Graduates Garner an Array of Scholarships and Research Awards

May 19, 2010 — The University of Virginia's Class of 2010 include winners of two Udall Scholarships, a Gates Scholarship, a Luce Foundation Scholarship, a Truman Scholarship, a Goldwater Scholarship; a recipient of the Davis Prize for Peace; and at least four Fulbright Scholars. Five students have received University Awards for Undergraduate Arts Projects, and there are eight Double 'Hoo research award-winners and 38 Harrison Undergraduate Research Award winners.

Among the graduates, five students have received seven prestigious national scholarships, demonstrating their commitment to academic excellence. But they have also contributed to their communities in various ways, such as leading Alternative Spring Break trips, working with local community groups and leading a Girl Scout troop.

Michelle Henry

Michelle Henry received both a 2010 Luce Foundation Scholarship and 2008 Udall Scholarship.

Henry, graduating with a bachelor of science degree in environmental sciences, will work in Bangkok, Thailand, for the Appropriate Technology Association, a non-profit organization conducting research and development and promoting novel, appropriate technology for a rural society. Henry's work there will be financed by the Luce award. She also received a Harrison Undergraduate Research Award.

The Media, Pa., resident has done research in South Africa, where she studied the effects of climate variability on diet, and in Nicaragua, where she studied economic development in foreign countries.

"She's one of the smartest people I have ever known," said McIntire School of Commerce professor Brad Brown, who led the Nicaragua trip. "I got to know her quite well while in Nicaragua, and after all the advice she has given me, I think of her more as a colleague than a student."

Henry's studies and research have focused on bio-energy, such as ethanol and dual-fuel coal and wood boilers.

A Jefferson Scholar and an Echols Scholar, Henry was also president of the Class of 2010 Trustees, chair of the Student Council's environmental sustainability committee and banquet chair for the Raven Society. An Alternative Spring Break site leader, she led a community service trip to Thailand and another to Philadelphia. She is also a Girl Scout troop leader at Venable Elementary School.

Will Jacobs

Will Jacobs, graduating with a bachelor of science in engineering science, received a 2010 Gates Scholarship, as well as a 2009 Goldwater Scholarship.

Jacobs, of Fredericksburg, has conducted research focusing on computer modeling of molecular motors, which convert chemical energy to mechanical energy. He will use the $140,000 Gates Scholarship to pursue a Ph.D. in chemistry at Cambridge.

Jacobs applied a 2009 Harrison Undergraduate Research Award and his Goldwater Scholarship toward a computational investigation of hypersonic impact on carbon nanotube-reinforced polymer composite materials. Sponsored by NASA, this research formed the foundation of his theses for both his engineering science and physics degrees.

"Will is clearly brilliant," said Robert Kelly, a professor of materials science in the School of Engineering and Applied Science for whom Jacobs had been a research assistant for 2½ years. "He is one of the top two undergraduates I have known in 20 years here. But he is very humble and he doesn't toot his own horn."

Jacobs, a Lawn resident, is a Jefferson and Rodman scholar, a member of the Raven Society and played piano in the University's Jazz Ensemble. He participated in two research groups: the Computational Materials Group and the Center for Electrochemical Science and Engineering. He was also a manager for the Charlottesville Community Bikes program, a non-profit bicycle shop that works with the Virginia Organizing Project to promote environmentally responsible transportation, recycle bicycles and make cycling accessible in the community.

Thushara Gunda

Thushara Gunda, a 2009 Udall Scholarship winner, is graduating with a bachelor of science in environmental science (Distinguished Majors program) and environmental thought and practice, with a minor in dance. She used her scholarship to support her research in hydrogeological sciences.

"U.Va. has never had a student like Thushara," said professor Janet Herman, director of the Distinguished Majors Program in the Department of Environmental Sciences. "She is unequaled in her ability to understand the science. She gets it – all of it. She so easily goes beyond what she is being taught because she sees the complexity in diverse topics."

