling the effect of geometry on a switch reluctance motor’s magnetic field and power capabilities and independently researching causes of stray losses in induction motors. Amy is also a member of the Formula SAE team, which each year designs, builds and races a Formula-Style car for competition. When she’s not playing with motors, Amy is an advocate for ConnPIRG’s Hunger and Homelessness campaign.  Through ConnPIRG, she also petitioned for a go-Solar initiative, lobbying to incorporate solar power into UConn’s grid.  A proud member of the Society of Women Engineers, she has volunteered to encourage other young women to share her passion for alternative energy research.  A dedicated scholar-athlete and environmentalist, Amy was Captain of Old Saybrook High School’s Track Team where she also led the school’s recycling effort. At the college level, she is a Presidential Scholar and a New England Scholar, and is a rower on UConn’s D1 Women’s Crew Team.

Nicholas Russo (CLAS ’18) is a sophomore honors student with an “innate desire to lead people into the woods.” A resident of N. Scituate, RI, Nick came to UConn as a STEM Scholar with a background rich in environmental science and education. In 2012, he was awarded 1st Grant at the RI State Science and Engineering Fair for a project determining that ascorbic acid content of white pine needles correlates to soil pH.  As an Ecology and Evolutionary Biology major, he has worked in the lab of Dr. Mark Urban, sorting and recording zooplankton samples and is secretary of the Genetic Engineering Team.  As a summer 2015 Holster Scholar, he conducted his own research project, with mentorship from EEB’s Dr. Morgan Tingley and Dr. Carole Cheah at the CT Agricultural Experiment Station, to study the role of birds in dispersing the woolly adelgid (which is threatening the eastern hemlock). Nick has been very active with the Audubon Society, both in Rhode Island and in Connecticut and is President of UConn’s Birding Club. He has also participated in the HASB New Orleans Alternative Spring Break and the New London Alternative Weekend and is a member of the Kayaking Club. This summer, he will continue his research as a UConn IDEA Grant recipient.