Our Students, Their Stories

Below we highlight just a few of the hundreds of students we support each year at the CCRF!


Emily Chen, AB Chemistry, 2020; 2022 Arley D. Cathey Fellow

On her appreciation of the Arley D. Cathey Fellowship: “I feel very lucky and humbled to be part of the first class of Cathey Fellows,” said Chen. “I owe so much to professors who gave me a chance to work in their lab, and I am also grateful to friends who supported me and with whom I shared so many wonderful memories at the College. To have an opportunity to study abroad and explore my intellectual interests is an incredible privilege, and one that I intend on cherishing.” Read the full article here.

Amala Karri, AB Political Science, MA International Relations, 2023; 2023 Arley D. Cathey Fellow

About her passion for building cross-country and cross-cultural relationships: “I love immersing myself in different cultures, interacting with people in different countries, and learning about their experiences and perspectives,” said Karri. “Cathey was especially appealing to me because it offered me the opportunity to continue studying and learning about the issues in which I’m most interested in an academic setting.” Read the full article here.

Nivedina Sarma, AB Chemistry, 2020; current NSF Fellow and PhD candidate at Berkeley

About her undergraduate research at UChicago: “Month to month, I realize that I used to feel so uncertain about doing certain procedures, and now I can come in and do them on the weekend by myself. You have a really tangible way of measuring how much you’re learning.” Read the full article here.

Kameel Khabaz, AB Biological Sciences, 2022; 2022 Goldwater Scholar

About his passion for research: "My enduring vision of changing people’s lives drives my lasting commitment to scientific research and its pursuit,” said Khabaz. “Rapidly bouncing between my American and Syrian identities has taught me how to connect different thoughts, people and ideas to create something new." Read the full story here.

Ellen Purdy, AB Chemistry, 2019; Gates-Cambridge Scholar; current PhD candidate Chemistry, Cambridge

About her research in art conservation: “I’m fascinated by what scientific analysis can tell us about works of art and how it can be used to preserve these works for future generations. Conservation work is not often emphasized in exhibitions, but without it, the art we see would look a lot different and much of it would not exist.” Read the full article here.

Kirk Lancaster, AB Chemistry and Law, Letters & Society, 2018; 2021 Knight-Hennessy Scholar, JD candidate, Stanford

On his language training as a Boren Scholar: “I was both inspired by the personal connections I made in China, and assured in my commitment that the United States has a unique capacity to be a force for good in the world,” he said. “After returning from China, I was fortunate enough to complete an internship at the State Department’s Office of Chemical and Biological Weapons Affairs, which solidified these notions.”

Donna Son, AB French Language & Literature, Political Science, 2023; 2023 Arley D. Cathey Fellow

On her experience at the University of Chicago: “My time in the College was fundamental to shaping how I think about the world and imagine my place in it,” said Son. “It provided me the resources to further my intellectual pursuits, and I am grateful to the College for having afforded me such an opportunity.” Read the full article here.

Madeline Ouimet, AB Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, 2022; 2020-21 College Research Fellow; 2021 Beinecke Scholar

About her archaeological research: “I hope to use sensory archaeology to change our understanding of the archaeological past broadly, moving the field toward greater representation of diverse forms of agency, including that of non-elites and the use of sensory experience as an instrument of social change.” Read the full story here.

Wilson Turner, Molecular Engineering 2023; 2022 Goldwater Scholar

About his work with CCRF: “This award serves as a confidence booster to me that the work I'm doing is actually worthwhile,” Turner said. “But I would never be able to dedicate so much time and effort to research if it was purely on a volunteer basis. I am so lucky to have been supported by CCRF through their funding programs. This scholarship will only help make things a little easier on myself and my family.” Read the full story here.

Alexandra Masegian, AB Astrophysics, 2023; 2021 Goldwater Scholar

On how Goldwater Scholarship will support her astrophysics career: “The Goldwater Scholars community is a veritable wealth of information about everything from fellowship and graduate school applications to navigating postdoctoral positions and academic conferences.” “I plan to take full advantage of those resources as my career in astrophysics unfolds.” Read the full story here.

