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LPS Student Awards for 2020

Undergraduate programs

2020 Undergraduate Dean’s Scholar Award

Presented annually to School of Arts and Sciences students who exhibit exceptional academic performance and intellectual promise.

Nathan Coonts

Nathan is an accomplished senior studying political science and history. Nathan has worked with Professor Kathleen M. Brown on several projects, including The Penn & Slavery Project, which researches Penn's historical connections with the institution of slavery, and on the development of an augmented reality historical campus tour app. He has also lectured in Professor Brown's gender studies course. Nathan recently presented his research at a Weitzman School of Design conference, "Investigating Mid-Atlantic Plantations: Slavery, Economies, and Space." Nathan is a member of Penn's Student Veterans Association and was selected to present at the 2020 Student Veterans of America National Conference. After graduation, he plans to pursue a law degree.

Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Fine Arts

Association of Alumnae Continuing Education Award

Awarded annually to the LPS student whose scholarship and personal qualities of leadership are regarded as being the most outstanding.

Kelcey Gibbons

In a short period of time and aided by a mix of luck and hard work, Kelcey completed the GED program at Temple University and the Honors Program at the Community College of Philadelphia. In the summer, Kelcey will graduate with honors from the University of Pennsylvania, where thanks to the help of wonderful resources and faculty, she will have completed a senior research thesis that examines the history of African-American computing communities from 1940-1980. This fall, she will start a new stage of her academic journey in a doctoral program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where her research will continue.

Kelcey considers herself fortunate that her experiences working through challenges, meeting amazing people, and learning what her passion is, have made her the person that she has become. In addition to being a lover of all things technological and historical, Kelcey loves planning events, organizing people, and finding solutions. She is determined not to take her progress for granted, and to make what she has accomplished contribute to something more significant.

Ronald J. Caridi Award

For the student who best exemplifies the uncompromising commitment to scholarship, hard work, and the life which the late Ronald J. Caridi embodied and shared with so many.

Jeffrey Todd Manner

Jeffrey Manner is a senior undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania pursuing a double major in biology and environmental science. He found a passion for rivers and aquatic life while growing up in Michigan and subsequently spent his twenties in the Rocky Mountains. As a non-traditional student, Jeff spent 15 years as a chef before earning an Associate of Science in mathematics and natural science with high honors from Delaware County Community College. During his studies at Penn, he enrolled in courses that allowed him to travel and conduct research across the Swiss and Italian Alps, the East Coast, and the deserts of the American Southwest.

While at Penn, Jeff was heavily involved in research in the fields of biology and geology. He spent two semesters helping to assemble a database of Devonian fish body sizes for Dr. Lauren Sallan. This work was used to publish a paper in Science magazine on vertebrate diversification. He interned for two summers at the Stroud Water Research Center under Dr. Melinda Daniels, studying soils, sediment transport, and the geomorphology of the White Clay Creek. Jeff also conducted his own research through a two-semester independent studies project at Stroud, studying fish movement and population dynamics with Dr. John Jackson. After graduation, Jeff plans to attend graduate school, where he will continue his studies in freshwater ecology.

Linda Bowen Santoro Award

Presented annually by the College of Liberal Professional Studies Alumni Association to a graduating LPS student who displayed unusual motivation and dedication in the pursuit of an undergraduate degree.

Yezta Johnson Wiggins

After graduating from the Community College of Philadelphia with an associate degree in her twenties, Yezta was hired as a full-time employee at Penn. She felt the tuition benefit would afford her time to explore learning for learning's sake. Little did she know, her academic journey would span almost 20 years, one course at a time. There were many twists and turns, both professionally and personally, along the way.

During her journey, she acquired a treasure trove of skills, knowledge, perspectives, and experiences that have enriched each subject area she encountered at Penn. When her professors and classmates would express appreciation for her unique perspective, she felt validated. That validation, along with her academic growth, energized her to continue in her studies despite work demands, caring for ill family members, managing her own health challenges, and suffering the loss of loved ones.

Economic success was not the motivation for her to complete her degree. Yezta feels strongly that developing soft skills, like leadership, integrity, communication, and problem-solving strategies are much more important and sorely needed in today's challenging times. As a forty-something Gen Xer, she is not trying to recapture her youth but is endeavoring to reach a milestone using personal growth as the fuel that will blaze her new trail.

LPS Award for Academic Achievement in the Natural Sciences

In recognition of outstanding academic achievement in science studies and dedication to a career in the sciences.

