2022-2023 Award Recipients - University of Houston
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  • Gabrielle Kostecki

    2022 Amgen Scholar

    Gabrielle Kostecki is a sophomore mathematical biology major in the Honors College. Under the mentorship of Drs. Colin Haile and Therese Kosten, she has helped research the development of an effective anti-fentanyl vaccine that prevents relapse and opioid overdose, as well as a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine against new variants. This helped shape her goal to become a researcher that helps millions impacted globally by Neglected Tropical Diseases. Through the Amgen Scholars Program, Gabrielle looks forward to conducting translational infectious disease research at UT Southwestern. She plans on applying to the Goldwater Scholarship and US Fulbright Program in the future, before pursuing a PhD in Immunology.

  • Heather Butina-Sutton

    Heather Butina-Sutton

    2022 Critical Language Scholarship

    Heather Butina-Sutton holds a Bachelor of Science in cultural anthropology and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in history under the mentorship of Professor Philip A. Howard. Her research interests include the cultural and socio-economic history of Black women in the Atlantic World, gender studies, and public history. In 2021, her work received an honorable mention from the BWSA for best graduate student paper in Black Women’s Studies. This summer, Heather will be studying Portuguese in Brazil through the Critical Language Scholarship Program, where she is excited to strengthen her language skills and connect with others who share her enthusiasm for cultural exchange. As a mother of three and a mature student, she hopes that her work is an inspiration to other non-traditional students at the University of Houston.

  • Ola Dafaalla

    Ola Dafaalla

    2022 Sumners At-Large Scholarship 

    Ola Dafaalla is a junior in the Honors College double-majoring in Political Science and Sociology. She has pursued her passion for politics and community engagement through volunteering for campaigns, working for a political PAC, and interning at the Houston Mayor's Office. She was selected as a Sumners Scholar in May 2022 by the Sumners Foundation and is a recipient of their At-Large Scholarship. She looks forward to spending the next two years attending workshops and events through the foundation and engaging in bipartisan dialogue with other Sumners Scholars and former elected officials.

  • Peijun Zhao

    Peijun Zhao

    2022 Critical Language Scholarship

    Peijun Zhao is a junior Biology major, minoring in Spanish, Chinese, and Medicine & Society. Over the past three years, she has served in the Bonner Leaders Program where she has taught SAT curriculum to high school students and empowers them to pursue higher education. As a Project Head, Zhao evaluated her program's effectiveness and wrote proposals to increase project retention and growth despite the detrimental impacts of COVID-19. Furthermore, Zhao has studied Atoh1 gene expression regarding mucinous colorectal cancer in the BCM SMART Program, where she developed an understanding of how laboratory research and clinical practice are deeply intertwined. During her CLS program, she hopes to improve her Chinese and someday become a trilingual medical practition

  • Ariel Durham

    Ariel Durham

    2022-2023 Fulbright U.S. Student Program
    South KoreaEnglish Teaching Assistant

    Ariel Durham is a graduating senior history major with minors in phronesis and education. Her interest and experience with education began in the Bonner Leaders Program with a project formerly known as Lobo Prep. She has participated in various research programs with OURMA including PURS, SURF, and the Mellon Research Scholars regarding education, history, and civic virtue. After completing her Fulbright, Ariel will attend law school at the University of Houston’s Law Center.

  • Anushka Oak

    Anushka Oak

    2022-2023 Fulbright U.S. Student Program

    Anushka Oak is a graduating senior in the Honors College majoring with dual degrees in Biology and Spanish. She has been involved in cognitive neuroscience research throughout her undergraduate career. As a recipient of the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship and Provost’s Undergraduate Research Scholarship, she was able to study dual-tasking and support vector machine learning with Dr. Ben Tamber-Rosenau. She simultaneously worked as a research assistant at the Neural Basis of Bilingualism Lab under Dr. Arturo Hernandez. With the Fulbright research grant, Anushka will work as a predoctoral researcher at the Basque Center on Cognition, Brain and Language in Spain to focus on structural and functional neuroimaging in order to better understand language, memory, and aging. Following the Fulbright Program, she will be continuing to graduate school to obtain a PhD in neuroscience.

  • Amanda Pascali

    Amanda Pascali

    2022-2023 Fulbright U.S. Student Program

    Amanda Pascali graduated from the University of Houston in 2020 with a Bachelor of Science in Geology and a minor in Italian Studies. In addition to being a Texas board-certified Geologist in Training who has conducted fieldwork in the Arctic, the deserts of California and West Texas, and on a marine expedition in the South Atlantic, she is an internationally acclaimed bilingual singer/songwriter and Houston Chronicle’s 2021 “Musician of the Year”. In the fall of 2022, Pascali will embark on a nine-month Fulbright Fellowship to conduct ethnomusicology research in collaboration with the University of Messina in Italy. Pascali will translate the songs of Rosa Balistreri, a key female figure in Sicilian music, to be sung in English. In the process, she will travel throughout Sicily, documenting the perspectives of women and working-class individuals on class issues, imprisonment, organized crime, immigration, and gender roles; some of the fundamental themes in the songs sung by Rosa Balistreri. This project aims to preserve the words and meanings sung in Sicilian, deemed an endangered language by UNESCO, on an international scale as they continue to be relevant into the future.

