Aspire Scholars are part of a small, selective group of sophomores who receive the opportunity to further develop their goals as they seek to clarify their plans for making the most of their time at Drexel and beyond. Learn more about the students in this program through their self-written bios below!
Sajda Adam is a second-year student pursuing a bachelor's degree in psychology and a minor in neuroscience. She participated in the 2022 STAR Scholars cohort optimizing the detection of cognitive decline in people living with HIV. She is currently continuing her experience in that lab working on further analyzing assessments and cognition in people living with HIV. She is passionate about civic engagement in youth and works with outside organizations to get young people registered to vote and create podcast episodes for a local radio station. Outside of classes, she is also involved in numerous clubs such as Psi-Chi and the College of Arts and Sciences BRIDGE program. Throughout her time in the Aspire Scholars program, she hopes to keep building her network of clinical researchers and physicians, along with meeting and learning about other students' passions and fields.
data science '26
Sabrina Akter is working towards a bachelor's degree in data science. She has a strong interest in all aspects of computing and is eager to learn more about the integration of business and technology. She is currently working in a Software Development Automation Testing position during her first co-op at Susquehanna International Group. She also represents Drexel as a student ambassador. Outside of school, she likes to read, write, and travel in her free time.
Through the Aspire program, she aims to broaden her professional network and establish connections with individuals from other professional backgrounds She also wants to refine her mentorship abilities and enhance the skills she already possesses. Through that, she hopes to have the resources to help bridge the gender gap in STEM fields and help other first-generation international students who want to excel academically. She is particularly interested in aiding disadvantaged South Asian women.
materials science and engineering '26
Alessandra did not always know that she wanted to be an engineer. Quite honestly, she did not know what was possible with her major, but what she did know was that she had a true passion for science and learning new things. In her first year at Drexel, she came to realize that these were important qualities of a great scientist and jumped head-first into her first research experience under the direction of Dr. Caroline Schauer, where she created active packaging polymer films from natural materials. The ten-week project was done in conjunction with Altered State Distillery, for an innovative, environmentally friendly plastic can liner, which would help extend the shelf life of canned goods. Humorously, after this experience, Alessandra realized that she was doomed—or rather, destined—to be a researcher.
Through her participation in the Aspire Scholars program, she hopes to investigate potential opportunities to continue down the path of materials research with environmental applications—whether that be following through with smart materials, working with microplastics, or trying something completely new!
She is pursuing a minor in writing, and performs with the orchestra in her free time.
custom-designed major in medicinal engineering '26
Meredith is pursuing a custom-designed major entitled “Medicinal Engineering” and a minor in biochemistry. Her plan of study draws from biomedical engineering, health sciences, biochemistry, and communications. During her freshman year, she shadowed in the Wheatley Microencapsulation Laboratory and the Jefferson Ultrasound Laboratory. The summer between her freshman and sophomore years, she participated in the STAR Scholars Program where she performed an independent research project. She successfully developed a surfactant-based microbubble with encapsulated Rose Bengal for use with sonodynamic therapy to treat hepatic tumors. She has had the opportunity to present her research at various conferences including the Enabling Technologies Consortium and AAAS Science for Humanity Conference.
In the future, Meredith hopes to pursue a career in oncology through research or working in a clinical setting. Through the Aspire program, she hoped to refine her communication skills and develop a network of peers and colleagues in her field. Through connections with other scholars and alumni, she hopes to refine her career goals and aspirations.
Madelyn Farland is pursuing a bachelor's degree in nursing, with plans to work in intensive care units and operating rooms. Her interests are focused on providing and creating researched-base practices for increased quality of care in hospitals. During her 2022 STAR Scholars research project, she worked on increasing fluid intake accuracy in geriatric populations. At Drexel, she is a member of the Drexel Symphonic band playing the oboe and is also an artist. Through her background, she hopes to use creativity and art to empathize with others, while allowing creativity to help propel innovation and adaptability in the healthcare system.
Through the Aspire Scholars program, she plans to build out her academic pathways and opportunities through Drexel. She hopes to create new connections with others in her field and find ways to incorporate her diverse interests into her career plan having a wider understanding of her professional goals.
biological sciences '26
Alexis is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences with a concentration in organismal biology and a minor in science, technology, and society, and is on a pre-medicine track. She has always had a particular interest in parasitology and how microorganisms can affect human health and society. In addition, she finds the intersection of the judicial system and science, forensic science, very fascinating. As the co-founder and vice president of Forensic Science Club, she hopes to explore this intersection more fully. Outside of school, she is passionate about inspiring the next generation of college students through various mentoring endeavors. Over the summer, she was a camp counselor, and she is now working on becoming a virtual mentor for students as well as creating a blog to tackle common questions surrounding college and the application process. Some of her hobbies include reading, writing, skiing, and being with her friends.
Through Aspire, Alexis hopes to clarify and strategize her goals for the future by creating connections and gaining insight with experienced professionals in her field. She also is excited to discuss and learn with her peers!
software engineering '26
Amir Kaidarov studies software engineering and has a profound interest in mobile development. He chose this career path for the opportunity to combine his creative and problem-solving skills to build beautiful projects for social impact and fun. He implements his skills as an Android Developer at Drexel, helps other students comprehend the course material as a Course Assistant at the College of Computing & Informatics, and works on a racing car as a software developer on the Drexel Formula SAE team.
For Amir, the Aspire Scholars program is a chance to get a clearer vision of his future and build his plans with support from faculty, staff, and alumni. The diversity of the people that are part of the program is what he needs to advance his own goals.
environmental science '25
Calvin Keeys is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in environmental science, a minor in graphic design and is planning on getting a Spanish certificate. His goal is to become a wildlife biologist with a focus on wildlife conservation and protecting endangered animals. He participated in the 2022 STAR Scholars cohort, where he worked under the mentorship of Dr. Jason Weckstein at the Academy of Natural Sciences Department of Ornithology. His research focused on whether the bird species white-winged becard (Pachyramphus polychopterus) follows Gloger’s Rule. This ecogeographic rule states that warm-blooded organisms will be darker in coloration in warmer and more humid environments. Growing up with an African American father and a Sierra Leonean mother, Calvin is proud of his multicultural background and wants to help provide opportunities to underrepresented communities and individuals in STEM careers. Calvin is a College of Arts and Sciences BRIDGE Scholar, African Fusion Dance Team Vice President and a member of the Black Student Union, African Students Association and Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation. He is currently continuing research at the Academy of Natural Sciences and volunteering at the Overbrook Environmental Education Center. Outside of academics, Calvin enjoys drawing, playing video games, bike riding and playing tennis.
By being an Aspire Scholar, Calvin is looking forward to meeting and interacting with like-minded people that want to make a positive impact in the world. He also wants to further develop his academic and personal goals along with learning more about wildlife biology. Calvin believes that Aspire Scholars will help him reach his full potential and become a leader in his community.
environmental studies and sustainability '26
Charlotte is a second-year student pursuing a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies and sustainability, working towards a career in the climate change field. They participated in the 2022 STAR Scholars program, studying the effects of various greenspace views on health using survey data and the programming language R. They are also a co-founder and organizer for the Philadelphia chapter of Fridays For Future, a youth-led climate action group that protests weekly. Charlotte is passionate about climate and social justice, working at the Student Center for Diversity and Inclusion to advance acceptance on the Drexel campus. They are interested in learning more about fossil fuel divestment, data analysis, and music production.
As an Aspire Scholar, Charlotte hopes to define their career goals and reflect on their passions alongside a group of highly motivated peers. They look forward to developing peer, faculty, and professional connections in a variety of fields, including environmental politics and data analysis. Charlotte is excited about the opportunity that the Aspire Scholars program provides to engage in reflection and collaboration with students with a variety of interests.
biomedical engineering '26
Blake is pursuing a joint bachelor’s and master’s degree in biomedical engineering with concentrations in tissue engineering and biomaterials. She plans to do research in regenerative medicine, studying how the body heals itself and promoting new growth for those with degenerative diseases. At Drexel, she is a member of the Club Field Hockey team and the Society of Women Engineers. With experience in the fields of healthcare and medical device consulting, she is passionate about shortening the organ transplant list through both artificial and organic means of organ generation and transplantation. Going forward at Drexel, Blake is planning on studying abroad in Germany and graduating with honors.
As an Aspire Scholar, Blake is excited to take the next step forward in clarifying and achieving her goals. She is looking forward to the mentorship and professional development she will participate in as a member of this year’s cohort and is grateful for the opportunity to create a community amongst her peers as they reflect and connect during the coming year.
civil and architectural engineering '26
Rhythm Osan is a second-year student planning to pursue a bachelor's in architectural engineering and master's in civil engineering with a special focus on sustainable and eco-friendly architecture. She participated in the 2022 STAR Scholars cohort as a Frances Velay fellow developing Thermal Vascular Self Responsive Composites for Civil Infrastructure which focused on reducing energy usage in buildings by incorporating self-regulating composites in infrastructure materials. Outside of academics, she is the Outreach Co-Chair for the Drexel chapter of the Society of Women Engineers, serves as an Engineering Mentor to first year students, and has earned her Girl Scout Gold Award by increasing awareness about diversity in her community.
As an Aspire Scholar, Rhythm hopes to learn more about opportunities available in her field thus expanding her ability to make a difference in the world as an engineer. She looks forward to connecting with faculty, professionals and peers who can help her reach her goals.
