Class of 2013: U.Va. Graduates Are Awash with Research Awards, Scholarships

Joe Riley headshot

U.Va. student Joe Riley

UPDATED, May 16, 1:45 p.m., to clarify that Justin Mutter won a Rhodes Scholarship in 2005.

CORRECTED, May 17, 8:10 a.m., to delete one student in the 'Double Hoo Research Award section who is not graduating this year.

UPDATED, Aug. 13, 11:25 a.m., to add section on Ben Bissell as winner of the Luce Award.

Not every University of Virginia graduating class can boast a Rhodes Scholar among its ranks.

Joseph Riley, however, is just the tip of a very large iceberg. His fellow members of the Class of 2013 ­– including Justin Mutter, a School of Medicine graduate who also won a Rhodes Scholarship in 2005 – have earned numerous research awards, scholarships and other academic distinctions.

Collectively, the class has earned 39 Harrison Undergraduate Research Awards; eight Undergraduate Awards for Arts Projects, eight Double ’Hoo Research Awards, four critical language scholarships, two Beckman Scholarships; at least six Fulbright Scholarships; Rhodes, Truman, Goldwater, Udall and Marshall scholarships; a Stull Research Award; a Finger Family research Award; and a Boren Scholarship.

Approximately 60 percent of undergraduates engage in some form of research, encouraged by the student-run Undergraduate Research Network, the College Science Scholars Program in the College of Arts & Sciences and a wide variety of assistance and funding sources in the different schools and departments.

Here’s the rundown.

• Joseph Riley Receives Rhodes, Truman Scholarships

Riley, a Mandarin Chinese and politics honors major in the College of Arts & Sciences and a cadet in U.S. Army ROTC program, received both a 2013 Rhodes Scholarship and a 2012 Truman Scholarship.

The Rhodes Scholarship, valued at between $50,000 to $175,000, will fully fund two or three years of study at the University of Oxford in England. Riley is the University’s 48th Rhodes winner.

The Truman Scholarship provides up to $30,000 per year for graduate study.

Riley, 22, plans to complete a master’s degree and a doctorate in international relations at Oxford and pursue a career as an infantry officer.

“It has honestly been one of the most exciting, yet humbling, experiences of my life,” Riley said. “I realize I have been given a great opportunity, and I am resolved to make the most of it. I remind myself of Luke 12:48: ‘To him whom much is given, much is required.’ I have been tremendously blessed.”

Riley’s research focuses on U.S.-China relations. He received top-secret clearance at the National Ground Intelligence Center to analyze the Chinese army’s capabilities and ambitions, and is co-writing a book with Dale Copeland, an associate professor and director of undergraduate studies in U.Va.’s Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics.

The Etowah, Tenn., native was a Lawn resident, a Jefferson Scholar, an Echols Scholar and Coca-Cola National Scholar. He received the Vanderesee Award, given to the student who “best represents the scholarly spirit of the Echols Scholars”; two National Security Education Program’s Global Officer Critical Language Grants; and a U.S. Senate Youth Program Scholarship.

Riley is a graduate research team leader for Gerard Alexander, an associate professor of politics, and led a 10-member team analyzing insurgent behaviors. He has done field research in China and was a panelist at an international conference, “The Eagle and the Dragon in Africa,” hosted by Virginia Military Institute’s Marshall Institute for Leadership and Ethics. He was also a presenter at the Global Initiatives Symposium in Taipei, Taiwan, addressing implications for developing nations of China’s growing dependency on foreign oil.

Riley, a battalion commander in Army ROTC, is ranked as one of the top 10 cadets in the nation. He was ranked No. 1 in his class for the 101st Airborne Division Air Assault School, is a member of the Ranger Challenge Team, and recipient of the Gold and Medallion Physical Fitness Awards and the Distinguished Military Graduate award given to highest-ranking cadets.

He also received the Scholar-Soldier-Statesman Award given in memory of Capt. Humayun Khan, a U.Va. Army ROTC graduate who was killed in Iraq. He was a seminar coordinator for Integrating Minorities into the Military.