  • Hai Pham

    Hai Pham

    2022-2023 Fulbright U.S. Student Program
    Taiwan, English Teaching Assistant

    Hai Pham is graduating summa cum laude with a degree in psychology. He has spent his time at the University of Houston as a mentor in the NSM Student Leadership program and a teaching facilitator in biochemistry at the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. Beyond his passion in teaching, Hai is involved in community service and scientific research.

  • Phillip Pham

    Phillip Pham

    2022-2023 Fulbright U.S. Student Program
    Taiwan, English Teaching Assistant

    Phillip Pham is graduating with a degree in biology. After several semesters as a teaching facilitator in physics at the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, he is particularly excited to extend his classroom to students in Taiwan as an English Teaching Assistant. During his eleven months abroad, he aims to exchange language and culture, all the while sharing his passion in STEM. Outside of the classroom, he has engaged in research, entrepreneurship, and scientific writing.

  • Urvi Sakhuja

    Urvi Sakhuja

    2022-2023 Fulbright U.S. Student Program
    Czech Republic, English Teaching Assistant

    Urvi Sakhuja graduated from the University of Houston Honors College in May 2021 with a Bachelor's in Biology and minors in Psychology and Medicine & Society. Throughout her undergraduate career, she has been involved in several community service activities, including the UH Bonner Austin Test Prep. Through this high school mentoring program, she discovered her love for teaching and desire to tackle educational disparities. Urvi is also a senior research assistant at the University of Houston's Cognitive Development Lab where she works with bilingual and neuro-divergent children. As an ETA in the Czech Republic, she hopes to learn more about the role of multilingualism in education and cultivate her leadership and cultural communication skills. Following the Fulbright program, Urvi will be attending medical school to pursue her goal of becoming a physician.

  • Morgan Thomas

    Morgan Thomas

    2022-2023 Fulbright U.S. Student Program
    Ghana, English Teaching Assistant

    Morgan Thomas is a graduating senior in the Honors College with a Bachelor of Arts in History and a minor in Education. During her undergraduate career, she participated in the Mellon Research Scholars, FrameWorks, and Honors Thesis programs. In 2021, she received the Irene Guenther Award for Excellence in Historical Research for her 1963 Birmingham Children’s Crusade study, which epitomized her interests in African American history, public history, and oral history methodologies. Outside of her research, Thomas developed a passion for teaching by student-teaching in Katy Independent School District, serving as the Children and Education Co-Chair for the Metropolitan Volunteer Program, and teaching English as a second language to Ukrainian students through the ENGin Volunteer Program. During the 2022-2023 academic year, Thomas will work as an English Teaching Assistant in Ghana. Drawn to the Sub-Saharan region through her interest in African American history, Thomas hopes to bring her Fulbright experience back to the classroom as a social studies teacher.

  • Sandra Tzul

    Sandra Tzul

    2022-2023 Fulbright U.S. Student Program
    Mexico, English Teaching Assistant

    Sandra Tzul is a graduating senior in the Honors College at the University of Houston majoring in history with a minor in energy and sustainability. As a first-generation Guatemalan American, she discovered her passion for teaching underserved communities and conducting oral histories of communities often overlooked. Her experience as a Summer Teaching Fellow at Breakthrough Houston opened her eyes to the discrepancies in resources for students. It was then that Sandra realized she wanted to be a middle school teacher. Sandra's passion for oral histories solidified when she conducted her summer research project with the help of the Mellon Research Scholars Program. Through Mellon, Sandra conducted oral histories of Latinxs reason for immigrating to Houston. By pursuing a Fulbright ETA in Mexico, Sandra hopes to understand the complexities of Latin communities and education.

  • Paul Vaughan

    Paul Vaughan

    2022-2023 Fulbright U.S. Student Program
    Poland, Study/Research

    Paul Vaughan is graduating summa cum laude from the Honors College with an Economics major and a minor in National Security Studies. His academic interests focus on the manner in which economic markets and political systems intersect and influence national security and foreign policy. This inspired him to pursue study abroad and internships in this field. He studied Russian foreign policy at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations as a Gilman Scholar, and interned at both the U.S. Department of State in the Economic Section of the U.S. Mission to the European Union in Brussels and in the Anti-Corruption and Public Administration section at the United Nations Development Programme's Istanbul Regional Hub. In Istanbul, he tackled governance and institutional corruption issues across the Eastern Europe and Central Asia region. Paul is eager to research how the rapid growth of the Ukrainian and Polish IT sectors will impact the post-Soviet borderland's delicate security landscape in the context of war and reconstruction in his 2022-2023 Fulbright Study/Research Award for Poland.