Albert Paredes Rodriguez
Albert Paredes Rodriguez is pursuing a bachelor's degree in chemistry, concentrating in biochemistry and a minor in biological sciences. He has plans to join the BS/MS program next year to do his master's in organic chemistry and to graduate with honors. After living for 17 years in Caracas, Venezuela, amid a crisis, Albert developed a strong sense of commitment towards finding his own way to give back to his country everything that has been given to him as memorable experiences. Albert hopes to work in either medicine or research to focus on the development of medicinal drugs useful to the healthcare field that could be brought to his homeland in a moment where it is needed the most; therefore, pursuing an MD/Ph.D. in the future is not discarded. Currently, he is participating in a drug design research project in Dr. Ji's lab.
Although research and medicine are driving forces for him, Albert has also engaged in other activities. At Drexel, he is one of the Lead Ambassadors in the Student Ambassadors program and serves as a peer mentor in UNIV 101. Both foster Albert's enthusiasm for helping new students and guiding them and their families. As an Aspire Scholar, Albert hopes to get a better idea of what path to follow to achieve his main goal, as well as meet different Drexel students, alums, mentors, and professional staff in an environment where everyone supports one another in their career and personal goals.
biological sciences '26
Matthew is in pursuit of a bachelor's degree in biological sciences. Being raised in Indonesia, a hotspot (literally) of biodiversity, he has lived so close to the natural world and grew to be passionate about its wondrous complexities. With a fervent drive to ask the greater questions, he focuses on research. He spent his time in the STAR Scholars Program with Dr. Christopher Sales conducting research on nonthermal plasma and its capabilities in inactivating E. coli present on salmon tissue. He looks forward to delving deeper into research about the natural sciences.
Being a part of the Aspire Scholars program, Matthew aims to grow in personal development and realize more about his goals in the field of biology.
When academics are set aside, he enjoys watching movies and the great art of storytelling. He also spends his free time dog walking and meeting up with his off-campus Indonesian church community.
Dorothea West is a second-year student at Drexel majoring in chemistry, and minoring in math. Outside of class, Dorothea is a wrestler, working to start a women's club wrestling team at Drexel, and does research with the Ji group. Continuing from the STAR Scholars Program in the summer of 2022, Dorothea's research is within the field of organic chemistry and specifically focuses on drug development using fragment-based design.
Through participation in the Aspire Scholars program, Dorothea is looking to gain mentorship and guidance to clarify further goals beyond graduation from Drexel. Dorothea is also looking to build her network and connect with likeminded students within both the cohort and network of alumni as a part of this experience.
materials science and engineering '26
Conway Zheng is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in materials science and engineering with a plan for a concentration in polymers. He loves the alchemy-like fantasies of chemistry in the creation of new materials. Conway wanted to quickly dip his feet into lab experiences during his first year at Drexel. That summer, he worked under Dr. Caroline Schauer in the STAR Scholars program to investigate and characterize nanofiber depositions of polymer solutions by the touchspinner machine. He continues his research project in Dr. Schauer’s Natural Materials and Polymer Processing Group. He also holds the membership chair for the Material Advantage Drexel Chapter.
With the guidance and support of the Aspire Scholars program, Conway hopes to learn professional and personal skills that will help him navigate into the professional industry. He wants to gain advice and mentoring from faculty members and guest speakers. He is most excited about becoming friends with high-achieving students and being motivated by them to push himself further onto his academic and career paths.
Beyond academics and during his free time, Conway’s hobbies include drawing and crocheting.
BS Engineering '25
Serenity is a second-year student pursuing a bachelor's in engineering and minor in STEM education. She participated in the 2021 STAR Scholars cohort as a Frances Velay Fellow designing trauma-informed curricula. She is doing her first co-op at the ExCITe Center writing STEAM curricula and teaching local middle schoolers, as well as working in the Digital Navigators program refurbishing tech for the local community. She is passionate about accessibility and equity in STEAM education and the college retention rate for first generation students. Outside of classes, she is also part of Drexel's Chapter of Society of Women Engineers. Her research outside of class is technology and music based, as she is a musician with a love for building circuits.
Through the Aspire Scholars program she hopes to keep building her network of engineers and educators, as well as meet other passionate students with a vision. With unique professional goals, she hopes to gain some momentum and clarity in securing jobs that suite her passions.
BS Screenwriting and Playwriting '24, Honors
Ethan Binder is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in screenwriting and playwriting. This past summer he participated in the STAR Scholars program, where he wrote a full feature-length screenplay under the mentorship of Professor Matthew Kaufhold. The story focused on a character for whom the lines between love and its illusion quickly blurred, and provided commentary on the nature of para-social relationships in the 21st century. Ethan’s particular fascination with people and how they interact has given him a strong interest in character studies that examine the nature of interpersonal relationships. This is something that he hopes to further explore in his future writing.
Ethan is excited to work with his fellow Aspire Scholars to continue to learn and develop as a professional in his field. He is looking forward to meeting new people with varying and unique stories, who will contribute to his intellectual and professional growth. Furthermore, he hopes the program will enhance his networking skills in order to make connections with others in his industry, and clarify his next steps in pursuing his career as a writer.
BS Health Sciences '25
Diem Quynh Thuy Bui is pursuing a bachelor's degree in health sciences and is on the pre-Physician Assistant (PA) track. Along with her interests in health and medicine, she also finds passion in the effects community and society bring to STEM and healthcare. During her freshman year, she conducted her first research project at Drexel University through the STAR Scholars program under Dr. Sharrona Pearl, where she examined the history and key findings of prosopagnosia or face blindness from the 1980s to the present time and researched how facial recognition AI’s performance on recognizing masked faces differs in Hong Kong and the the U.S. In addition to Quynh’s academic pursuits, she involved herself with the community through Drexel University’s Asian Students Association (ASA) as outreach for their conference initiative called the Asian American Philadelphia Advocacy Conference with the theme of Empowerment Through Solidarity in 2021.
Through Aspire, Quynh hopes to gain opportunities and expert insight in helping close the discrepancies in the knowledge of health and healthcare within vulnerable communities, especially the Asian American community. She also looks forward in building long-lasting relationships with the diverse and driven peers and professionals of the Aspire Scholars Program who can support and guide on her healthcare, PA journey.
BS Physics '25
Elias Gkouveris is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in physics and minoring in mathematics. He has a particular interest in the relationship between the branches of particle physics and cosmology. Elias is passionate about understanding the implications of what we know about the universe, as well as assisting in making significant discoveries throughout the subject. Besides math and science, he has a strong interest in philosophy as well as playing piano.
As an Aspire Scholar, Elias hopes to realize more about his goals as a physicist, and hopes to be more prepared to start a serious career in the field. He also hopes to broaden his network with people who share the same types of aspirations and make long-lasting relationships within his academic and personal sphere.
BS Philosophy, Politics & Economics '25
Tamir Gorham is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in in Philosophy, Politics & Economics with a minor in Communications. As his major suggests, he is interested in journalism and politics, and in the future, he hopes to work as a journalist or lawyer. Being from Philadelphia, he is most interested with educational inequalities between schools and school districts. Another interest of his lies within the criminal justice system. Currently he is working as a research assistant with Professor Amelia Hoover Green, researching the organization and formation of armed groups in Africa.
Tamir hopes that the aspire scholars program will help him narrow his career focus and connect with his peers and professionals in the field to gain useful connections and experiences. He is excited for what this year and program will bring.
BS Chemistry '24, Honors
Sky Harper is an undergraduate chemistry major with a biochemistry concentration who is pursuing an MD/PhD in the future. His research experience includes conducting research with the USDA, Drexel’s STAR program, and working in different labs at Drexel. The research has covered a range of topics from identifying amino acid sequences in proteins, working on a DNA sequencer for real-time analysis, plasma polymerization of acrylic acid, and cognitive neuroengineering, and other related topics.
In addition to his passion for research, Sky is also a Johnson & Johnson mentee, Bristol Myers Squibb mentee, Boeing mentee, registered EMT, and the President of Drexel Indigenous Students of the Americas. Along with these programs, he is also an American Indian Science and Engineering member and a proud First-Generation Student from the Navajo Nation. Sky Hopes that he can make the most of his Drexel experience and through Aspire, create a more defined path to help guide him to his future career.
He loves writing stories, cooking, and listening to music in his free time.
BS Environmental Engineering '25, Honors
Alyssa Kemp is pursuing a bachelor's degree in environmental engineering with aspirations to pursue a career in the field of climate change. She is fascinated at the intersectionality between engineering, public health, and public policy to create all-inclusive solutions towards air pollution, water quality, and heat issues at a community level. Alyssa began her journey in climate change research this past summer at Drexel through Dr. Franco Montalto's lab. Her research focused on analyzing urban heat islands in Hunting Park, Philadelphia to calculate the effectiveness of the heat mitigation techniques that were implemented earlier through Montalto's lab. She recently was selected to be an observer with Drexel University to attend the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland where she was able to expand upon her climate change career interest. Alyssa is the Diversity & Inclusion Chair for the Drexel chapter of Society of Women Engineers and the Travel Coordinator for the Global Relations & International Design team for the Drexel chapter of Engineers Without Borders.
