The Rhodes, Marshall, and Mitchell Scholarships—which fund study in the United Kingdom and Ireland—and the Knight-Hennessy and Schwarzman Scholarships--which fund study at Stanford and within China’s Tsinghua University respectively--are among the most prestigious postgraduate awards in the world. This year 11 University Scholars and alumni were selected to represent Northeastern in these award competitions, embodying the best of our global, experiential research university: academic excellence, consequential research and creative endeavor, dedicated service to others, and an aspiration to apply their prodigious talents and skills to improving our world. Read on to meet these exceptional young people.
Sofia Catalina COE’20
Major: Chemical Engineering
Award Nomination: Knight-Hennessy Scholarship
Sofia Catalina has focused her energies on solving one of the most pressing challenges humanity faces as we confront climate change, seeking to fundamentally change the way we store energy in order to accelerate our transition to a fossil fuel-free society. It is her hope that through PhD-level study at Stanford in Materials Science to produce the new materials and new architectures for large-scale, dependable, affordable, and long-lasting storage of energy when the sun is not shining or the wind is not blowing. Academically, University Scholar and Honors student Catalina is an all-star in our highly rigorous chemical engineering curriculum, who has demonstrated the creativity, initiative, and achievement of publishable results that typically characterize graduate students in her on-campus research with Professor Joshua Galloway. Catalina has also taken great advantage of our cooperative education program, working with a who’s-who of the energy storage industry—Nuvera Fuel Cells, Form Energy, Tesla. Catalina’s decision to pursue the development of technologies that will enable a cleaner, safer energy future already speaks to her desire to harness her talents for the greater good. Beyond the lab walls, she also employs her considerable communicative and leadership abilities to make the world of STEM a more inclusive space. As president of Northeastern’s Society of Women Engineers.
Dayina “Connie” E CSSH’19
Award Nomination: Schwarzman Scholarship
Growing up in Taiyuan, a city of 4.2 million about 300 miles outside Beijing, Connie grew accustomed early to pursuing opportunities far afield: after attending boarding school in Shanghai, she moved on to high school in the United Kingdom, and then to Northeastern as a University Scholar and Honors student. Embracing Northeastern’s international reach, Connie studied disarmament policy at the United Nations in Geneva and consulted with social enterprises in South Africa. Even as she developed this global perspective, however, Connie continually applied her growing knowledge and expertise to the issues she first confronted in Taiyuan, watching her parents build their self-made business. Seeking a way to pair the acumen gained from her economics major and her co-ops at companies like State Street with her aspiration to promote sustainable and equitable development solutions, Connie served as president of NUImpact, Northeastern’s student-driven impact investing initiative. Under Connie’s leadership, NUImpact established an impact fund with a target of $250,000 for students to invest in local sustainable enterprises. Inspired by this success, Connie aspires to a career at the intersection of public policy, social impact, and financial services.
Simisola “Simi” Familusi COE’20
Major: Mechanical Engineering
Award Nomination: Knight-Hennessy Scholarship
Simi is a talented engineer, an impressive organizer of others, and has an important vision for how the “spoils” of the 21st century might be, well, less “spoiled.” A mechanical engineer who will earn a concurrent master’s in engineering leadership, Simi is uniquely motivated to create novel manufacturing and management processes that ensure 21st century technological gains are sustainably produced along a number of dimensions and ethically distributed. In order to create the goods that one associates with a higher standard of living, Simi hopes to eliminate waste and inefficiencies within manufacturing processes. She proposes to undertake the MBA at Stanford to bolster her capacity to tackle this challenge. At Northeastern, Simi has thrived in her rigorous dual BS/MS program, building her organizational and leadership capacities through a series of coops in a wide range of sectors – moving from prototyping toys, to ensuring quality in wine preservation, to cross-functionally streamlining the production of Tesla vehicles. Outside of the classroom and the workplace, Simi has shown a remarkable dedication to strengthening the communities of which she is a member, responding to perceived needs with dedicated and effective leadership, founding the Northeastern University Toys Club, mentoring at the Boys and Girls Club and helping connect mothers from underserved communities with supplies and resources at Room to Grow. Simi is a member of the University Scholars and Honors Programs.
