Advancing Women in Science

Awards and scholarships provide visibility and recognition of the contributions of brilliant scientists. They also offer role models and encouragement to the next generation.

Maya C. Shumer, PhD Candidate, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
2022 Distinguished Doctoral Research Scholarship Recipient


Eve Heeley-Ray


Eve Heeley-Ray has always been inspired by nature. She grew up on the Big Island of Hawaii and followed her heart to the Rocky Mountains of the West. Walking across the lava rock and the mountain slopes, she appreciated the intricacies of different species and their interactions and the interconnectedness of everything. She committed her life to protecting the natural world so that future generations could also stand in awe of its beauty. She is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in soil and water science at Montana State University. The generous AWIS scholarship will help her prioritize her education.

Katie Helwick


Katie Helwick is an honors program student at the University of Pittsburgh. She has lived in Pittsburgh all her life. She is on a 6-year pharmacy track where she will obtain a BS in Pharmaceutical Science and a Doctor of Pharmacy. She is involved in various extracurriculars relating to pharmacy, women in healthcare, service, leadership development and enjoys reading, watching movies with family, and water skiing. She intends to apply to pharmacy school this summer and will utilize the scholarship funds to cover the application fee, background check, professional attire for interviews, and other college and living expenses. She aspires to become a pharmacist to make a positive impact on people’s lives.

Shahzarin Khan


Shahzarin Khan is a PhD candidate in Health Behavior at Indiana University Bloomington. Born and raised in India, her research focuses on the sexual health of South Asian women. Through her work, she aims to promote healthy sexual and romantic relationships for young people in South Asia. In her previous roles in India, she has worked in grant management, operations, and program monitoring on the themes of abortion, sexuality education, and gender-based violence. She has a multidisciplinary academic background with a bachelor’s degree in engineering, a master’s in economics from Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS Pilani), and a postgraduate diploma in liberal arts from Ashoka University. 

Amanda Nordquist-Rodriguez


Amanda Nordquist-Rodriguez is completing general education requirements for a biochemistry bachelor’s program while simultaneously earning a hands-on Biotech Lab Certification at Fullerton College (completion 2025). This dual focus allows her to explore the field through a practical lens. Upon graduation, she plans to transition into a full-time bachelor’s program or contribute to the scientific community through a lab position while pursuing a degree part-time. Her ultimate goal is to pursue a higher degree, refine her skills, and contribute to breakthroughs in genetic disorder research. This scholarship will help her achieve these ambitious goals and maintain a healthy school-work-life balance. 

Christina Rasa

WINNER, 2024 Dr. Vicki L. Schechtman Scholarship

Christina Rasa is a sophomore at Misericordia University majoring in biology with minors in chemistry and statistics. She is passionate about applying biological systems to improve human health. In 2023, she was a finalist in the Genes in SpaceTM competition run by Boeing and miniPCR. At Misericordia, she is conducting her own research to develop a cell-free, fluorescent ATP sensor. She is particularly interested in how ATP levels affect neurodegenerative diseases, specifically Sanfilippo syndrome, a form of childhood dementia. Rasa plans to pursue a PhD in molecular biology and a career in biomedical research. She enjoys participating in outreach and service projects with her school’s biology and chemistry clubs as well as singing in multiple vocal ensembles on campus. She plans to apply the scholarship funds to her tuition costs, allowing her to dedicate more time to her research. 

Sunny Rasmussen


Sunny Rasmussen studies physics, astronomy, and political science at The University of Utah. She aspires to become an astrophysicist and work at NASA Headquarters in Washington DC. She is also interested in policy and hopes to become part of the NASA Administration team. She is a member of the Society of Physics Students and serves as Outreach Chairman for her local chapter. In her spare time, she enjoys sewing and playing volleyball.

Taylor Rossiter


Taylor Rossiter is a first-generation student at York College of Pennsylvania majoring in biology, with a concentration in cellular and molecular biology, and a minor in chemistry. She is planning on obtaining her PhD in biochemistry and to working in the field of infectious diseases. Rossiter’s current research focuses on identifying novel antibacterial compounds from soil bacteria to combat the antibiotic resistance crisis. She is currently investigating a stenothricin-like molecule she uncovered from the soil bacteria Paenarthrobacter nicotinovorans using a CRISPR Cas9 gene editing system and hopes to publish her findings. 