Chloe Duval, AB Political Science and Public Policy, 2023; Boren Scholarship, Russian language and Eastern European studies in Latvia

On the long-term effects of utilizing critical thinking and flexibility during the application process: "Fellowship applications are hard, but definitely not impossible. You need to be prepared to do a lot of soul-searching about yourself, your capabilities, your goals, and your passions. I believe, through the process of applying to fellowships, you gain the opportunity to think more critically about your time in university and what motivates you. This has been really helpful in re-centering myself and realizing that not every path needs to be linear in order to be fulfilling," said Duval. "For example, I have re-evaluated my career goals and passions in the process of writing, editing, submitting, and choosing to accept a Boren Scholarship. After writing my thesis and speaking with my mentors, I've now opened my mind to the possibility of continuing my research and education in Russian and Eastern European Studies after my time abroad."

Ozan Beran Akturan, AB Biological Sciences, 2020; 2019 Schwarzman Scholar

On how cultural exchange has shaped him as a leader: “Interacting with people from very different backgrounds has been transformational since it pushed me to ask challenging questions about myself: What are my values, and how do I make peace with my identity and still be able to function and find happiness in different cultures?” Read the full story here.

Vivek Ramakrishnan, AB Public Policy Studies, 2020; 2019 Truman Scholar

On his plans to improve the child welfare system through data: “I think there is a future where data can be used to genuinely connect people with services who need it the most, and who are currently disconnected from support,” said Ramakrishnan. “I really want to be part of this defining moment to make sure the field moves in the right direction.” Read the full story here.

Joseph Guter, Molecular Engineering 2023; 2022 Goldwater Scholar

On his work as a research assistant: “I have been challenged to take on an ambitious and advanced research project but have also been given the training and support I need to do so with confidence,” Guter said. “Both socially and academically, I feel at home there, and my experiences have only made me more excited for life as a graduate student and researcher.” Read the full story here

Lucas Tse, AB Fundamentals, 2018; 2017 Rhodes Scholar

Tse credits UChicago scholars with guiding him “through philosophical and religious texts across traditions and helping me work toward an understanding of the core problems.” Read the full story here.

Nicholas Posegay, MA/BA Near Eastern Language/Civ, Religious Studies, & Middle Eastern Studies, 2017 ; 2017 Gates-Cambridge Scholar

On his research: “Educating others about the Middle East, with an emphasis on linguistic and religious diversity, is the best way for me to contribute to broadening perceptions about multiculturalism in the region.” Read the full story here.

Emerson Ahn, Political Science, 2023; Boren Scholarship - Indonesian Flagship Language Initiative

On collaborating with campus partners and fellowship advisors: "I first learned about the College Center for Research and Fellowships (CCRF) when I started the Fulbright application process. I worked closely with a CCRF advisor on my Fulbright essays, and she recommended I consider the Boren Scholarship, which more closely aligned with my academic and career interests in foreign language and national security. CCRF provides an excellent timeline for Boren and Fulbright applicants, which allows you to balance application writing with your coursework," said Ahn. "Stay disciplined and don't be too hard on yourself! Your interest in an award demonstrates your competence and qualification for the award. However, the application process is about translating interests so they are suitable for readers, and it does not detract from what you've accomplished so far."

Samuel Boland, AB Public Policy with Human Rights minor, 2016; 2016 Marshall Scholar and 2015 Truman Scholar

On what drives his work: “There is a camaraderie that exists among those who have decided to put themselves at some risk to do work like this,” Boland said. “I saw colleagues who, in the midst of tragedy, were able to mitigate and alleviate a huge amount of suffering. I don’t know how I could go through such an experience and not decide that this is the right thing to do.” Read the full story here.

Adele Malle

Adele Malle, AB Political Science, 2022; 2022 James. C Gaither Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

About her decision to apply for the James C. Gaither Junior Fellowship Program: “Participating and listening to in-person dialogue and seeing how it can be used to drive effective policy decisions is what drew me initially to Carnegie, a think tank that emphasizes peaceful conflict resolution.” Read the full story here.

Noelani Bernal, AB Global Studies, Romance Languages & Literatures, 2021; 2021-2022 Fulbright Grantee, Brazil, English Teaching Assistant Award

On her Fulbright application experience: “The benefit of starting so early is being able to do the application very thoroughly. I always felt like someone was guiding me through the application process," added Bernal. “I realized how rigorous [CCRF advisors] are, not just with Fulbright but other grants as well. They definitely know what you need to put in your application. That information isn't as available or accessible at other institutions. So that was really eye opening for me when I got to Brazil and met other Fulbright scholars.”

Stephanie Reitzig, AB History, 2022; CRASSH & Smart Scholar

About her undergraduate research experience at UChicago: “I really believe in the importance of bringing scholarly humanities research to the general public in an engaging and relevant way.” Read the full article here.