Riley is the founder of Operation Flag the Lawn, which raised money for Wounded Warrior Fund, and a founding member and president of the U.Va. Chapter of the Alexander Hamilton Society, a national organization dedicated to fostering foreign policy debates on college campuses; he represented U.Va. in the society’s first national meeting at Princeton. He represented the College on the Student Council and was a support officer for the Honor Committee. He was also a site leader for Alternative Spring Break.

He is a member of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity, trained horses for the National Racking Horse Association Juvenile World Championship and has worked as a motivational speaker.

He also is credited with having helped save two lives in his first year at U.Va. – a woman who was choking in a restaurant where he happened to be dining, and a teaching assistant who collapsed in class. Riley performed the Heimlich maneuver on the woman and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on the TA until EMTs arrived.

• Hillary Hurd Named Marshall Scholar

Hillary Hurd, a Russian and East European studies and politics honors double major in the College, was named a 2013 Marshall Scholar by the Marshall Aid Commemoration Commission.

Hurd, 22, will pursue a master’s degree in international relations at Cambridge University and peace and conflict studies at the University of St. Andrews in Fife, Scotland.

The scholarship funds two years of study at any university in the United Kingdom, and is valued at $35,000 a year.

“To live and breathe in one of the world’s oldest, most revered universities is such a dream,” Hurd said. “I cherish being a student, and I’m relieved to know that I’ll have at least two, and possibly more, years to refine my understanding of international law and politics and to learn from a new family of Marshall Scholars.”

The Richmond resident was a nonvoting student representative to the U.Va. Board of Visitors and editor-in-chief of the Wilson Journal of International Affairs. A Jefferson Scholar and an Echols Scholar, she was also lead fellow of the Public Service Fellows, a group of Jefferson Scholars responsible for fostering civic engagement around Grounds through seminars, lectures and initiatives.

She was a member of the University Judiciary Committee; founder of the “Breakfast Club,” a twice-monthly roundtable discussion of short fiction with professors and students at The Fralin Museum of Art at the University of Virginia; and an organizer of the Charlottesville Refugee Dinner, a fundraiser to raise awareness of refugees at the University and in the surrounding community. 

A Lawn resident, Hurd is also a member of the Raven Society and was an Alternative Spring Break site leader.

• Cadet Aimee Moores Receives Marshall, Pallas Athene Awards

U.S. Army Cadet Maj. Aimee Moores, 22, of the Army ROTC Program, received the 2013 Gen. George C. Marshall Award for the Cavalier Battalion and one of this year’s two Pallas Athene Awards from the Women’s Army Corps Veterans’ Association, given annually to the nation’s top female Army ROTC cadets.

Moores, of Gaithersburg, Md., is a pre-med mathematics major in the College, as well as the battalion executive officer in her ROTC program.

She plans to be a doctor, following in the steps of her parents, who are both physicians and U.S. Army colonels. She has been accepted to the F. Edward Hebert School of Medicine of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.

“It boils down the love of working with people, the fascination with the subject material, most importantly, the fact that I’ve seen the ins and outs of the medical world through watching my parents and understand just how rewarding the profession can be,” she said.

Moores has been highly successful as a cadet, having ranked fourth in the Order of Merit List, which ranks all 5,579 Army cadets in ROTC program across the country.

She participated in the Ranger Challenge during her first two years of ROTC, which entailed being a part of a nine-member team that competed in various military skills against about 40 other schools on the East Coast.

“Outside of ROTC, my main commitment is with U.Va.’s Triathlon team, which I joined during my second year,” she said. “I also play violin and viola and I have participated in several of the chamber groups here and in a couple quartet gigs on Grounds and in the Charlottesville area.”

• David Wu Receives Goldwater Scholarship

David Wu, a double major in biology and cognitive science, with a concentration in philosophy, in the College, received a $7,500 research scholarship from the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation for 2012 for his work researching Cdt2, a protein that degrades other proteins involved in cell cycle regulation and genetic stability.  

