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Current Scholars


Jordan Armstead
Major: Mechanical Engineering
GCSP Cohort 3 (2018)
Expected Graduation: 2020

Why did you decide to join the Grand Challenge Scholars Program?
I joined the program in order to develop interdisciplinary skills and to find out more about how I can pursue a path in humanitarian engineering. I hope to be a part of providing access to clean water all around the world.
Which of the Grand Challenges interest you most, and why? 

Providing access to clean water interests me most because there are so many people around the world that do not have access to such an important amenity.
What are your plans after graduation?
My goals after graduation are to pursue a career in humanitarian engineering by taking the skills I have gained from this program to continue working toward solutions to the grand challenges of our world.

 

 


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

Barry
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.

 


Laina Colony
Major: Chemical Engineering (Environmental Engineering & Sustainability Track)
GCSP Cohort 2 (2017)
Expected Graduation: 2020

Colony

Why did you decide to join the Grand Challenge Scholars Program?
I decided to join the Grand Scholars program because I was intrigued by the opportunities it provides. It will introduce me to leadership skills and many other skills while providing me a way to research a challenge I find interesting. The GCSP will help pave the pathway for my future endeavors.
Which of the Grand Challenges interest you most, and why?
The challenge I am most interested in is providing access to clean water. I have always been interested in environmental problems and believe they are important problems that need to be solved; that is why my major is environmental engineering. Clean water is a major issue throughout the world and if a new and efficient technology can be designed, millions of people will be helped all over the world. This is a challenge I would like to be a part of.
What are your plans after graduation?
I plan to attend graduate school. Graduate school will help me to not only further my knowledge in a particular subject, but will also help me figure out what I want in a career, as will internships throughout college.

 

Randy Deinlein
Major: Mechanical Engineering
Minor: Entrepreneurship
GCSP Cohort 3 (2018)
Expected Graduation: 2019

Why did you decide to join the Grand Challenge Scholars Program?
I want to find ways I, as a future engineer, can more directly solve some of the worlds issues to make the future, and world a better place. Many engineers design and build things, but I have learned engineers are best at solving problems. There are many problems with the world that are challenging to overcome. I think the Grand Challenges Scholars Program can offer me the opportunity to help find what problems I want to confront, or help me determine future personal goals.
Which of the Grand Challenges interest you most and why?
Restoring and improving infrastructure interests me the most because I firmly believe that our inner cities can be so much better than what they are ranging from better education, to safer areas, to cleaner environments, etc. Our cities have so much to offer, but certainly have such a negative reputation. I really would like to find a way to make them more robust and enjoyable for everyone living and visiting there. A second challenge I would like to pursue is managing the nitrogen cycle.
What are your plans after graduation?
After graduation I hope to be working full-time while pursuing my master’s degree,  potentially in environmental engineering.

 

 


Emily Duan
Major: Mechanical Engineering
GCSP Cohort 2 (2017)
Expected Graduation: 2019

Duan

Why did you decide to join the Grand Challenge Scholars Program?
Several challenges identified by the National Academy of Engineering are extremely interesting to me and I hope to join this interdisciplinary community to tackle these important societal problems. The gathering of students from interdisciplinary studies is one of the most appealing aspects of the program for me because I recognize the value of bringing a diverse group of people together to solve pressing societal problems. I truly believe that the only way that we can move forward in developing innovative solutions is to bring different people with different backgrounds and perspectives together because this type of interaction sparks creative ideas.
Which of the Grand Challenges interest you most and why?
Access to clean water, restoration and improvement of urban infrastructure, and engineering the tools of scientific discovery are just some of the Grand Challenges that interest me the most. Through my travel experiences abroad, I often feel that I have taken for granted many aspects of technology and resources in my environment, including access to clean water and the maintenance of urban infrastructure. I have always been curious to learn about the unknown. The challenge for us to understand the unasked questions excites me. I hope to tackle these significant societal problems during my lifetime.
What are your plans after graduation?
After graduation, I plan to continue to graduate school in mechanical or electrical engineering. During my career, I hope to obtain a Professional Engineering license. I have yet to determine the exact field I wish to develop a career in, but I hope to narrow down my interests through different courses and my internship experiences.