Aurelia Valente


Aurelia Valente (she/they) is a biology graduate student from Santa Fe, New Mexico. She is currently studying adaptability and accessibility in biological education, communication, and research through Miami University’s Project Dragonfly Global Field Program. She will begin coursework for her PhD in comparative behavioral biology at The University of New Mexico in August 2024. She is a Hubbard Brook Research Foundation’s “Young Voices in Science” program alum and gave a presentation on disability inclusion in STEM higher education at Miami University’s 2024 RedHawk Talks.

Cathy Van Bui


Cathy Van Bui is an aspiring neuroscientist interested in Alzheimer’s research. She is very excited to be in Boston to get immersed in an ever-growing biomedical field. Being a member of AWIS for the past two years has opened many opportunities for her to build her career and to meet wonderful people. She is deeply grateful for the 2024 Career Re-Entry Scholarship. She will use this award to attend an intensive molecular biology workshop to sharpen her laboratory skills as well as to learn new techniques.

Uzezi Okinedo


Uzezi Okinedo was born and raised in Nigeria. She is currently a Ph.D. student in the Department of Biology at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Her research utilizes the natural genetic diversity in rice species to identify genetic factors that can improve rice grain quality. She employs techniques in genomics, transcriptomics, and computational biology to recognize genetic variants controlling various rice grain properties. Uzezi’s fellowship fund will be applied towards completing the final stage of her dissertation project which includes testing the grain quality of different rice types under heat stress to identify superior varieties. The fund will be used to pay for travel expenses to the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), Philippines to carry out fieldwork. 

Jessica Ramirez


Jessica Ramirez is a Ph.D. candidate in the Integrated Biomedical Sciences program at Rush University, where she is mentored by Dr. Animesh Barua, an expert in translational research on ovarian cancer. Her research focuses on aging and the development of ovarian cancer. As women age, their risk of ovarian cancer increases in part due to increasing chronic inflammation and oxidative stress. Jessica aims to identify influential factors, biomarkers, or mechanisms that occur during aging in the ovaries and fimbriae, causing chronic inflammation and oxidative stress, which may prompt the formation of mutagenic DNA-adducts and epigenetic changes, influencing age-associated malignant transformation of ovarian cancer. She completed a Bachelor of Science in Biology at Loyola University Chicago and a Master of Science in Molecular Medicine at Drexel University.


Yasharah Raza


Yasharah Raza is a PhD candidate in Molecular & Cellular Pharmacology, conducting her doctoral research at Stony Brook Medicine’s Cancer Center. Her translational cancer research focuses on new treatment options for Acute Erythroid Leukemia (one of the most aggressive subtypes of Acute Myeloid Leukemia) where patient survival is only 3 to 9 months on average. She also investigates how sphingolipids—named after the enigmatic sphinx—are involved in supporting both normal and cancerous red blood cells. Yasharah is passionate about mentorship and has served as mentor across multiple organizations including ATHENA by Women in STEM (ABWIS), Women in Science & Engineering (WISE), and Muslim Women’s Professional Network- New York (MWPN-NY). Based on her Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility (IDEA) service and advocacy, Yasharah was invited to join the NASA Astrophysics database of IDEA practitioners. 

Mayson Whipple


Mayson Whipple is a PhD candidate in the Chemical Engineering and Materials Science department at Michigan State University, where she is mentored by Dr. Robert C. Ferrier Jr. Mayson’s interdisciplinary research focuses broadly on drug addiction treatment – from developing novel opioid vaccines to exploring the societal conditions necessary to mitigate the opioid epidemic. In 2022 Mayson received a Fulbright/Luso-American Foundation Open Research award to continue her work developing effective delivery platforms for transdermal vaccination and studying the impact of drug policies on stigma surrounding drug use and addiction, hosted by Dr. Carla Portugal at NOVA School of Science and Technology – Universidade NOVA de Lisboa and GAT in Mouraria, a harm reduction organization for people who use drugs. Mayson received her Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from North Central College and Master of Science in Membrane Engineering from the NOVA School of Science and Technology – Universidade NOVA de Lisboa. 

Hayley Mattison


Hayley Mattison earned her Ph.D. from University of Maryland, Baltimore in Physiology in 2010 and worked as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Washington and Massachusetts General Hospital until her son was born in 2017. She now resides in Austin, TX with her husband and 6-year-old son. Hayley will use the award to take a course called “Data Science and Machine Learning” from MIT Institute for Data, Systems, and Society (MIT IDSS). She will also use the money for childcare expenses needed while interviewing for positions.