Through the Aspire Program, she hopes to meet people who can direct her to a career path focused on climate change and improving the health of her community. She also looks forward to reflecting with her peers and creating connections with faculty members and professionals!
BS Biomedical Engineering '25
Eva Elizabeth Kraus is pursing both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in biomedical engineering at Drexel University, graduating in 2025. She has a passion for problem solving and entrepreneurship and hopes to take these skills with her in the next stages of her career. With experience in both robotics and laboratory research, biotechnology and human health are her current focal points. As an Aspire Scholar, Eva is excited to hone her interests and talents into a more defined project that can make a greater difference. She is also looking forward to building connections with her fellow cohort members.
In addition to academics, Eva stays busy as the Vice President of Marketing of TEDxDrexelU, the Secretary of Engineers Without Borders, and a host on Drexel Television’s student news show, “Inside Ambition.” You can also find her in MacAlister Hall as a violinist in the Drexel University Symphony Orchestra.
BS Electrical Engineering '24
Luyang Liu is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. As a motivated student with a curious mind, she is passionate about using engineering skills to solve issues related to social justice and human rights, and she is dedicated to exploring ways of connecting her major and other fields of interests. Luyang is also a peer mentor in the Engineering Leadership Scholars Program and an Undergraduate Ambassador in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).
As an Aspire Scholar, Luyang is excited to connect to and have in-depth discussions with peers and mentors who share similar interests and passions with the hope of learning about different perspectives. She also looks forward to further developing her professional development plan and mentoring skills.
BS Biological Sciences '24, Honors
Lakshmi Parvathinathan is pursuing her bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences with a concentration in pathobiology and a minor in epidemiology. She is on the pre-medicine track and hopes to attend medical school after graduation. Lakshmi became interested in the field of medicine as a high schooler and has since volunteered at hospitals, labs, and nonprofits to further explore her interests in this ever-changing field. Her experience of growing up in the United States as an immigrant has also led her to discover her passion for civic engagement. She believes that being a physician is not just about understanding the life sciences but also about connecting with your patients, advocating for them, and working towards addressing issues within the health care system. Through Aspire, Lakshmi hopes to meet and learn from mentors in the fields of medicine and public health. She is also really looking forward to getting to know her cohort better.
BS Biological Sciences '25, Honors
Nisha Patel is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences with minors in neuroscience and science, technology, and society. Inspired by her fascination with the brain and its many complexities, Nisha is considering a future career in neuroscience research. She is specifically interested in contributing to the discovery of novel treatments for neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, whether that be through the application of wet-lab techniques or informing others via science writing. Nisha is an active member of the Neuroscience Society and serves as the Co-Chair of the Research Committee in the TriBeta Biological Honor Society. As a 2021 STAR Scholar, she spent ten weeks studying the epigenetic pathway of axon pruning in Drosophila melanogaster alongside her mentors Dr. Jennifer Stanford and Emily Sterner. She continues to spend time in the lab through her current co-op as a research assistant at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. During her free time, Nisha enjoys reading YA novels, watching classic movies, and exploring new places in Philadelphia.
As an Aspire Scholar, Nisha hopes to gain more clarity about what area of research she wants to work in for her long-term career. She believes the program will provide her with valuable mentorship and guidance about how she can utilize her profession to aid in the advancement of healthcare. She is extremely excited to develop her career plans and meet a community of fellow sophomores who collectively prioritize their personal and professional goals.
BS Global Studies '25, Honors
Atara Saunders is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Global Studies and Economics & Public Health with a minor in Spanish. She is passionate about environmental and health justice and hopes to gain experience related to public policy and community outreach. Atara has experience organizing with different Philadelphia climate justice organizations and hopes to utilize her organizing experience for future careers and initiatives. She has been elected the Drexel Jewish Student Association Vice President for 2022 and is an active member of the Drexel Jewish community. She is also a member of Drexel’s Sharing Excess Chapter, a student organization which fights food insecurity through food redistribution, and a Student Ambassador.
As an Aspire Scholar, Atara hopes to learn the skills necessary to reconcile some of the internal contradictions within her majors. She hopes to connect with mentors and peers in order to grow as a thinker and community member and learn from others’ experience. Atara believes she will find insight through the Aspire Scholars Program that will help her in the future. She looks forward to participating in the program and gaining an Aspire Mentor in order to help her down this path.
BS Biomedical Engineering '25, Honors
Griffin Stein is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering with a concentration in neuroengineering, and is planning to minor in psychology. In the 2021 STAR Scholars program, he participated in neuroengineering research with mentor Dr. Hasan Ayaz, examining the prefrontal cortex activity of children with autism spectrum disorder using functional near-infrared spectroscopy. Currently, he is on his first cooperative education experience at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, working on neuromuscular clinical research. He hopes that these experiences and more throughout his time at Drexel will allow for clearer academic and career goals. Griffin is interested in pursuing a career focused on studying neurological disorders, but is unsure which avenue this will take, whether with patients or in a lab. Through the Aspire Scholars program, he is grateful to have a cohort of other students, alumni, and faculty to expand his knowledge of the field and the opportunities available. He is excited that Aspire will allow him to not only grow professionally, but to learn more about himself as a student and a person.
BS Biological Sciences '25, Honors
Alexander Vallarta is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in the biological sciences and plans to minor in music theory and composition. They plan to apply to medical school and hope to make their office and practice inclusive to all patients. During the summer between their freshman and sophomore years, they helped Dr. Gadegbeku run a mobile COVID-19 testing site, testing members of the Philadelphia community to stay safe during the pandemic. Alex hopes that Aspire will help them expand their professional connections in the medical field and offset the cost of preparing for medical school admissions.
Currently, Alex is the Social Media Coordinator for Drexel’s Queer Student Union and is Secretary for the Undergraduate Association of Biological Sciences Students. They are also a member of the Filipino Intercultural Society at Drexel University, a member of the Minority Association of Pre-medical Students, and a foil fencer in Drexel’s Club Fencing Team. They play the saxophone in the Jazz Orchestra and also enjoy rock climbing.
BS Entrepreneurship & Innovation '23
Lydia Victor is a student in the Close School’s 3-year entrepreneurship and innovation program. She is pursuing minors in sport regulation and compliance as well as art history. She is interested in the intersection of community, information, and physical and digital space. Lydia explores these ideas through the lenses of systems and urban design, while thinking through their relationship to sports. She is currently studying abroad in Rome and pursuing an independent study project on labor issues in tennis, focusing on player pathways for juniors and the power of collective bargaining.
Being an Aspire Scholar will allow Lydia to connect with a community of like-minded students. She is looking forward to networking with professionals and mentors that will provide her with guidance on how to take her research skills and interests to the next level. Lydia is also excited about the potential opportunities that Aspire affords her to use her design skills to share knowledge in a tangible and interdisciplinary fashion.
BS Criminology and Justice Studies '23
Amirah Brew-Syders is pursuing a bachelor's degree in criminology and justice studies, with plans to minor in legal studies. She conducted her first research project at Drexel University through the STAR Scholars program under Dr. Jordan Hyatt, where she examined the perspectives of North Philadelphia residents concerning their perceptions of crime, recidivism risk, and employment suitability of formerly incarcerated individuals. She continues to advance her work with Dr. Hyatt through an independent study course, where she examines employers’ judgments regarding formal declarations of redemption and how it may influence their attitudes concerning the utility of criminal background checks. Amirah plans to develop her research efforts under Dr. Hyatt during the winter term and eventually establish a community-facing project.
In addition to Amirah’s academic pursuits, she involves herself with the community through Drexel University’s Undergraduate Student Government Association (USGA), Black Student Union, and Liberty Scholars program. She aspires to become an attorney and use her professional resources to advocate for individuals throughout the City of Philadelphia. Amirah believes the Aspire Scholars program will provide an opportunity to connect with a community of determined students. And the relationships fostered through the program will contribute to her success by adding a balance to her experiences at Drexel University while incorporating diverse perspectives and backgrounds.
BS Public Health '23, Honors
Andrea Eleazar is pursuing a bachelor's degree in public health and a minor in bioinformatics. With interests in health at the micro and macro levels, she hopes to integrate her scientific, technical, and creative capacities to improve the health of populations, specifically minority groups. She is particularly interested in upstream/downstream determinants of chronic diseases, global health, and health communication. Her current career goals include working as an epidemiologist or biostatistician in a governmental or global context, or in the pharmaceutical industry. Beyond the classroom, Andrea continues her data-driven STAR research on U.S. immigrant heterogeneity and health outcomes with Professors Usama Bilal and Mariana Lazo under the Drexel Urban Health Collaborative. She is also a Global Engagement Scholar, Drexel Community Scholar at Sharing Excess fighting food insecurity, and intern at Nationalities Service Center working with refugees. A violinist, Andrea plays in Drexel’s Symphony Orchestra and Chamber Strings ensembles. She enjoys connecting with others and evoking emotion through music, writing, and other creative mediums.
At the crossroads of biology, data, social science, culture, arts, and health, Andrea aspires to define medical problems and reduce health disparities. Through Aspire Scholars, she hopes to build the best academic pathway to her professional goals while applying her diverse skills and interests. She is excited to be a part of a diverse yet similarly driven network of peers and professionals, and looks forward to realizing her niche in the health sphere and beyond.
