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Current Scholars

Ezekiel Ajayi
Major: Computer Engineering (Communications)
GCSP Cohort 4 (2019)
Expected Graduation: Spring 2022

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

I believe pursuing a Grand Challenge is a great purpose for any individual that wants to make a significant impact on the world through their work. I aspire to give back to the community that raised me, but I have a strong inclination to do something to make the world better, even if that impact is infinitesimal in the grander scheme.

Which of the Grand Challenges you interest you most, and why?
All of the Grand Challenges are interesting! However, the most interesting of the challenges to me were Reverse-Engineer the Brain and Engineer the Tools of Scientific Discovery. I found those interesting as they were (in my opinion) the most ambitious and not very elucidate. From one perspective, it is challenging to imagine how we might one day reverse engineer the brain. Whereas, engineering the tools for scientific discovery, I believe, has the most potential for various interpretations. The way I define engineering tools for scientific discovery could be vastly different from many others pursuing these challenges now.

What are your plans after graduation? 
To pursue a Ph.D. in a computer engineering related field. I am aspiring to become a Quantum Computing Engineering, however, if that becomes a purpose that I do not feel confident/capable of accomplishing, then I hope to focus on Artificial Intelligence & Neuroscience.

 


 

Jood Ali
Major: Mechanical Engineering
Minor: Entrepreneurship
GCSP Cohort 3 (2018)
Expected Graduation: Spring 2020

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

I was first drawn to the Grand Challenges Scholars Program because I wanted to have a sense of belonging to something bigger than myself. I want to work with diverse individuals in an interdisciplinary way to help solve real-world problems. 

Which of the Grand Challenges you interest you most, and why?
I’m intrigued by multiple challenges that ultimately work together to reach a common goal. I’m most interested in engineering better medicines while reducing cost and being environmentally cautious about my design, application, and disposal. This is why I am also drawn to making solar power economical and providing access to clean water. 

What are your plans after graduation? 
My ultimate goal is to work with assistive technology and help make everyday life easier for the disabled. I want to introduce affordable solutions that can be easily integrated around the world. After graduation, I hope to continue my education and earn my Ph.D. while still working to solve some of these challenges.

 

Ben Azrieli
Major: Mechanical Engineering
Minor: Philosophy
GCSP Cohort 4 (2019)
Expected Graduation: Spring 2021

Why did you decide to join the Grand Challenge Scholars Program?
Essentially, I have two goals that govern my actions through life; to help other humans, and to reduce human impact on the Earth. I believe the Grand Challenge Scholars Program is a grand way to make progress on both of those goals.
Which of the Grand Challenges interest you most, and why?
Developing carbon sequestration methods is an area that interests me immensely, and most of all the grand challenges because it offers us the chance to eliminate one of the main ways we are damaging the planet.
What are your plans after graduation?
My plans after graduation are to find and work for a company that shares my goals.

 


 

David Barry
Major: Mechanical Engineering
Minor: Entrepreneurship
Certificate: Peace Corps Prep
GCSP Cohort 2 (2017)
Expected Graduation: 2020


Why did you decide to join the Grand Challenge Scholars Program?
I joined the Grand Challenge Scholars Program to solve large-scale problems that negatively affect people. I hope to able to cultivate my skills as an engineer and a problem solver through this program and gain confidence in my ability to address daunting challenges in the workforce and in my personal life.
Which of the Grand Challenges interest you most, and why?
The Grand Challenge that interests me the most is Personalized Education. I believe that while education is not the answer to all our world’s many problems, it is the only way to empower people to do good. I hope to help to improve and revamp our current education so that it better teaches the most in demand skills (eg. problem solving, creative and analytical thinking) and not just knowledge and facts.
What are your plans after graduation?
I want to join the Peace Corps directly after college and help an impoverished community better educate themselves and their children. Peace Corps will also help me decide what I want to do with the rest of my life, but I know now that I want to work to fight for the rights and dignity of all human beings. I am thinking about graduate or business school after Peace Corps though.