Wu is an Echols Scholar, a College Science Scholar and a member of the Raven Society. He received a College Science Scholar Summer Research Award, an InGrassia Echols Scholar Research Grant, a College Council Research Grant, Intermediate Honors, a Harrison Undergraduate Research Award and a Small College Research Grant.

He is senior editor of The Oculus: The Virginia Journal of Undergraduate Research, workshops committee chair and a member of the research advising program for the Undergraduate Research Network, a Madison House student volunteer, a member of the Chinese Student Association and served as a “peer teacher” for an introductory biology course. He is a graduate of the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology In Fairfax County.

Wu plans to pursue a Ph.D. and a medical degree, blending medical training with science research.

Ben Bissell Wins Luce Award

Ben Bissell, 21, of Fairfax Station, graduating with a double major in politics honors and Russian language and literature in the College, received a 2013 Luce Foundation Scholarship. He will be able to work in Asia for a year with the Luce Award.

The scholarship program provides stipends, language training and professional placement in Asia for 15 to 18 American students who have had limited experience of Asia and who might not otherwise have an opportunity in the normal course of their careers to know and understand Asia. Bissell was selected from 168 applicants for this year’s scholarships.

Bissell researched demography for his thesis in politics, which focuses on ethnic re-identification in the former Soviet bloc following the collapse of the U.S.S.R., and how it impacts Russian strategic depth in the region. While in Asia, he hopes to continue his work in demographic public policy. “This scholarship will allow me to fulfill a lifelong dream of traveling to Asia and intensively learning a language and culture, while affording me an unparalleled chance to experience how demography can unite with other disciplines to inform and guide public policy,” he said.

Bissell was an Echols Scholar, a Lawn resident and a Truman Scholarship finalist. He received Intermediate Honors, was named to the Dean’s List every semester and is a member of the Raven Society.

Conversant in Arabic, Hebrew, Russian and French, he was an English-language teaching assistant for 14 international graduate students and a delegation of 35 visiting Chinese professors from Nanjing, China. He was also a teaching assistant for English as a Second Language with Volunteers with International Students and Scholars and Staff Program. He was a student teacher of “Introduction to Political Demography” in the Cavalier Education Program; student coordinator of a Jewish Alternative Spring Break trip to Kiev, Ukraine; an executive board member of U.Va. Hillel; and culture chairman of the Shea House. He received a $30,000 Boren Scholarship, which allowed him to study at Smolny College in St. Petersburg, Russia, in the summer of 2011.

He received a U.S. State Department Critical Language Scholarship in 2012, which allowed him to study Russian in Vladimir, Russia, and he is an alumni ambassador for the program. He attended an intensive summer program to learn Arabic at Middlebury College in Vermont during the summer of 2010 and is informally taking seminar classes at U.Va.’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service this semester. He created the blog “The Face of Things,” where he writes about demographic issues.

A graduate of James W. Robinson Jr. Secondary School in Fairfax, he plans to pursue a graduate degree in demography.

• Rowan Sprague Receives Fulbright, Udall Scholarships

Rowan Sprague, a civil and environmental engineering major in the School of Engineering and Applied Science, received a 2012 Udall Scholarship and a 2013 Fulbright Scholarship.

Sprague, 22, of Richmond, also received a 2012 Harrison Undergraduate Research Award to explore ways of trapping small hive beetles, which have been destroying beehives. She plans to use her Fulbright Research Grant to study ecological engineering with a professor in New Zealand to research ways to manipulate agricultural systems to benefit honeybee populations. 

Sprague was an intern and leader with the Morven Kitchen Garden Project, a one-acre educational plot for studying sustainable agriculture techniques and food systems. She established a community-supported agriculture program for students and faculty members. She is a sustainable food intern at the International Residence College, responsible for organizing, advertising and running community-building events aimed at raising awareness for local food and supporting local food systems.

She is the academic achievement chair of the U.Va. Chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers, a steering committee member of the U.Va. Food Collaborative and a volunteer English-language tutor.

• Five Other Grads in Fulbright Scholarships

At least five other graduates have received Fulbright scholarships.

