Five UConn Students Win Fulbright Awards

Fulbright 2020 Graphic

Operating in over 160 countries worldwide, the Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. The primary source of funding for the Fulbright Program is an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Participating governments, host institutions, corporations, and foundations in foreign countries and in the United States also provide direct and indirect support. Recipients of Fulbright grants are selected on the basis of academic or professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential in their fields.


The Fulbright U.S. Student Program provides grants for individually designed study/research projects or for English Teaching Assistantships. During their grants, Fulbrighters will meet, work, live with and learn from the people of the host country, sharing daily experiences. Through engagement in the community, the individual will interact with their hosts on a one-to-one basis in an atmosphere of openness, academic integrity, and intellectual freedom, thereby promoting mutual understanding.


Congratulations to UConn’s 15 Fulbright Semi-Finalists* and five Fulbright Finalists**:


Sara Ailshire (Doctoral Student, Anthropology) Finalist for a Fulbright Research Grant to India. Sara will conduct multi-sited ethnographic research in three Indian cities, analyzing the role identity plays in determining what strategies women’s support groups, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and grassroots activists use to confront the problem of mistreatment of women during childbirth. Sara was previously awarded a 2016 Critical Language Scholarship, a 2017-2018 American Institute of Indian Studies Academic Year Language Fellowship, and a 2019 UConn Human Rights Institute Graduate Research Grant. Upon her return she will complete her dissertation and pursue a career in higher education.


Jiana Baker (CLAS ’20) Semi-Finalist for the Fulbright UK Study award to University of Nottingham. Jiana is a physiology and neurobiology major with an interest in nutrition and exercise science. As a candidate for the Applied Sports and Exercise Medicine MSc program, she plans to investigate mechanisms to increase physical activity in the American Black community in order to reduce the overall risk for chronic illnesses. Study in the United Kingdom interests her because of the significantly lower rates for diabetes that are potentially caused by behavioral differences that could be translated into recommendations for health interventions. A background in exercise medicine will allow Jiana, as a future physician, to educate her patients on how to incorporate regular exercise into their lives to maintain their health.


Lana Delasanta (Ph.D. student, Ecological Psychology) Semi-Finalist and Fulbright Alternate for a Research grant to Canada. Lana completed her undergraduate studies at UConn with a major in Cognitive Science and a minor in Neuroscience. Her research interests led her to stay at UConn to pursue her graduate degree in Psychology to investigate the effect of music performance and group dynamics on social cohesion and perception. With her project, Lana would have the opportunity to collaborate with top music researchers at the LIVELab under the direction of Dr. Laurel Trainer. She will be able to explore innovative experimental methods to examine how group music performance affects perception and action through group dynamics and synchrony.


Rebecca Ercolani (BUS ’16)  was a Semi-Finalist for a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Grant in Bulgaria.


Elizabeth Ellenwood (MFA ’20 candidate) Finalist for a Fulbright Research grant and also a recipient of the American Scandinavian Foundation grant recipient to Norway. Elizabeth will work collaboratively with an environmental chemist and a marine biologist to produce scientifically informed photographs focusing on ocean pollution. Ellenwood uses her artwork to visually explore and bring attention to critical environmental issues. Her recent solo exhibition at The Alexey von Schlippe Gallery was supported by the Connecticut Sea Grant Art Support Award and University of Connecticut’s Zachs Award. Elizabeth is also a recipient of a Denis Roussel Merit Award. Her work has been exhibited at The Newport Art Museum, Panopticon Gallery and The Vermont Center of Photography. Ellenwood received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography from The New Hampshire Institute of Art and is a candidate for a Master of Fine Arts in Studio Art from the University of Connecticut.


Grace Felten (Ph.D. Candidate, Social Work) Semi-Finalist for a research grant to Greece. Grace’s background working with NGOs and her social work field practicums at the United Nations and Global Network of Women Peacebuilders inform her research. Her dissertation is an exploratory case study that looks to examine how forced migration affects the reproductive health of refugee women in Greece and to gain insights into the experiences of humanitarian actors trying to support refugees in severely constrained situations. As a future professor of social work, she hopes to continue partnering with international NGOs and UN agencies in efforts to better prioritize comprehensive reproductive health in migration settings.


Megan Go (CLAS ’20) Finalist for Taiwan, studies Psychological Sciences, Communication and International Studies. During her time as an English Teaching Assistant, Megan hopes to dive deeper into Taiwanese culture and reconnect with parts of her cultural heritage. Through this experience, she is looking forward to broadening her horizons by creating interpersonal connections with locals and seeing everything the country has to offer. Upon return to the United States, Megan plans on pursuing a Master’s in Education to work with students from a variety of backgrounds.