Leila Habib COS’20
Major: Behavioral Neuroscience Minor: Photojournalism
Award Nominations: Rhodes Scholarship, Marshall Scholarship
A scientist and a storyteller, Leila Habib has a passion for promoting the health and flourishing of immigrants and people of color, as well as documenting their lives and experiences. While excelling in her study of behavioral neuroscience, she also undertook multiple projects focused on the Ethiopian diaspora in particular during her time at Northeastern. Supported by a Summer Scholars Independent Research Fellowship and other grants from Northeastern, she explored the identities and experiences of members of this diaspora by interviewing and photographing 68 people of Ethiopian descent living in the US and Australia between May 2018 and April 2019. She subsequently received an additional Northeastern Summer Scholars Independent Research Fellowship to conduct oral history interviews with Ethiopian emigres who left the country during the Derg era. Her research experiences while an undergraduate additionally included work at Northeastern’s Social Interaction Lab and Institute for Health Equity and Social Justice Research, as well as a research assistantship with Cambridge-area company PatientsLikeMe. While at Northeastern, Leila also helped to establish the College of Science Student Diversity Advisory Council and founded Roots Through Photos, an initiative that offered photography workshops to area youth at a local community center. She went on to play leadership roles in both organizations, as well as the Minority Association of Pre-Health Students, Students Against Institutional Discrimination, and a campus magazine. A University Scholar and Honors student during her time at Northeastern, Leila graduated summa cum laude earlier this year.
Morgan Hines COS/CSSH’19
Majors: Biology and English
Award Nominations: Marshall Scholarship
At Northeastern, University Scholar and Honors student Morgan Hines spanned traditional disciplinary boundaries to interrogate the injustices of the past, investigate the inequities of the present, and intervene in the institutions of the future. Moving outward from her rigorous biology curriculum, Morgan completed a first lab-based co-op at Harvard Medical School, after which she began her long involvement in the study of infants’ neurological and physiological development, particularly the influence of environmental and social determinants on the ability to ingest food and vocalize, within Northeastern’s Speech and Neurodevelopment Lab. At the same time, Morgan rose through the leadership of End Neglected Diseases, a student group that advocates for scientific and policy initiatives to eradicate the seven most common neglected tropical diseases—a group of largely curable diseases that garner little attention and funding because they affect the world’s most forgotten. Morgan also knows that the injustices that shape today’s health disparities have their roots in centuries of inequity. This is why Morgan, future physician, listens to the stories of the past. For four years, Morgan has researched descriptions of adverse health events in 18th and 19th-century autobiographies of enslaved persons in the United States, using her enormous literary sensitivity as well as her skill in computer-aided textual analysis to trace lineages of physical and psychological trauma across these archives. A researcher and a storyteller, an anatomist and an archivist, a scientist and a humanist—Morgan hopes to study physician-patient communication both historically and contemporarily as preparation for a career as a physician and advocate.
Jared Hirschfield COS/CSSH’20
Major: Biology and Political Science
Award Nominations: Marshall Scholarship, Rhodes Scholarship
Although he entered Northeastern intending to major in bioengineering, University Scholar and Honors student Jared Hirschfield rethought his plans upon discovering that the majority of premature deaths in the United States are attributable to environmental, social, economic, and behavioral factors—factors outside the traditional purview of medicine. His double major in biology and political science is indicative of the interdisciplinary approach Jared has taken to developing more holistic and comprehensive interventions in a broad spectrum of health-related areas. Inspired by a course in Law, Public Policy, and Human Behavior, Jared assists the Northeastern Law School’s Public Health Advocacy Institute in litigating against entities (most recently, vaping or e-cigarette companies) who damage public health; but ever devoted to community engagement, he volunteers at the foot clinic of Boston Healthcare for the Homeless and founded Northeastern’s chapter of the Petey Greene Program, which provides high-quality academic programming to incarcerated people. A co-op at the FBI Laboratory in Quantico broadened Jared’s perspective on the application of scientific and quantitative skills to systemic, nationwide problems like human trafficking and illicit drug supplies. A subsequent co-op at the National Center for Health Research, a DC-based think tank, involved Jared in the nitty-gritty of the FDA rulemaking process, as he researched and drafted commentary for both governmental and public audiences. This past summer, Jared earned a Summer Scholars Independent Research Fellowship to document, through interviews and a photo essay, racial health disparities in Alabama’s rural Black Belt counties (See the work From Soil to Struggle_ A Qualitative Study of Health in Alabama's Black Belt). He aspires to become an attorney, wielding the tools of law and policy in the ongoing struggle for equality.