Connor Ganley
Major: Chemical Engineering
GCSP Cohort 1 (2016)
Expected Graduation: 2019

Ganley

Why did you decide to join the Grand Challenge Scholars Program?
I decided to join the Grand Challenge Scholars Program because I saw it as an opportunity to apply the things I have learned in the classroom to real-world applications. Further, I was also intrigued by the emphasis placed on interdisciplinarity within the program. I believe that being well-rounded is a very useful skill, and having knowledge about a broad spectrum of subjects helps to supplement that.
Which of the Grand Challenges interest you most, and why?
The Grand Challenge that interests me the most is “Engineer the Tools for Scientific Discovery.” I am drawn to this challenge because the prospect to discover something new about the world around me is very exciting. There is so much to learn about everything from the solar system to the deep sea, and being able to aid discoveries in any of these areas is an ultimate goal of mine.
What are your plans after graduation?
After graduation, my primary goal is to go to graduate school to work toward a Ph.D. in chemical engineering. I am currently interested in studying the development and alteration of synthetic materials with unique properties that could have applications in the aerospace industry. Ultimately, I would love to be able to apply a degree in chemical engineering to help an employer like NASA in developing new instruments for space observation and travel.

 


Steven Hillard
Major: Computer Science
Minor: Information Systems
GCSP Cohort 3 (2018)
Expected Graduation: 2020

Why did you decide to join the Grand Challenge Scholars Program?
I joined the Grand Challenges Scholars Program because it provides an opportunity to meet ambitious problem solvers from different disciplines. It also gives the ability to gain more prospective on the world from others and their interdisciplinary backgrounds. This is truly valuable for solving the Grand Challenges, as well as all of the other problems the world will present to us. I am extremely interested in problem solving and always attempting to gain new perspectives so joining this program was an easy decision for me.
Which of the Grand Challenges interest you most, and why?
The grand challenge that interests me the most would have to be to advance health informatics. This is because, health informatics has the ability to provide higher, more efficient quality care, maintain better records, lower healthcare costs, create less trial and error, and improve our ability to self treat. The examples listed only cover a sample of the potential that advances in healthcare informatics would provide. The true potential for advances in health care informatics is endless.
What are your plans after graduation?
After I graduate I plan on getting a Masters degree in Business Administration. Then, I hope to start a company that will truly make the world a better place and push technological boundaries.

 

 


Zachary Hunter-Lee Little
Major: Environmental Science & Geography
Certificate: GIS
GCSP Cohort 2 (2017)
Expected Graduation: 2019

Little

Why did you decide to join the Grand Challenge Scholars Program?
I decided to join GCSP because I wanted to challenge myself and seek new opportunities where I could learn more about myself as a student and individual. It is unique that the program allows for students from different disciplines to come together and learn from each other in order to tackle some of Earth’s biggest problems. The new support group and mentoring will be beneficial to my studies as an undergraduate.
Which of the Grand Challenges interest you most, and why?
As an Environmental Science major, I am intrigued by the challenges of (1) Managing the Nitrogen Cycle, (2) Providing Clean Water, and (3) Engineering the Tools for Scientific Discovery. The Earth provides finite resources that all organisms (including humans) depend on for survival. Environmental harm as a result of human activity is becoming increasingly destructive and is affecting millions of people and organisms throughout the world. I would like to explore these challenges in an effort to develop solutions that would restore the Earth’s overall health.
What are your plans after graduation?
My dream is to go to graduate school for geology or related geoscience. As humans progress towards a better future there will be additional issues that arise and I would like to be one of the geotechnical scientists/engineers to address those problems. The Earth never ceases to amaze me and having the opportunity to conduct research on it and to seek ways to protect it excites me.


Michael A. LaScola
Major: Biology & Chemical Engineering
GCSP Cohort 3 (2018)
Expected Graduation: 2020

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

The purpose of the Grand challenges Scholars Program is to create a diverse movement of students to address grand challenges. I constantly aim to diversify my background, so I can view the world from multiple perspectives. The programs competencies include perspectives that I have missed in my academic career so far. I would like to get the chance to become fluent in those competencies, while strengthening the ones I am already familiar with.
Which of the Grand Challenges interest you most, and why?
I am most interested in work towards creating better medicines and therapies. The discovery of regulatory mechanisms such as CRISPR and RNAi has opened the door to the generation of revolutionary medicines. I would like to be a part in the manipulation of these mechanisms to help drive their clinical relevance. I have spent a large part of my college career involved in developmental research to lay the foundation of my future work in medicine.
What are your plans after graduation?
After graduation my primary goal is to obtain a PhD or MD-PhD in Biomedical Engineering, and to ultimately lead a diverse team of researchers that tackle the toughest medical challenges.