Liz Lagerfeld, 22, of McLeanan economics distinguished major and Spanish major in the College, will use her Fulbright for an English teaching assistantship in Mexico.

An Echols Scholar, she has received the Duncan Clark Hyde Award for Academic Achievement in Economics, and the T. Braxton Woody Award for distinguished scholarship in Spanish language and culture. She has been on the Dean’s list, and received Intermediate Honors. She a co-founded the Portuguese Club and was president of U.Va. Kiva Microfinance and a volunteer teaching assistant for the Madison House English as a Second Language Program. She is a graduate of Fairfax County’s Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology.

Kelvin Chan, 21, of Brooklyn, N.Y., a double major in chemistry, with specialization in biochemistry in the distinguished majors program with highest distinction and American Chemical Society certification; and economics, with concentration in public policy, will use his Fulbright fellowship to study neuronal migration disorders at the Research Institute of Molecular Pathology in Vienna, Austria.

He is an Echols Scholar and has received Intermediate Honors, a David A. Harrison III Undergraduate Research Award, the Robert G. Bryant Award for Excellence in Chemistry, a DuPont Scholarship, Alanen-Tyska Scholarship, Ingrasia Family Research Grant and the Kenneth C. Bass Research Scholarship. He was on the dean’s list, a member of Phi Beta Kappa, chair of the Undergraduate Research Network and a member of the American Chemical Society and the Society for Neuroscience. He will pursue a medical scientist training program when he returns from Vienna.

Hans Verkerke, 23, of Charlottesville, a biology major in the College, will use his Fulbright to travel to Bangladesh to study host factors in a disease called amebiasis.

Verkerke was a finalist in the 2012 Presidential Poster Competition and he co-wrote three primary journal articles, and was first author on a review article. A graduate of
Western Albemarle High School in Crozet, he plans to attend medical school.

Emily Rebecca Morrison, 22, of Austin, Texas, a Middle Eastern languages and literatures major, with a concentration in Persian, in the College, will use her Fulbright to study efforts to create a national identity in post-Soviet Union Tajikistan. She said her Fulbright experience will deepen her knowledge of the history and culture of Central Asia, as well as increase her language skills in both Tajik and Farsi.

Morrisson has been a resident adviser in Brown Residential College, faculty liaison in Brown Residential College and received a U.S. Army ROTC scholarship. She has already studied in Tajikistan for a term through the Eurasian Regional Languages Program. A graduate of the Regents School of Austin, she will be commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army and begin her service in military intelligence following her Fulbright year.

John Joseph Vater, 22, of Oklahoma City, a modern studies in English and South Asian area studies major in the College, will use his Fulbright to study in India.

He is a recipient of Intermediate Honors, the Critical Language Scholarship for 2012 Advanced Urdu Summer Language Study and a Harrison Undergraduate Research Award. He is a member of the Write Club and the European Society, and was editor-in-chief of 3.7 Magazine. He lived at the Shea House on the Hindi/Urdu floor.

• Thomas Howard, Owen Gallogly Claim Kenan Award  

Richmond residents Thomas Howard, 22, a history major in the College, and Owen Gallogly, 21, a government and history double major in the College, shared a Kenan research award to write a history of the Jefferson Literary and Debating Society, the oldest student organization the University and the second-oldest Greek letter organization in North America.

Their research was funded by the William R. Kenan Jr. Endowment Fund of the Academical Village, which awards summer grants supporting students who conduct research projects that increase public understanding of the original precinct of the University designed by Thomas Jefferson.

“The Jefferson Society has produced many notable alumni such as President Woodrow Wilson and author Edgar Allan Poe, but it has never had a comprehensive history written about it,” Gallogly said. “Such organizations are increasingly rare on college campuses and we feel they play a critical role in the development of new student leaders. We want to preserve the history of the oldest of these organizations for future generations to both enjoy and learn from.”