Mauricio Alvarez

Mauricio hails from Medellín, Colombia, where he lived throughout middle school. He then attended high school in Quito, Ecuador, at Colegio Internacional SEK, where he quickly developed an interest in chemistry and biology and decided he would like to be a medical researcher. After a few semesters studying medicine and microbiology at Universidad de Los Andes in Bogotá, his education came to a halt due to the passing of his father and his move to the US. In the US, he worked as a swim instructor for children in New York City and eventually became a staffing director of the swim school. During that time, Mauricio kept his dream to be a scientist alive. After eight years, he was able to return to school and pursue his Bachelor of Arts at the University of Pennsylvania, majoring in biology with a minor in chemistry.

During his time at Penn, Mauricio became an active member of two research laboratories. He attained authorship in a physical chemistry publication from Dr. Zahra Fakhraai's group and is currently working on multiple projects at the Children's Hospital of Pennsylvania (CHOP) in Dr. Joseph P. Zackular's microbiology group. Mauricio actively volunteers at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP) and was involved in multiple summer internships as part of the REACT program with Penn's School of Engineering and Applied Science, including spending the summer of 2018 working at the research nuclear reactor at the Institut Laue-Langevin (ILL) in Grenoble, France. During his time at Penn, Mauricio was also involved in Penn Club Swim, the Penn Running Club, and the Penn Equestrian Team, and managed to compete in the 2017 XTERRA World Championships in Maui, Hawaii. After graduation, Mauricio will return to the ILL in Grenoble to work for a semester on the effect of bacterial perdeuteration and their characterization using neutron scattering. He plans to pursue a Doctorate of Medicine and of Philosophy upon his return to the US.

Graduate programs

2020 Dean's Scholar Award for Professional Master's Programs

Presented annually to School of Arts and Sciences students who exhibit exceptional academic performance and intellectual promise.

Hope Elizabeth Elliott

Hope is a Master of Science in Applied Geosciences (MSAG) student with an individualized concentration. She is interested in environmental chemistry, marine science, and using analytical techniques to detect environmental contamination and evaluate its potential impacts on human health. While at Penn, Hope worked as a teaching assistant in the Department of Earth & Environmental Science and was selected for the William M. Lapenta National Weather Service Student Internship Program. During her internship, she worked at the National Centers for Environmental Prediction's Climate Prediction Center, analyzing restricted data from the Climate Assessment Database with GIS mapping. Her capstone research at Penn used analytical techniques to detect trace metals in artisanal charcoal samples from Uganda to evaluate the potential for exposure to these metals when charcoal is burned as a domestic fuel source. Next year, Hope will be continuing her education at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (RSMAS) at the University of Miami as a doctoral student in the Ocean Sciences Department.

LPS Distinguished Student Service Award

The LPS Distinguished Student Service Award is given to an individual who, through extraordinary leadership, service, and dedication, has helped to advance the mission of the College of Liberal and Professional Studies and, in particular, the success of its students. 

Eric Ellison

Eric Ellison is a Master of Environmental Studies student with a concentration in environmental biology. He has worked in Dr. Ileana Perez-Rodriguez's lab throughout his time at Penn on "Mapping the Physiological Landscape of Caminibactor Mediatianticus and Thermovibrio Ammonificans During Elemental Sulfur Reduction." Eric is the outgoing President of the Earth & Environmental Science Graduate Advisory Board and Vice President of the Executive Committee for LPS Government (LPSGov). He also served as Director of Operations for LPSGov during his first year at Penn. Eric also volunteered at nature restoration centers as a representative of the University. He hosted new student receptions and spoke at their orientations in order to help them become more aware of the resources available to them. Eric is a member of the University Council, which meets with the President and Vice Provost on a monthly basis to discuss University-wide matters. He also worked with the School of Arts and Sciences to plan and organize the Grad Ben Talks and was the leader of the RainWorks Challenge, which aims to design and implement a sustainable rain garden on campus.

Joo Hyung Park

Joo Hyung Park is a second-year student in the Master of Chemical Sciences program in the biological chemistry concentration. He obtained his Bachelor of Science in chemistry at Denison University and joined the MCS program in August 2018. He is completing a capstone entitled "Modulating the Effects of Y39 Phosphorylation on Vesicle Trafficking and Protein Aggregation" under the mentorship of Professor E. James Petersson in the Department of Chemistry. Joo Hyung serves as Chair of the International Affairs Committee of the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly, and as Graduate Vice-Chair of the International Student Advisory Board. His motivation to be an active member of these associations is to reduce barriers to cultural and social integration for international students in the Penn community. He successfully implemented a systematic plan that targets increased communication among stakeholders, expanding opportunities to international students, and identifying external sources to further expand the impact to the target community. He is planning to pursue a doctorate in biological chemistry after graduation.

