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Alumni

Aakash Bajpai
Major: Mechanical Engineering
Minor: Entrepreneurship
GCSP Cohort 1 (2016)
Graduating Class of 2018

BajpaiWhy did you decide to join the Grand Challenge Scholars Program?
During most of my undergraduate education, I have been focusing on how to make myself a better engineer and a better candidate for graduate study. However, the interdisciplinary and global problems we are facing, such as global climate change, can be solved better from a more diverse perspective. I want to diversify and explore the nature of our problems because research alone cannot fix them. How can a potential researcher solve global problems without a global perspective in mind?
Which of the Grand Challenges interest you most, and why?I regularly read National Geographic growing up, and have always had a curiosity for the unknown. This drives one of my interests to be the last of the fourteen Grand Challenges, which is to engineer the tools of scientific discovery. Whether in deep sea or outer space, inner tornadoes or flaming volcanoes, the challenge of creating technologies that can survive in these extreme environments is extremely difficult and interesting at the same time.
What are your plans after graduation?
My goals after graduation are to continue on to graduate school in mechanical engineering, mechatronics, or robotics. I want to create exploration technologies. I would also like to work on bio-inspired robotics and apply the locomotion of different species for robotic applications. After graduate school I would like to work in my interest area for a government lab or become a researcher and professor at a University. I really enjoy tutoring now and can see myself doing research and bringing undergraduates and graduates into a lab where they are able to develop themselves not just as researchers but also able to think from a global perspective through interdisciplinary focus.

 

Toluwanimi Bello
Major: Chemical Engineering
Grand Challenge: Engineer Better Medicines
GCSP Cohort 1 (2016)
Graduating Class of 2017

Bello

Why did you decide to join UMBC GCSP?
Over time, I have come to realize that human lives are interconnected. What affects someone in Asia, somehow affects someone in the Americas. For me, this reality is a motivation to use my engineering skills to tackle problems all over the world as if they were my own (because they are). Since it is void of political pressures, monetary pursuit, or glory seeking, the GCSP is the perfect environment for me to apply myself in said ways.
Which of the Grand challenges interest you and why?
Like a lot of my colleagues in this program, I am interested in all of the Grand Challenges. However, advanced personalized learning, developing carbon sequestration methods, and preventing nuclear terror all appeal to me for several reasons. As a student, I have seen how difficult it can be for professors to level the playing field in the classroom. Pursuing personalized learning can help solve this problem.  Carbon sequestration interests me because it is a solution to the problem of global warming, which we are currently experiencing. Finally, being from Nigeria, where the terrorist organization known as Boko Haram operates, I have seen firsthand the horror that terrorist operations cause.  The fear of such organizations getting access to nuclear weapons makes me passionate about preventing nuclear terror.
What are your plans after graduation?
I will be pursuing a PhD in Chemical Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI). My studies will equip me to better tackle the Grand Challenges, and to train/motivate others to do so.

 


 

Amelia Hallworth
Major: Biological Sciences
Minor: Mathematics
Grand Challenges: Engineer Better Medicines and Advance Personalized Learning
Honors College Certificate
GCSP Cohort 1 (2016)
Graduating Class of 2017

Hallworth

Why did you decide to join the Grand Challenge Scholars Program?
I am interested in several of the Grand Challenges, and wanted to learn more about them. I also really appreciate the interdisciplinary of the program, and want to use this opportunity to meet individuals from other fields who also value interdisciplinary study. I also value the service component of the program.
Which of the Grand Challenges interest you most, and why?
I am most interested in the challenge of creating more personalized medicine. As a researcher, I am interested in how microorganisms interact with their host (us) to either cause or not cause disease. Small differences between individuals can be amplified in this system, so more personalized medicine would be helpful for both research and disease prevention. Additionally, I am very interested in the ethical issues surrounding the topic. For example, who should be allowed to know the information that is collected ? How should it be stored to prevent loss of data or hacks?
What are your plans after graduation?
I will be pursuing a Ph.D. in Microbiology at Yale University. I am interested in studying how the microbes that surround us interact with each other and with our cells. After receiving a doctoral degree, I eventually hope to become a professor. I want to run a lab so that I can expand humanity’s knowledge, but also to teach younger scientists so that I can inspire the next generation of researchers.