 


Lucas Bailey McCullum
Major: Mechanical Engineering and Mathematics
Minor or Additional Major: Financial Economics
GCSP Cohort 2 (2017)
Expected Graduation: 2019

McCullum

Why did you decide to join the Grand Challenge Scholars Program?
I decided to join the Grand Challenge Scholars Program because I admired how the program showed a great interest in introducing the biggest issues of our world to a young audience. By introducing young leaders to international issues, a greater sense of achievability and awareness towards these issues can be reached. I also admire the program’s focus on providing mentoring to the students through faculty members who have already gained experience in these major fields of research.
Which of the Grand Challenges interest you most, and why?
The Grand Challenge that interests me the most is “Making Solar Energy Economical” because I believe that it is important for us, as a species, to protect the beautiful planet that we live on. Furthermore, by making solar energy affordable, more people can obtain access to clean alternatives to energy and limit the amount of negative footprint to the environment.
What are your plans after graduation?
After graduation, I plan on obtaining a Fulbright Scholarship to complete a Master’s degree in either Sustainable Energy Technology or Applied Physics at TU Delft in Amsterdam, Netherlands. If I do not obtain the scholarship, I plan to attend graduate school to pursue a Master’s degree in Sustainable Energy Systems. Following graduate school, I plan to work in the sustainable energy sector while allocating time to travel abroad.

 

Samina Musa
Major: Chemical Engineering, Environmental Engineering and Sustainability Track
Certificate: Entrepreneurship
GCSP Cohort 3 (2018)
Expected Graduation: 2020


Why did you decide to join the Grand Challenge Scholars Program?
I want to have a more hands on experience and gain valuable relationships with real people tackling the challenge of helping underdeveloped nations sustainably develop.
Which of the Grand Challenges interest you most, and why?
Making Solar Energy Economical and Providing Access to Clean Water because both of these relate to helping developing countries become more self-sufficient.
What are your plans after graduation?
After graduation, I plan to work with a United States or International agency in underdeveloped nations. I will possibly continue school for my PhD.

 

 


Stephanie Milani
Major: Computer Science and Psychology
Certificate: Honors College
GCSP Cohort 2 (2017)
Expected Graduation: 2018

Milani
Why did you decide to join the Grand Challenge Scholars Program?
I joined GCSP because I wanted the chance to synthesize my experiences I have had and will have as an undergraduate student into a cohesive, overarching direction. Additionally, I was intrigued by the opportunity to work collaboratively on interesting, large, and interdisciplinary challenges that have real-world effects.
Which of the Grand Challenges interest you most, and why?
I am most interested in the Grand Challenge of reverse engineering the brain because I believe that it is crucial to understanding how the brain works. As it stands, current understanding of the brain is severely limited to the role of discretized neurotransmitters and localized areas. Reverse engineering the brain will give us a clear picture of how these individual parts interact to produce the most complex and sophisticated processing organ in the world. Understanding both the parts and the whole will allow for more precise, targeted treatments of issues like addiction, mental illness, brain damage, or brain trauma in addition to paving the way for new technologies and developments in artificial intelligence.
What are your plans after graduation?
After graduation, I plan to pursue a Ph.D. in Computer Science with a focus on machine learning, artificial intelligence, or robotics. More broadly, I hope to contribute to research that makes a difference in people’s lives.

 


Connor Shaffer
Major: Computer Science
GCSP Cohort 1 (2016)
Expected Graduation: 2019

Shaffer

Why did you decide to join the Grand Challenge Scholars Program?
I decided to join the GCSP so I could focus my undergraduate studies on a topic I am interested in, as well as being able to work with those who already have experience in the field. I also felt it would be a valuable experience to work with other students who share similar goals and interests.
Which of the Grand Challenges interest you most, and why?
The “Reverse Engineering the Brain” challenge interests me the most because I find linking brain research to applications in computer science to be quite intriguing. I believe that being able to fully understand how the brain works is crucial to the development of AI and other technologies, and is my primary reason for being interested in this field.
What are your plans after graduation?
Post graduation, I plan to get apply for a graduate program in order to research brain-computer interfaces and how to improve any current designs. From there, I hope to be able to work in a lab or with a university to both continue researching as well as practically applying any findings.