Howard is a founding member of the University Historical Society and a member of Jefferson Society. He is editor-in-chief of the Academical Heritage Review, U.Va.’s undergraduate history research journal; secretary of the College of Arts & Sciences Council; and a history distinguished major. He is also a member of the Organization of American Historians, Virginia Historical Society and Preservation Virginia. Howard also received a Finger Family Research Award to research North Carolina’s ratification of the U.S. Constitution.

Gallogly is an Echols Scholar, senior counsel for the University Honor Committee and a member of the Jefferson Society, the University Historical Society, the Academical Heritage Review and second- and third-year class councils. His long-range plans include law school.

• Eight Graduates Earn ‘Double ’Hoo’ Research Grants

Eight graduates received “Double ’Hoo” research awards, which fund pairings of undergraduate and graduate students who collaborate on research projects. Each project is awarded up to $5,000 toward research expenses.

  • Jennifer Tomlinson, 22, of Gainesville, Fla., a chemistry major specializing in biochemistry in the College, researched medicinal chemistry to developing antibiotics for combating infectious diseases.
  • Colette Gnade, 22, of Waukee, Iowa, a chemistry major specializing in biochemistry in the College, researched the structural and functional properties of proteins driving the dysregulating of cells that lead to cancer, specifically leukemogenesis.
  • Alexandra Fletcher-Jones, 22, of Lexington, Mass., a neuroscience major in the College, researched the effect of exercise on the hypothalamus, the central regulator of energy balance in the brain, specifically with respect to Urocortin 3, a peptide found in the hypothalamus.
  • Taylor Murtishaw, 22, of Westfield, N.J., an art history and anthropology major, researched terra cotta figurines, pottery and funerary practices in ancient Thebes in present-day Greece.
  • Lauren Wilson, 21, of Virginia Beach, a biology major, researched the process by which a species splits and become two new species, leading to greater biodiversity.
  • Fei Song, 22, of Changchun, China, a mathematics and economics major, researched individual decision-making in group environments where the individual’s welfare is tied to both the group outcome as well as his/her own decision.
  • Edward Smith, 22, of Hampton, a politics honors major, researched polarization in contemporary political journalism and how it affects public opinion and political behavior. 
  • Katherine Estep, 22, of Charlottesville, a biomedical engineering major, researched new mathematical methods for analyzing genome-scale models of metabolism and regulation, using models to predict drug targets in infectious disease.

• Eight Claim Arts Grants

Among the graduates there are eight recipients of Undergraduate Awards for Arts Projects, which support creative expression, such as filmmaking, writing and dance. Modeled on the University’s successful Harrison Undergraduate Research Awards, the arts awards give the students up to $3,000 for projects that expand their expression and showcase artistic accomplishments.

  • Anna Hogg, 22, of Hampton, whose interdisciplinary major combines studio art, drama and creative writing into a study of the art of filmmaking, used her award for a film project.
  • George Gleixner, 22, of Roanoke, a music major with a media studies minor in the College, completed a project involving electronic music composition.
  • Alexa Vasiliadis, 22, of Great Falls, an English and studio art (with a concentration in painting) double major in the College, created a series of paintings at the Mountain Lake Biology Station.
  • Monika Criman, 22, of Fairfax, a nursing major, assembled a book of reflections of the School of Nursing’s Class of 2013.
  • Ali Stoner, 22, of Charlottesville, a drama and arts administration double major in the College, explored dance history.
  • Victoria Kornick, 21, of Alexandria, a poetry writing and modern studies major in the College’s English department, pursued a project on the poet James Wright.
  • Mitchell Oliver, 21, of Winchester, a studio art major with a concentration in photography and economics major with a concentration in public policy in the College, pursued a photography project.
  • Gracie Terzian, 22, of Oakton, a drama major in the College, studied the art of aerial acrobatics performed while hanging from a suspended fabric with a 2011 arts award. She has also been named an Atlantic Coast Conference International Academic Collaborative Fellow in Creativity and Innovation.

• Michael Harte Claims Boren Scholarship

Michael Harte, 26, of Abingdon, a foreign affairs and Middle Eastern studies major in the College, received a $20,000 Boren Scholarship in 2012 to study Arabic at American University in Cairo, Egypt.