CarsonLee Harper (CLAS ’20) Semi-Finalist for a Fulbright Study award to Iceland. CarsonLee is a double major in English and History with a minor in medieval studies, and plans to pursue a Master’s degree in Viking and Medieval Norse Studies at the University of Iceland. She will be able to look at medieval Scandinavian culture from an interdisciplinary lens, examining literature, history, religion, and language during the course of a two year program. She will have access to experts in the field and the largest collection of medieval manuscripts to pursue research on the cultural dispersion of information and beliefs through the lens of the Vikings. This program will provide the next step toward her career goal of becoming a professor of medieval studies.


Shadia Heenan (MFA ’20 candidate) Semi-Finalist for Creative Arts award to India. Shadia is a multidisciplinary artist working in performance and video, mapping family archives, personal histories and polarized identities. Shadia is the recipient of the Crandall-Cordero Fellowship, the Barbara Bullitt Christian Memorial Award and is a 2020 US Fulbright semi-finalist. Her work has been exhibited in shows including Plexus Projects New York, Artspace Hartford, Atlantic Wharf Gallery Boston, and the Multicultural Caucus for the Society of Photographic Education in New Orleans. She received her BFA, with a minor in Psychology, from the Hite Art Institute at the University of Louisville. Currently, she is a Master of Fine Arts candidate at the University of Connecticut.


Addison Kimber (CLAS ’20) Semi-Finalist and Fulbright Alternate for a Fulbright UK Study award to the University of Bristol. Addison is a Political Science and Biology double major who will pursue the Health, Law, and Society LLM degree. Studying in the U.K. will allow her to examine how the National Health Service addresses healthcare inequality. The Balancing Best Interests in Health Care, Ethics and Law (BABEL) research lab studies healthcare decisions for individuals who cannot decide on their own care. She has a particular interest in learning how healthcare culture impacts treatment, which aligns with her future career in health policy.


Rick Laguerre (Ph.D. Candidate, Industrial/Organizational Psychology) Semi-Finalist for a Fulbright Research grant to Australia. Rick is an Occupational Health Psychology (OHP) Fellow who researches factors (e.g., attitudes, motivations) important for successful aging and longevity at work. He specializes in methodological issues and how processes unfold over time. His goal is to integrate knowledge about organizational systems to show how organizations and people can best align to succeed. In partnership with Curtin University and the ARC Centre of Excellence in Population Ageing Research (CEPAR), he intends to do dissertation work in Perth, Western Australia.


Emmalyn Lecky (CLAS ’20) Finalist for the English Teaching Assistant grant to Latvia. Emma is a double major in Psychology and Biology with a passion for teaching, learning and Latvia. Working as an ETA would bring new challenges and opportunities that would help her to continue to develop her skills in the classroom. With a Latvian family heritage, having grown up listening to her grandmother’s stories about the country and the courage of its people, she will have the opportunity to learn about the culture and people of Latvia, and to polish her teaching skills in anticipation of her future career teaching science as a university professor.


Xinyu Lin (ENG ’20) Semi-Finalist for a Fulbright Study grant to Australia. Xinyu is a civil engineering major with a passion for urban studies, climate justice, and inclusive spaces. She is interested in learning how urban planning & design can be done through a climate justice, community-based lens to respect people, existing systems, and the environment. Xinyu hopes to use her experiences at the University of Melbourne to become a more informed & holistic community advocate and urban planner.


Kelly Mahaffy (CLAS ’24) Semi-Finalist and Fulbright Alternate for a Study grant to the UK/Strathclyde. She is a second year M.A./Ph.D. student in English, studying contemporary transatlantic literature with an eye towards genre and form, and her work primarily focuses on cognitive approaches to literature and film. Through this research interest, Kelly has worked in psychology labs focused on reading development and dysfunction, become an active member of the cognitive science department on campus, and has had the opportunity to present her work at multiple national and international academic conferences. Kelly is also a leader in the Digital Humanities group on campus. She founded and currently runs the Digital Humanities Living Toolbox working group for graduate students and faculty to help those on campus interested in DH learn the practical skills needed to complete a project. In her free time, you can find Kelly trying to cook really fancy recipes or watching any St. Louis sports teams play.


Mark Stukel (Ph.D. student in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology) Finalist for the Fulbright Research grant to New Zealand. Mark is originally from Naperville, IL, and received a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Hope College. Mark is studying the evolutionary relationships and geographic ranges of cicadas and how they can help us understand the processes behind the origin and spread of the world’s biodiversity. He will be working with collaborators at the University of Auckland and Landcare Research in New Zealand to learn cutting edge research methods to uncover ancient hybridization in the evolutionary relationships of New Zealand cicadas and to reconstruct their past species ranges. In addition to his research, Mark will be conducting workshops on cicada biology for school children and the local community. After returning to the United States, he will finish his dissertation on the evolutionary relationships and geographic distributions of world-wide cicadas using the methods learned in New Zealand.