BS Chemistry '24
Anthony Paul Lisi is a proud first-generation college student pursuing a bachelor's degree in chemistry on the pre-med track. Anthony has a great interest in the chemistry behind vaccines and a passion for helping and working with others. Anthony is a 2020 STAR Scholar, researching under the guidance of Dr. Irwin Chaiken at the Drexel University College of Medicine. He is working alongside PhD students on the synthesis and purification of cyclic peptides as entry inhibitors to HIV-1 and COVID-19. He is also a first-degree black belt in Black Cat Kenpo Karate. As an active black belt instructor, he serves as a role model to the younger generation of students by instilling the ideas of confidence and a "yes I can" attitude with a strong emphasis on respect for yourself and others.
As an Aspire Scholar, Anthony hopes to decide whether his skill set will be best suited for working in a lab or direct patient care. Rather than facing these challenges on his own, participating in the Aspire Scholars Program will connect Anthony with mentors and peers to help him make informed decisions about his future. Through workshops and activities, Anthony believes he will find inspiration for his own career by listening and learning from the experiences of others. He is honored to be a part of Aspire Scholars and appreciative for the opportunity to have access to a personal network of mentors for guidance.
BS Environmental Engineering '24, Honors
Elizabeth Clarkson is pursuing a bachelor's degree in environmental engineering. She believes that our society is indifferent to the environmental crisis and the importance of innovative energy solutions. During her STAR research, Elizabeth studied material circularity in Wind Turbine blades to develop an interactive model to quantify waste reduction from recycling, reuse, and remanufacturing processes. Elizabeth understands the vastness of the energy sector and hopes Aspire will expand her professional connections to open new career avenues.
Elizabeth is the Event Coordinator of Engineers Without Borders, an engineering service organization that is focused on building sustainable solutions for communities in South America and around Philly. She also enjoys trying new things, by joining the club squash team, rock climbing, and playing table tennis. Elizabeth also plays flute, performing in the concert band and Pep Band, playing loud and proud during the home basketball games.
BS Environmental Engineering '24, Honors
Elizabeth Le is pursuing a bachelor's degree in environmental engineering with hopes to gain experience in developing green infrastructure and technology in urban settings globally. She is particularly interested in large scale urban planning projects that could maximize energy and water usage across all facilities. However, Elizabeth is also interested in gaining experience in the many diverse areas under sustainable engineering. She has jump started this journey by studying the Evapotranspiration rate of Poplar trees in Green Stormwater Infrastructure during the 2020 STAR Scholars research program under the mentorship of Franco Montalto. Elizabeth hopes to continue to pursue valuable experience and obtain green know-how through the help of Aspire Scholars and looks forward to developing strong professional and peer relationships. She also looks forward to gaining an Aspire mentor who can better help her navigate her career goals and maximize her college opportunities.
BS Chemical Engineering '24
Feben Wolde-Semayat is pursuing a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering. Being born and raised in the Netherlands, she grew passionate about renewable energy. She hopes to do research in renewable energy storage in the hopes of contributing to the improvement of sustainable energy sources. Feben is also very passionate about outreach in STEM. She has found herself serving as a mentor and tutor in GEAR UP serving public schools in Philadelphia and as an exhibitor at various STEM outreach events igniting a passion for STEM in young children. She has also serves as an Advocacy Ambassador in the fight for student immigrant’s rights and as a class representative for Drexel’s AIChE chapter.
As an Aspire Scholar, Feben hopes to gain valuable relationships and skills to help her grow closer to her goals. She believes that the Aspire Scholars program will help her as mentorship has helped her tremendously in the past.
BSBA Finance '24, Honors
Inara Pirani is pursuing a bachelor's degree in business administration. She came into Drexel as a First-Year Exploratory Studies (FYES) student with a myriad of ideas for her major. Slowly, she was able to narrow her interests down to finance and mathematics. As a 2020 Star Scholar, Inara conducted research with Professor Dana D'Angelo and Adam Zahn where she analyzed students' learning outcomes of virtual exchange opportunities. On campus, Inara is a member of the Pennoni Honors Program and a Student Ambassador. Additionally, she serves as a Peer Mentor for the FYES program where she assists in Intro to University classes for undecided first year students. Inara applied to the Aspires Scholars program because she saw an opportunity to further explore her interests. She is excited to be surrounded by like-minded peers and use the resources of the program to further fuel her growth and development.
BS Criminology and Justice Studies '23
Jade Umstead is a sophomore pursuing a bachelor's degree in criminology and justice studies with hopes to add a double minor in film and animation. This past summer, Jade participated in the STAR Scholars research program under the mentorship of Dr. Robert Kane where she studied the effects of overly-aggressive, racialized policing on structurally disadvantaged individuals. As a personal project to go alongside her research, Jade developed her second major film titled “We’re Still in Chains”, providing readers with a visual lens to witness the implications of her studies. Her long term goals are to bridge the gap between the world of criminal justice and the entertainment industry so she can continue to create stories through media that shed light on issues of social justice.
Through the Aspire Scholars program Jade hopes to make meaningful connections with the other students in her cohort and gain useful networking opportunities with stakeholders in her fields of interest. Jade finds the intimate, goal-driven, supportive nature of the program highly motivating and hopes this will aid her in further honing her interests as well as provide her with the necessary resources to develop her skills as a filmmaker and animator.
BA Global Studies '24, Honors
Kejsi Ruka is pursuing a bachelor's degree in global studies, concentrating in global justice and human rights and minoring in Spanish and political science. At Drexel, Kejsi was a part of the STAR Scholars program, where she worked with Dr. Diane Sicotte on a sociology project about labor unions and their views on energy futures in the U.S. She is continuing her research through the fall as a work study student. Kejsi is also a news writer for Drexel’s independent student newspaper, The Triangle. Outside of Drexel, Kejsi has experience volunteering and working with the Free Library of Philadelphia, where she has served as a tutor and mentor for students K-12.
In the future, Kejsi plans to pursue paths in political science/sociology research or political journalism. She is excited to become a part of the Aspire student community and looks forward to identifying and clarifying her personal/professional goals for the future.
BS Biomedical Engineering '24, Honors
María José Garcia, from Tegucigalpa, Honduras is pursuing a bachelor's degree in biomedical engineering. Inspired by her home country, she is passionate about bridging the gap between scientific research and application in low resource settings. By being a Dornsife Global Development Scholar and by participating in MIT Solve with an international team of young innovators, María José is interested in creating state-of-the-art solutions that are sustainable and adaptable to remote areas and developing countries. As a Global Scholar she aspires to one day work with a group of researchers and innovators across multiple fields and backgrounds to create preventive solutions to improve global health. María José, besides being involved academically, has dedicated her time to improving the Drexel student experience. As the Student Life Committee Chair in the Undergraduate Student Government Association, as an Administration and Advocacy Representative in the International Students Union and as a Biomedical Engineering Advisory Board Representative, she hopes to create a welcoming and safe environment for all students.
Through the Aspire Scholars program, María José is excited to learn, connect and work with her peers, mentor and professionals across different fields. She’s looking forward to clarifying her professional goals and learning how to use her skills and talents to improve the world around her. By being part of a community of brilliant and ambitious students, she hopes to inspire others and create meaningful relationships.
BS/BA Computer Science and Mathematics '24
Mathilda Nguyen is pursuing a double major in computer science and mathematics. She loves to experiment with ways to integrate mathematics with technology. Since summer 2020, she has been a member of the Drexel Wireless Lab as part of the Vertically Integrated Project (VIP) program, working on prediction and estimation techniques. Mathilda is also part of the Computer Science Theory Reading group led by Professor Vasilis Gkatzelis, where she learns more about algorithm design and analysis. She is also a board member of the Drexel Algorithm and Data Structure club.
Through the Aspire program, Mathilda is looking to be exposed to new ideas by meeting people of different fields and interests. Additionally, she looks forward to receiving advice on future careers, as well as graduate school applications.
BS Environmental Engineering '24, Honors
Samantha Seiden is pursuing a bachelor's degree in environmental engineering and a certificate in technical writing and publishing. She is highly passionate about making the world a better place for future generations by investigating how to reduce the populations' impact on the environment. She hopes to pursue a career where she can help to reduce the impact humans have on the environment. She is unsure of exactly what she would like to do after receiving her degree but has an overall goal of making changes in environmental policies. She has started working towards this goal by gaining experience with her STAR project where she investigated different strategies to mitigate the effect urban heat islands have on vulnerable urban communities. Outside of school, she loves to play water polo, sew, and volunteer at the Franklin Institute of Science.
Samantha saw the Aspires Scholars program as a way to expand her network by connecting with motivated peers, faculty members and professionals and to further develop her long-term professional and academic goals. She hopes that through this program she will be able to develop a strategy for how to achieve her goals as well as learn about opportunities to expand her network.
BS Computer Engineering '24, Honors
Samuel Toseafa, from Ghana, West Africa, is pursuing a bachelor's degree in computer engineering. Samuel first conducted research at Drexel under the auspices of the STAR Scholar program under Professor Kapil Dandekar, where he took part in simulating radio signals using ray tracing software to better understand how radio waves behave in various media and applying this knowledge using Machine Learning to improve current Wireless Systems architecture. Outside of research, Samuel is a peer mentor in the Engineering Leadership Scholars Program and an Academic Tutor in the Academic Center for Engineers (ACE) at Drexel.