Asel Kabashi


Asel Kabashi is a Research Fellow at the L.G. Rahme Laboratory at Massachusetts General Hospital. She joined the lab to study host tolerance to persistent infections following a break from academic science for child-rearing. Prior to that, she was a postdoc at Northeastern Universities Antimicrobial Discovery Center searching for new compounds against Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the causative agent of tuberculosis, and elucidating their mechanism of action. Born and raised in Kyrgyzstan, she was trained as a medical doctor before completing her Ph.D. at the University of Leicester in the UK as a Faculty for the Future Fellow funded by the Schlumberger Foundation. Her thesis work was focused on the survival mechanisms of Mycobacterium tuberculosis in non-permissive growth conditions. Asel will use this scholarship to obtain US clinical experience as she wants to resume her medical career as a pathologist. Part of the funds will be spent on the course on Next Generation Sequencing for Molecular Pathology. 

Katherine Ameku

WINNER, 2023 Kirsten R. Lorentzen Scholarship

Katherine Ameku is a junior at Coe College, majoring in Physics and Mathematics with a minor in Computer Science. Currently, she is doing research under Dr. Steve Feller and will be a visiting researcher at Georgia Tech for the summer of 2023, studying high-density borate glasses. She has also begun doing Numismatics research under Dr. Steve Feller and Dr. Ray Feller, as well. Additionally, Katherine serves as the President of Coe College’s SPS Chapter, and the Outreach Chair for the Math and Computer Science Club. Ameku has been a member of her SPS chapter since freshman year and served as secretary her sophomore year. She loves organizing events for students and the community, inspiring people to pursue physics or astronomy. Outside of academics, she is a Committee Woman for the Jackson County (Missouri) Democratic Committee, representing Blue Sub-District 5. She also serves on the Democratic Missouri State Party Committee as the Committeewoman for Missouri’s 11th Senatorial District. Katherine is very proud to be voted in to represent her community.

Megan Loh

WINNER, 2023 Dr. Vicki L. Schechtman Scholarship

Megan Loh is an undergraduate junior at Stanford University pursuing a major in Physics with a Notation in Science Communication. Her physics research has spanned projects on binary neutron stars, dark matter detection, and exotic materials in condensed matter. Outside academia, Megan is committed to making STEM education accessible for all, particularly young women. She has taken action at the policy level, presenting the common barriers to accessible science education for girls in science at the United Nations. And at the grassroots level, she has built her non-profit organization GEARup4Youth into a sustainable volunteering platform. She enjoys spending her free time tutoring and designing hands-on science lessons. She is currently serving as the co-president of Physics Undergraduate Women and Gender Minorities at Stanford to build a welcoming and inclusive community in the physics department. 

Maya C. Schumer


Maya C. Schumer is a PhD candidate in neuroscience at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, where she is mentored by Dr. Mary L. Phillips, Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and Clinical Translational Science. Her research uses functional neuroimaging, meta-analysis, and machine learning to detect risk for Bipolar Disorder, with a focus on neural mechanisms underlying emotion-driven impulsivity that predispose young adults to mania, yielding neural markers that can aid earlier risk detection, improve diagnostic accuracy, and inform treatment. Maya is a recipient of a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship and a Society of Biological Psychiatry Predoctoral Scholar Travel Fellowship Award. She received her Bachelor of Science in Psychology at Carnegie Mellon University, where she studied how mindfulness meditation training impacts mental health outcomes. She now serves on the Diversity and Inclusion Committee at the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Neuroscience.

Martine Wagstaff, PhD


Martine Wagstaff, PhD is from the UK and came to the U.S. to work in Environmental Education. She earned her PhD at UMass Boston in Environmental Biology, focusing on Marine Ecology and Evolution. Her work on shallow subtidal habitats in the Gulf of Maine focused on identifying ecological processes that structure the balance between algae and sessile invertebrates, how invasive species have disrupted community structure through time, and how invasive species themselves evolve once they enter new habitats. After graduation, she went to the Galapagos Islands with her husband to view the marine ecology and evolution and shortly after had her first and only child. When her son became of school age she hoped to return to work, but COVID-19 stalled her plans. After nearly 7 years away from science, Dr. Wagstaff plans to use her scholarship funds towards a class in the UVM Geographic Information Systems, a Data Communication Professional Certificate, and a PADI Divemaster qualification.


Laiba Bilal


Laiba Bilal is a Ph.D. candidate at Stony Brook University, born and raised in Pakistan. She will complete her doctoral research phase as a Research Assistant at Brookhaven National Laboratory. Currently, Bilal is working on Nanoparticle synthesis, analyzing various materials, and focusing on silicate nanocages to be tailored for isotope production and nuclear application. This includes experimenting with trapping noble gases for intended purposes in Nuclear Physics and Clean Energy Revolution. Prior to moving to the U.S. in 2017, she earned her bachelor’s in Computer Systems from UIT and master’s in Electronic Engineering from GIKI. She concentrated on renewable energy, keeping in mind the utilization of the photovoltaic technology and the conversion of the solar energy into electrical energy. With this scholarship she plans to purchase a fast and reliable laptop to pursue her career as a true scientist.