 


 

Jasmine Bonilla
Major: Mechanical Engineering
GCSP Cohort 4 (2019)
Expected Graduation: Spring 2021

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

The everyday routine of college can sometimes cause you to lose sight of the end goal of it all. With the Grand Challenge Scholars Program, I felt that I was able to see my Mechanical Engineering major on a more global scale. The Grand Challenges Scholars Program helped me realize my passion for education.

Which of the Grand Challenges interest you most, and why?

Advancing personalized learning interests me the most. I want to make a difference in the way STEM education, and maybe other subjects are tailored to each student’s needs.

What are your plans after graduation?
I hope to go to graduate school and dedicate my time towards Discipline Based Education Research.

 


 

Lily Cavanagh
Major: Mechanical Engineering
GCSP Cohort 4 (2019)
Expected Graduation: Spring 2021

Why did you decide to join the Grand Challenge Scholars Program?
I joined the program because I am interested in innovations and how they can help better the world. This program will help me learn more critically and think of interdisciplinary approaches to solving major issues that we face. The learning objectives of the program align perfectly with my career goals.
Which of the Grand Challenges interest you most, and why?
I am most interested in the “make solar energy economical” challenge since I have always had an interest in renewable energy. Solar energy is something that can benefit everyone, so making it more economical can help people save money and help us improve the planet. I am excited to learn more about making an attainable solution.
What are your plans after graduation?
I plan on going into either the aerospace or energy industry in order to make technology more efficient.

 


 

 

Liz Emberger
Major: Mechanical Engineering
GCSP Cohort 4 (2019)
Expected Graduation: Spring 2021

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

The Grand Challenge Scholars Program has a variety of drawing factors, but the ability to impact the world is the one that means the most to me. The world today faces a variety of problems, which need to be faced by anyone willing to take on the challenge. The program is a way to meet people with the same vision of bettering the world, and it allows people with different experiences and backgrounds to meet and work together in an effort to make the world a better place.

Which of the Grand Challenges interest you most, and why?

The two challenges most interesting to me are providing access to clean water and making solar energy more economical. Environmental issues such as deforestation, climate change, and pollution are a significant problem in today’s society. Providing access to clean water deals with facing the issue of water pollution, and making solar energy more economical would also reduce pollution. Reducing pollution is important because this is the only planet, we, as a society have. If we destroy it there is no other home. A solution to the environmental issues we face would benefit the entire planet. It would provide a better, cleaner environment for everyone to enjoy.

What are your plans after graduation?

After graduation, I hope to be working full-time while pursuing my master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering.

 


 

Elyssa Ferguson
Major: Mechanical Engineering
Minor: Entrepreneurship
GCSP Cohort 4 (2019)
Expected Graduation: Fall 2020

Why did you decide to join the Grand Challenge Scholars Program?
I joined the Grand Challenge Scholars Program to expand my understanding of the world and its current issues, as well as to further develop the skills necessary to innovate solutions that benefit the environment. With the program’s guidance and structured opportunities, I hope to grow as an engineer who will work to create a more sustainable world.
Which of the Grand Challenges interest you most, and why?

I am most interested in Developing Carbon Sequestration Methods. Current energy production methods emit carbon dioxide and contribute to climate change. I am motivated to help find ways of capturing this gas and improving the energy capacity of more sustainable power sources, so carbon dioxide is not released into the atmosphere in the first place. I am also very interested in Providing Access to Clean Water. I plan to help make water available to all and determine methods to efficiently clean polluted water. I am most interested in these two Grand Challenges because the problems they address pose serious threats to the health of our world and solving them is necessary for all of us to thrive.

What are your plans after graduation?
I plan to continue my formal education by attending graduate school and to pursue a career in sustainable engineering.