Boren Scholarships are funded by the National Security Education Program, which focuses on geographic areas (including Africa, Asia, central and eastern Europe, Eurasia, Latin America and the Middle East), languages and fields of study deemed critical to U.S. national security.

Harte is a combat veteran of the U.S. Marines who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. He spent a semester studying Arabic at the University of Mary Washington before joining the Marines.

Harte’s service gave him an opportunity to converse with native speakers in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he learned about the language and the people.

When he returned from the war, he took courses at Piedmont Virginia Community College and then transferred to U.Va. He said his military experience influenced his choice of majors. 

• Two Graduates Earn Davis Projects for Peace Funds

Two graduates will use a $10,000 Davis Projects for Peace award to help educate poor and oppressed women in Tanzania.

Lacey Williams, 21, of Columbus, Ga., and Carolyn Pelnik, 22, of Richmond, are both graduates of the Engineering School, with Williams focusing on biomedical engineering and Pelnik on engineering science and public policy. Pelnik is also a first-year student in the accelerated Master of Public Policy program in the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy.

Their project works in partnership with the Jifundishe Free Library in Ngongongare, Tanzania, and Global Grassroots, a nongovernmental organization founded by Gretchen Steidle Wallace, a 1996 foreign affairs graduate of the College. Their plan is designed to increase women’s empowerment through agricultural and business education and microlending.

Williams and Pelnik are Jefferson Scholars, Rodman Scholars and participants in the Jefferson Public Citizens program. Williams is a member of Tau Beta Pi engineering society and the Raven Society as well as a Lawn resident. Pelnik received a 2011 Harrison Undergraduate Research Award.

Williams is a graduate of Columbus High School and plans to become a doctor, specializing in public health. Pelnik, a graduate of Henrico High School, plans to complete a graduate degree in public policy before pursuing a career in natural resource management.

• Four Study Abroad with Critical Language Scholarships

Four members of the Class of 2013 studied language overseas with Critical Language Scholarships from the U.S. State Department.

They spent seven to 10 weeks in intensive language institutes and in cultural immersion in countries where these languages are spoken.

  • Ben Bissell, 22, of Fairfax Station, is a politics honors and Russian language and literature major in the College. He studied advanced Russian in Vladimir, Russia.
  • Caroline Gonya, 22, of Baltimore, Md., an interdisciplinary major in the College, studied advanced Hindi in Jaipur, India.
  • Anna Lewis, 22, of Norfolk, a foreign affairs and Middle Eastern studies major with a minor in French in the College, studied advanced Arabic.
  • John Joseph Vater, 22, of Oklahoma City, a modern studies in English and South Asian studies major in the College, researched how Dalits, the lowest caste in India, use Hindi literature to inculcate Dalit solidarity and challenge upper-caste Hindu hegemonic narratives in the mass media.

• Kelsey Murrell and Allison Kramer Named Beckman Scholars

The 2012-13 Beckman Scholars are Kelsey Murrell, mentored by Richard Price, an associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, and graduate co-mentor Josh Meisner, a graduate student in the School of Medicine; and Allison Kramer, mentored by Dr. William Guilford, an associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering.

Murrell’s research seeks to determine the role of the signaling enzyme focal adhesion kinase in macrophages – agents of the immune system that play a critical role in the expansion of existing blood vessels when blood flow through normal circulatory channels is blocked. Her work could lead to better understanding and treatment of peripheral artery disease.

Kramer is working to develop new laboratory methods to isolate functioning molecular motors from miniscule samples of neural tissue. She ultimately hopes to determine whether defective transport systems in nerve cells are the root cause of Lou Gehrig’s disease.

• McBride Wins Stull Family Research Award

Isaac McBride, 22, a third-year classics and history major in the College, focusing on archaic and early classical Greece, with a minor in religious studies, researched the origins of Spartan society by comparing its institutions with ones that seem similar in central Crete. His research grant of up to $3,000 is underwritten by the Stull family of Dallas.

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