* Fulbright Semi-Finalist – applicants who have been recommended by the National Screening Committee to the Fulbright Commissions in-country

** Fulbright Finalist – applicants who have been notified that they’ve been offered grants, but who have not signed their Terms of Award or provided medical documents


To learn more about the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, make an appointment today to meet UConn’s Fulbright Program Advisor Ms. LuAnn Saunders-Kanabay, or visit the Office of National Scholarships & Fellowships and click “Talk to an Advisor.”


Meet UConn’s 2020 Udall Scholarship Nominees

2020 Udall Nominees

The Udall Foundation awards scholarships to college sophomores and juniors for leadership, public service, and commitment to issues related to Native American nations or to the environment.  In 2020, the Udall Foundation anticipates awarding 55 scholarships of up to $7,000 each.  The Udall scholarship honors the legacies of Morris Udall and Stewart Udall, whose careers had a significant impact on Native American self-governance, health care, and the stewardship of public lands and natural resources.  UConn may nominate up to four candidates in for the Udall Scholarship in each category.  Internal applications for nomination are generally due in early January.  The following five students were UConn’s 2020 nominees for the Udall Scholarship.

Emily Kaufman (CLAS ’21), from Mansfield, CT, is a junior Honors student majoring in environmental studies and sociology with a minor in geographic information systems. As a member of the General Education Environmental Literacy Task Force, a Student Representative on UConn’s Environmental Policy Advisory Council, a member of the Transportation and Technology Research Group, a member and subcommittee chair of UConn’s Solve Climate 2030 initiative, and a UConn@COP24 Fellow, Emily has been highly engaged on campus with issues pertaining to environmental and social justice. Since 2018, Emily has served as the Co-Chair of the Undergraduate Student Government’s Sustainability Subcommittee. This committee focuses on engaging students to address environmental justice issues through intersectional and creative lenses. Emily is passionate about travel and learning from other cultures. In the summer of 2018, she lived in Ecuador for two months with the Social Entrepreneurship Corps where she worked with indigenous communities as a consultant. In 2019, Emily also went on exchange at the University of Melbourne where she engaged in courses involving indigenous rights and environmentalism. Already published in an academic journal on the intersection of gender inequality and environmental degradation, Emily is currently working on a SHARE grant to understand social inequality in activism movements. Beyond the classroom, Emily sings in an all-female a cappella group, runs competitively, and spends time with her friends and family. Emily believes that the most important aspects of her activism are collaboration, passion, and empathy.

Natalie Roach (CAHNR ’21), from Cheshire, CT, is a junior Honors student majoring in environmental sciences and human rights with a minor in sustainable food crop production. She is also pursuing a Master’s of Public Policy through the Fast Track Program. Natalie is committed to a career in public service focused on the intersection between the environment and human rights through the power of meaningful connection and public policy. Before college, Natalie was assistant director of a nature camp, and an organizer of the Town of Hamden’s annual Earth Day Celebration event. At UConn, Natalie works for the Office of Sustainability. She is organizing UConn’s first annual Environmental Justice Conference through her position as co-chair of the Undergraduate Student Government’s Sustainability Subcommittee. She is vice president of the student organization Revolution Against Rape, co-founder of a Rainbow Center discussion group, and a WOW leader. She spends time learning about other communities by participating in UConn’s Community Outreach Alternative Breaks program. This summer she traveled to Ethiopia as part of a project that aims to help farmers facing the impacts of climate change, and has continued to work on the project during the school year. After organizing a school wide climate strike this past September, she is now representing the undergraduate student body on the President’s Climate Change Working Group that was created in response to the strike. She is a recipient of the 2020 Cohen Student Leadership Scholarship for Enhancing Community, and a member of the BOLD Women’s Leadership Network. Beyond UConn, Natalie is a member of the Diversity and Equity Committee of the Connecticut Governor’s Council on Climate Change, as well as a member of the Connecticut chapter of the Sierra Club’s Political Committee. She was also a delegate at the 2019 UN Climate Change Discussions. This summer Natalie is conducting her own research project on how outsiders can best support urban and community farming without taking control away from a community. In her free time, Natalie hikes, hangs out with her cat, enjoys her friends’ artwork, and tries not to kill her plants.

