Researcher with a pipette

Congratulations to our 2023 winners!

  • Dhruv Vajipayajula—Temple University
  • Yilun Zhou—University of Virginia
  • Ayesha Nizamuddin—University of Illinois at Urbana - Champaign
  • Jonathan Chi—University of Rochester
  • Toheeb Balogun—University of California, San Diego
  • Jessica Weng—Mayo Clinic

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2023 scholarship recipient biographies

Dhruv Vajipayajula
Dhruv Vajipayajula, Temple University

Major: Neuroscience

Dhruv Vajipayajula is a senior Neuroscience major on the pre-med track at Temple University. He is involved with platelet research and is investigating the molecular basis for abnormal platelet activation in cardiovascular disease. Dhruv has published his research work in academic journals and has undertaken scholarly projects on mathematical modeling, social determinants of health, and particle physics. Research has played a transformative role in his undergraduate experience, and he intends on pursuing an MD-PhD dual degree. Dhruv is passionate about scientific discoveries and wishes to be at the forefront of medical innovation in his career, with the goal of making quality healthcare accessible to all patient populations. His interests outside of medicine include motorsport, aerospace, linguistics, and watches. He can usually be found rock-climbing, biking, or enjoying food in Philadelphia.

Yilun Zhou, University of Virginia

Major: Neuroscience

Yilun is an undergraduate student majoring in Neuroscience and Computer Science with a minor in Chemistry at the University of Virginia (UVA). Her current research at UVA's School of Medicine Immunology Center under the mentorship of Dr. Coleen McNamara centers around investigating the role of G6PD deficiency in atherosclerosis development. Previously, Yilun led UVA’s International Genetically Engineered Machine (IGEM) team in designing an innovative device for early atherosclerosis detection. During the recent summer, she utilized deep learning models to predict hypoperfusion lesions in stroke patients at Stanford University. Beyond her scholarly pursuits, Yilun is an active community contributor. She leads the IGEM Community's Project "Work In Progress" and serves as chair of UVA’s Fireside Chat. In her leisure time, she enjoys swimming, singing, and cherishing moments with loved ones.

headshot of Yilun Zhou
Ayesha Nizamuddin
Ayesha Nizamuddin, University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign

Major: Biology and Computer Science

Ayesha Nizamuddin will be studying Biology and Computer Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is excited to explore research opportunities that allow her to combine artificial intelligence technology with medicine. Ayesha enjoys the conceptual process of learning, especially STEM-related topics, through hands-on experience. She had the privilege of being in Project Lead The Way in high school, where Ayesha learned about heart anatomy by dissecting sheep hearts, as well as practicing suturing on faux skin. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Ayesha had the opportunity to work alongside OSF Saint Anthony Hospital healthcare professionals where they brainstormed solutions to incentivize the COVID-19 vaccine. Throughout the past couple of years, she has gained an interest in coding and the medical field, and is excited to convert those interests into a career. She looks forward to being able to give back through work and research. Outside of academics, Ayesha enjoys baking, puzzle making, and playing tennis.

Jonathan Chi, University of Rochester

Major: Computational Biology

Jonathan is an incoming freshman at the University of Rochester’s eight-year combined BS/MD program. As a Rochester Early Medical Scholar, he plans on majoring in computational biology at the undergraduate level before pursuing his medical degree at the University of Rochester School of Medicine with their Health, Equity, and Law Policy Elective pathway. Throughout high school, Jonathan explored the intersections between the scientific discoveries of his research internships and the decisions made in public health through his involvement in Model United Nations. Now, as a college student and future physician, Jonathan hopes to bring both the worlds of biology and political science into the years of his medical education. Prior to entering university, Jonathan worked with Dr. Hollenbeck to characterize a cyclin-dependent phosphatase of Alternaria alternata and examine possible covalent-warhead inhibitors of its enzymatic activity for future fungicide use. He hopes to further his research in active site-ligament interactions at the University of Rochester and apply such experiences to clinical discoveries. Outside the lab, Jonathan enjoys programming IOS applications using Apple’s native Swift language and tutoring local ESL students in math and English.