  • Nimra Zubair

    Nimra Zubair

    2022-2023 Fulbright U.S. Student Program
    Bulgaria, English Teaching Assistant

    Nimra is a graduate of the University of Houston’s Master's in Public Administration Program and an advisor in the Office of Undergraduate Research and Major Awards, where she guides students on fellowships and major awards applications. As a first-generation student, Nimra began her undergraduate studies at Houston Community College, later transferring to UH in 2018 to complete her B.A. in Political Science. She has received multiple national fellowships, such as the Critical Language Scholarship to study Punjabi (2020) and Urdu (2021). She was most recently awarded the Fulbright grant to teach English in Panagyurishte, Bulgaria starting Fall 2022. Nimra plans to combine her formal studies, language skills, and experiences to promote understanding between marginalized populations and government agencies.

  • Jewel Pham

    Jewel Pham

    2022 JET Program

    Jewel Phan is a senior graduating with a major in biology and a minor in teachHouston with the College of Natural Science and Mathematics. During her teaching apprenticeship at a high school, Jewel realized her calling to become a future educator with a focus on biology. She is a short-list candidate for the Japanese Exchange and Teaching Program and is honored to be an ambassador for her country. She possesses a deep respect and interest in Japanese culture and customs. By taking on the Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) position, she hopes to further develop her skills as a teacher to provide the best education and mentorship to her future students.

  • Sondos Moursy

    2022 PBK Key Into Public Service Scholarship

    Sondos Moursy is a senior student-athlete majoring in Psychology and minoring in Phronesis at the University of Houston’s Honors College. Her liberal arts education has sparked a strong social responsibility within her to reduce incarceration and recidivism rates through public service in the legal sector. Moursy has spent the last three years conducting data-analysis-based research on the factors that lead to incarceration, the communities disproportionately affected, and the barriers to re-entry. To humanize the numerical data, she began collecting stories and experiences of formerly incarcerated women that provided a more intimate perspective on incarceration. Seeing a need, Moursy initiated a weekly art program called Stories of Health And Re-Entry (SHARE) at Angela House, a local re-entry home. SHARE aims to provide formerly incarcerated women with a therapeutic outlet and a support network to manage the stressors of re-entry. Moursy is also a 2022 Phi Beta Kappa Key into Public Service (KIPS) Scholar. Pending graduation, she will attend law school focusing on civil rights law.

2021-2022 Award Recipients

  • Zania Boriek

    Zania Boriek

    2021 BCM SMART

    Zaina Boriek is a sophomore psychology student in the Honors College pursuing minors in both biology and medicine and society. Over the past two years, Boriek has worked on two projects dealing with skeletal muscle mechanics during complex mechanical loading and presented results at national conferences such as ABRCMS and SACNAS in 2019 and 2020. As a Houston Scholar, leadership intern officer for MEDLIFE and former HERE program participant, she has demonstrated her commitment to research and medicine through volunteering activities and projects related to policy, infrastructure, inequality and health care disparities in the Greater Houston area. Through Baylor College of Medicine’s SMART Program, Boriek was able to appreciate the translational aspects of research and solidify her desire to become a physician when she understood that clinical research has a direct impact on patients and was selected to participate in the program again to have another opportunity to be involved in clinical research in the field of pediatric nutrition. Looking forward, Boriek hopes to pursue a medical doctorate to continue growing her passion for the humanistic aspects of medicine. 

  • Kainat Aziz

    Kainat Aziz

    2021 Critical Language Scholarship

    Kainat Aziz is a third-year psychology student with minors in biology and business management and leadership. Various leadership involvement and experiences as a pre-med student have strengthened her passion to study medicine. She has participated in the Academic Associates Program for two consecutive semesters at the Texas Children's Hospital which has sparked her interest in conducting medical research in the future. After completing her undergraduate degree, she plans to pursue medical school. Aziz will be studying Urdu this summer through CLS.  

  • Omar Harb

    Omar Harb

    2021 Critical Language Scholarship

    Omar Harb is a junior double majoring in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics and minoring in Arabic studies. Coming from the Middle East, Harb is working to strengthen his linguistic efforts and expand his knowledge of his home region by taking up an Arabic studies minor. Harb co-founds One Small Step, a non-profit organization designed to help combat the effects the pandemic has had on his local community in Houston and plans to begin an initiative aiming to help underserved Arab American youths. Through the Critical Language Scholarship, Harb intends to sharpen his Arabic linguistic skills and draw upon his experiences to aid the Arab American community on campus and beyond.  