 


 

Juan Fernandez
Major: Mechanical Engineering
GCSP Cohort 4 (2019)
Expected Graduation: Spring 2021

Why did you decide to join the Grand Challenge Scholars Program?
I joined the Grand Challenges Scholar Program because I felt that it was a good program to focus my experiences and interests towards larger issues in the world. I want to be able to use my skills to make the world a better place and I feel that this program allows me to do this in an innovative and collaborative environment.
Which of the Grand Challenges interest you most, and why?

I am most interested in the Engineer the Tools of Scientific Discovery Grand Challenge because my interests align closest with this challenge. My interests are in aerospace and space exploration. There are still many things that we don’t understand in the universe and I think it is important to continue exploring and learning about space and more.

What are your plans after graduation?
My goal is to work at an organization or company that is working towards advancing space exploration.

 


 

Jasmyn Frazier
Major: Mechanical Engineering
GCSP Cohort 4 (2019)
Expected Graduation: Spring 2021

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

I joined the Grand Challenges Scholars Program because it addresses the difficult large-scale problems that negatively impact so many people in our society. I want to challenge my critical thinking skills and my abilities as an engineer with these problems and make a better place to live for everyone.

Which of the Grand Challenges interest you most, and why?

I am interested in Restore and Improve Urban Infrastructure, Make Solar Energy Economical, and Advance Personalized Learning because it will improve smaller and poorer communities.

What are your plans after graduation?
I plan on getting my Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering.

 

 


 

 

Shytaya Jackson
Major: Computer Engineering
Minor: Mathematics
GCSP Cohort 4 (2019)
Expected Graduation: Spring 2022

Why did you decide to join the Grand Challenge Scholars Program?
As an engineer, I am tasked to help individuals in my environment by applying Mathematics, Science, and problem-solving skills optimally and innovatively. A way for me to improve as an engineer is to continue learning different methods to solve problems through optimization and innovation; the Grand Challenge Scholars Program (GCSP) is an opportunity to solve a problem and develop necessary attributes for my field.
Which of the Grand Challenges interest you most, and why?
The challenge that makes me perplexed and enthusiastic to solve is Advance Personalized Learning. Students, generally, learn differently in any educational environment. In an educational environment such as college, students learn through lecture and review the material covered. However, some students are visual learners and require more pictures, graphics, or videos to understand the material covered. The material covered in class is often learned at different rates for students; this will, unfortunately, gradually cause students to stop their effort to learn because of how easy or hard the material covered is; regardless, learning a new concept is a complicated process. This process often requires profoundly studying and a strict studying schedule. There must be an approach to reduce the difficulty of learning concepts for students in any academic environment.
What are your plans after graduation?

I plan on going to graduate school to pursue a Ph.D. in either Mathematics or Software Engineering.

 


 

 

Jennifer Lenhoff
Major: Chemical Engineering
Minor: Spanish
GCSP Cohort 4 (2019)
Expected Graduation: Spring 2022

Why did you decide to join the Grand Challenge Scholars Program?
I decided to join the Grand Challenge Scholars Program because I saw a great opportunity to meet other students and faculty who share my passion for making the world a better place. I am excited to be a part of this wonderful community and can’t wait to learn more about how engineering can be used to find solutions to the global crises facing our world today.
Which of the Grand Challenges interest you most, and why?
The Grand Challenge that interests me most if Engineering Better Medicines. I find the study of disease and immunotherapy to be fascinating and I think it would be really interesting to learn more about this challenge.
What are your plans after graduation?

After graduation I plan to pursue a career in the research and development of either medicine or another product that can help people. I plan to travel the world and learn more about other cultures and how they are affected by these global challenges. I would like to make a difference in one of the Grand Challenges through my future career.