Jonathan Chi
Toheeb Balogun
Toheeb Balogun, University of California, San Diego

Major: PhD. Candidate, Biological Sciences

Toheeb Balogun earned his B.S. in Biochemistry from Adekunle Ajasin Akungba-Akoko (AAUA), Nigeria. He worked at the Centre for Biocomputing and Drug Development at AAUA, where he gained hands-on experience in computer-aided drug discovery and carried out research findings on identifying potential drug candidates against neurodegenerative diseases and cancer. Toheeb was selected and participated in Lower Saxony International Summer Academy 2021 (LISA) organized by Hannover Biomedical Research School, Germany. He was awarded the Nigerian Bioinformatics and Genomics Network 2nd Annual Conference travel fellowship. In addition, Toheeb was recognized as a beneficiary of the EducationUSA Opportunity Funds Program in 2021, a program that is designed to support academically qualified low-income students. Toheeb is a graduate student in the Biological Sciences program at the University of California, San Diego and a recipient of the Shurl and Kay Curci Foundation Fellowship. He hopes to conduct translational research to improve human life, particularly in developing novel therapeutic drugs to treat disease. Outside the lab, he enjoys playing soccer, going to the gym, or watching movies.

Jessica Weng, Mayo Clinic

Major: MD-PhD. Candidate: Clinical and Translational Science

Jessica Weng is in her fourth year of the MD-PhD program at the Mayo Clinic. She received her undergraduate degree in Biochemistry and Cell Biology with a minor in Medical Humanities from Rice University. During her time at Rice University, she worked on research identifying antibiotic resistance mechanisms, microbiota metabolites and pathogenicity of Salmonella, and immune therapies for leukemia. She is now in her thesis laboratory studying prenatal inflammation at the maternal-fetal interface, combining her interests in women’s health and inflammation/immunology. Jessica is additionally passionate about service and leadership. She has volunteered as a mentor and Olmsted County sexual assault victim advocate. She is a teaching assistant to several classes at the medical school and serves as the Mayo Clinic MD-PhD program student Vice President. Jessica aspires to become a physician-scientist who can underscore the importance of understanding female biology and translate that into targeted therapies. Outside of academics and service, Jessica enjoys reading, cooking or trying new foods, and spending time with her friends and family.

Jessica Weng
William Little, Washington University in St. Louis

Major: Biology

William is an incoming freshman at Washington University in St. Louis. He will be majoring in Biology (General) and pursuing a Pre-Med track. Additionally, he will be a member of WashU's varsity swim team. Last year, he founded a podcast for his high school where he discussed some of the clubs, classes, and programs his high school had to offer and educated listeners on topics such as science and statistics. He hopes to be involved in similar projects in the future to inject more scientific material into the social media landscape for the edification of the general public. Having been diagnosed with Crohn's Disease (IBD) at a young age, he is inspired to apply his love for science toward becoming a gastroenterologist and helping those who are facing similar challenges. In addition to clinical responsibilities, he hopes to engage in research regarding the Brain-Gut-Microbiome Axis and further determine its role in the physical health of mankind.

William Little leaning on rail with interlocked hands
Nicole Pek
2021: Nicole Pek, University of Cincinnati

PhD Candidate: Molecular and Developmental Biology

Nicole is a first-year PhD student in the University of Cincinnati Molecular and Developmental Biology program, at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. She is currently conducting research under the supervision of Dr. Mingxia Gu at the Department of Pediatrics and Center for Stem Cell and Organoid Medicine (CuSTOM). There, she works on utilizing vascular cells and vessel organoids derived from patient-specific induced pluripotent stem cells to model and study genetic diseases, as well as cardiopulmonary development. After graduating with B.Sc. (Hons) (specialization in Biomedical Sciences) at the National University of Singapore, she received scientific training in well-established research institutions such as the Agency of Science, Technology and Research, Singapore (A*STAR) and Stanford University. With many years of stem cell research experience under her belt, Nicole is working towards using 2D and 3D stem cell-based cellular platforms to model complex human diseases and screen for therapeutics to treat those diseases. She also hopes to be part of the task force that will make stem cell-based therapies accessible to patients of all needs. Outside of the lab, Nicole plays a pro-active role in science mentorship, communication and advocacy.