Samuel believes that as an Aspire Scholar, he will receive guidance from mentors about the different areas of computer engineering and discover new ways to reach his maximum potential. Through the program, he hopes to develop a strong network of peers and mentors from whom he can learn. Additionally, he looks forward to making long lasting connections with his fellow Aspire Scholars and is grateful to be part of an amazing group such as this.
Smrithi Pyari Lal
BS Computer Science '24
Smrithi Pyari Lal is pursuing her bachelor’s degree in computer science with a minor in computer security. Having grown up in Tokyo, studied at an Indian school and enrolled in an American university, she is always eager to discover new perspectives.
Smrithi is interested in software engineering and computer security. She started her career in technology as a software engineering intern at the Shibaura Institute of technology under Professor Tadahiro Hasegawa where she built an obstacle detection program.
As an Aspire Scholar, Smrithi hopes to get guidance from her peers and mentors to grow professionally. She believes that meeting new people can be a very enriching experience as different people come with different stories. With the help of this program, Smrithi hopes to sharpen her soft skills and express herself strongly.
BS Biological Sciences '23, Honors
Subhi Karthikeyan is pursuing her bachelor's degree in biological sciences with a concentration in organismal biology/physiology, a minor in public health and is on the pre-med track. She also plans to graduate with a certificate in Medical Humanities and Spanish for Health Professionals. During her freshman year, as she began the journey of exploring her personal and professional goals, she realized that she wants to create a meaningful impact on community health and address current major health issues faced at different scales, from the community to the global level. As a student passionate about both biology and public health, Subhi hopes to learn how to conduct STEM based research that has the potential to directly improve public health. Currently she is volunteering in Dr. Aleksandra Sarcevic’s research lab that studies teamwork and workflow in the emergency room during the initial management of injured children (trauma resuscitation) in the College of Computing and Informatics. During her time at Drexel, she hopes to start an initiative or a club that works toward addressing health issues faced by neighbourhoods around Drexel's campus.
Through Aspire, Subhi hopes to gain a mentor in a physician who is involved in public health to observe and learn from. She is also very excited to meet and connect with her fellow scholars. She hopes to collaborate, exchange diverse ideas and advice with them and learn more about their interests and career goals.
BS Computer Engineering '23, Honors
Daniel Erbynn is pursuing a bachelor's degree in computer engineering. As an ambitious international student from Ghana, he aspires to deliver technological solutions that will impact people’s lives. Daniel also hopes to contribute as a leader at the forefront of technology. Due to his interest in robotics and automation, Daniel took part in the VIP and STAR research programs where he pursued his interest in drones in engineering applications under the guidance of Dr. Antonios Kontsos. Outside of research, Daniel is a peer mentor in the Engineering Leadership Scholars program and a tutor in the Engineering Learning Community (ELC).
Daniel believes that the Aspire Scholars program will provide a supportive community of students and faculty that will help him gain more direction in his coursework and develop professionally. Mentorship has really helped him in the past and he believes the mentorship from this program can help him discover his interests and make better-informed decisions to achieve his long-term goals.
BS Mechanical Engineering '23, Honors
Darrell Omo-Lamai, from Lagos, Nigeria, is striving toward a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering. His interest is piqued by the interrelation of technical fields of study in the solution of complex problems. This curiosity was a strong motivating factor in his pursuit of research during his first year at Drexel. He studied microstructure and mechanical behavior relationships under Dr. Antonios Kontsos during the 2019 STAR Scholars Program, and he hopes to continue this work. His extracurricular engagements include peer mentorship with the Drexel Global Scholars program and active involvement with the Domestic Design team of Engineers Without Borders.
Darrell believes that with its promise of mentorship, advice, and networking, the Aspire Scholars program would firmly support him in clarifying his long-term objectives and designing paths toward achieving them. Through the program, he hopes to progressively grow in self-understanding while making connections that could last through and beyond Drexel.
BS Economics '23, Honors
Diotima Roy is pursuing her bachelor's degree in economics with a concentration in math, with plans to minor in finance and business analytics. She first conducted research at Drexel through the STAR Scholar program under Dr. Christopher Laincz, where she analyzed quantitative macroeconomic data to hypothesize how Peru was able to curb its informal sector. As a LeBow Undergraduate Research Fellow, she is currently working with Dr. Elea Feit on an upcoming marketing analytics project. Through the Aspire Scholars program, Diotima is excited to network with successful alumni and find a mentor and looks forward to being part of a community of like-minded peers who support and inspire each other.
BS Interactive Digital Media '22, Honors
Dolma Yangchen Sherpa is an international student from Nepal pursuing a bachelor's degree in interactive digital media from the Westphal College of Media Arts and Design. She has had a fervid passion for arts and design since elementary and started professionally pursuing it since middle school. Having started as undeclared, Dolma's exposure to IDM's classes and the digital media community in Westphal opened up a unique interest in pursuing a career as a User Experience (UX)/User Interface (UI) designer, a job she never imagined for her future before. She now values the user experience in every digital media used, meticulously observing the details forming the experience, and further exercise her skills and interest by working as the UI/UX Lead of a startup called "FashionBuddy". She is also pursuing a Graphic Design Minor aiding to her UI skills. Outside of academics, Dolma is an active member of the Drexel K-Pop Club's board team as the marketing lead and the Nepali Students Association's board team as a public relations officer.
BS Animation and Visual Effects '23, Honors
Emily Mah is pursuing a bachelor's degree in animation and visual effects with plans to minor in computer science. As a 2019 STAR Scholar, Emily conducted historical research under the mentorship of Dr. Glen Muschio, where she accessed national historical archives and created 3D assets for the digital reconstruction of Peale's Philadelphia Museum. As an Aspire Scholar, she hopes to continue with research experience and exploration across disciplines.
BS Materials Science and Engineering '23, Honors
Erika Garro is currently pursuing a bachelor's degree in materials science and engineering and plans on doing a concentration in polymers. She is a part of the Society of Women Engineers, Engineering Leadership Scholars, Student Ambassadors, and is a member of the Phi Sigma Pi National Honor Fraternity. Erika also participated in STAR under Dr. Michele Marcolongo and researched the regeneration of the intervertebral discs using smart scaffolds.
As an Aspire Scholar, Erika would like to receive guidance from mentors about the different areas of engineering and hopes to learn about the different ways that she can reach her highest potential. Through this program, she also hopes to meet others with a similar goal-oriented attitude that can provide tips to have a good work and life balance.
BS Chemistry '23, Honors
Isabella (Bella) Pincay is pursuing a bachelor's degree in chemistry. She has plans to pursue the pre-medical track, a concentration in biochemistry, a minor in STEM education, and to graduate with honors. Isabella wants to find a way to give back to the community but still incorporate her love for the sciences. So Isabella hopes to work in medicine, specifically a specialty in pediatrics because she loves being around kids and has been a camp counselor for every summer since she began high school. Currently, Isabella is volunteering for Jefferson’s PACU facilitator program and for her town’s volunteer ambulance corps. At Drexel, she is the vice president of the Depict club, an art club for those who still want art in their lives but don’t have to be art-related majors.
Although Isabella’s main goal is to become a future pediatrician, these plans may change because she is very curious about the different paths that one can practice, study, and research medicine. As an Aspire Scholar, Isabella hopes to gain confidence in saying “this is definitely what I want to do in life”. Isabella hopes to meet different professionals that research or practice medicine to get a better idea of which path of medicine she wants to pursue. In addition, she hopes to find mentors that will help her through the process of preparing and successfully getting into medical school.
BS Architectural Engineering '23, Honors
Jyrteanna Teo is pursuing her a bachelor's degree in architectural engineering, a major which she believes will facilitate her passion for designing buildings that will enhance our standard of living and improve our quality of life by combining building systems into an integrated whole. During her freshman year, she further explored her interests in sustainability by completing the STAR Scholars program under the supervision of Dr. Lo Liang Chung, where she evaluated the wind-driven ventilation potential of an ASHRAE commercial building. At Drexel University, Jyrteanna has been a part of the Society of Women Engineers since her freshman year and now serves as their Public Relations Director.
As an Aspire Scholar, Jyrteanna hopes to develop strong professional and collegiate relationships and better understand the different concentrations throughout her field to further develop her career goals. Additionally, she looks forward to making long-lasting connections with her fellow Aspire Scholars and is honored to be part of such a diverse but like-minded group of individuals.
BS Mechanical Engineering '23, Honors
Kevin Liu is pursuing a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering and a minor in interdisciplinary problem solving. He is active on the executive board for two organizations, Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers (SASE), and Asian Students Association (ASA). He participated in STAR, focusing on safety and construction of an autonomous drone. He hopes to develop a holistic educational experience during his time at Drexel.
BS Business and Engineering '23, Honors
Laura Machuca is pursuing a bachelor's degree in business and engineering. She is highly passionate about the environment and how business and engineering contribute to helping reduce the populations' impact on the earth. Specifically, Laura wants to work with renewable energy of all kinds and make it easier for future generations to abandon harmful energy consumption. She aspires to create a company that will make a lasting impact on how both people and companies generate energy. She has started working towards this goal by gaining experience with a company called Inspire that gives customers accessible energy from local wind farms and working on an engineering design project focused on Zero Net Energy of a public Library. Outside of school, she loves to travel, play volleyball and stay active in her community by volunteering.