Penn Global Student Citizenship Award Finalist

The Penn Global Student Citizenship Award is presented to a graduating international student who has best exemplified a spirit of global citizenship during his or her time at Penn.

Joo Hyung Park

Joo Hyung Park is a second-year student in the Master of Chemical Sciences program in the biological chemistry concentration. He obtained his Bachelor of Science in chemistry at Denison University and joined the MCS program in August 2018. He is completing a capstone entitled "Modulating the Effects of Y39 Phosphorylation on Vesicle Trafficking and Protein Aggregation" under the mentorship of Professor E. James Petersson in the Department of Chemistry. Joo Hyung serves as Chair of the International Affairs Committee of the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly, and as Graduate Vice-Chair of the International Student Advisory Board. His motivation to be an active member of these associations is to reduce barriers to cultural and social integration for international students in the Penn community. He successfully implemented a systematic plan that targets increased communication among stakeholders, expanding opportunities to international students, and identifying external sources to further expand the impact to the target community. He is planning to pursue a doctorate in biological chemistry after graduation.

Master of Environmental Studies/Master of Science in Applied Geosciences

Earth and Environmental Science Excellence in Environmental Studies Award

Awarded to a graduating MES student who has not only contributed to the field of environmental studies but has also helped the MES program and/or EES department in a significant way.

Hayley Jane McCurdy

Hayley is a Master of Environmental Studies student with an individualized concentration focusing on environmental sustainability and energy management. She is also pursuing a Certificate in Energy Management and Policy from the Kleinman Center for Energy Policy. Hayley is passionate about supporting high-impact innovation that accelerates the transition to a low-carbon future. As a summer associate at the venture capital fund Energy Impact Partners (EIP), Hayley worked on quantifying the fund-level impact of EIP's portfolio companies through carbon accounting. She was a co-author of EIP's 2018 Environmental Metrics Report and enjoyed the opportunity to showcase the potential for innovation to create valuable environmental change. At Penn, Hayley was awarded a grant to intern for the Philadelphia Energy Authority, where she helped support Solarize Philly, a city-wide group-buying model seeking to democratize access to residential solar. This experience convinced her that policy and financial innovation are the key catalysts for positive, equitable change in the energy industry. She is currently the Communications Coordinator for the Wharton-led Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership, where she supports events and corporate partnerships. Hayley's capstone project assesses the shifting nature of investors as environmental, social, and governance (ESG) considerations grow in importance for risk mitigation and profit maximization. Aside from academics, Hayley sits on the board of the Wharton Energy Club and served as a co-chair for the 2019 Wharton Energy Conference. She is also a founding member of Climate Leaders @ Penn, a growing environmental group for graduate students seeking to solve climate change in their respective professional domains. Hayley was a scholarship recipient from the Philadelphia Society of Women Environmental Professionals and was recognized as an emerging environmental leader.

Earth and Environmental Science Excellence in Applied Geosciences Award

Awarded to a graduating MSAG student who has not only contributed to the field of Applied Geosciences but has also helped the MSAG program and/or EES department in a significant way.

Denise Pereira

Denise Pereira is a Master of Science in Applied Geosciences student with a concentration in environmental geology. She has over seven years of experience in environmental consulting in India in site assessment and environmental monitoring and is passionate about working in the field of environmental remediation. Toward this end, her capstone focused on a comparison of existing legal frameworks in India and the United States for establishing liability for contaminated sites. With a nascent system for environmental remediation in India, her aim was to see how India could address potential gaps in the administration of contaminated land management, given the United States' 30-plus years of experience in this area.

Within the broader Penn community, Denise was co-president for the newly formed student chapter of the American Water Works Association. She worked closely with the Water Center at Penn to create awareness about local and global water issues by hosting discussions and events and through social media.

Frederick N. Scatena Award for Excellence in Research

This award is given each year to an undergraduate or graduate student in EES who has done significant research in one of Dr. Scatena's fields of study.