Lily Dube, AB English Literature, 2015; Rhodes Scholar 2016, Oxford

About her plans as a Rhodes Scholar: Dube would eventually like to pursue doctoral studies in education, enabling her to one day teach literature, education and writing at the university level. “I would love to mentor well-rounded African academics who have the potential to produce regionally and globally impactful scholarship,” she said, “especially among traditionally underrepresented groups.” Read the full story here.

Eyshe Beirich, AB Jewish & Germanic Studies 2023; 2022 Beinecke Scholar

On his passion for Yiddish studies: "Like many people my age who come to Yiddish, it began as a way to try and connect to a family language and as a way of identifying where I came from—it developed into my biggest passion and is now the locus that my life revolves around,” said Beirich. “Over the last two years, Yiddish has become my most central companion, hobby and relief." Read the full story here.

Caroline Longo, Art History and Chemistry, 2021; Undergraduate Research Associate at the SMART Museum of Art

On art conservation as an interdisciplinary field: “Conservation is so much more than conducting treatments. A great deal of interdisciplinary research goes into determining the best treatment or exhibition plans for a work of art. My conservation research with the Smart has given me key skills needed to think critically about questions in the conservation field and has been a crucial stepping stone in my career.” Read the full story here.

Shree Mehrotra, AB Environmental Science, 2020; 2019 Boren Scholar, 2022 Arley D. Cathey Fellow

On her research experience at UChicago: “My time at UChicago shaped my critical thinking and research skills as well as my perspective on the world,” she said. “I had a number of supportive professors and mentors who encouraged me to explore my interests and continue to served as a great resource.” Read the full article here.

Salma Elkhaoudi, AB Political Science; 2021 Knight-Hennessy Scholar, PhD candidate in Anthropology, Stanford

On her human rights experiences at UChicago: “These internships gave me unparalleled insight into the various perspectives and lived situations of marginalized people around the world, something that pulled me out of the ivory tower and into situations where degrees are irrelevant.” Read the full story here.

Emily Beltran, AB Biological Sciences, 2017; 2020 NIH Oxford-Cambridge Scholar; doctoral candidate, Oxford

About how her research experiences at UChicago inspired her to apply for NIH OxCam:  “I wasn’t just working in the lab doing assays. I was actually at a very early stage, as an undergrad, really driving my own experiments.” Read the full story here.

Justin Tabin, AB Biology and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, 2022; 2021 Goldwater Scholar

On his research interests: “A book I really love is The Study of Instinct by Nikolaas Tinbergen, which is all about animal behavior,” Tabin said. “I want to study behavior and how it evolved genetically. It's such a fascinating subject and there's so much we don't know yet." Read the full story here.

Kristen Busch, AB Economics & AM International Relations, 2021; 2020 Truman Scholar

About her commitment to disability justice: “I am challenged daily to rethink my notions of ableism and my part in making a more accessible world,” said Busch, who first began working with people with disabilities as a tutor in middle school. “While my role has evolved over the years, my belief in an equitable future remains strong, and I plan to devote my career to creating access and equality through public service.” Read the full story here.

Nicole Arellano, Creative Writing, Biological Sciences 2022; National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow

On embracing the learning curve that is fellowship application: "I've learned how important failure is. I've learned how to write, rewrite, and revise clearly and concisely. Students should take breaks, learn to be okay with accepting critical feedback, and try new things," said Arellano. "I took inspiration from my PI, Shannon Elf! Her ambition, tenacity, and compassion translates not only to her research but her mentorship style. She's inspired me to pursue a PhD in Cancer Biology. Many current cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy, are very toxic and greatly diminish quality of life. I hope to perform research that identifies new drug targets to inform development of more tolerable therapies."

Clare Singer, AB Physics and Mathematics, 2018; 2017 Goldwater Scholar

On her research: “I am looking to work in a scientific community that also has political connections,” Singer said. “I sense the urgency in my field and want to position myself such that my research can have the largest, fastest impact on policy reform regarding climate change and carbon emissions.” Read the full story here.

Gaurav Kalwani, AB South Asian Languages and Civilizations & Public Policy, 2019; 2019 James. C Gaither Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

On his plans as a James C. Gaither Fellow: “I believe exposure to the field of nuclear policy will help me more specifically define my path toward my eventual goal of leading the United States’ diplomatic efforts in nonproliferation and arms control.” Read the full story here.