 

 


 

Samuel Castro Lucas
Major: Mechanical Engineering
GCSP Cohort 4 (2019)
Expected Graduation: Fall 2020

Why did you decide to join the Grand Challenge Scholars Program?
I joined the Grand Challenge Scholars Program because of the great interest I have in understanding and solving issues that are truly essential for the betterment of our world. I found this program intriguing because I get to interact with people from diverse disciplines and perspectives with a somewhat similar objective. Also, it motivates me to complete certain activities that bring about exposure to various self-enriching experiences. All of this, to develop and create personal skills that would hopefully aid in reducing significant global necessities through technological advancement and innovation.
Which of the Grand Challenges interest you most, and why?
The Grand Challenges that interest me the most are engineer better medicines, provide access to clean water, make solar energy economical. I am interested in how and what new technology or innovative ideas that help in solving these three grand challenges, could be made more accessible, in terms of being cost-efficient, environmentally friendly, and have an appropriate design.
What are your plans after graduation?
My plan after graduation is to hopefully work with something related to the biomedical, or environmental field. Other plans would be to pursue graduate school.

 


 

Serena Milford
Major: Mechanical Engineering
GCSP Cohort 4 (2019)
Expected Graduation: Spring 2021

Why did you decide to join the Grand Challenge Scholars Program?
I decided to join the program because I am interested in gaining a deeper understanding about each of these challenges that people are working on around the world, and having the opportunity to make a contribution to at least one of them.
Which of the Grand Challenges interest you most, and why?
Providing access to clean water interests me the most because it is a real issue in today’s society.  It is a problem not only in third world countries, but in some areas of the United States such as Flint, Michigan too.  Being able to contribute to an affordable solution to providing access to clean water for everyone is a challenge that I would like to be a part of.
What are your plans after graduation?
After graduation, I hope to work a full-time job dealing with mechanical engineering.  I am unsure what field of mechanical engineering I want to go into right now. However, right now I am leaning towards working in a manufacturing or materials environment.

 

 


 

Nidhi Naik
Major: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology & Computer Science
GCSP Cohort 4 (2019)
Expected Graduation: Spring 2021

Why did you decide to join the Grand Challenge Scholars Program?
I decided to join after talking to someone who was already apart of the program. After that initial conversation, my interest in the program really peaked. It seemed like a good opportunity to get more involved on campus, but also just in the community. The grand challenges are issues for everyone and it is important to me that people get the skills needed to communicate their ideas to help solve these problems. In addition, after talking to members of the program, it seemed like a good fit for me. I really love the mission of the program and to be able to come into such a great community was really important to me. Lastly, learning more about interdisciplinary work is something I am really passionate about. I believe that it is really important that everyone has the skills needed to work with other disciplines in order to solve a mutual problem.
Which of the Grand Challenges interest you most, and why?
The Grand Challenge that interests me the most is engineering better medicines. The ability to create personalized medicine for each patient is vital. Each patient should be able to get a healthcare plan that is tailored specifically to them. This hopefully would cause less mistakes to be made by doctors who do not listen to patients and their needs.
What are your plans after graduation?
After graduation, I would like to obtain my MD/PhD. I hope to get my PhD in biomedical engineering.

 


 

Chelsea Okeh
Major: Biological Sciences
GCSP Cohort 4 (2019)
Expected Graduation: Spring 2022

 


 

Zaria Oliver
Major: Chemical Engineering
Biology Track
GCSP Cohort 4 (2019)
Expected Graduation: Spring 2022

Why did you decide to join the Grand Challenge Scholars Program?
I am interested in the Grand Challenge Scholars Program because I know that it can give me a structured way to increase experience in areas that I have already begun to explore, but it can also allow me to step outside of the STEM field to engage in experiences that introduce me to new topics.
Which of the Grand Challenges interest you most, and why?
I am not sure which challenge I like the most, but a few of them sound quite intriguing to me. My hope is that, through participation in the Grand Challenge program, I can discover which challenge I am most passionate about.
What are your plans after graduation?
Upon graduating, I plan to attend graduate school to pursue my Ph.D. in Bioengineering.

 


Fayo Ojo
Major: Computer Science
Minor: Information System
Certificate: Web Development
GCSP Cohort 4 (2019)
Expected Graduation: Spring 2020

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

I want to be in a program that is dedicated to interdisciplinary work and collaborate with people that want to contribute to the big problems affecting people on a global scale.