Chloe E.M. Cerwinka

Chloe Cerwinka received her Master of Environmental Studies with a concentration in environmental biology in the fall. She is the Landscape Planner at Penn, where she has been spearheading efforts to make the urban campus more sustainable through improved landscape design and management methods since 2012. She integrates ecological considerations into University planning and programming, while engaging the Penn community, for 100 acres of open space. For her capstone, "Birds as Ecological Indicators at the University of Pennsylvania," Chloe collected and analyzed two years of baseline bird population data. Situated along a major bird migration route, Penn provides important stop-over habitat for migrating birds and foraging and nesting habitat for resident birds. Birds are ubiquitous, intricately connected to habitat, and sensitive to environmental changes, and their presence can indicate ecosystem function. Enhancing bird-friendly design guidelines and improving campus habitat and management strategies could have a broad impact on landscape connectivity and bird species richness.

Master of Science in Organizational Dynamics

Paul J. Korshin Award for Academic Excellence

This award is named for the late Penn professor and internationally known British literature scholar who taught in Organizational Dynamics for many years. It is annually awarded to a Master of Science graduating student who has shown outstanding scholastic achievement in coursework.

Katherine Lang Granger 

Kathy Granger is a lifelong passionate learner. After gaining experience in the corporate training industry with several consulting firms, Kathy joined the Fort Hill Company and rose to become its president in 2014. When a change in company ownership occurred in 2018, Kathy joined the Organizational Consulting and Executive Coaching cohort in Organizational Dynamics.

Throughout her time in the Organizational Dynamics program, Kathy has brought empathy, curiosity, and enthusiasm as well as intellectual excellence to her studies and in her work with coaching and consulting clients. In her classwork, Kathy always asks the questions to which other students want to know the answers and translates academic concepts to practical applications. She participates in teams with analytic competence and crisp leadership. And for this, we present Katherine Lang Granger with the Paul J. Korshin Award for Academic Excellence.

Atif Iqbal

Atif Iqbal's life approach is inspired by the aphorism, "character is destiny." His work over the last 20 years, with top-tier global organizations in banking and consulting, informs his current interests in organizational change, employee engagement, and leadership development. Atif served on the Prime Minister of Pakistan's committee to revive "sick" industries, and contributed to many complex banking transactions for Citibank in New York.

Atif holds a Master of Business Administration with academic honors from Wharton and is busy building an executive coaching practice while finishing his Master of Philosophy in Organizational Consulting and Executive Coaching.

Atif's contributions in his Organizational Dynamics classwork often highlight the differences between international cultures as well as the unseen connections between diverging theoretical constructs. A precise and sophisticated communicator, Atif's in-class participation brings keenly insightful contributions to every discussion.

Faculty Award for Outstanding Academic Achievement in the Organizational Dynamics Program

This award is presented to a graduating student who has completed the best capstone project upon the recommendation of the Organizational Dynamics faculty.

Ann-Marie A. Behringer

Ann Behringer's capstone, entitled "Practical Uses of Mindfulness During Organizational Change," is a well-researched contribution to the literature on mindfulness and organizational change. Her mixed-methods study, which included 15 in-depth qualitative interviews and survey responses from 74 participants, probed the relationship between mindful practices and organizational members' ability to cope well with organizational change. Ann Behringer's thorough review of the literature on mindfulness and organizational change and her design of a customized survey are exemplary. Her findings demonstrate that mindfulness practices such as mediation and other mindful interventions could be extremely beneficial in helping individuals and leaders cope with organizational change. Ann Behringer's scholarship, thoroughness, and insight make her contribution especially important for understanding how organizational members and leaders can cope with the anxiety and disruption often caused by organizational change efforts. Her capstone excels in all the elements that the Organizational Dynamics program values: scholarship, practical understanding and application, and recommendation for advancing the field of organizational development. Ann Behringer truly deserves the title of scholar-practitioner, and for this, we award Ann-Marie Behringer the Faculty Award for Outstanding Academic Achievement in the Organizational Dynamics Program.

Lois Ginsberg Prize for Community Service

This award is named for Lois Ginsberg, community development leader and former Associate Director of Organizational Dynamics. It is presented annually to a graduating student who has demonstrated outstanding leadership and significantly contributed to the Organizational Dynamics community.

Lacinda M. Benjamin

In any time, a sense of community is essential to humanity. During uncertain times like now, community is more important than ever, and our community-makers are more essential than ever. Throughout her time in the Organizational Dynamics program, Lacinda Benjamin has been an essential community-maker for her fellow participants, for the faculty, and for our alums.