Erin Simpson, AB Public Policy, 2015; 2014 Truman Scholar and 2016 Marshall Scholar

On using social science to understand the Internet: “Now, more than ever, we need to take a more critical approach to the ways that technology is influencing our civic life,” said Simpson, who plans to pursue a career in public service. “Social inequities are being replicated and amplified through our consumer technology, and our civic institutions need greater capacity to combat that trend.” Read the full story here.

Everett Black, Visual Arts, 2021; CRASSH Scholar

On studying the interaction of artistic expression and chemistry in the ceramics process: “Unlike painting or more traditional sculpture, there is little indication of what the product will look like from its beginnings, there is more alchemy to it. Like baking, you mix your ingredients and put it in the 'oven' hoping that it comes out, and only through repetition can knowledge of the materials be acquired. This provides rich questions around the role of expression in ceramics.” Read the full story here.

Defne Buyukyazgan, Statistics and Psychology, 2022; CRASSH Scholar

On how her research has prepared her for her future: “I was thinking about doing graduate work in cognitive or computational neuroscience, so getting to work in a lab led by a cognitive neuroscientist has exposed me to methods and the literature that revolves around my newly found interests.” Read the full story here.

Ricky Holder, AB Public Policy Studies 2023; 2023 Marshall Scholar, 2023 Hugo F. Sonnenschein Medal of Excellence

On his dedication to reshaping the child welfare system: “It is a cruel irony that low-income families are disintegrated in the name of child welfare, yet this welfare is so rarely achieved. Rather than destroying low-income families, the child welfare system should strengthen them, and I am determined to make this happen," said Holder. “I hope to construct the system I so desperately needed as a child while building a model of child welfare worthy of emulation.” Read the full story here.

Kenatu Habetaslassa, AB Global Studies and Public Policy, 2024; 2022-2023 Gilman Scholar, South Korea

On overcoming self-doubt in order to produce sincere and powerful applications: "Apply. Apply. Apply. I can assure you that I doubted my ability to get this funding and to make these experiences a reality. Put in your bid, and you may be surprised with the outcome. Truly reflect and try to get across why you need this opportunity in your essays by showing that you are more than deserving, even when you may have doubts," said Habetaslassa. "I hope to help other students from backgrounds like mine see that studying abroad is possible, and that there are resources to make it happen. I also personally hope to foster greater language and cultural exchange with this opportunity."

Joe Joseph, AB Economics, 2017; Two-time Fulbright Scholar to Madrid, Spain, 2018 and 2019

About his Fulbright experience in Spain: “You're intentionally removing yourself from support systems and roots that you have built over many years to commit yourself to something foreign and unknown. The beauty of isolation is the opportunity to get to know yourself better and to spend intentional time on introspection…Living abroad forced me to confront the realities of what I want and what I’m capable of [achieving].” Read the full article here.

Isabelle Russo, AB Political Science, 2023; 2023 Arley D. Cathey Fellow

About her passion for developing climate friendly transportation solutions for communities of all sizes: “After my U.K. graduate work, I know that with my expertise, as well the relationships I will develop with Cambridge scholars, policy experts, and transportation leaders, I can be a bridge between the two nations in pursuing this critical work,” said Russo. “In the end, I hope to play a role in helping the U.S. and U.K. partner with other nations on the road to an accessible, efficient and climate-resilient future.” Read the full article here.

Ade Ayoola, AB Biological Sciences, 2019; Current Knight-Henessy Scholar, MD and MPP Candidate, Stanford

About her global health research in Nigeria: “Being in Nigeria affirmed my desire to make a change that positively affects our global community,” said Ayoola. “I saw that to truly improve health as a physician, I had to understand current barriers to receiving quality health care, how to create effective health policies and how to implement them with a focus on what’s best for the community.” Read the full story here

Pradnya Narkhede, AB Chemistry, 2018; 2017 Goldwater Scholar; 2017 Marshall Scholar, MSt Edinburgh; Doctoral candidate, Cambridge

About her committment to science and research: “In examining and engineering plant, microbial and other living systems, I hope to advance the prospects for food and energy security as well as human health by developing more stress-tolerant crops, robust sources of renewable biofuels and living factories for life-saving medicines.” Read the full story here.

Joe Henry, Psychology, 2021; Undergraduate Researcher

On what inspires him to pursue research: “When a researcher asks a question, they are attempting to unravel a mystery. When that mystery has to do with why we think and behave the way we do, it feels to me like you are poking at the very questions of our existence. It is quite invigorating to consider a job that is aimed at answering these larger questions.” Read the full story here.