Laura applied to the Aspires Scholars program because she saw an opportunity to expand herself with mentoring guidance, feedback, lasting connections, and a group of other motivated peers. She wants to develop a path to change how our environment is treated while making meaningful connections with mentors, students, and alumni.
Maria Paula Mijares Torres
BA Communication '23, Honors
María Paula (MaPa) Mijares Torres is pursuing a bachelor's degree in communication concentrating in journalism and a minor in political sciences. Being born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela in the midst of a crisis, she became really passionate about Political Journalism and she hopes to develop in that area as her career. Meanwhile, you can find her writing for The Triangle –Drexel’s Independent Student Newspaper –or for Drexel’s chapter of national blog Her Campus, where she is part of the Editing Team as well. Regarding other activities on campus, she is also the vice-president of the Dragons for UNICEF club and Social Media Chair of Maya Literary Magazine.
After her STAR Summer of 2019, where she worked with Prof. Zoltán Búzás in a political science project about the state of freedom of expression in Latin America, she got really involved in research. Now, she is working in her first co-op as an associate researcher in the Gender Lab at the University of Crete in Greece. Through this program, María Paula wishes to meet fellow Drexel students and alumni with great aspirations and find a community where we can inspire and help each other through the mentorship and networking opportunities.
BS Computer Engineering '23, Honors
Om Umare is pursuing a bachelor's degree in computer engineering with a minor in mathematics and finance. He is extremely interested in machine learning and Artificial intelligence. Currently, Om is working with Dr. Anup Das Kumar on developing a Recurrent and Spiking Neural Network for predicting high-speed target movement. His goal is to mesh machine learning and the finance world together by creating a program that can closely predict stock market movement by using daily information given by news and reports. When he’s not in classes or doing research, he likes to indulge in intramural sports, lead his fraternity, and keep up with freelance web development work.
BS Chemical Engineering '23
Sarenna Roeung is pursuing a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering with a minor in engineering leadership. She is passionate about process engineering and research & development. Additionally, Sarenna is interested in being a professional mentor throughout her engineering career. She mentors two first-year chemical engineering students through Drexel’s Engineering Leadership Program. Sarenna is heavily involved in research at Drexel. As a freshman, she conducted research through Vertically Integrated Projects (VIP) and the STAR Scholars Program.
Through the Aspire Scholars program, Sarenna hopes to expand her network by connecting with her fellow scholars and successful alumni. She is also excited to participate in professional development activities and to progress with Aspire’s individual guidance.
BS Computer Science '23, Honors
Tommy Nguyen currently studies computer science and mathematics with a deep appreciation for how numbers and data can impact our everyday life. In addition to vigorously pursuing academics, he has also found himself building community in North Hall as a Resident Assistant, mentoring as a Peer Mentor with the College of Computing and Informatics, and volunteering as a student leader with the Collective Success Network (a non-profit dedicated to helping First Generation/Low-Income students). His motivation to be so engaged comes from a rooted belief in letting curiosity and kindness guide his way through life. One day, Tommy hopes to leverage technology, data, and empathy to improve worldwide access to education and sustainability.
Tommy saw the Aspire Scholars program as an opportunity to connect with curious and driven peers and professionals. Fundamentally, he believes that intellectual diversity and collaboration will be a key part of his (and the world's) future success. Tommy believes that by participating in the Aspire Scholars program he will find a cohort of individuals to learn from and laugh with as they all pave new roads and lead innovations across industries.
BS Computer Science '23, Honors
Trang Hoang is pursuing her bachelor's degree in computer science, concentrating on artificial intelligence with a minor in STEM education. Trang has devoted her time to getting involved on campus both academically and in student body development. Trang came to Aspire Scholar after her first research experience in STAR Scholar program with Dr. Kelly. She aspires to excel in the field of Technology while continuing to explore her passion in education development. Trang is devoting her time to different programs such as Sharing Excess as Lead Developer and International Student Union as a Secretary. As an enthusiastic programmer and researcher, Trang wants to solve vital issues in education growth and improvement through advanced software integration.
Through the Aspire Scholars program, Trang is excited to connect with dedicated and ambitious students to form a support system for each other's success. With a small community of peers and mentors, Trang wants to learn more about mentorship and how to utilize her skills better in making professional goals and keeping up with her guiders.
BS Information Systems '20
Antigone Bellanich is pursuing a bachelor's degree in information systems concentrating in human computer Interaction with plans to minor in technology innovation management and animation & visual effects. Antigone has a passion for art and technology and combining the two disciplines to create beautiful human-centered systems. She recently began working with Dr. Marcu as a designer for the Empathic Research Group to create systems that focus on human needs. Antigone is a proud member of Drexel Performing Arts where she plays the bassoon for the concert band and clarinet for the pep band. In her free time, she participates in Alpha Omega Epsilon STEM sorority working with her “sisters” to empower one another and young girls to pursue STEM careers.
As an Aspire Scholar, Antigone looks forward to working with and learning from her driven peers and connecting with academics and professionals to develop meaningful relationships. She hopes this experience will provide her with new knowledge and opportunities that will help her to more clearly define her academic and professional goals.
BS Information Systems '21
Blessing Adogame is pursuing a bachelor's degree in information systems, with minors in security technology and business administration. Having lived in Nigeria, Germany and Scotland before relocating to the US - she considers herself as an aspiring Global Citizen. She has involved herself in the Drexel Community as the Event Coordinator for the German Club, Co-founder of the FreshWomen Cohort Program, Peer Mentor for the College of Computing and Informatics and volunteer. She aspires to be someone in the technical industry who can assist/advise organizations and companies around the world in regards to their software or computer systems. Ultimately, helping organizations operate more efficiently and effectively by understanding the needs of business and IT together.
Blessing applied to the Aspire Scholars program because she wanted to be surrounded by like-minded, ambitious and extraordinary Drexel students. She was interested by the idea that this program would help influence and elucidate her career path through effective mentorship with Alumni. She wanted to develop a support system and connect with an ambitious group of aspiring students, faculty and alumni that will help her grow.
Ioan Octavian Rusu
BA Economics '21, Honors
Ioan is currently transitioning to a double major in economics and mathematics, as he wishes to pursue a research path in macroeconomics. He has already started working towards this goal by completing the STAR Scholars program, under the supervision of Dr. Andre Kurmann, where he studied the topic of wage rigidity - a subject he is very interested in and wishes to learn more about in the coming years. Ioan also wants to continue his education and apply for a PhD program after he finishes his undergraduate studies. Along his career, he hopes he will get a chance to work for a central bank or a global organization such as the United Nations or the International Monetary Fund.
Ioan applied to the Aspire Scholars program because he is very interested in developing Drexel as a higher education institution and would like to engage in mentorship activities so that he gets a better understanding of the "Drexel experience" from someone who has already finished his or her studies and managed to utilize the legacy of this university to further their career.
BS Computer Engineering ‘21, Honors
Jacob Baron is pursuing his bachelor’s degree in computer engineering. He first conducted research at Drexel through the STAR Scholar program under Dr. Nagarajan Kandasamy, investigating high performance computing through parallel processing on a graphical processing unit. In August of 2017, Jacob joined the Drexel University VLSI and Architecture Lab where he assists in research regarding clock tree synthesis. Outside of research, Jacob is also an Undergraduate Research Leader with the Office of Undergraduate Research and a mathematics tutor at the Drexel Math Resource Center.
Jacob was interested in the Aspire Scholars program because of the mentorship and networking aspects of the program. He hopes to connect with alumni to gain meaningful advice and develop a fruitful relationship with those who help him. Jacob hopes to develop a better understanding of how he can accomplish his dreams of working in Silicon Valley and decide whether he will take up a career in software or hardware. He hopes to find a mentor who will relate to his career development, network, and personal development in such a way that will foster meaningful relationships while strengthening his professional skills.
BS Computer Engineering/Electrical Engineering ‘21, Honors
Joshua Cohen is a sophomore Honors student pursuing a dual major in computer and electrical engineering. His passions for leadership and innovation have led him to become Vice-President of two student organizations, Drexel Smart House and DUCSTeach, as well as lead two independent research projects by the beginning of his sophomore year. Joshua first started his undergraduate research through the STAR Scholars program in 2017. Under the direction of Dr. Dandekar of the Drexel Wireless Systems Laboratory, he researched unique applications for Software-Defined Radio’s in modern Low-Power Wide-Area Networks. Since then, Joshua has received over a thousand dollars in grant money towards his most recent projects and hopes to submit the results to multiple conferences within the next year.
Joshua was attracted to the prospect of mentorship within the Aspire Scholars program. He believes that Alumni guidance and mentorship will help to clarify his future goals and further develop his interests so that when it comes time to work towards a more specific career, he will be much more confident in his choice. As an Aspire Scholar, Joshua hopes to learn in-depth about different paths and concentrations throughout his field as well as learn how to connect and interact more with professionals in his field. He also sees the program as a great opportunity to connect with a diverse group of successful and distinguished peers that are interested in supporting and guiding each other to success
BS Computer Engineering, ‘21, Honors
Jui Hanamshet is pursuing a bachelor's degree in computer engineering, a major she decided on with the help of her faculty mentor, Dr. Kapil Dandekar. As an international student from India, Jui aspires to provide affordable and accessible healthcare to the underprivileged by contributing to the medical device industry. As part of the Drexel Wireless Systems Laboratory, she is working on the Bellyband device, an affordable way to detect infant apnea and uterine contractions. In order to receive and give support to other women in STEM, Jui has been a part of SWE since she joined Drexel and now serves as their Professional Development Director. She also serves as a mentor to international and Honors students.