Lacinda has served as Executive Chairperson of the Organizational Dynamics Advisory Council, the program's student governing board. During that time, she worked closely with the program staff to create events that supported the intellectual and professional development of her fellow participants. She was instrumental to the inception of LPS Government (LPSGov) and served as our program representative to LPSGov.

The Dynamics and LPS communities are stronger today because of Lacinda's commitment to them both. It is for this commitment and dedication to our student communities that we award Lacinda M. Benjamin the Lois Ginsberg Prize for Community Service.

Master of Applied Positive Psychology

Christopher Peterson Fellowship Award

This award is named for Christopher Peterson, a leading researcher in positive psychology and a founding instructor in the MAPP program who taught in word and deed that “other people matter.” It is presented annually to a MAPP student in recognition of service to others, academic merit, economic need and personal or professional diversity.

Celeste Elizabeth Caton

Celeste Caton is the 2019 recipient of the Christopher Peterson Memorial Fellowship, a scholarship that recognizes service to others. Shortly after college, Celeste worked at a migrant shelter in Tijuana, Mexico, for women and children who had been deported from the United States, or who had come to the border to seek refuge in the US. There, she noticed the transformative effect of a clinician who focused on grit, resilience, and hope among the refugees, leading Celeste to begin exploring positive psychology, and the Master of Applied Positive Psychology program. Today, Celeste has placed well-being at the center of her life's work. Celeste continues to work with refugee resettlement and immigration services at the Mexico/US border. She focuses on well-being for all, taking a strengths-based approach with the humans facing crisis, and building resilience and preventing burnout among staff who serve them.

Master of Chemical Sciences

Master of Chemical Sciences Capstone Award

The MCS Capstone Awards annually recognize the capstone conducted during the completion of the MCS program that significantly adds to the body of knowledge on their concentration.

Hung-Ching Chen

Hung-Ching Chen obtained his Bachelor of Science in chemistry from National Tsing-Hua University, Taiwan, in 2017. After working for six months at a chemical company, he joined the MCS program in 2018. He completed the capstone entitled "Optimization of the Synthesis of BNM-III-170 bis-TFA Salt" under the mentorship of Professor Amos B. Smith, III, in the Department of Chemistry. He developed an effective "process synthesis" of a potential inhibitor of HIV-I viral infection and obtained multi-gram quantities (45 grams) in high yield. Hung-Ching was accepted into the Department of Chemistry's doctoral program, which he will begin in fall 2020.

Changfeng Deng

Changfeng Deng obtained his Bachelor of Science in chemistry from Sichuan University, China, in 2018. He completed the capstone entitled "Synthesis and Photochemical Studies of Two pHP Derived Photocages" under the mentorship of Professor David Chenoweth in the Department of Chemistry. This project laid the groundwork for a new area of research in Chenoweth's lab. He developed a synthetic pathway of a new class of p-hydroxyphenacyl (pHP) photocages that represent a new set of chemical tools for controlling live cell protein localization. Changfeng was accepted into the Department of Chemistry's doctoral program, which he will begin in fall 2020.

Jing Zhi Lo

Jing Zhi Lo obtained his Bachelor of Science in biochemistry and molecular biology and a minor in microbiology from the Pennsylvania State University in 2013. After working as an Associate Researcher at Mount Sinai, he joined the MCS program in 2018. He completed the capstone entitled "Formation of Nanoparticles for the Oral Delivery of Small Molecules by Flash Nanoprecipitation (FNP)" under the mentorship of Professor Robert Prud'homme at Princeton University. This study provided insight into nanoparticle formation from a small molecule drug through the FNP process. Jing Zhi is pursuing a career as a medicinal chemist in the pharmaceutical industry.

Devendra Maurya 

Devendra Maurya obtained a Bachelor of Technology in surface coating technology from the Institute of Chemical Technology, India, in 2017. He completed the capstone project entitled "Can Mixed Ligand and Catalytic Solvent Effects Transform Single Electron Transfer Living Radical Polymerization (SET-LRP) Into a Commercializable Process?" under the mentorship of Professor Virgil Percec in the Department of Chemistry. He expanded the concept of mixed ligand effect to other metal catalyzed polymerization, identified conditions that are more cost-effective, and expanded the library of solvents that can be used with TREN. Devendra plans to pursue a doctorate in organic or polymer chemistry after graduation.