Sage Phillips (CLAS ’22), from Old Town, ME, is a sophomore majoring in Political Science and Human Rights with a minor in Native American & Indigenous Studies. Prior to attending UConn, Sage was among the top Native American and Indigenous students selected to participate in Dartmouth College’s Native American Community program. This program ignited a passion within her and fueled her desire for social justice amongst people of color. As a member of the Penobscot Indian Nation, Sage is now one of a small contingency of Native American students attending UConn. Sage has taken on a major role in helping to expand resources available to Native American students as well as all students of color at UConn. Dedicated to social justice for her people, Sage hopes to one day pursue law school with a concentration in Tribal Law, or work within Tribal Policy focused on issues related but not limited to Education, Culture, and Land. Prior to beginning her work with the Native American Cultural Programs in the fall of 2019, Sage was selected as a UConn delegate to NCORE, the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in America’s Higher Education, attending the annual conference in May of 2019 in Portland, Oregon. Sage was recently chosen as a member to UConn President Thomas Katsouleas’ Council on Race and Diversity. Her role on the council is to advocate and represent on behalf of the Native student population as well as to promote and uplift all students of color on campus. Also dedicated to the outside community while working from within, Sage is a member of the Statewide Coalition to Ban the use of Native American Mascots in the State of Connecticut, serving alongside faculty and staff from UConn, the Akomawt Educational Initiative, and Tribal Youth Council leaders from the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan Tribal Nations. On campus, a student assistant for the Native American Cultural Programs (NACP), Sage has presented herself among faculty members to initiate conversations fostering discussion around expanding the NACP to become the sixth Cultural Center at UConn. Sage hopes that through navigating the process of expansion and seeking out information to help NACP, her work will serve as a road map for other groups of color who also wish to have a Cultural Center. Rewarded for her work surrounding leadership, Sage was selected as a member of the Leadership Legacy Experience 2020 cohort, recognizing the University’s most exceptional student leaders. Sage works to pay homage to her ancestors and continues to practice the ways of her culture through ceremony and helping to better the environment however she can, all while dedicating her efforts to UConn being at good relation with the land it stands on.

Sarah Schechter (CLAS ’21), from Danbury, CT is a junior Honors student, double majoring in anthropology and environmental studies. She aspires to work as a sustainability consultant and educate city officials and citizens on climate change impacts through personalized climate action plans. She plans to do this by pursuing a master’s degree in sustainability. Sarah enjoys studying climate change, specifically sea level rise and coastal flooding. Throughout the summer of 2019, she interned with the Connecticut Sea Grant College Program and UConn Extension, during which time she created a video about coastal and inland flooding in Connecticut. This video is part of an online series that Sarah has continued to work on through an independent study under the instruction of Dr. Juliana Barrett. Sarah will continue the series this summer with a video about climate change. Also, as a member of EcoHouse for two years, Sarah also took part in many environmental activities around campus such as improving the Hillside Environmental Education Park, assisting at Green Game Days, and teaching students about food waste during the Earth Day Spring Fling. Sarah took part in UConn’s Sustainable Amsterdam Program in summer 2018, where she developed a video about foreign food sustainability practices. She also had the opportunity to attend COP25 in Madrid, Spain during fall 2019, where she was able to interact with environmentally concerned individuals on an international level. She also enjoys running with UConn’s running club and hiking.

Harry Zehner (CLAS ’21) is a junior political science major who was raised in New Haven, CT. He was a lead organizer of UConn Fridays For Future, an activist group which, through a mass strike and sit-ins, forced the university to stop the construction of a planned new natural gas plant. He also serves on the President’s Working Group on Climate Change, as an intern at the UConn Office of Sustainability and as the Opinion Editor for the student-run daily newspaper, The Daily Campus. Harry works on numerous policy ventures outside of school, ranging from being a lead policy adviser on a mayoral campaign to working for two sustainability-focused NGOs. As a University Scholar, Harry is currently researching, designing and piloting an internal carbon proxy price for the University of Connecticut in order to internalize the externality of carbon emissions in large capital projects. After UConn, Harry intends to pursue a Master’s in urban planning with the goal of continuing his local advocacy efforts as a city planner committed to democratizing power, fighting against gentrification and securing transit equity, affordable housing, environmental justice and good quality of life for all.

To learn more about these and other nationally-competitive scholarship and fellowship opportunities, visit the Office of National Scholarships & Fellowships and click “Talk to an Advisor.”

Meet UConn’s 2020 Truman Scholarship Nominees

Truman Logo

The Truman Scholarship is awarded to college juniors with exceptional leadership potential and commitment to a career in government, the nonprofit or advocacy sectors, education, or elsewhere in public service.  Scholars are awarded up to $30,000 to pursue graduate studies, receive pre-professional/graduate advising from the Foundation and are invited to participate in internships and other programs.  Schools may nominate up to four students each year for the Truman Scholarship.  The campus deadline nomination falls on or around the first of November each year, but interested students are encouraged to reach out to Dr. Vin Moscardelli, Director of ONSF, as early as spring of their sophomore years.