  • Tia Hufstetler

    Tia Hufstetler

    2021 Critical Language Scholarship

    Tia Hufstetler is a sophomore majoring in political science in the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences and minoring in marketing at Bauer College of Business. She has taken Arabic classes at UH and plans to continue to develop her linguistic skills by expanding her studies through the Critical Language Scholarship Program in summer 2021. She has always been fascinated by the Arabic language and all the cultural aspects of Arab countries as well. Hopefully, this opportunity gives her the chance to continue studying Arabic and broadens her understanding and appreciation of the Arab culture.  

  • David Paul Hilton

    David Paul Hilton

    2021 Critical Language Scholarship

    David Paul Hilton is a second-year Honors College student majoring in political science. He is actively involved in a variety of campus organizations and groups such as the UH Student Government Association, Bonner Service Leadership Program, Model United Nations and the Houston Scholars program. Following graduation, Hilton intends to pursue public service as a foreign service officer. He has taken two years of Russian language courses at the University of Houston and plans on continuing his language study. Hilton aims to further expand his knowledge of the Russian language and culture and is excited to take full advantage of the CLS Russian Language Program. 

  • André Mikhail

    André Mikhail

    2021 Critical Language Scholarship

    André Mikhail is a modern and classical languages major with a focus in Middle Eastern studies and minor in history. He is a recipient of the Critical Language Scholarship for Arabic and studied in the Arabic Language Intensive Program at American University in Cairo. His professional background is in entrepreneurship, sales and writing. 

  • Kareem Soussan

    Kareem Soussan

    2021 Critical Language Scholarship

    Kareem Soussan is an economics major with a minor in Phronêsis. Interested in the economies of Middle Eastern countries, Soussan is actively involved in economic research and studying the Arabic language. As a CLS recipient, Soussan is excited to improve upon his proficiency in the language and network with other students interested in the economies of the Middle East. He plans on using this opportunity to delve deeper into his studies of the Middle Eastern economy.    

  • Nimra Zubair

    Nimra Zubair

    2021 Critical Language Scholarship

    Nimra Zubair is a graduate student pursuing a Master’s in Public Administration (MPA) with a specialization in nonprofit management. She is also the graduate advisor in the Office of Undergraduate Research and Major Awards, where she connects students with major awards opportunities, assists them through the application process and manages the office's social media platforms. As a first-generation college student, Zubair began her undergraduate studies at Houston Community College and transferred as a political science major, with minors in business administration and Phronêsis, to the University of Houston in 2018. She has interned in various industries and speaks seven languages, including Urdu, for which she was awarded the 2021 Critical Language Scholarship. After completing her MPA, she plans to attend law school and continue working with the integration of marginalized populations.  

  • Kathryn Aing

    Kathryn Aing

    2021 DAAD RISE Scholarship

    Kathryn Aing is a sophomore electrical engineering major in the Honors College. She will spend her summer and fall at the Technical University of Central Hess in Gissen Germany. She will assist in research focused on analyzing an electro-optical system for the evaluation of novel nano-surfaces. The project is in collaboration with NanoWired and will use optical measurement to test their products. 


  • Muhammad Naeem Akram

    Muhammad Naeem Akram

    2021 DAAD RISE Scholarship

    Muhammad Naeem Akram is a computer science doctoral student in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. Currently, he carries out research at the data visualization and modeling lab under the supervision of Associate Professor Guoning Chen. His research interests are in the field of geometric modeling, especially in the generation and optimization of quadrilateral and hexahedral meshes. During summer 2021, Akram will be interning at Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH through the DAAD Rise Professional program. At the Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine in Forschungszentrum Jülich, his project will be focused on multi- and high-level resolution voxel processing and mesh smoothing for representation of brain surfaces. 

  • Josiah Cherian

    Josiah Cherian

    2021 DAAD RISE Scholarship

    Josiah Cherian is an Honors College student pursuing his Bachelor of Science in chemical engineering with a minor in political science. Committed to fostering a more sustainable society, he is concentrating his background on material sciences relating to energy technologies and renewable resources and is very passionate about understanding sustainability from an international perspective. Cherian has previously interned at two large international companies and is passionate about community service, participating in programs such as the Peace Corps and Teach for America. Additionally, this fall, he will be conducting research on renewable materials developed from electro-fermented biomass at the Technische Universität Kaiserslauternin in Germany. Looking forward, Cherian plans on continuing to pursue new ideas in sustainable technologies and utilizing engineering and international relations to foster their success.  