2020: Sammy Mustafa, Northwestern University

Major: Biological Sciences
Minor: Global Health

A 2020 incoming freshman at Northwestern University, Sammy Mustafa conducted cell biology research in the lab of Dr. Donna Leonardi at Bergen County Academies, investigating the role of the PTEN pseudogene as a novel modulator of glioblastoma malignancy. His research utilizes the nonfunctional gene as a “decoy” to combat miRNA-mediated repression common in glioblastomas. As an enrollee of Northwestern’s seven year BA/MDHonors Program in Medical Education, Sammy will continue his academic and research career at the Feinberg School of Medicine, as well as delve further into the field of synthetic biology. Outside the lab, Sammy is a varsity hurdler and Eagle Scout who enjoys watching documentaries, thrifting, and spending time with friends and family.

Sammy Mustafa
Stella Paffenholz
2019: Stella Paffenholz, Gerstner Sloan Kettering Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences

PhD Candidate: Molecular Biosciences  Cancer Biology

A doctoral candidate at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, Stella’s current work focuses on developing innovative genetic tools to understand the process of senescence, a tumor-suppressive mechanism de-regulated in cancer. Stella completed her undergraduate in Molecular Biomedicine at the University of Bonn, Germany, and subsequently earned a Master’s degree through a Helmholtz International Graduate School for Cancer Research Fellowship at the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg, Germany. As chair of GSK Women in Science, Stella strives to advance gender equality and diversity in science. She is also part of the leadership team of the Tri-Institutional Biotech Club aiming to bridge the gap between academic research and pharmaceutical industry to ultimately turn academic breakthroughs into therapies for cancer patients. In her free time, Stella is an enthusiastic traveler and enjoys cycling and marathon running.

2018: Christopher Thang, The University of Houston
Houston, Texas

Christopher is a member of the University of Houston’s 2018 freshman class and one of 10 students in the 3/4 accelerated BS/MD program, majoring in Biomedical Science. Previously, Christopher investigated the ability of specialized peptides and antibodies that target myosin subfragment-2 to modulate muscle contraction at the University of North Texas under Dr. Douglas Root, co-authoring a publication in the Biophysical Journal. Now part of Dr. Chengzhi Cai’s laboratory at the University of Houston, Christopher researches the ability of benign E. coli to form biofilms on silicon catheters, widely used in biomedical devices, to reduce pathogen colonization. In the future, Christopher aims to benefit others by conducting both clinical research and international medical missions as a physician. In his free time, Christopher enjoys creating songs on the piano, weightlifting, and spending time with friends.

Christopher Thang
Kritika Singh
Fall 2017: Kritika Singh, Northeastern University
Boston, Massachusetts

Kritika is an undergraduate student at Northeastern University majoring in Bioengineering with a focus in cell and Tissue Engineering, Chemistry, and Global Health. At the Mazitschek Lab at Massachusetts General Hospital, Kritika is currently working to establish an assay platform to allow the simultaneous profiling of the specificity of epigenetic modulators and their small molecule inhibitors in the context of a diverse set of histone modifications. Outside of class, Kritika gives back to society as the CEO of the non-profit, Malaria Free World Inc., advocating for malaria research and prevention. She is also the webmaster of the undergraduate engineering research journal, Embark, and is the director of Northeastern’s first global health conference.