 


Maniraj Jeyaraju
Major: Interdisciplinary Studies
Minor: Biological Sciences
Grand Challenge: Advance Personalized Learning
GCSP Cohort 1 (2016)
Graduating Class of 2017

Jeyaraju

Why did you decide to join the Grand Challenge Scholars Program?
As an Interdisciplinary Studies major, the Grand Challenge program is an excellent opportunity to engage in applied interdisciplinarity. It provides a scaffold to engage in meaningful project-based learning.
Which of the Grand Challenges interests you the most, and why?
I am interested in the “Advance Personalized Learning” Challenge. I have a vested interest in education and personalized learning is an integral piece of my Senior Capstone for Interdisciplinary Studies.
What are your plans after graduation?
I will be pursuing an M.D. at the University of Maryland. I hope to become a surgeon, with additional research focus in the fields of health education, international health, and medical anthropology.

 

 

 


 

Sophia Lopresti
Major: Global Studies
Minor: Emergency Health Services
Intercultural Communication Certificate
GCSP Cohort 1 (2016)
Graduating Class of 2018

Why did you decide to join the Grand Challenge Scholars Program?
I decided to join the Grand Challenges Scholars Program to ensure that I have a wide variety of experiences outside of my Global Health field. I was intrigued by the program since it is based in the College of Engineering and Information Technology, but was looking for all majors to apply. I’m really looking forward to working collaboratively with the students from other disciplines in the fall!
Which of the Grand Challenges interest you most, and why?
I’m most interested in working to provide access to clean water. I chose Global Studies: Health, Development, and the Environment as my major because I believe that everyone should have the right to safe living conditions. Clean water and proper sanitation go hand in hand. Over spring break I traveled to Northern Nicaragua with Global Brigades to assist with Public Health infrastructure projects such as latrines, showers, wash stations, septic tanks, and concrete floors. I’m really passionate about the benefits that clean water and hygienic sanitation provide.
What are your plans after graduation?
After graduation I plan to work for a nonprofit abroad doing aid work/humanitarian relief. Eventually I would like to return to school to become a Certified Nurse Midwife.

 

 


Roopa Mistry
Major: Health Administration & Policy
Minor: Legal Policy
GCSP Cohort 1 (2016)
Graduating Class of 2018

Why did you decide to join the Grand Challenge Scholars Program?
The Grand Challenges Scholars program was enticing because it encompasses a wide range of disciplines to solve issues. As I am studying Health Administration and Public Policy focusing in Public Health Legal Policy, I like solving issues by looking at the bigger picture. In my opinion, learning to solve issues through discussing interdisciplinary ideas is a critical skill. I am looking forward to interacting with individuals from different backgrounds and learning better problem solving skills.
Which of the Grand Challenges interest you most, and why? 
As I hold a strong interest in public health, I was immediately drawn to the “Provide Access to Clean Water” challenge. Clean water is an essential element to the overall health of an individual as well as a population. Safe and easy access to clean water, in my opinion, is an inherent human right.
What are your plans after graduation?
After graduating from UMBC, I would like to pursue a Master’s Degree in Public Health, more specifically global public health. After I get my MPH I would like to work in the public health field for a few years. My long-term goal is to eventually attend law school, where I will focus on Health Law.

 


Heather Mortimer
Major: Interdisciplinary Studies (Museum Education and Exhibit Development)
Certificate: Honors College
GCSP Cohort 2 (2017)
Graduating Class of 2018

Why did you decide to join the Grand Challenge Scholars Program?
Through the Honors College and INDS, I’ve had the opportunity to meet students from diverse academic backgrounds and see how they might solve problems differently from me. The Grand Challenges Scholars Program presents an exciting opportunity to learn from and collaborate with students from various disciplines.
Which of the Grand Challenges interest you most, and why? 
I am most interested in advancing individualized learning. I’ve always been attracted to museums for their role in facilitating free-choice learning for diverse audiences. Because there is no test at the end of a museum visit, learning must be relevant, accessible, and enjoyable. In a way, museum exhibits facilitate individualized learning by allowing visitors to choose how they would like to learn about a topic; however, I would like to see more exhibits that respond to each individual learner based on their needs.
What are your plans after graduation?
I hope to work in exhibit development, science communication, or education after graduation. I am considering several graduate programs, including programs in museum studies, information design, and health communication.

 

 


James Rogers
Major: Mathematics
Minor: Computer Science
GCSP Cohort 1 (2016)
Graduating Class of 2018

Why did you decide to join the Grand Challenge Scholars Program?
I decided to join the Grand Challenges Scholars Program because it addresses the kinds of problems I find interesting. Most of the challenges in this world are greater than any one discipline, and through this program, I hope to gain a window into how my chosen discipline is a part of these larger tasks. Those are the problems I find interesting: the ones that are larger than myself, but which I can still play a role in solving.
Which of the Grand Challenges interest you most, and why?
The Grand Challenges that interest me the most are those such as advancing personalized learning, virtual reality, and reverse engineering the brain. These are the challenges that require thinking about how we learn or how we perceive; while the rest will enhance physical quality of life, these will enhance quality of knowledge, and our ability to appreciate what is contained in the life we have.
What are your plans after graduation?
My current plan following graduation is to pursue a Ph.D. in applied mathematics. My exact field of interest in undetermined, but likely to be some form of optimization. I am as yet undecided as to whether I would rather apply this in academia or in industry.