 


Eric Shaner
Major: Chemical Engineering
GCSP Cohort 2 (2017)
Expected Graduation: 2020

Shaner

Why did you decide to join the Grand Challenge Scholars Program?
I decided to join the GCSP because it appeared to be an excellent opportunity to kickstart my career path. Along with the numerous interesting challenges proposed, the program will help me apply my class time to the real world.
Which of the Grand Challenges interest you most, and why?
I’m most interested in the Engineering New Medicines challenge, because there are always new barriers we must break in the medical field to help the world become a better place. Specifically, I’ve always been interested in dementia and how we could find a treatment or even a cure for it.
What are your plans after graduation?
After college I’m not sure exactly what I want to do, but I see numerous possibilities, including completing a Master’s degree and/or working for a company. In the long run, I would be ecstatic to work with medicine or materials.

 

 


Jethro Ssengonzi
Major: Mechanical Engineering
GCSP Cohort 2 (2017)
Expected Graduation: 2020

Ssengonzi
Why did you decide to join the Grand Challenge Scholars Program?
I decided to join the Grand Challenge Scholars Program because I wanted to be exposed to scholars from all walks of life who desire to have a global perspective and impact in their respective fields of study.
Which of the Grand Challenges interest you most, and why?
I have an interest in “Make Solar Energy Economical” because I personally find sustainable energy to be a field that needs to be advanced upon more. I also have interest in the “Restore and Improve Urban Infrastructure” project; the basic foundations of a community, the infrastructure, must always be in check for society to operate well. I view both of these challenges as the ones to have the most societal impact.
What are your plans after graduation?
After graduation, I plan to obtain a terminal degree. I am still currently looking into what I want to specialize in.

 

 


Craille Tallase
Major: Mechanical Engineering
GCSP Cohort 3 (2018)
Expected Graduation: 2020

Why did you decide to join the Grand Challenges Scholars program?
I find the interdisciplinary aspect of the program to be appealing as an opportunity to better understand the “modern world” and how everything relates to one another. As I want to better understand the impact of engineering outside of the classroom and beyond my personal interests, I see the Program as the perfect opportunity to not only explore but also facilitate my interests and goals.

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

I am interested in Advancing Personal Learning and Restore and Improve Urban Infrastructure. I have an interest in making education more accessible, particularly in areas where it is physically hard to access; I believe that every one has potential the flourish regardless of background when given a chance and the support.

What are your plans after graduation?
I am currently favoring working after graduation, but I am also considering graduate school.

 


 

Zachary Voelkel 
Major: Mechanical Engineering
GCSP Cohort 3 (2018)
Expected Graduation: 2020

Why did you decide to join the Grand Challenge Scholars Program?
I joined the Grand Challenges program because I thought that it would be beneficial to join a program that incorporates many major and many personalities. In the real world problems are solved in groups from many departments and there has to be a lot of collaboration between them and I think that the Grand Challenges program is an excellent way to gain experience in that aspect. Additionally, I want to do a study abroad at some point and I believe that the Grand Challenges program is an excellent way to make that wish come true.
Which of the Grand Challenges interest you most, and why?
The two challenges that interest me the most are engineering the tools of scientific discovery and restoring and improving urban infrastructure. In our world today, technology is constantly being advanced and improved. We are finding new tools that help our vehicles run more efficient, our phones last longer, and creating machines that can harness power from the environment. I think that being a part of this change in this category is both invigorating and extremely beneficial because the tools we create now will affect generations to come. Additionally, I chose restoring urban infrastructure because I believe that cities can be an incredible hub of ideas that will help us create these tools and the more we can do catalyze a change in urban infrastructure, the better it will be for us in the future.
What are your plans after graduation?
After graduation, I would love to take a month and a half or two month break so that I can travel to New Zealand and Europe maybe. After that hopefully I will be able to find a job.

 


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

Xie

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.