Harry Zehner

Harry Zehner (CLAS ’21) is a junior political science major who was raised in New Haven, CT. He was a lead organizer of UConn Fridays For Future, an activist group which, through a mass strike and sit-ins, forced the university to stop the construction of a planned new natural gas plant. He also serves on the President’s Working Group on Climate Change, as an intern at the UConn Office of Sustainability and as the Opinion Editor for the student-run daily newspaper, The Daily Campus. Harry works on numerous policy ventures outside of school, ranging from being a lead policy advisor on a mayoral campaign to working for two sustainability-focused NGOs. As a University Scholar, Harry is currently researching, designing and piloting an internal carbon proxy price for the University of Connecticut in order to internalize the externality of carbon emissions in large capital projects. After UConn, Harry intends to pursue a Master’s in urban planning with the goal of continuing his local advocacy efforts as a city planner committed to democratizing power, fighting against gentrification and securing transit equity, affordable housing, environmental justice and good quality of life for all.


Michael ZhuMichael Zhu (CLAS’ 21), a junior from Woodbridge, CT, is an aspiring physician pursuing a double major in molecular & cell biology and economics. Michael is a 2018 Holster Scholar, 2018-2019 IDEA Grant Recipient, and 2020 Leadership Legacy Fellow. Michael is currently interning with the Center for Medicare Advocacy where he is studying the effects that recent CMS payment structure changes will have on home health care access. Michael has also worked as a legislative intern with the Health and Medicine Counsel of Washington. At HMCW, Michael was able to research legislation, write memos, and advocate on behalf of patient advocacy groups and medical nonprofits. On campus, Michael is a resident assistant, the vice-chair of the USG Academic Affairs Committee, and the founder of the UConn Antibiotic Resistance Awareness Campaign where he was awarded 2nd place in the Tiny Earth Awareness Campaign PSA competition. Michael was also a research assistant in the Broderick Lab, where he studied the microbiome’s effect on Alzheimer’s disease – work he presented at the Annual Drosophila Research Conference in Dallas, TX in 2019. Michael volunteers with the Elder Horizons program at Yale-New Haven Hospital and is captain of the UConn Club Water Polo team. In the future, Michael hopes to couple his skills as a physician and his interest in public health to design and inform health policy to ensure access to quality care for all Americans.



To learn more about these and other nationally-competitive scholarship and fellowship opportunities, visit the Office of National Scholarships & Fellowships and click “Talk to an Advisor.”


Meet Michael Hernández, UConn’s newest Newman Civic Fellow

The Newman Civic Fellows Award honors inspiring college student leaders who have demonstrated an investment in finding solutions for challenges facing communities throughout the country. Through service, research, and advocacy, Newman Civic Fellows are making the most of their college experiences to better understand themselves, the root causes of social issues, and effective mechanisms for creating lasting change.  UConn’s 2020 Newman Civic Fellow is Michael Hernández, a sophomore Honors student at the Stamford Campus, majoring in political science and economics.  

Click here to read more about Michael and the Newman Civic Fellowship.


Meet UConn’s 2020 Goldwater Scholarship Nominees

Goldwater Banner

The Goldwater Scholarship awards $7,500 to college sophomores and juniors majoring in math, science, engineering, or research psychology (not clinical). Students who are competitive for the award have had significant research experience and have plans for graduate study (aspire to a PhD or MD/PhD) and a career in research.


ONSF is pleased to introduce UConn’s 2020 Goldwater Scholarship nominees.

2020 Goldwater Nominees

Elena Haarer (CLAS ‘21) from Syracuse, NY, is an Honors student majoring in Molecular and Cell Biology. She is planning on earning a Ph.D. in Biochemistry and obtaining a position at a leading research institution where she can pursue her passion for both research and teaching. Since the fall of her sophomore year, she has worked in Dr. Kenneth Campellone’s lab in the Institute for Systems Genomics. The focus of her independent research project is to elucidate the actin cytoskeletal functions involved in chromatin dynamics and DNA repair mechanisms and their impact on cellular aging processes. In the fall of 2019, she presented a poster on her research at the Northeastern Glenn Symposium on the Biology of Aging. In the summer following her sophomore year, Elena worked in Dr. Elizabeth Lawlor’s lab in the Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Department at the University of Michigan Medical School. Her project focused on aspects of epigenetic gene regulation and metabolic reprogramming in Ewing sarcoma, an aggressive pediatric bone tumor, with the goal of identifying novel therapeutic targets to eventually treat this rare and debilitating disease. Outside of her research, she is a teaching assistant for an undergraduate Cell Biology course, a musician in the UConn Pep Band, and a member of Alpha Phi Omega, a national service organization, where she participates in volunteer projects to support the surrounding communities. In her free time, Elena is an avid pickleball player and dedicated Tottenham Hotspur fan.

