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Drexel's Nominees for the 2018 Udall Scholarship

March 19, 2018

Congratulations to Drexel's nominees for the 2018 Udall Scholarship –  Sophia Courtney, John Henderson, Annette Kang and Eliza Nobels!


Sophia (Sofi) Courtney (BS Environmental Science ’20, Honors)
Drexel faculty mentor: Elizabeth Burke Watson

Sofi Courtney transferred to Drexel University in 2016 after a career as a bicycle mechanic and horticulturist. As a member of the West Philadelphia community, Sofi has been a leader in many community garden and land maintenance projects. At Drexel she is studying environmental science with a concentration on ecology and conservation and hopes to use her education to promote the conservation of wild places through research and public engagement. Her research interest is focused on plant animal interactions in wetlands, particularly in swamps and bogs. Sofi's first co-op was with the wetlands section of Academy of Natural Sciences, where she still works today. This upcoming co-op she will be performing vegetation surveys in the panda reserves of Sichuan Province, China.

John Henderson (BS/MS Environmental Engineering ’19)

John Henderson believes in a future in which people and their environment are fundamentally connected and in balance with one another. To that end, John is focused on developing informatics systems to monitor and manage water resources. As a co-op at the Philadelphia Water Department John developed software to track contaminants in the Delaware River and simulate tidal fluctuations.  While at PWD John installed sensors to monitor Green Stormwater Infrastructure sites, which he continued through a research project at Drexel under Dr. Franco Montalto. John is also passionate about sustainable development.  As the president of Drexel Engineers Without Borders from 2016 to 2018, John led EWB in a multi-year project to bring water filtration systems to a refugee settlement in El Salvador.  John is doing his final co-op at S.S. Papadopulos & Associates in Bethesda, Maryland to develop groundwater modeling software.

Annette Kang (BS Biological Sciences '19)
Drexel faculty mentors: Sean O’Donnell, Susan Gurney, Meghan Barrett

Annette first got involved with research as a freshman in the SEA-PHAGES course working with isolating bacteriophages and annotating their genomes. Since then, she has focused her research interests in the field of entomology through lab and field research with ants. She shares her passions for research with other undergraduates as a member of the Undergraduate Research Leaders. She has participated in various experiential learning opportunities, including sustainability and conservation studies abroad in Costa Rica and Bioko Island, Equatorial Guinea. She will be participating in the DAAD Rise Germany program this Spring and Summer term where she will be studying diet preferences in ant-parasite communities at Technische Universität Darmstadt. Her career interests include becoming an Entomology researcher and science educator studying human and agricultural development and their impacts on insect biodiversity. She hopes to closely study these dynamics and explore alternative agricultural practices that are less destructive to the environment but also viable and sustainable for communities dependent on their agriculture.

Eliza Nobles (BS Custom-Designed Major - Urban Ecology ’19)

Eliza is pursuing a custom-designed major in Urban Ecology: an individualized curriculum she created to study environmental science and architectural design. She aims to connect environmental research with urban design to holistically solve urban environmental problems. Eliza has participated in several environmental research projects, and has presented her research at national conferences. During her last co-op, she worked with Drexel's Department of Biodiversity, Earth, and Environmental Sciences to study the biodiversity of vacant land in Philadelphia. She is currently a research assistant for the Philadelphia Health & Environment Ethnography Lab. In addition to conducting environmental research, Eliza volunteers at the Franklin Institute’s Ozone Garden. She also works as a designer at LandHealth Institute, where she supports ecological landscape design and community outreach programs. She aspires to continue managing science-based urban design projects after she graduates.



Special thanks to the members of Drexel’s 2018 Udall Campus Committee, who worked with the Center for Scholar Development during the winter term to review applications, conduct interviews, and advise nominees on their applications:

  • Julia Novak Colwell, Visiting Fellow for the Great Works Symposium, Pennoni Honors College
  • Peter DeCarlo, Assistant Professor, Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering
  • Stefanie Kroll, Watershed Ecology Section Lead, Center for Environmental Policy, Academy of Natural Sciences
  • Chris Sales, Assistant Professor, Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering


The Udall Scholarship awards approximately 50 scholarships of up to $7000 to sophomore and junior level college students committed to careers related to the environment, tribal public policy, or Native American health care. The Udall Foundation seeks future leaders across a wide spectrum of environmental fields, including policy, engineering, science, education, urban planning and renewal, business, health, justice, and economics.

For more information, please email Drexel Fellowships.