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Congratulations to Drexel's 2017 Fulbright Semifinalists

February 2, 2017

Eleven Drexel students and recent alumni have been selected as semifinalists for the prestigious Fulbright US Student Program for 2017-18. These students spent considerable time developing research proposals, crafting application essays, and incorporating feedback from supportive readers. We are very happy for them.

After being chosen by Fulbright US National Screening Committees, their applications have been passed to the host countries for final selection. They will hear in the coming months whether they receive the award. We wish them the best of luck!

2017 Fulbright Semi-Finalists

Brean PrefontaineBrean Prefontaine 
BS Physics, '17
Fulbright Program: English Teaching Assistantship, Netherlands

Brean is completing her bachelor's in physics, with minors in astrophysics, mathematics, and STEM education. Her current research in physics education is focused on a summer program that allows high school students to come to Drexel and work on particle physics with the IceCube research group for four weeks. Through her current research and her involvement in the DragonsTeach program, Brean has become increasingly interested in combining her interests in teaching and physics in order to better understand how students interact with physics. She is particularly interested in the informal ways that students come into contact with physics (such as at a museum or during a summer camp) and plans to continue looking into these areas of study in graduate school.

Carli Moorehead
BS/MS Biomedical Engineering / Materials Science & Engineering '17, Honors 
Fulbright Program: Study/Research Grant, Italy
Drexel faculty mentor: Michele Marcolongo

Carli is a senior biomedical engineering student who will complete a Master’s thesis in materials engineering, under the guidance of Dr. Michele Marcolongo. Carli’s first experience with research was as a STAR Scholar with Dr. Ken Barbee, studying the effect of nitric oxide on wound healing. She is currently conducting research on both bulk ceramics – studying strong magnetic fields can be used to engineer microstructure through co-ops at the Army Research Lab – and synthetic proteoglycans – as a student researcher in the Drexel Biomaterials Lab studying collagen-proteoglycan interactions. Carli plans to pursue a PhD in Materials Science and Engineering, focusing on bioceramic-based composite design for tissue regeneration and drug delivery.

Claudia GutierrezClaudia Gutierrez
BS/MS Biomedical Engineering ’15, Honors

Fulbright Program:
Study/Research Grant, Switzerland

Claudia graduated from Drexel in 2015 with a combined BS/MS in Biomedical Engineering and is now pursuing an MD at the Mayo Clinic School of Medicine. Since starting medical school she has developed aspirations to become a head and neck reconstructive surgeon and has become fascinated by the potential applications of regenerative medicine in this field. She hopes to return to Switzerland to work with experts in tissue engineering at the University Hospital of Basel to develop a novel stem-cell based scaffold using epigenetic regulators in partnership with Dr. van Wiejnen from Mayo Clinic’s Center for Regenerative Medicine.

Claudia’s first research experience at Drexel was as a STAR (Students Tackling Advanced Research) Scholar in Drexel’s Vascular Kinetics Laboratory (PI: Dr. Alisa Morss Clyne). It was in her first coop at the medical device company Rex Medical that Claudia first experienced the importance of international and cross-cultural communication in research: She traveled with engineers to Argentina and Chile to collaborate with physicians on the development of a novel device, and being fluent in Spanish she was able to translate between the two groups. She then spent her next co-op abroad as a Whitaker Undergraduate Fellow conducting research in the Laboratory of Lymphatic and Cancer Bioengineering under Dr. Melody Swartz at the internationally recognized École Polytechnique Fédéral de Lausanne (EPFL). At Mayo Clinic, Claudia continues her passion for supporting women in STEM as a leader in the Association of Women Surgeons and can be found dancing west coast swing in her free time. Claudia is to grateful to Dr. Adrian Shieh, who initially inspired her to conduct research in Switzerland, and to Dr. Kara Spiller, Dr. Meredith Wooten, Jaya Mohan and many former Drexel Fulbright recipients who guided her throughout the application process.