The Center for Scholar Development is an office dedicated to helping students achieve more than they think they can. Jui was interested in being an Aspire Scholar to be part of a cohort who received this type of support and encouragement. As an Aspire Scholar, Jui wants to find a mentor who will show her the big picture outside of classes and co-op. She wants to have a mentor who is personally invested in her overall growth, as a researcher, and/or as a woman in STEM.
BS Data Science ‘21
Laurel Vaughan is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in data science and hopes to pursue an accelerated masters in science, technology, and society (STS) through Drexel’s College of Arts and Sciences. Her current co-op is through the Center of STS as a research assistant. In her free time, Laurel likes to volunteer and participate in clubs. She has helped out with a recent initiative called the FreshWoman Cohort Program, created by a fellow Aspire Scholar.
Through the Aspire Scholar Program she hopes to connect with various alumni through networking events and opportunities. She would also like to explore a mentor relationship with someone who has recently pursued or is currently in graduate school.
BS Custom-Designed Major ’21, Honors
Maanasa Natrajan is a Custom-Designed major pursuing a course of study drawing from biology, chemistry, physics, environmental science, psychology and philosophy. During her freshman year she took part in the SEA-PHAGES research program where she isolated, purified, extracted DNA and annotated genome of the Mycobacterium phage Kailash. This data was then submitted to NIH’s GenBank database. In addition, she pursued an independent project comparing genomes of phages from India and Drexel. In the summer of 2017, Manasa received the Maryanoff Fellowship from the Drexel Department of Chemistry allowing her to participate in the Maryanoff Freshman Summer Research program where she conducted and presented research on Anisyl Sulfanyl Methyl IsoCyanide (ASMIC): Rapid construction of heterocyclic scaffolds as part of Dr. Fleming’s group. She is currently continuing research in Dr. Fleming’s lab finding reaction mechanisms, optimizing them, and combining multiple steps.
Outside of research, Maanasa likes to travel and volunteer. She participated in the Honors Program Alternative Spring Break to Bridgeport, Connecticut and volunteered with Habitat for Humanity. She completed an Intensive Course Abroad in Guatemala where she volunteered to protect forests, improve health and sanitation among indigenous people and experienced their culture. Apart from travel, she likes to draw, paint, and play the veena, an Indian stringed instrument. In the future, Maanasa wants to pursue graduate school and a career in research. Her interests are very diverse and she is currently exploring different fields of research to combine them.
Through the Aspire program she hopes to meet people who can expose her to more areas of science, engagement and leadership, and help her find her path. As an Aspire Scholar she looks forward to individual advising and connecting with alumni in order to draw inspiration, learn more and discover herself.
BS Chemical Engineering ’21, Honors
Maddie Pelchat is currently pursuing a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering with a biological engineering concentration. She hopes to use this degree to apply chemical engineering solutions to environmental issues. Maddie began conducting research her freshman year at Drexel through Dr. Christopher Sales’ lab. Her research focuses on large-scale algae systems and the removal of nitrogen from landfill leachate. She is also the Outreach Chair for the Drexel chapter of the Sierra Club and an active member of the Society of Women Engineers. Outside of Drexel, Maddie is a soprano in an adult choir based in Ardmore.
As an Aspire Scholar, Maddie is excited to connect with fellow scholars as well as find a lasting and meaningful mentorship. Through these connections she hopes to gain a better understanding of possible careers in her field as well as discover the different pathways available to achieve her goals. She also hopes for any advice from peers or mentors on their work/life balance!
BS Electrical Engineering ’21, Honors
Mannika Kshettry is pursuing her bachelor's degree in electrical engineering with a minor in computer science. On campus, she is involved in research and various student organization like the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and Society of Women Engineers. Her interest in research began after being a 2017 STAR Scholar. During STAR she worked in the Drexel Wireless Systems Laboratory under Dr. Kapil Dandekar. She is a part of the Bellyband project, which is a biomedical smart textile being developed to measure uterine contractions in women and respiration rate of infants. She is continuing her research now and is planning on going to graduate school. Other than research, Mannika organizes STEM outreach workshops for middle and high school children.
Mannika is interested in the Aspire Program because of the opportunity for guidance for her academic and professional career, building long-lasting connections and interacting with like-minded individuals. As an Aspire Scholar, Mannika wants to make most of the opportunities for her in Drexel and gain direction and advice about becoming a better graduate school applicant.
BS/MS Materials Science & Engineering, '21, Honors
Mark Petrovic is pursuing his bachelor's and master's degrees in materials science & engineering with a concentration in soft materials and polymers. Mark first started research at Drexel in Dr. Mitra Taheri's Dynamic Characterization Group in the fall of 2016. In January of 2016, Mark joined Dr. Michele Marcolongo's Biomaterials Group, participated in STAR, and continues to work in this lab today. Mark's research focuses on novel bone scaffolding materials and he hopes to apply that research by pursuing an MD/PhD after graduation.
Through the Aspire program, Mark is looking to develop a strong relationship with a mentor who can offer advice/suggestions on his educational and career aspirations. Additionally, Mark seeks to connect with similarly driven peers from a variety of majors at Drexel.
BS Public Health ‘20
Sarah Mitchell is pursuing a bachelor's degree in public health, with plans to go on to graduate school for either Physical Therapy or Occupational Therapy. At Drexel University she is a member of Phi Sigma Sigma, and is the Programming Chair on the Executive Council. She also plays on the Women’s Club Volleyball team and is the Member at Large on the executive board. Helping and promoting the betterment of others is the center of her passion. With her future degrees she hopes to improve lives through an aspect of therapy. She has taken steps toward this goal by shadowing Dr. Maggie O’Neil, a Drexel faculty member and physical therapist with a master’s degree in Public Health. This experience has enabled Sarah to focus in on the population she wants to impact: children.
As an Aspire Scholar, her main goal is to gain a better understanding of the Public Health field and opportunities beyond the university. As a participant in this program, she looks forward to receiving guidance about what steps she can take now to promote success in the future. Additionally, she hopes to develop relationships with students who share the same drive and passion about school that she has and provide other students with insight and advice.
BS Psychology ’21, Honors
Vida Manalang is a psychology major with minors in biology and neuroscience planning to pursue a career in medicine. Vida is passionate about studying the brain and how neurological processes and characteristics determine cognition, personality, and behavior. Additionally, Vida has a love for theatre and is an actor and creator for the Drexel Co-Op Theatre Company. She hopes to utilize her love of the arts as a mechanism to understand the brain. Previously, Vida worked with the Drexel Laboratory for Adaptive Cognition under Dr. Christopher Sims doing research in Visual-Motor Memory in the context of uncovering what it means to be an “expert.” She also volunteers at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia - facilitated through the Story Medicine program at Drexel - helping children practice writing skills through live storytelling. Vida has also composed and performed a series of educational songs that are featured in CHOP and on WXPN Kid’s Corner.
Vida sees the Aspire Scholars Program as a pathway to meaningful connections and conversations that will challenge her to clarify her goals and true purpose in life. She is beyond excited to be inspired and motivated by mentors, experiences, and fellow scholars, and is honored to be part of such a talented and driven cohort of students.
BS Custom-Designed Major - Global Health Technologies ‘20, Honors
Vriti Khurana is pursuing a Custom-Designed major entitled Global Health Technologies, which focuses on how to better integrate healthcare technologies into health sectors of the developing world. She would eventually like to pursue medical school to apply what she has learned in her self-driven major and make the world a healthier place to live in for future generations. Vriti remains actively engaged throughout Drexel and the Philadelphia community by serving as a Resident Assistant and Student Mentor to Honors Freshmen and volunteering at the VA Medical Center. In 2015, Vriti started working on a project titled the Kanya Project in India which focuses on decreasing the dropout rate of adolescent school girls due to a lack of menstrual hygiene.
Vriti hopes that the Aspire Scholars program will help her create more meaningful opportunities in her major and allow her to meet people who have had similar field experiences in an up and coming field. Having these experiences will allow her to clarify her path post-graduation and further develop her career goals. Vriti looks forward to making connections with other scholars and alumni that can further strengthen her professional and personal development skills.
BS Finance '20, Honors
Aspire Faculty Mentor: Dana D’Angelo
Avantika Joshi is pursuing a bachelor's degree in finance, with plans to minor in mathematics and economics. As a first-generation American, Avantika has a passion for learning about different cultures and wants to increase her knowledge about life in other countries by studying abroad in the future. She hopes to combine her studies and passion for culture to develop an understanding of international business strategy. Avantika took a step towards this goal, with a class taught by Dr. Dana D'Angelo, where she worked with students at the University of Leeds to develop a product that could be used in both the United States and the United Kingdom.
As an Aspire Scholar, Avantika looks forward to meeting new people and learning more about programs and leadership opportunities to have a greater impact. She plans to work with her mentor to gain more direction in her studies and combine her coursework with plans to become more globally engaged as a student and professional.