 


Kourtney Rutkowski
Major: Mechanical Engineering
Minor: Psychology
Honors Certificate
GCSP Cohort 1 (2016)
Graduating Class of 2017

Why did you decide to join the Grand Challenge Scholars Program?
A lot of the grand challenges are things that interest me and are things that I hopefully will pursue a career in solving. I wanted to be a part of a community of people who were like-minded and wanted to tackle the same challenges.
Which of the Grand Challenges interest you most, and why?
The Grand Challenges that interest me the most are making solar energy economical, engineering better medicines, restoring and improving urban infrastructure, providing energy from fusion, managing the nitrogen cycle, and developing carbon sequestration methods. Although I realize this is 6 out of the 14 challenges, I had a hard time narrowing it down more because all of the Grand Challenges honestly interest me. The reason that the energy and sustainability related ones interest me is because I hope to pursue environmental engineering as a career. I have also always had an interest in better health care, due to health issues that affect both my family and myself. Finally, improving urban infrastructure interests me because although I am from the more rural areas of Maryland, the well-being of those living in the cities has always been something I have cared about.
What are your plans after graduation?
After graduation I hope to work for either Exelon Generation or GE Power and Water. My end goal is to be in a career that involves the design of alternative energy systems. I have worked for both GE and Exelon as an intern in the past and hope to use this work experience to obtain a full-time position post-graduation.

 


 

Nicholas Simon
Major: Chemical Engineering
GCSP Cohort 1 (2016)
Graduating Class of 2018

Why did you decide to join the Grand Challenges Scholars program?
I liked the idea of applying what I’ve learned in the class room to some of the world’s most pressing issues. This program offers students the opportunity to do just that early on in their college career, which is rare.

Which of the Grand Challenges interest you the most, and why?
Energy from Fusion hands down. The world is in an energy crisis and I believe fusion is a strong contender for the future of energy production. I’m fascinated by energy and how it moves throughout the universe and hope to explore its endless possibilities.

What are your plans after graduation?
I’m considering graduate school for either nuclear or energy engineering, but I would also like to work in the field as soon as possible. I am currently looking into SpaceX’s internship program, which could lead to a job after graduation.

 

 

 


Nicholay Topin
Major: Computer Science
Honors Certificate
Grand Challenge: Reverse-Engineer the Brain
GCSP Cohort 1 (2016)
Graduating Class of 2017

Topin

Why did you decide to join the Grand Challenge Scholars Program?

The Grand Challenge Scholars Program offers an opportunity to meet like-minded individuals and work on interesting problems. It also lets one get recognition for research and other extracurricular activities one is already doing. Together, these two factors make participation in GCSP very beneficial for me.
Which of the Grand Challenges interest you most, and why?
The challenge of reverse engineering the brain interests me most. While I do not have a background in biology, this challenge is very relevant to my main area of interest, artificial intelligence. As increasingly sophisticated digital agents are made, inspiration is being taken from biological systems. By expanding humanity’s knowledge of the most sophisticated processing unit available to us, perhaps we can further improve what we create. A further challenge that interests me is improving virtual reality. Strengthening the link between digital creations and “meat-space” would allow more people to interact with intelligent computer systems in a familiar way.
What are your plans after graduation?
I will be pursuing a Ph.D. in Machine Learning at Carnegie Mellon University. I hope to eventually be part of a larger research effort at some academic or corporate organization.

 

 

Claudia Xie
Major: Biological Sciences
Minor: Psychology and Emergency Health Services
GCSP Cohort 1 (2016)
Graduating Class of 2018

Why did you decide to join the Grand Challenge Scholars Program?
I joined GCSP because I want to weave a common thread through my college experiences. Sometimes I feel like my classes and clubs are unrelated, when they are really all contributing to the growth and development of me and my community. I am excited to collaborate with scholars and mentors to work towards chipping away at a Grand Challenge.
Which of the Grand Challenges interest you most, and why?
I am most interested in engineering better medicines. From my genetics and psychological disorders classes, I’ve learned that patients react differently to their medications and that there are rarely one-size-fits-all medicines. I hope that medications can become more affordable as well. Having good health is important to achieve your goals and enjoy life. It is a shame that many patients suffer and become sicker if they cannot afford to pay.
What are your plans after graduation?
I plan to attend professional school in the health field but I am currently deciding what kind.