Emily LurierEmily Lurier
PhD candidate, Biomedical Engineering
Fulbright Program: Study/Research Grant, Netherlands 
Drexel faculty mentor: Kara Spiller

Emily is a PhD candidate in biomedical engineering. Emily became fascinated with how the human body responds to biomaterial implantation as an undergraduate student at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. To pursue this interest, Emily is currently working in the Biomaterials and Regenerative medicine laboratory focusing on designing a novel drug delivery system to control the inflammatory response to heart valve replacement implantation. Emily hopes to work with leading experts in the heart valve tissue engineering field in the Netherlands to optimize and test her drug delivery system both on the benchtop and in a novel small animal model. Outside of research, Emily is passionate about promoting STEM fields by acting as a mentor in the Biomedical Summer Academy as well as a member of the Drexel Women in Science and Engineering. Emily is very grateful for the support of her advisor, Dr. Kara Spiller, as well as for the advice and feedback provided by Dr. Meredith Wooten and Jennifer Lech.

Greg NiedtGreg Niedt
PhD student, Communication, Culture, and Media
Fulbright Program: Study/Research Grant, EU-Schuman    
Drexel faculty mentor: Rachel Reynolds

Greg is a PhD candidate in Communication, Culture and Media. His primary research interest is the relationship between language, culture, and identity, particularly as it relates to urban diversity. Currently, he is working on his dissertation in South Philadelphia, examining how texts are used to claim and contest space by residents of different ethnolinguistic backgrounds, as well as the sociopolitical structures that shape (and are shaped by) this process. He hopes to compare his findings in an American context with those in an analogous European context, and has proposed conducting similar research in Germany, Italy, and France through the EU Fulbright grant. Special thanks to his advisor, Rachel Reynolds, and the tireless work of Jen Lech and Meredith Wooten, for their assistance and faith in this project.

Kaitlin ThakerKaitlin Thaker
BA Global Studies ’17, Honors
Fulbright Program: English Teaching Assistantship, Germany

Kaitlin is completing her bachelor’s in Global Studies with a concentration in Literature, Culture, and Arts and a double minor in German and Philosophy.  Kaitlin has spent much time abroad teaching English and immersing herself in different cultures and languages.  Kaitlin’s love for languages has driven her to study German, Russian, Japanese, and Chinese.  She hopes to one day use her skills and experiences to work as an interpreter. Kaitlin would like to thank Dr. Simone Schlichting-Artur, Dr. Stacey Ake, and Professor Olga Yelkina.

Micah WatanabeMicah Watanabe
BS Educational Media, ’17
Fulbright Program: English Teaching Assistantship, Czech Republic
Drexel faculty mentor: Aroutis Foster

Micah is a senior majoring in Educational Media, as part of the Custom-Design Major program. He has previously worked in both local and international education programs teaching English. His current research is in identity exploration in game-based learning under the guidance of Dr. Aroutis Foster. Micah plans to pursue a PHD in psychology to study adaptive technology and digital environments for students with special needs. In his spare time, Micah makes a mean chocolate chip cookie. He would like to thank his parents, Dr. Foster, Dr. Kevin Egan, and Dr. Meredith Wooten and the entire Fellowships Office for their help and support.

Nikki ZandNikki Zand
BS Finance & International Business ‘17, Honors
Fulbright Program: English Teaching Assistantship, Spain

Nikki is completing her bachelor’s in Finance, with a minor in Spanish. During her undergraduate career she has served as a teaching assistant in five courses, two of which were classes designed to help foreign exchange students excel in school and navigate cultural differences. Growing up, she enjoyed teaching her Persian grandmother English and continued her passion for teaching English as a second Language (ESL) as a tutor at the Center for Literacy of Philadelphia. While in Madrid, she hopes to strengthen her Spanish speaking abilities so she can offer financial education classes for the Hispanic community when she returns home to the United States.

Shawn JoshiShawn Joshi
MD/PhD student
Fulbright Program: Study/Research Grant, United Kingdom
Drexel faculty mentor: Hasan Ayaz

Shawn Joshi is a MD/PhD student completing his second year of medical school at Drexel University. He plans to start his PhD in Biomedical Engineering during his Fulbright year while exploring the clinical use of portable medical neuroimaging devices on physical therapies for children with motor learning disabilities. Shawn has a lifelong interest for implementing creative solutions through the use of technology for the neurologically impaired to improve their rehabilitative process and daily life. As a returned Peace Corps Volunteer, Shawn has additional aspirations to continue work with communities in the developing world, particularly with emphasis on medical technology training and development. While he is not buried in his books, he enjoys exploring new areas of the city and writing about unique food experiences in his food blog. He is grateful to his advisor Dr. Hasan Ayaz, who introduced him to his colleagues in the U.K. and Ireland and encouraged designing such a unique project, and to those who provided him active support and guidance throughout the application process including Drs. Meredith Wooten, Alessandro Fatatis, and Banu Onaral.