Spring 2017: Oscar Hernandez Murillo, University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Oscar is a senior at the University of Pennsylvania majoring in Biology with a concentration in Computational Biology and a minor in Chemistry. His current research at Dr. James Shorter’s laboratory focuses on engineering substrate-specific variants of Hsp104, a yeast disaggregase, as a potential therapy for neurodegenerative diseases. Oscar is planning to pursue a Ph.D. in Biological Sciences and hopes to, one day, become a University Professor. During his free time, Oscar enjoys practicing his French, reading manga, and sharing fun facts about Ecuador, his home.

Oscar Hernandez Murillo
Vanja Tolj
Fall 2016: Vanja Tolj, The Ohio State University Columbus, Ohio

Vanja Tolj is a junior at The Ohio State University majoring in Neuroscience with a minor in Global Public Health. As an aspiring physician, she hopes to incorporate translational research in her practice to improve the lives of her patients. Her current research focuses on determining how forced displacement contributes to the onset of dementia in the Serbian population. In her free time, Vanja contributes her time to TEDxOhioStateUniversity as a speaker coach and leading the GlobeMed chapter at OSU.

Spring, 2016: Jessica Ong, UCLA Los Angeles, California

Jessica is an aspiring physician scientist in the MD/PhD program at UCLA. Jessica completed her undergraduate and master’s degrees concurrently in UCLA’s rigorous Departmental Scholars Program, and she is now pursuing her PhD in the laboratory of Dr. Karen Reue. Jessica’s research focuses on lipid metabolism, studying the role of a novel gene Diet 1 in bile acid homeostasis as well as kidney proximal tubule function.

Jessica Ong
Kekoa Taparra
Fall, 2015: Kekoa Taparra, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine Baltimore, Maryland

A doctoral candidate at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in the Cellular and Molecular Medicine PhD Program, Kekoa’s current work focuses on cancer gene transcription programs associated with the Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition (EMT) and how they modulate cancer metabolism. In the future, Kekoa plans to pursue his medical degree upon completion of his PhD; ultimately his goal is to return home to Hawai‘i as a physician-scientist prepared to advance medical discoveries that will impact the health of his Native Hawaiian communities.

Spring, 2015: Peter Cabeceiras, Rice University Houston, Texas

Peter Cabeceiras is a junior at Rice University, majoring in Biochemistry and Cell Biology. Peter holds a college student researcher position in the laboratory of Dr. Lynda Chin in the Department of Genomic Medicine at UT MD Anderson Cancer Center (MDACC) with a focus on cancer research.

Peter Cabeceiras
Kristin Qian
Fall, 2014: Kristin Qian, Princeton University Princeton, New Jersey

A high school graduate at 16, Kristin Qian began her research work at the Oregon Health and Science University Knight Cancer Institute in Dr. Brian Druker’s Laboratory and is now attending Princeton University as a pre-med major.

Spring, 2014: Casey Miller, Indiana University/Purdue University Indianapolis, Indiana

Casey is currently working toward a degree in Biology at Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis, Indiana. She is deeply intrigued by the unknown in the world, and looks forward to learning about diseases and conditions that have yet to be cured.