Gunda, of Alexandria, has also received a Harrison Undergraduate Research grant, which she used to study the effect of the distribution of mercury within the Shenandoah National Park. Gunda developed an interest in the environmental sciences during her first semester at U.Va. because it seemed the perfect blend of hard science with direct implications for the surrounding world, she said.

After graduation, she will explore career options and wants to be enrolled in a graduate environmental program within two years.

Gunda was the chapter coordinator for the Hindu Students Council and a member of the Arts & Sciences Council.

Todd Gerarden

Todd Gerarden, who is graduating with a bachelor of science in mechanical engineering focusing on environmental policy, received a 2009 Truman Scholarship.

Given by the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation, the $30,000 award goes to college juniors who exhibit exceptional leadership potential and who are committed to careers in government, the nonprofit or advocacy sectors, education or elsewhere in public service. The scholarship provides financial support for graduate study and leadership training for students committed to public service.

Gerarden, of Arlington, focused his research on environmental policy. This summer, he will work at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy on energy and environmental issues. In the fall, he plans to work with a Washington think tank that performs economic analysis of energy and environmental policy.

He was a member of the Engineering School's 2008 Science and Technology Policy Internship Program, through which he worked for the Federation of American Scientists. While there, he wrote a white paper on "Rebuilding Mortgages for Energy Efficiency," examining the Energy Efficient Mortgage pilot program launched in 1992; and another on "Residential Energy Retrofits: An Untapped Resource Right at Home."

"Todd Gerarden exemplifies U.Va. students at their best," said Edmund Russell III, an associate professor in the Department of Science, Technology and Society and director of the Science and Technology Policy Internship Program. "He is smart, self-motivated, committed to excellence and public-spirited. In class, he stood out for his superb ability to analyze complex problems, reach insightful conclusions and communicate his ideas."

Gerarden was a Lawn resident and was inducted to the Raven Society and Tau Beta Pi, the national engineering honor society. He has been a group leader with Alternative Spring Break, a resident adviser and a member of Green Grounds and Charlottesville Community Bikes.

Before enrolling at U.Va., Gerarden spent 10 months  as a volunteer with AmeriCorps' National Civilian Community Corps, where he worked on projects involving housing, disaster relief, education and conservation. While in AmeriCorps, Gerarden received wild land fire training and during the summer of 2007, worked as a firefighter at the Zion National Park in Utah. The same year, Gerarden also completed a 4,200-mile trek from Oregon to Virginia on his bicycle.

"I spent the vast majority of this time alone on the back roads of our nation," he said. "This trip gave me new perspectives on my country and tested my physical ability, but its solitary nature also proved a daily mental challenge as I thought of friends far away."

Courtney Mallow

Courtney Mallow, who will receive a bachelor of arts degree in economics with a second major in environmental thought and practice, received the Davis Projects for Peace prize with Evelyn Hall, a human biology major who graduated last year. They used the $10,000 prize to finance a project to empower women in Bluefields, Nicaragua.

Mallow had already been to Nicaragua for a 2008 January Term course and also on a project financed with a "Double 'Hoo" research grant. Mallow and Hall built their project on Mallow's earlier research.

Mallow, of Raleigh, N.C., plans to pursue a master's degree in public affairs, focusing on gender issues in international development.

"Courtney Mallow is one of the brightest and most enthusiastic students I have ever met," said McIntire's Brown, who worked with Mallow on a January Term course. "Her desire to apply everything she learns to supporting her passions makes her an ideal student: inquisitive, grateful for the opportunity to learn more and apply her knowledge, and relentless in her quest to figure out how the world works and how she can make it a better place in which to live."

Mallow was co-chair of the Arts & Enrichment Committee of the University Programs Council, lab manager of the Vecon Experimental Economics Lab, chair of the Student Entrepreneurs for Economic Development (SEED) events committee, team leader of the SEED Bluefields project and a 2008 trip leader for Alternative Spring Break. She was a member of the Student Council Environmental Sustainability Committee and the Alpha Kappa Psi Professional Business Fraternity.

— By Matt Kelly