  • Shravani Deo

    Shravani Deo

    2021 DAAD RISE Scholarship

    Shravani Deo is a third-year Honors chemical engineering student. This summer, she will be participating in a biochemical engineering internship at the Technische Uni­ver­si­tät Dort­mund in Dortmund, Germany. She will work with a graduate student to investigate the dissolution of various active pharmaceutical ingredients. Deo is excited to conduct research and explore Germany. 


  • Smiti Gandhi

    Smiti Gandhi

    2021 DAAD RISE Scholarship

    Smiti Gandhi is a junior majoring in Honors biomedical sciences and minoring in medicine and society, health and chemistry. Gandhi hopes to attend medical school after completing her undergraduate studies. She is a zealous advocate for pollution reduction efforts and clean energy. In high school, Gandhi developed a novel solar panel using bacteria, and she placed 4th at the Intel International Science Fair for her research in 2018. Since then, Gandhi has served as a keynote speaker for many renowned events, including TEDx and Women’s Energy Network’s Young Women Energized Conference. Now, Gandhi mentors science fair students as a Student Leader at the University of Houston STEM Center, inspiring them to pursue their research interests with creativity and confidence. This summer, she will intern at the Technische Hochschule in Bochum, Germany, further her knowledge of solar panels and evaluate circular economy concepts for solar-powered charging infrastructure. 

  • Nikki Hammond

    Nikki Hammond

    2021 DAAD RISE Scholarship

    Nikki Hammond is a third-year chemical engineering student in the Honors College at the University of Houston pursing minors in chemistry and leadership studies. She has been involved in undergraduate research through the HERE, Houston Scholars and PURS programs. With the DAAD RISE scholarship, Hammond will be researching the photocatalytic degradation of micropollutants in Freising, Germany. Having studied abroad in the Galápagos Islands and Egypt, she is excited to continue her global adventures this summer in Germany.  

  • Nhung Nguyen

    Nhung Nguyen

    2021 DAAD RISE Scholarship

    Nhung Nguyen is a first-generation college student, originally from Vietnam. Nguyen is a distinguished student in the department of petroleum engineering, where she holds multiple scholarships. In January 2020, she was one of only three students from the U.S. selected to attend the Education Week at the International Petroleum Technology Conference in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. She is a student leader, currently serving as the vice president and PetroBowl team captain for the Society of Petroleum Engineers UH Student Chapter. In 2019 and 2021, she led two teams to compete at International PetroBowl Championships. Nguyen loves volunteering and traveling. She is excited to intern in Germany this summer to experience a new learning challenge, meet new friends and explore the European culture. 

  • Pierce Popson

    Pierce Popson

    2021 DAAD RISE Scholarship

    Pierce Popson is a junior majoring in biochemical and biophysical sciences with a minor in chemistry and psychology. Currently, he works in the lab of J. Leigh Leasure studying the neurobiological structures known as perineuronal nets (PNNs) and their relationship to exercise and binge alcohol use. However, this summer he looks to shift his focus towards human metabolism within conditions of low oxygen, also known as hypoxia. Through the DAAD RISE program, Popson was given the opportunity to travel to Cologne, Germany to work at the Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (German Aerospace Center) within the Institute of Aerospace Medicine. This project will hopefully lead to metabolic interventions that allow for the reduction of negative cognitive and physical effects in hypoxic conditions for astronauts and pilots.  

  • Jongsang Ahn

    Jongsang Ahn

    2021-2022 Fulbright U.S. Student Program
    South KoreaEnglish Teaching Assistant

    Jongsang Ahn is a 2018 graduate of the Honors College and CLASS with a communication disorders major and English minor. He found his passion for education as a Bonner Leader, working in various tutoring and mentoring projects. After graduation, he worked as an TEFL teacher in Chile through the English Opens Doors program, a UNDP initiative project. He then went on to work as a TEFL teacher in Ecuador as a Peace Corps Volunteer in a small town on the coast of the country. Upon his return to the states due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he started volunteering with the international rescue committee as a youth tutor, helping tutor recently immigrated students using both English and Spanish. As a Jaffe Peace Corps Fellow at Teachers College, Columbia, he is pursuing his Master of Arts in teaching in English education to become a public educator in New York. As a first-generation Korean American immigrant, he relishes the opportunity to reconnect with his culture. Most importantly, he looks forward to using his time as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant to learn from the South Korean education system and the hard-working teachers and students of the country to improve his own pedagogical knowledge. 