Kathleen “Katie” Owens COS’20
Major: Behavioral Neuroscience
Award Nominations: Marshall Scholarship, Rhodes Scholarship
Katie Owens demonstrates a sophisticated understanding of the social and economic systems that stratify and divide our society, and she has developed an array of intellectual, medical, and spiritual tools for working to bridge these gaps. A behavioral neuroscience major, Honors student, and University Scholar, Katie has pursued research to elucidate the bases of both the neuroscience that she studies and the health disparities she aims to address. She recruited visitors to Boston’s Museum of Science to participate in a “living laboratory” where their movements would be analyzed, and at Northeastern’s Institute for Health Equity and Social Justice Research, Katie contributed to an important multimodal study of suicide in the construction industry. On co-op at Boston Medical Center, Katie saw firsthand the health effects of social factors like race, class, immigration status, and English proficiency and distilled her observations into policy recommendations for supportive programs. She has also worked with local artisans in Peru and in corporate responsibility at John Hancock. Building healthy communities has been a major focus of Katie’s extracurricular life as well. As a resident assistant in a first-year residence hall, she has promoted inclusion and belonging amongst those joining the university community. As president of Northeastern’s Interfaith Council and an active volunteer in the greater Boston area interfaith community, Katie worked to bridge yet another set of cultural divides. Katie aspires to become a physician, applying her understanding of individual and social wellbeing to heal people and communities.
Natalie Sadlak COS’20
Award Nominations: Knight-Hennessy Scholarship
A future physician, Natalie Sadlak intends to devote her life and career to improving the healthcare afforded to our most vulnerable with a particular focus on providing this urgent and necessary care to LGBTQ+ people. In her vision, all people should have access to health care that is not only medically appropriate, timely, and affordable, but also sensitive to their identities and lived experiences as members of particular social groups. During her time at Northeastern, Natalie has worked tirelessly to advance this vision. Supported by a 2017 Northeastern Summer Scholars Independent Research Fellowship, she conducted a study of the needs of patients served by a department within a Boston community health center, and then developed a program that trained the department’s health care providers in LGBTQ+ cultural competency. Since July 2018, she has also worked as a clinical research assistant within the Department of Ophthalmology at Boston Medical Center, a hospital that serves many socioeconomically disadvantaged patients. Natalie has also undertaken ongoing research in microbiology within the lab of Professor Yunrong Chai here at Northeastern. Natalie also developed and led an “alternative spring break” that brought her and her peers from a range of majors to Seattle, where they examined issues at the intersection of LGBTQ+ identity and public health through meetings with non-profit organizations throughout the city. A University Scholar and Honors student, Natalie wishes to pursue her passion for equity and justice in healthcare by seeking an M.D. at Stanford and ultimately serving as a physician and advocate for marginalized people with the US medical system.