BS Biological Sciences ’19, Honors
Aspire Faculty Mentor:
Ayush is completing his bachelor's degree in biological sciences, with minors in art history and business administration. He is an Aspire Scholar and remains actively engaged in the Drexel and Philadelphia Community through the Lindy Scholars Program and by volunteering at the VA Medical Center. Ayush aspires to go to medical school and become a physician, with the hopes of opening his own practice and integrating the visual arts as a form of therapeutic treatment. In his free time, Ayush dances on the Drexel Dandiya Raas team and serves as president for Dragons for Excellence and Inspiration, a professional development and academic organization on campus.
Ayush was attracted to the strong, 1-on-1 mentoring component of the Aspire Scholars program and sees it as a way to get guidance and feedback on his decisions and plans as he pursues his passions and goals. As an Aspire Scholar, he hopes to become a stronger applicant to medical school, while making the most of his college experience by exploring interesting new areas and opportunities, with the support of the program.
BS Environmental Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering ‘20
Aspire Faculty Mentor: Shivanthi Anandan
Marina D'souza is pursuing a double-major in environmental engineering and materials science and engineering. Marina started conducting research as a 2016 STAR Scholar under the guidance of Dr. Christopher Sales, working on scaling up a novel photobioreactor design for growing algae at high densities. During her second year, she continued as an undergraduate researcher in the Sales lab, working on the new bioreactors she designed and constructed. Marina was a member of the 2015-16 Engineering Learning Community and was selected to participate in the 2016 Design Your Drexel
Marina hopes the Aspire Scholars program will help her make deliberate, strategic choices about making the most of her time at Drexel. Through interactions with other Scholars and the guidance of her mentor, she hopes to draw a clearer path to her post-graduate career and to connect with faculty mentors, students, staff, and alumni.
BS Materials Science and Engineering ’20, Honors
Aspire Faculty Mentor: Robert Watts
Riki McDaniel is pursuing his bachelor’s degree in materials science and engineering, with a focus on researching polymeric materials. He first conducted research at Drexel as a 2016 STAR Scholar in Dr. Caroline Schauer's Natural Polymers and Photonics Group, designing novel electrospinning devices and synthesizing polymer-MXene composite nanofibers. In the fall of 2016 he joined the Macromolecular Materials Group, where he is investigating polymer structures under the guidance of Dr. Andrew Magenau. Outside of research, he is a member of the department's TMS Bladesmithing team and a board member of the American Society for Engineering Education.
Riki was initially interested in the Aspire Scholars program as an opportunity to connect with engineers outside of Academia, through meeting with invited speakers and support for external opportunities. He hopes to gain a better understanding of the field and opportunities beyond the university and guidance about what steps he can take now to set himself up to succeed - from selecting co-ops to preparing for graduate school. "I can prepare myself by talking to people who are older and more experienced than I am but I think that I will benefit the most from actively taking advantage of opportunities that seem interesting and challenging to me. The Aspire Scholars program supports me in both of these areas."
BA Anthropology ’19
Aspire Faculty Mentor:
Sheridan Clements is an anthropology major with a minor in German language, and is interested in pursuing a career in the field of archaeology. She is deeply interested in world cultures and global exchange and plans to use the skills and knowledge she gains at Drexel to better understand humanity's past civilizations and promote cultural understanding wherever she travels. Before coming to Drexel, Sheridan spent a year abroad in high school through the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange (CBYX)
program, sponsored by the US and German governments. She is eager to gain additional international experience through studying abroad, including plans to spend the summer 2017 term abroad. Sheridan is a member of the Drexel Anthropological Association.
As an Aspire Scholar, Sheridan hopes her mentor will help guide her in the right direction in selecting co-op opportunities and preparing for graduate school.
BS Biological Sciences '20, Honors
Aspire Faculty Mentor:
Wiktoria Gocal is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in biology with a minor in neuroscience. The daughter of Polish immigrants, Wiktoria is the first in her family to attend college in the United States and hopes to plans to pursue a medical degree following graduation. As a 2016 STAR Scholar under the guidance of Valerie Sodi (PhD 2016) and Dr. Mauricio Reginato
, Wiktoria conducted research focusing on the effects of altered metabolic pathways in breast cancer cells. During her second year, Wiktoria is continuing as an undergraduate researcher in Dr. Reginato's lab in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the College of Medicine. In addition to research, Wiktoria is interested in global engagement and hopes to study abroad in Hong Kong in 2017.
Wiktoria was nominated and encouraged by her STAR mentor, Dr. Reginato, to apply for the Aspire Scholars program. She sees the program as aligning well with her desire for mentorship and career development. In addition to fine-tuning her career plans, Wiktoria looks forward to building connections that will enable her to think critically and strengthen her personal and professional development skills.
BS Computer Engineering '20, Honors
Akash is pursuing a bachelor's degree in computer engineering and is part of the Pennoni Honors Program. Akash has been active in undergraduate research since his first term at Drexel, when he conducted research on polynominals under the guidance of Dr. Eric Schumtz
in the Department of Mathematics. As a 2016 STAR Scholar, Akash conducted research under the guidance of Dr. Ioannis Savidis
on ways to make FPGAs more secure against design piracy and modification without knowledge of bitstream, referred to as “functional leakage”. Following STAR, Akash continued in Savidis' Integrated Circuits and Electronics (ICE) Design and Analysis Laboratory, working on hardware security, 3-D integrated circuits,FPGA architecture and other projects intended to advance high performance and mobile computing platforms. Akash is completing his first co-op in an IT position with the manufacturing company First Quality Enterprises. He has held previous internship positions in technology sales and marketing.
As an Aspire Scholar, Akash looks forward to receiving guidance from experienced faculty and students on his ambitious plans to pursue a BS/MS and three co-ops, study abroad, and complete an international co-op. He hopes to clarify his academic and professional goals and chart the best course of action for reaching them.
Biomedical Engineering '20
Eric is a biomedical engineering major and Liberty Scholar. As a 2016 STAR Scholar, Eric assisted with pre-clinical testing of a wound closure device at the medical device startup ZSX Medical, under the guidance of Dr. Josa Hanzlik (PhD Biomedical Engineering '15). For his first co-op, Eric selected a project engineer position with Janssen Biotech, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceuticals. His responsibilities are to assist and oversee projects that improve the medication’s manufacturing process.
As an Aspire Scholar, Eric looks forward to clarifying his interests within the broad field of biomedical engineering and connecting with fellow students and mentors to help clarify, and take steps toward achieving, his long term goals.
BS Game Design and Production '19
Erin Truesdell is pursuing a degree in game design and production with a minor in music theory and composition. She is passionate about the great potential that lies at the intersection of arts and technology, and the ability of the arts to reach individuals on a very human level. She is an alto saxophonist and performs in three of Drexel’s music ensembles.
As a 2016 STAR Scholar, Erin studied the design of effective digital education environments at Drexel’s Entrepreneurial Game Studio (EGS). Erin was energized by the variety of opportunities that opened up through her involvement at EGS, from research and programming workshops to test-runs of the World's Largest Architectural Video Game Display, and plans to continue building on the connections and relationships she built there. She is currently an active member of the Drexel Newman Catholic Community and Pi Nu Epsilon, Drexel’s honorary music fraternity. She serves as an events coordinator in both organizations.
Erin loved the networking and hands-on experiences she gained through the STAR program and hopes the Aspire Scholars program will allow her to continue accessing such opportunities for enriching her undergraduate education. In addition to meeting interesting new people and building her networks, Erin plans to work on professional development and expanding her horizons, as she begins to discern which of the many paths before her she will pursue in the future.
BS International Business '19, Honors
Joseph Snyder is a sophomore studying international business and economics. His passion for creativity and entrepreneurship has led him to pursue opportunities that involve launching, developing, and consulting startup companies. Before coming to Drexel, Joseph launched his own company, DJ J-Shock Entertainment, in the eighth grade and participated in a 7-week language and cultural immersion program in China through the National Security Language Initative for Youth (NSLI-Y)
In his first year at Drexel, Joseph worked closely with a small team of students to develop the educational technology platform, StudyTree. Through the Fall 2016 Lebow International Consulting Residency program, Joseph worked as part of a student team that consulted with the Prague-based financial technology company,SettleUp, and had the opportunity to travel to Vienna and Prague and meet with the company's executive board over the winter break.During the summer of 2016, Joseph held an internship at the law firm of Newman, Williams, Mishkin, Corveleyn, Wolfe, & Fareri, P.C.
Joseph is an active member of the Drexel community, serving on the Lebow Dean's Student Advisory Board and as a peer leader in the Global Learning Community. He is also a violinist in the Drexel University Orchestra. Joseph plans to pursue a career in banking or consulting before pursuing a J.D. and building a career that combines his interests in entrepreneurship, law, business, culture, and language.
Joseph sees the Aspire Scholars program as an opportunity to connect with a group of multifaceted and talented students and hopes these interactions will serve as a springboard for future success - for himself and others in the group.
The Aspire Scholars program is designed to provide promising, curious, and motivated Drexel undergraduates an opportunity to further develop and clarify their goals, within a small community of peers and mentors. Through small group meetings and individual advising, Scholars gain the tools and opportunities to clarify professional goals, engage more deeply on and off campus, and gain confidence in their abilities to build deeper personal and professional relationships.