James He (CLAS ’21), from Woodbridge, CT, is a STEM Scholar majoring in Molecular and Cellular Biology and minoring in Mathematics and Neuroscience. He plans to pursue an M.D./Ph.D. upon graduation. Throughout high school, he interned at Haskins Laboratories at Yale University as a part of his school’s Science Research Program, and participated in various science competitions presenting his research on the reading development of young children. The research utilized a number of behavioral metrics to define the reading development of the participants, though he was constantly puzzled by the neurological axis of this work. Combined with his personal experiences with cancer patients, this led to his pursuit of research in Dr. LoTurco’s lab in the Physiology and Neurobiology Department. Since his freshman year, he has been involved in an investigation of the mechanisms of tumorigenesis of a subtype of ependymoma, a tumor of the central nervous system. For his freshman Holster Scholars project, he investigated the role of two upregulated transcription factors, LHX2 and LMX1B, in the development of ependymoma tumors in a mouse model, and has continued to probe deeper into their tumorigenic properties through the SURF program this past summer and his current University Scholar project. Lately, he has been utilizing single-cell RNA-sequencing and CRISPR/Cas9 technology to understand the precise conditions and mechanisms that result in the formation of ependymoma tumors. Accompanying his interest in research and medicine, he is a passionate violinist, and is a member of the university’s symphony orchestra. James is the America Reads Preschools Site Manager and the Director of Programming for the Kidney Disease Screening Awareness and Prevention Program. Aside from his academic pursuits, he is a huge fan of soccer and basketball, and loves to compete in the intramural leagues.

Matthew Pickett (CLAS ‘21) from Canton, CT is a junior majoring in Chemistry and minoring in Mathematics. He plans to pursue a Ph.D. in Chemistry with a focus in inorganic chemistry—specifically the use of inorganic chemistry techniques to solve environmental problems. After two years at Boston College, Matthew transferred to the University of Connecticut and began working in the Steven L. Suib lab on various applications of manganese oxides and related projects. Matthew was named a University Scholar. His project involves using manganese oxide structures to encapsulate phosphotriesterase enzymes in order to enhance their conversion rates and thermal stability. He plans to use this work to characterize a novel method of decomposing organophosphates, toxic chemicals found in pesticides, insecticides and chemical weapons. In addition, he hopes to enhance the abilities of these enzymes by exploring the organic functionalization of the mesopores found in certain manganese oxide materials. Before this work Matthew investigated manganese oxide materials for their catalytic abilities in certain organic transformation reactions, and he also helped synthesize titanite materials for an investigation into their superconductive properties. He hopes to continue to research environmental applications of inorganic chemistry through future work. Outside of the lab Matthew is a photographer for UConn’s The Daily Campus, and a member of UConn’s Chemistry Club and Airsoft Team. He enjoys hiking, playing sports, and is an avid hockey and soccer supporter.

Paul Simmerling (ENGR ‘21, CLAS ‘21) is a STEM Scholar dual degree student studying Electrical Engineering and Physics. After graduation, he plans to pursue a Ph.D. and research career in Nuclear Fusion and Plasma Physics at a national laboratory. The summer after his sophomore year, Paul worked at the DIII-D National Nuclear Fusion facility as a Department of Energy SULI student where he performed experimental research observing electromagnetic wave interaction with plasma, conditioning of 3.2 MW gyrotrons, and characterization of high-power waveguides. Of particular interest, he found new behaviors in the waveguide’s DC breaks that would damage equipment near the tokamak and could be used as a diagnostic for waveguide conditions. He presented his research at the American Physical Society Division of Plasma Physics 2019 Meeting where he was received the Outstanding Poster Award and published his work in IEEE Transactions on Plasma Science. Paul is also involved in research with Professor Joo in the Physics Department. Paul works on developing particle identification algorithms and characterization on the Ring Imaging Cherenkov Detector’s (RICH) photomultiplier tubes in the case of single photo-electron. His work on the RICH detector is currently being finalized for publication. As a part of this research, he has been involved in the Deeply Virtual Meson Production Collaboration and will be continuing this research over the summer of 2020 at the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility. In addition to doing research, Paul is actively involved in several clubs across campus including the Outing Club, Rock Climbing Team, IEEE, and AIAA.