Kritika Singh COE’20
Award Nominations: Marshall Scholarship, Mitchell Scholarship, Rhodes Scholarship
Kritika Singh’s work on neglected diseases—that is, a set of diseases common in low-income populations that receive little attention or research funding because of those they impact and the fact that, though they significantly impair human health, they are often non-lethal—combines the tools of biomedical research, clinical practice, and global health policy. A highly decorated scientific researcher, recipient of both the Thermo Fisher Scientific Antibody Scholarship and the Goldwater Scholarship, Kritika spent a year as a research assistant in a malaria immunology lab at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases while in high school and, with the support of the Summer Scholars Independent Research Fellowship, has worked for over two years on epigenetics and malaria in the Mazitschek Lab at Massachusetts General Hospital. But Kritika, who is a member of the University Scholars and Honors Programs, understands that science alone will not eradicate disease, and in parallel with her research, she has also developed skills in policy and advocacy to amplify her impact. She founded and directs a nonprofit organization, Malaria Free World, which engages in peer-to-peer education, fundraising, and political lobbying, and she has worked to empower others through the Northeastern University Global Health Initiative (NUGHI), which she also founded. Kritika and the NUGHI team earned a Service/Research Project Award to produce one of the largest student-led undergraduate global health conferences in the nation, bringing together a broad interdisciplinary range of students, practitioners, and experts who embodied Kritika’s collaborative vision for making change. In recognition of her advocacy, Kritika earned a Truman Scholarship last year. Kritika plans to earn a master’s degree in Global Health Science and Epidemiology or Medical Anthropology alongside the MD/PhD to prepare her for a career at the intersection of cutting-edge bioscience, translational care, and public health advocacy.
Michael Tormey COE/CSSH’20
Major: Civil Engineering and Economics
Award Nominations: Rhodes, Marshall, Mitchell and Schwarzman Scholarship
Michael Tormey views transportation planning not as an issue of maximizing commuters’ convenience, but rather as an issue of equity and justice: a way to ensure that all communities have the opportunities to thrive enabled by reliable connections to centers of employment, education, and healthcare. To this challenge Mike brings both technical expertise and a people-oriented, civic-minded vision of collaborative leadership. An ethic of community engagement is visible across Mike’s global learning and service experiences, including an Alternative Spring Break to Cuba, Dialogue of Civilizations to Japan, and research on green space development in Singapore and Jakarta. As a senior resident assistant, a teaching assistant, and an Alternative Spring Break coordinator, Mike has refined institutional processes and structures to ensure that his peers maximize their opportunities for full community engagement. While on co-op at the Boston Planning and Development Agency, Mike led the development of a plan to improve all modes of transportation in the Glover’s Corner section of Dorchester. As a result of his conscientious involvement of community stakeholders, the project enjoys wide support; as a result of his dedication and skill, he saved the BPDA over $50,000 in consulting fees, money which has instead gone to expedite construction. Working at the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency this summer, Mike redesigned two intersections in Golden Gate Park, among other highly visible infrastructure projects. A member of the University Scholars and Honors Programs and a 2019 Truman Scholarship Finalist, Mike aspires to a career at the forefront of urban planning and transportation advocacy.
Elizabeth Wig COE’20
Major: Electrical Engineering
Award Nominations: Knight-Hennessy Scholarship
Elizabeth’s primary engineering research interest is in the diverse, high-impact applications of electromagnetics for communication and sensing, but she pairs her research acumen with a sophisticated understanding of science as a social system and a force that can shape society for better or worse—as well as a deep sense of responsibility to steer that force in the right direction. A University Scholar and Honors student, Elizabeth earned the 2018 Goldwater Scholarship in recognition of her outstanding achievements and potential as a researcher. Her research experience began at Northeastern’s Awareness and Localization of Explosives-Related Threats (ALERT) Center and has continued through co-ops at Draper Labs and at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center. These research experiences have allowed Wig to apply her knowledge of electromagnetics to problems as diverse as threat detection, LIDAR optimization, cellular phone technology, the Mars Rover, and radar for drones. As this list suggests, virtually all of her electromagnetics research has had some nexus to the “national interest,” but she has simultaneously developed a critique of that concept rooted in a commitment to social justice and environmental preservation. An avid outdoor enthusiast with plans to visit every US national park, Elizabeth co-developed and led Alternative Spring Break service and learning trips focused on fair trade coffee farming in Costa Rica and public land use and preservation in southeastern Utah. She plans to earn a Ph.D. in electrical engineering and conduct research in either an academic or industrial setting.