Which of the Grand Challenges interest you most, and why?

I am most interested in advancing personalized learning because I have been volunteering with computer science education initiatives for the past two years and I think it is very impactful. People learn differently and it is important that the educational system addresses this.

What are your plans after graduation?

Attending graduate school for Human-Centered Computing research.

 


Maddy Selby
Major: Mechanical Engineering
GCSP Cohort 4 (2019)
Expected Graduation: Spring 2021

Why did you decide to join the Grand Challenge Scholars Program?
I chose to participate in the Grand Challenge Scholars Program because of the exposure to problems challenging the world and the community the program provides. I want to change the world and this program will provide me with the background information necessary to start on this goal. The community within the program provides mentorship opportunities which will help me learn more about the experiences I should complete and potentially the field of study I want to pursue. The Grand Challenge Scholars Program puts a large emphasis on international issues that are plaguing the world. I love to travel, and I knew that this program could help me learn more about some of the places I want to travel to and help.
Which of the Grand Challenges interest you most, and why?
The Grand Challenge I have chosen to focus on is Engineer the Tools of Scientific Discovery. I chose this challenge because of how important new scientific discoveries are to our society. I am very interested in learning new things and this challenge will push me to these discoveries. I am uncertain about my field of study post graduation, but I know I want to do something out of the box and exciting. I think the challenge of Engineer the Tools of Scientific Discovery will provide me with the flexibility to find my passion and pursue it while contributing towards solving the unknowns of nature.While I am still uncertain about my specialization in mechanical engineering, I am considering the aerospace industry. Space is such a big unknown that I am interested in learning more about. My one hesitation with this field is that it does not directly improve people’s lives. I want to do something that makes a difference, and I am not sure if aerospace would fulfill that desire.I know that the Grand Challenge of Engineer the Tools of Scientific Discovery will help me to find my focus in mechanical engineering. It has already helped me to find a general direction to focus my ideas in and I know it will continue to help me find the path I want to pursue.

What are your plans after graduation?

After graduation, I am planning on pursuing a Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering. Afterwards, I plan on working in industry. As of now, I am uncertain about what field I want to pursue, but I am certain that my opportunities from UMBC and the Grand Challenge Scholars Program will provide me with the skills to succeed.

 


 

Hana Tekle
Major: Biology
Minor: Mathematics
GCSP Cohort 4 (2019)
Expected Graduation: Fall 2020

Why did you decide to join the Grand Challenge Scholars Program?
A quality that attracted me to the grand challenge program is its connection to service. Since entering college I knew that when I finished my education I would afterward live a life with a service aspect to my career. I like the program in that it introduces us to “problems” we can work towards thinking about solving as young scientists. To me this means that I get to pursue a field (math/biology) I am genuinely interested in, while at the same time applying it to an area of service to others. Likewise, with the different tasks we are expected to complete as part of being in the program, I feel this encourages us to explore broadening our perspective.
Which of the Grand Challenges interest you most, and why?
As of now, the advanced personal learning is most interesting to me. Currently I am a Sunday school teacher, a teaching assistant and a student. Having these different positions has given me an understanding of the different perspectives in the learning process. I’ve realized shortly that teaching is something that I am passionate about and would like to continue about as a future career path. Therefore finding efficient methods of improving the quality of learning interests me.
What are your plans after graduation?
My goal after finishing my undergrad is to attend graduate school in an effort to work towards earning my master. I plan to possibly work towards my Phd as a next step.

 


 

 

Kevin Zimmerman
Major: Mechanical Engineering
GCSP Cohort 4 (2019)
Expected Graduation: Fall 2020

Why did you decide to join the Grand Challenge Scholars Program?
I joined grand challenges to use what I’ve learned while in engineering school to try and solve problems facing the global community.

Which of the Grand Challenges interest you most, and why?
I am interested in engineering the tools of scientific discovery.

What are your plans after graduation?
After graduation I plan to look for a job in renewable energy, hopefully in R&D.