Megan Sturm (CLAS ’21) from Waterford, CT is an Honors student majoring in physics and minoring in Spanish and chemistry. After graduation, she intends to pursue a Ph.D. in nuclear physics in hopes of working towards environmentally friendly energy sources. Megan began conducting astrophysics research with Dr. Jonathan Trump in spring 2019 working on supermassive black holes, specifically studying the structure of their accretion disks using Hubble Space Telescope images of active galactic nuclei (growing black holes). This work is on track to submitted to a peer-reviewed journal in spring 2020. She will extend this project over the next year as a University Scholar. Over the summer of 2019 Megan worked at L’Institut de Physique Nucléaire d’Orsay in France on their Loanpool of High Purity Germanium detectors, assessing various detector properties including efficiency and resolution. While there, she presented this work in poster at the Department of Nuclear Physics Conference. After this experience with nuclear physics, Megan decided to further pursue the subject through research with Dr. Richard Jones on the Monte Carlo simulation used for the GlueX experiment at Jefferson National Accelerator Facility in Newport News, VA. Outside of school, Megan is an undergraduate teaching assistant for numerical analysis courses and enjoys working as a tutor in UConn’s Quantitative Learning Center, helping peers in math and physics. She is also the secretary for the Women in Physics club, aimed at creating an inclusive environment for anyone and providing a sense of community within the major. In her spare time she enjoys hiking, running and travelling (which she hopes to do more of in the future).


To learn more about these and other nationally-competitive scholarship and fellowship opportunities, visit the Office of National Scholarships & Fellowships and click “Talk to an Advisor.”


Meet UConn’s Rhodes, Marshall & Mitchell Scholarship Nominees

UConn’s 2019-20 Rhodes, Marshall, and Mitchell Scholarship Nominees. From left: Wanjiku Gatheru (CAHNR ’20), Kathleen Renna (CAHNR ’20), and Himaja Nagireddy (CLAS ’20).


The Office of National Scholarships & Fellowships is pleased to introduce UConn’s 2019-20 nominees for the Rhodes, Marshall, and Mitchell Scholarships.  Congratulations (and good luck!) to these outstanding young leaders.


Wanjiku (Wawa) Gatheru (CAHNR’20), from Pomfret, CT, is a senior majoring in Environmental Studies with minors in Global Studies and Urban and Community Studies. A 2019 Truman and Udall Scholar, Wawa is nominated for the Rhodes and Marshall Scholarships. Through internships with the City of Hartford’s Office of Sustainability, the Sierra Club, and the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network, she has worked to uplift the voices of those most adversely impacted by environmental inequities. A UCSC Doris Duke Conservation Scholar, Wawa is committed to connecting grassroots movements to institutions of power, as a lead organizer in CT’s first Youth Climate Lobby Day, founding member of the University President’s Council on Race and Diversity, and crucial leader in the successful implementation of an environmental literacy general education requirement. As co-founder of the UConn Access to Food Effort (UCAFE), she co-led the state’s first assessment of food insecurity at a public institution of higher education and testified in support of CT H.B. 7257. UCAFE’s research has been cited in U.S. Senator Chris Murphy’s report, The Hidden Cost of College. On campus, she has promoted the collective wellbeing of students as the Vice President of the Undergraduate Student Government, student chair of the University-wide “Metanoia: Youth for Change,” and intern at the Office of Sustainability. She currently serves as the Vice President of Administration for the Student Union Board of Governors (SUBOG). In the future, Wawa plans to become a policy-maker and leading scholar in the intersections of food, environment, and critical race theory. Her ultimate goal is to empower communities of color in the environmental decision-making process.


Himaja Nagireddy (CLAS ’20), from Acton, MA, is a senior pursuing three degrees in Molecular and Cell Biology, Physiology and Neurobiology, and Sociology with a minor in Chemistry. She is a STEM Scholar, Honors Scholar, BOLD Scholar, and 2019 Leadership Legacy Fellow.  In 2019, she was nominated for the Truman and Udall Scholarships. Himaja is an elected representative of the National Council for the United Nations Association of the USA (UNA-USA), a civil organization founded by Eleanor Roosevelt, where she works with over 20,000 members to coordinate efforts to support the UN. Through her work at UNA-USA, she has launched a national gender equality education program called the 2019 Emerging Leaders Fellowship and served as a representative to the 62nd and 63rd Commission on the Status of Women. This year, Himaja will be also be serving as a UNA-USA and UConn representative for the COP25 in Santiago, Chile. Himaja is currently pursuing two Honors theses — one in Sociology and Molecular and Cell Biology at the UConn-Eversource Center and another in Genomic Medicine at the Jackson Laboratory in Farmington, CT. Himaja is also a 2019-2020 Virtual Student Federal Intern for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) where she works on world food resiliency research with the Senior Youth Advisor for the Bureau for Food Security. Through her work, Himaja constantly strives to better understand the intersectionalities between health, society, and the environment. Himaja is a nominee for the 2020 Marshall Scholarship.