  • Parker Carwile

    Parker Carwile

    2021-2022 Fulbright U.S. Student Program
    South KoreaEnglish Teaching Assistant

    Parker Carwile is a graduate from Louisiana Tech University with a Bachelor of Arts in English literature and a recent graduate from University of Houston with a Master of Education degree. At the beginning of the pandemic, she became an 11th grade English teacher at Channelview High School, teaching roughly 170 students both virtually and face to face. She simultaneously cultivated and sustained her tremendous love of Korean language and culture while working closely with the Houston Korean Education Center in addition to her teaching job. Now, as a recipient of the Fulbright English Teaching Assistant award in South Korea, Carwile will marry her two greatest passions: teaching English and connecting with Korean communities. Her goal is to create more meaningful relationships with students through cultural exchange and become a bridge for the United States and South Korea in the field of education. 

  • Ana Belén Gutiérrez

    Ana Belén Gutiérrez

    2021-2022 Fulbright U.S. Student Program
    SpainEnglish Teaching Assistant

    Ana Belén Gutiérrez is a graduating senior obtaining her degree in mathematics with teachHOUSTON, a minor in Spanish and the Global Citizens Credential. During her undergraduate career, she has been very active in teachHOUSTON, having held various leadership roles within its Student Society, including professional development chair and vice president. She has also been very involved with teachHOUSTON summer camps, serving as a curriculum developer for the Equinor Summer STEM Camp and a team lead for the teachHOUSTON STEM Interactive, the first virtual summer camp of its kind. In the summer of 2018, Gutiérrez received the IEFS scholarship to go on a faculty-led study abroad trip to Peru. She also spent a semester during fall 2019 in Chile and Argentina studying comparative education and social change through SIT Study Abroad with the SIT Full Tuition scholarship. Since then, she has served both as an alumni mentor with SIT and as a global guide on the UH campus. Gutiérrez has also served as a RISE mentor with her home school district of Pearland ISD since spring 2019 and is currently student teaching at a high school in Alvin ISD. She will be spending nine months in the Spanish region of Galicia serving as an English Teaching Assistant (ETA) through the Fulbright ETA program. Gutiérrez plans to apply her global perspective of education in the mathematics classroom through inquiry-based, student-centered lessons when she returns to Houston. 

  • Ashley Cruz

    Ashley Cruz

    2021-2022 Fulbright U.S. Student Program
    MexicoEnglish Teaching Assistant

    Ashley Cruz is a graduating senior in the Honors College at the University of Houston majoring in biology with a minor in medicine and society. As a first-generation Mexican-American, her experiences have driven her to advocate for underserved communities. After spending a summer in Amman, Jordan, working with the Jordan Health Aid Society and learning about refugee and immigrant health, Cruz’s commitment to public service solidified. She has since worked closely with several public service-oriented organizations. She served as a census leader and voter advocate with Mi Familia Vota, a national civic organization that promotes Latino allyship to promote social and economic justice. Cruz expanded on this work by interning with Culture of Health – Advancing Together (CHAT), a non-profit that matches immigrants and refugees in Gulfton with essential resources, where she facilitated census engagement and computer literacy. Her experience working as certified nursing assistant has propelled her to pursue a Master of Science in physician assistant studies specialized in psychiatry, where she wants to continue working with underserved populations. By pursuing a Fulbright ETA in Mexico, Cruz hopes to better understand the origins of the Hispanic community to more effectively engage in conversations that address misconceptions between the two cultures. 

  • Maham Gardezi

    Maham Gardezi

    2021-2022 Fulbright U.S. Student Program
    LatviaEnglish Teaching Assistant

    Maham Gardezi, a biomedical engineering major and Phronêsis minor, served for the UH Bonner Leaders program, where she was introduced to the inequities in education and helped lead a program for ACT mentoring at KIPP Sunnyside High School. Passionate for community health and education, Gardezi received her Community Health Worker Certification in 2019 and has written curriculum while working as a project head for the Program Engagement Encouraging Rising Students (PEERS) program. Gardezi has also conducted neuroscience research under Bhavin Sheth from the University of Houston and Ian Mendez under the SMART-MIND program at The University of Texas at El Paso. She realized her passion to continue working with communities in the PHARIS program and will be serving as an English Teaching Assistant in Latvia. 

  • Hamad Khan

    Hamad Khan

    2021-2022 Fulbright U.S. Student Program
    Turkey, English Teaching Assistant

    Hamad Khan is a recent graduate from the University of Houston with a Bachelor of Business Administration in management, a Bachelor of Arts in strategic communication and a minor in Arab studies. As a teaching assistant with the University of Houston’s Language and Culture Center, a former president of UH’s Arabic Club and a global guide with the Learning Abroad Office, Khan actively promoted an environment of cultural exchange and global awareness within the UH community. Khan’s journey through undergraduate studies led him to various opportunities and accomplishments such as, studying abroad in Jordan with the help of the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, receiving the Excellence in Middle Eastern Studies award from the MESP, studying abroad in Turkey and Tunisia with the Honors College, receiving a Leadership award for Inclusion and Advocacy from the University of Houston, and recently — studying virtually abroad in Morocco through the Critical Language Scholarship (2020). Additionally, with fluency in several languages, including Turkish and Urdu, Khan seeks to use language as a tool to build a mutual understanding across the international sector. His vast experiences have expanded his academic and professional goals, increasing his global interest not only in the Middle East, but also to West, Central and South Asia. This year again, Khan has been awarded the Critical Language Scholarship, and looking forward, he plans to pursue a career in diplomacy, seeking to one day serve as a U.S. foreign service officer.  