Devshi Mehrotra, AB/AM Computer Science, 2019; 2018 Schwarzman Scholar 

On her time at UChicago: “The activities I have taken part in over the course of my undergraduate experience have affirmed to me that I would like to dedicate my life toward finding ways technology can be leveraged as a means to equalize opportunity for those who are most underserved in society and work towards social justice along racial and socioeconomic lines.” Read the full story here.

Alexandra Nisenoff, Creative Writing, Computer Science and Astrophysics 2021; National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow

On the importance of establishing an academic support system: "Writing these applications was a wonderful opportunity to step back and reflect on my research, how it fit into my overall goals, and the impact it could have on the world. It was also an opportunity to practice clearly and concisely explaining my work to people who come from a variety of backgrounds while appreciating how much I had accomplished during my time at UChicago," said Nisenoff. "I was incredibly fortunate to have several research advisors who uplifted me throughout my undergraduate experience. With their support, I learned so much about research and myself, and I wouldn't have thought that I was qualified to apply without their encouragement."

Meera Santhanam, AB Political Science, 2021; 2021 Critical Language Scholar, 2022 Arley D. Cathey Fellow, CRASSH Scholar

On her goals as a Cathey Fellow: “I hope to address the systemic racism that causes people of color to be disproportionately incarcerated and allows police and correctional officer misconduct to persist,” said Santhanam. “Specifically, I want to begin my career in direct services and ultimately engage in policy work and impact litigation to challenge the racism and class-based discrimination that persist across carceral systems.” Read the full article here.

Claudia Yao, AB Mathematics, 2022; 2021 Goldwater Scholar

About her passion for visualization: “In topology, visualization is an important tool that helps provide the mathematical argument with intuition and transparency,” she said. “There is almost always a connection between the proof and ‘the picture.’ I love visualizing things and find this interaction between pictures and proofs beautiful and natural.” Read the full story here.

Bernadette Miao, Chemistry, Biological Chemistry 2023; 2022 Goldwater Scholar

On her future research: “As a scientist, I will see disease as a challenge but, as a physician, I will view disease as a journey in which I hope to accompany and compassionately serve my patients,” she said. “I envision conducting basic science research by investigating disease at the molecular level but also more translatable research focused on developing therapeutics for diseases.” Read the full story here.

Rodrigo Estrada, AB Economics & AM International Relations, 2021; 2020 Truman Scholar

About his commitment to serving border communities: “At a time when border communities like mine are increasingly misunderstood and demonized, I seek to redefine the public’s perception of the border by elevating the region’s uniquely binational, bicultural and bilingual assets.” Read the full story here.

Austin Christhilf, Political Science and Economics, 2021; CRASSH Scholar

On his political science research project as part of CRASSH: “The project I am broadly involved in is building a dataset of declassified Presidential Daily Briefs from the 60s and 70s, including extracting text and coding features and topics within each brief. My personal project with this data involves looking at the emotive characteristics of these intelligence briefings to find how these vary temporally and across states, regions and events.” Read the full story here.

Sarah Nakasone, AB Global Studies, 2019; 2018 Marshall Scholar

On her plans as a Marshall Scholar: “The Marshall Scholarship allows me to return to the U.K. as they lead one of the most exciting moments in HIV prevention in decades,” said Nakasone. “I was lucky enough to build connections with activist groups this summer, especially at a moment when they are concerned about bringing women in the U.K. into the HIV movement, and now I will have the time and funding to learn more from them.” Read the full story here.

Soreti Teshome, AB Public Policy & Comparitive Race and Ethnic Studies, 2018; 2017 Truman Scholar

On how her research serves the public: “In Chicago, there are legal resources to help people navigate the expungement process. My work has involved trying to identify why these resources are underutilized and how they can become more accessible to the people who need them.” Read the full story here.

Seth Musser, AB Physics and Mathematics, 2017; 2017 Churchill Scholar

On his plans as  Churchill Scholar: “The opportunity to study at Cambridge is an unparalleled chance for me to spend an entire year solely focused on learning theory,” said Musser, who plans eventually to pursue a doctoral degree in theoretical physics. “The mathematics program is known for being exceptionally rigorous and for presenting things in elegant ways that emphasize symmetries. It will provide me a firm base on which to build future research.” Read the full story here.