Vaughn Shirey
BS Environmental Science '17
Fulbright Program: Study/Research Grant, Finland
Drexel faculty mentor: Jon Gelhaus

Vaughn is completing his bachelor's in Environmental Science, with minors in Bioinformatics and Sustainability in the Built Environment. Vaughn conducts research on crane flies under the guidance of Dr. Jon Gelhaus and is passionate about natural history collection data, citizen science, and museums. He has guest lectured at Temple University on the topic of urban entomology and citizen science in the classroom, and in 2014 started a citizen science initiative called PhilaBug which aims to capture arthropod diversity in the city. Vaughn is interested in how citizen science data can be used to fill gaps in analysis. His proposed plan is to analyze citizen science data alongside specimens at The Finnish Museum of Natural History to understand the value of citizen science towards augmenting existing data in natural history. He also plans to learn a variety of new techniques, including applying artificial intelligence towards problems in evolution and ecology. 

Wen-kuni CeantWen-kuni Ceant
MPH '16

Fulbright Program: Study/Research Grant, Senegal
Drexel faculty mentor: Shannon Marquez

Wen-kuni graduated with a Masters in Public Health in Health Management and Policy in 2016. She previously attended Howard University, in Washington, D.C. where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa and with honors with a Bachelors of Science in Biology. Wen-kuni aspires to integrate public health and medicine in her work to eradicate health disparities both domestically and abroad. She hopes to evaluate the feasibility and replicability of prepayment plans to finance healthcare in the West African Region while on a Fulbright in Senegal. Wen-kuni would also like to express her sincerest gratitude to all the support, feedback and advice received from Drexel's Fellowship Office and a special thank you to Benjamin Rayder, her fellowship advisor.    

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program awards funding for one academic year of self-designed study, research, creative projects, or teaching English in over 140 countries around the world. 

For more information please visit the Fulbright U.S. Student Program website or email

Special thanks to the Drexel faculty and staff members who worked with us during the summer and fall to advise individual applicants, review campus applications, and conduct preliminary review and campus interviews:

Adam Zahn, Academic Programs Manager, Office of International Programs

Alison Evans, Associate Professor, Epidemiology and Biostatistics

Ana Nye, Assistant Director, Center for Interdisciplinary Inquiry

Ben Barnett, Instructor, English Language Center

Brian Kantorek, Assistant Director, Center for Cultural Media

Chris Laincz, Associate Professor, Economics

Dan Dougherty, Associate Professor, Law

Emily Kashka, Program Coordinator, Office of Undergraduate Research

Emmanuel Koku, Associate Professor, Sociology

Erica Zelinger, Director of Communications, Pennoni Honors College

Igor Burstyn, Associate Professor, Environmental and Occupational Health

Jackie Bailey-Ross, Program Manager, Academic Center for Engineers

Jaya Mohan, Associate Director, Office of Undergraduate Research

Julia Wisniewski, Honors Program Coordinator, Pennoni Honors College

Kara Spiller, Assistant Professor, Biomedical Engineering

Kevin Egan, Director, Center for Interdisciplinary Inquiry

Kristy Kelly, Assistant Clinical Professor, Education

Lisa Shen, Advisor, Study Abroad

Paula Marantz Cohen, Dean, Pennoni Honors College and Distinguished Professor of English

Pawel Hitczenko, Professor, Mathematics

Phillip Ayoub, Assistant Professor, Politics

Rachel Reynolds, Associate Professor, Anthropology

Ryan O'Connor, Assistant Director of Student Civic Leadership, Lindy Center

Sarah Haley, Program Coordinator, Lebow PhD program and MS in Economics

Shannon Marquez, Director, Global Public Health Initiatives and Associate Professor

Simone Schlicting-Artur, Teaching Professor, Global Studies and Modern Languages

Suruchi Sood, Associate Professor, Community Health & Prevention

Suzanne Rocheleau, Director, Office of Undergraduate Research

Tali Gidalevitz, Assistant Professor, Biology

Tony Addison, Professor, Chemistry

Ulrike Altenmuller-Lewis, Associate Professor, Architecture