Casey Miller

Full list of winners
  • Maya Butani—Princeton University
  • Sonia Goyal—The George Washington University
  • Chelsea Li—Stanford University
  • William Little—Washington University in St. Louis
  • Nicholas Myers—University of Georgia
  • Jonathan Park—Yale University
  • Cooper Hanley—Northwestern University
  • Rohan Hosuru—University of Virginia
  • Shobi Mathew—Wayne State University School of Medicine
  • Nicole Pek—University of Cincinnati
  • Katelyn Schumacher—Vanderbilt University
  • Anita Sumali—Texas A&M University
  • Tim Brown—Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center
  • Prathamesh Chati—Washington University in St. Louis
  • Shweta P. Kitchloo—University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
  • Anna Claire McMullen—University of Tulsa
  • Sammy Mustafa—Northwestern University
  • Nicole Renee Palmer—Case Western Reserve University
  • James C. Bowden—California Institute of Technology
  • Azadeh Hadadianpour—Vanderbilt University
  • Colin J. Mann—University of California, San Diego
  • Stella Paffenholz—Gerstner Sloan Kettering Graduate School
  • Isha Puri—Harvard University
  • Salil Uttarwar—Washington University in St. Louis
  • Rachael Adams—The Ohio State University
  • Shannon Esswein—California Institute of Technology
  • Veeraj Shah—University of Maryland
  • Christopher Thang—University of Houston
  • Jeffrey Zhou—Yale University
  • Name withheld due to NCAA rules
Fall 2017
  • Nathaniel Deimler of Nova Southeastern University
  • Ana Enriquez of Emory University
  • Micheal Munson of Baylor University
  • Kritika Singh of Northeastern University
  • Emily Xu of Yale University
  • Joshua Yang of Johns Hopkins University
Spring 2017
  • Joyce Kang of Stanford University
  • Oscar Hernandez Murillo of University of Pennsylvania
  • Danielle Mzyk of North Carolina State University
  • Nicholas Page of Rutgers University
  • John Pluvinage of Stanford University School of Medicine
  • Lillian Xu of Princeton University
Fall 2016
  • Brad Foster of Duke University 
  • Pranati Pillutla of Texas Tech Health Science Center School of Medicine
  • Christina Tan of Rice University
  • Vanja Tolj of The Ohio State University
  • Anthony J. Treichel of Winona State University
  • Jason Cheng-ting Tsai of Stanford University
Spring 2016
  • Aswin Bikkani of University of Cincinnati
  • Akhil Garg of Virginia Commonwealth University
  • Madeline Keleher of Washington University in St. Louis
  • Jessica Ong of University of California, Los Angeles
  • Pia Sen of University of Texas at Dallas
  • Mohamed Soliman of Cornell University
Fall 2015
  • Fatima Nizamuddin of University of Wisconsin, Madison
  • Yeshwant Chillakuru of The George Washington University
  • Yuyan Cheryl Mai of Yale University
  • Louis “Bobby” Hollingsworth of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
  • Marisa Egan of Saint Joseph’s University
  • Kekoa Taparra of The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Spring 2015
  • Michael Zhu Chen of Stanford University
  • Claire Liu of University of Chicago
  • Peter Cabeceiras of Rice University
  • Christina Rudolph of Siena College
  • Jean-Nicholas Gallant of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine
  • Adrienne Snyder of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Fall 2014
  • Kristin Qian of Princeton University
  • Alexandra Tamerius of University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Ryan Lindeborg of Harvard College
  • Adriano Bellotti of North Carolina State University
  • Nicole Olson of University of California-San Francisco
  • Graham Walmsley of Stanford University
Spring 2014
  • Wen Chyan of University of Wisconsin, Madison
  • Matthew Jeffreys of Stanford University
  • Rachel Marty of University of California, San Diego
  • Casey Miller of Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis
  • Catherine Norman of Trinity University
  • Max Wallack of Boston University
Fall 2013
  • Chandler Burke of Rice University
  • Melissa Dang of University of Oklahoma
  • Michael Neiger of Ohio State University
  • Lauren Nowacki of Texas A&M University
  • Lindsey Rogers of Yale University
  • Kelly Wallin of University of Wisconsin, Madison
Spring 2013
  • Jeanette Wat of Rice University
  • Jack Huang of Harvard University
  • Brandon Fennell of Stanford University
  • Nrithya Sundararaman of University of Miami
  • Douglas Bennion of University of Florida
  • David Han of Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Fall 2012
  • Nigel Reuel of Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Erik Schieda of Duke University
  • Jonathan Tsai of Stanford University
  • Shannamar Dewey of University of California, Davis
  • Priya Pathak of University of Wisconsin, Madison

Scholarship program support

If you have any questions or experience any difficulties regarding your scholarship submission, please contact our scholarship coordinator by email at