  • Shailee Modi

    Shailee Modi

    2021-2022 Fulbright U.S. Student Program
    Czech RepublicEnglish Teaching Assistant

    Shailee Modi is a graduating senior in the Honors College, majoring in biology with minors in medicine and society and leadership studies. She spent her time at the University of Houston serving her community and preparing for her goal of becoming a physician. Through the Science Mentoring for a Richer Tomorrow service project, she discovered her passion for teaching and mentoring students. She also sought to step outside her comfort zone by studying abroad in the Galápagos Islands, which grew her desire to travel and experience different cultures. As an English Teaching Assistant in the Czech Republic, Modi hopes to improve her intercultural communication skills and learn more about how the Czech education system tackles inequality. Looking forward, Modi plans to attend medical school to continue serving others and working with diverse communities. 

  • Olivia Lee

    Olivia Lee

    2021-2022 Fulbright U.S. Student Program
    Germany, English Teaching Assistant

    Olivia Lee graduated summa cum laude from the University of Houston in May 2021 with a dual degree in biochemistry and world cultures and literatures with a concentration in German. She also earned a minor in chemistry. While at the University of Houston, Lee played as a forward for the UH women’s soccer team. She traveled to the Galápagos Islands and discovered her passion for marine biology and sustainability through working on conservation research projects. Lee participated in the Houston Early Research Experience (HERE), worked as a biology peer facilitator and served as a German tutor for the modern and classical languages department. She strengthened her German language proficiency and enthusiasm for learning about German culture through challenging coursework with the help of the UH German faculty. She received the German Studies Excellence Award and the Max Freund Award in recognition of her accomplishments in German. During the 2021-2022 academic year, Lee will work as an English Teaching Assistant in Germany. She hopes to gain insight into the German perspective on conservation, sustainability and education. Looking forward, she plans to attend graduate school to study marine biology and use what she learned from her Fulbright experience to contribute to environmental conservation efforts.

  • Saajan Patel

    Saajan Patel

    2021-2022 Fulbright U.S. Student Program
    FranceEnglish Teaching Assistant

    Saajan Patel is graduating spring 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and minors in both French and English. Fascinated by the French language and global francophone cultures, he uses the intersection of his studies to investigate language in the post-colonial era. His interest in community-building also inspired him to co-found the University’s French Club, where students can unite to practice their skills and share favorite media finds. In preparation for teaching English in a high school outside of Paris, Patel has taken courses about teaching ESL and improved his French skills through internships. After completing his Fulbright, he will continue to pursue work in the field of teaching, particularly English language acquisition. 

  • Carl Suerte

    Carl Suerte

    2021-2022 Fulbright U.S. Student Program
    JapanEnglish Teaching Assistant

    Carl Suerte is a December 2020 graduate in biology with a minor in chemistry. Throughout his undergraduate career, he has studied the molecular basis of complex behaviors in fruit flies under the mentorship of Associate Professor Brigitte Dauwalder. In 2018 and 2020, he received the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship and the Provost’s Undergraduate Research Scholarship, respectively, to fund his endeavors with the Dauwalder group. When he was a sophomore, he was awarded a grant to research at the University of Tokyo through the Houston Scholars Program. There, as a member of Robert Campbell’s laboratory, he worked on developing tools for the real-time imaging of brain cell metabolism. While working with a diverse, international group, he was inspired to continue conducting research at an international level and applied for a Fulbright grant to resume his research at UTokyo. When he returns to the Campbell Lab through the Fulbright Program, he will work towards developing a high-performance tool to image a metabolic pathway implicated in neurodegeneration. Following the Fulbright Program, he plans to pursue postgraduate education and continue researching metabolism’s role in disease.  

  • Gabrielle Olinger

    Gabrielle Olinger

    2021 Goldwater Scholarship

    Gabrielle Olinger is a junior in the Honors College pursuing a major in physics and minor in mathematics. As a freshman, Olinger began working with Professor René Bellwied as part of the experimental heavy ions group, and she has since used statistical thermal models to better understand the transition between the universe’s primordial phase of matter, called the quark-gluon plasma, to the hadronic matter (e.g., protons and neutrons) that makes up the universe today. As a rising sophomore, Olinger participated in SURF, and under the guidance of Professor Eric Bittner began modeling the dynamics of a variety of quantum systems to understand how light-matter interaction with a cavity mode affects transport of an excitation along a chain of coupled spins. Today, Olinger continues to be involved in research with both Bittner and Bellwied, and in her free time enjoys playing the piano and baking.  