Kathleen Renna (CAHNR ’20) is a senior Diagnostic Genetic Sciences major from Troy, NY. A BOLD Women’s Leadership Network Scholar, she has worked to educate middle and high school students on healthcare genetics topics by founding Laboratory Experience and Diagnostic Genetics Education (LEDGE). Through LEDGE, Kathleen promotes genetic literacy while simultaneously improving female visibility in STEM professions. She also served as a College Ambassador for CAHNR through which she worked with the Associate Dean to establish UConn’s first course in One Health, a concept that intersects human, animal, and environmental health to better understand global issues. Kathleen’s passion for One Health led her to organize UConn Students for One Health, a group whose mission is to enhance student awareness of One Health throughout the university through advocacy events each semester, including the first undergraduate-focused One Health conference in the U.S. A University Scholar, Kathleen has worked in Dr. Trakhtenberg’s Neuroregeneration Laboratory at UConn Health for almost three years, studying the impact of gene expression changes on axon regeneration to better understand optic neuropathies through the Health Research Program. She also serves as President of United Against Inequities in Disease, a public health-oriented group on campus, and as a Student Supervisor for UC Cafes. In her downtime, she enjoys photography and finding quirky coffee shops to edit her photos in. In the future, Kathleen hopes to combine her passions to improve access to precision medicine in developing nations as a clinical geneticist. Kathleen was nominated for the Marshall and Mitchell Scholarships.


To learn more about these and other nationally-competitive scholarship and fellowship opportunities, visit the Office of National Scholarships & Fellowships and click “Talk to an Advisor.”


UConn Junior Receives Udall Scholarship

Wanjiku Gatheru (CAHNR ’20) has been named a 2019 Udall Scholar (Sean Flynn/UConn Photo)


The Udall Foundation announced this week that UConn junior Wanjiku “Wawa” Gatheru has been named of of 55 Udall Scholars for 2019-20.  A 14-member independent review committee selected this year’s group of Udall Scholars from a pool of 443 candidates nominated by 227 colleges and universities nationwide on the basis of commitment to careers in the environment, Native health care, or Tribal public policy; leadership potential; record of public service; and academic achievement.  The review committee also awarded 55 Honorable Mentions.  Gatheru competed in the environmental category, and was one of 38 Scholars selected in that category.

UConn nominated three students — Gatheru, Sophie MacDonald (’20 ENG), and Himaja Nagireddy (’20 CLAS) — for the 2019 competition.   With the result, Gatheru becomes UConn’s 7th Udall Scholar, and first since Ecology and Evolutionary Biology major Nick Russo (’18 CLAS) won in 2016.  She is also the first UConn student to win both the Truman Scholarship and Udall Scholarship in the same year.  Colin Carlson won the Udall as a sophomore in 2011 and the Truman as a junior in 2012.  Four of this year’s Udall Scholars attend colleges or universities in New England, but UConn is the only public institution in the region to have nominated one of this year’s winners.

“UConn’s campus sustainability program has been consistently ranked, by the Sierra Club and others, as one of the best in higher education, and Wawa has become an integral part of this success,” states Richard Miller, Director of UConn’s Office of Sustainability where Gatheru has worked as an intern since her freshman year.  “In my 16 years as UConn’s environmental officer, I have not seen any student emerge as quickly as Wawa has as a leader on various campus sustainability initiatives and related University governance and advisory organizations. Wawa is a student of the decision-making process and adept at grassroots organizing, committee work, and group dynamics. She is very strategic about the multiple ways to advocate for certain policies or influence decisions.”

Each scholarship provides up to $7,000 for the Scholar’s junior or senior year. Since the first awards in 1996, the Udall Foundation has awarded 1,678 scholarships totaling $8,475,000.  The 2019 Udall Scholars will assemble August 6-11 in Tucson, Arizona, to meet one another and program alumni; learn more about the Udall legacy of public service; and interact with community leaders in environmental fields, Tribal health care, and governance.

Gatheru is an environmental studies major and is passionate about building a more inclusive environmental movement. As the vice president of the University of Connecticut’s undergraduate student body, she was a lead organizer in CT’s first Youth Climate Lobby Day, founding member of the President’s Council on Race and Diversity, and led the successful implementation of an environmental literacy general education requirement. She also interns at UConn’s Office of Environmental Policy and is the co-founder of the UConn Access to Food Effort, an initiative that studies campus food insecurity. She is a 2019 Truman Scholar (UConn’s 8th) and a Doris Duke Conservation Scholar at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

UConn’s 2019 Udall Scholarship nominees (left to right): Himaja Nagireddy (CLAS ’20), Sophie MacDonald (ENG ’20), and Wawa Gatheru (CAHNR ’20) at ONSF’s Celebration of Nominees Breakfast, Alumni Hall, April 23, 2019.  (Bri Diaz/UConn Photo)


To learn more about these and other nationally-competitive scholarship and fellowship opportunities, visit the Office of National Scholarships & Fellowships and click “Talk to an Advisor.”