  • Javi Solano

    Javi Solano

    2021 Goldwater Scholarship

    Javi Solano, a fourth-year mechanical engineering major, is a student leader in the First Year Experience program at the University of Houston. In this capacity, he has served as a lead undergraduate teaching assistant, cultivated an afterschool STEM education program for underrepresented elementary students and served as a research intern in many labs on and off the Houston campus. Through these experiences, he developed a passion for research and STEM education. Upon graduation, he plans to continue his research career at Purdue University, where he will enroll as a doctoral student in the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics. Through his research, he aspires to integrate computational modeling and simulations to characterize in-service aerospace structural components and their defects more efficiently. While pursuing his doctorate, he also hopes to develop an afterschool STEM program for Purdue-area elementary schools. 

  • Wesley Combs

    Wesley Combs

    2021 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program 

    Wesley Combs is graduating with a degree in mechanical engineering from the Cullen College of Engineering. He spent the majority of his junior year conducting materials science research with Associate Professor Jakoah Brgoch's lab group in the department of chemistry. Combs' research focused on validating the novel multi-cation approach, a synthesis method utilized to discover new superhard materials needed for applications varying from aerospace armor shielding to biomedical implants. The project resulted in his recognition as a 2020 Black Engineer of the Year Undergraduate Student Research Award recipient. Combs plans on transferring to Rice University in the fall of 2021 to pursue a doctorate in mechanical engineering while conducting tribology and particulate flow research. 

  • Jacob True Furrh

    Jacob True Furrh

    2021 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program 

    Jacob True Furrh is a December 2020 graduate with dual-degrees in civil engineering and environmental sciences. He was actively involved in Advancement Ambassadors, the Bonner Leaders Program, NSM Student Leadership and UH CARES throughout his undergraduate career, with an emphasis on Hurricane Harvey relief efforts. Furrh participated in undergraduate research in the Hanadi S. Rifai Lab in the department of civil and environmental engineering, as well as summer experiences at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and National Weather Service (NWS) in Fairbanks, Alaska. As a result of his service and research, he was awarded the 2018 UH Community Impact Award, 2018 Ernest F. Hollings Scholarship and 2019 Udall Scholarship. He is currently pursuing a doctorate in environmental engineering at Rice University in the Bedient Group, where he researches flood prediction and mitigation. 

  • Vincent Laroche

    Vincent Laroche

    2021 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program 

    Vincent Laroche is a senior in the University of Houston Honors College majoring in mechanical engineering with a minor in mathematics. He has been involved in scientific research throughout his undergraduate career and has received a number of scholarships and fellowships for his work, including the DAAD RISE Germany Fellowship in 2019. In his junior year, Laroche joined Di Yang's lab as a recipient of the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship. He proposed and completed a project to study kinetic energy recovery in the wake of vertical axis wind turbines, and later built upon this work in a senior thesis. After graduating, Laroche will continue to study computational fluid dynamics and turbulence as a doctoral student in mechanical engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. 

  • Alejandro Ramirez

    Alejandro Ramirez

    2021 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program

    Alejandro Ramirez is a second-year graduate student working towards a doctorate in experimental astroparticle physics. Working under Assistant Professor Andrew Renshaw, his research involves developing and surveying particle detector technologies for DarkSide 20k, a dark matter experiment searching for weakly interacting massive particles. His other project includes using these particle detection technologies and applying them to nuclear medical imaging such as positron emission tomography. Ramirez is also a founder of the UH chapter for the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science. A society that aims to provide support of underrepresented minorities in STEM. 

  • Laura Taylor

    Laura Taylor

    2021 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program

    Laura Taylor received a bachelor's degree in geology from the University of Houston in December 2020 after transferring from San Jacinto College in 2017. During her time at UH, she worked with Professor Peter Copeland, studying the age of formation of the Grand Canyon using fluid inclusion data; completed a senior honors thesis; was advised by Assistant Professor Emily Beverly, tracking the progression of the North American Monsoon in Baja California Sur using oxygen and carbon isotopes from carbonates; and joined Associate Professor Julia Wellner in Antarctica to collect sediment cores and geophysical data as part of the Thwaites Glacier Offshore Research team. In June 2021, she will join the Coastal Systems Group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology/Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Joint Program to pursue a doctorate in marine geology and geophysics where she will focus her research on studying the paleorecord of tropical cyclones in the North Atlantic and the palaeoceanographic conditions that impacted their intensity and variability.