AWIS Kirsten R. Lorentzen Scholarship Recipient

Kate Pletcher


Kate Pletcher will enter her senior year at the University of Denver (DU) where she’s pursuing a double major in physics and mathematics, with a minor in computer science. She has been a Society of Physics Students (SPS) member since her freshman year at DU and loved building a tight-knit physics community as well as participating in outreach with the local schools. She has happily held the position as social media manager of our SPS chapter for over a year and was recently elected as president. For the past three years, she’s worked with the Siemens Research Lab, researching stability of tilted optical vortices in laser beams. Her next step is to attend graduate school with the goal of becoming a physics professor. Pletcher is very passionate about teaching and accessibility in the sciences, therefore, she hopes to someday foster classroom environments where all feel welcome and empowered to learn physics. Outside of physics, she is the president of the club curling team at DU, and a member of the Tactile Art Community, which is lovingly referred to as “finger painting club.” In her free time, she’s learning to crochet and enjoys exploring the beauty of Colorado!

Daniela Galvez-Cepeda

WINNER, 2022 Dr. Vicki L. Schechtman Scholarship

Daniela Galvez-Cepeda (she/her) is part of the Class of 2024 at Williams College, where she is majoring in Psychology and Mathematics. Within the field of Psychology, Daniela is interested in the cognitive development of children with a focus on gender identity, stereotypes, and biases. Her undergraduate research aims to understand why children with different gender identities seem to hold different beliefs about themselves and others. Daniela is planning on pursuing a PhD degree in Developmental Psychology. She envisions her research influencing adjustments in school curricula and parenting advice to reduce the perpetuation of gender stereotypes. Currently, Daniela works in Dr. Eliza Congdon’s lab at Williams College and Dr. Andrei Cimpian’s lab at New YorkUniversity. Along with her research activities, Daniela is also the Vice President of the Williams College chapter of the Association for Women in Mathematics, as well as the Natural Sciences & Mathematics Editor in Chief of the Williams Undergraduate Research Journal.

Sarah Berlinger, PhD

Sarah A. Berlinger


Sarah A. Berlinger is a PhD candidate and NSF Graduate Research Fellow in the Department of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, where she is co-advised by Professor Bryan D. McCloskey and Dr. Adam Z. Weber (Lawrence Berkeley National Lab). Her research focuses on understanding multi-component interactions between catalyst particles, polymers, and solvents in fuel-cell electrode precursor inks, and how these forces drive electrode microstructure formation. She completed a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering at Columbia University where she researched battery charging protocols for capacity recovery and bioelectrochemical fuel production pathways. Sarah is involved with Bay Area Scientists in Schools and mentors undergraduate researchers.

Natalia Misunou, PhD


Dr. Natalia Misunou was born in Poland and moved to the United States as a teenager. She attended the University of Chicago as an undergraduate before joining the lab of Yikang Rong at the NIH within the Graduate Partnership Program with Johns Hopkins University. For her thesis work, she explored how telomeres participate in genome organization. In the lab of Peter Lenart at the EMBL in Heidelberg, she used Correlated Light and Electron Microscopy (CLEM) to interrogate the minutia of nuclear envelope changes in starfish oocytes – demonstrating that actin shell drives a process of sorting pore-rich and pore-devoid membranes. These findings are likely to have implications for nuclear rupture observed in cancer cells. After a couple years away from the bench, focused on raising her son, she plans to return to EMBL as a Scientific Officer in the Crocker Lab.

Janet Guss Darwich, PhD

Janet Guss Darwich, PhD


Dr. Janet Guss Darwich completed her doctoral and postdoctoral studies at Columbia University in New York in 2006. Her graduate research focused on the neurobiology of feeding and human ingestive behavior, and she had spent over a decade engaged in a range of productive research projects at Columbia University. After relocating to Portland, Oregon, Dr. Guss Darwich’s research career was put on hold while she focused on meeting the needs of her son who was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. His difficulties inspired her to return to her research career, and she is now collaborating with researchers at Reed College and Mt. Hood Community College, studying an animal model of autism.

Makyla Boyd headshot

Makyla Boyd


Makyla Boyd is a senior at Coe College pursuing a degree in physics. She is also involved in the music program at Coe. She is the current president of Coe College’s Physics Club, vice president of the WinSTEM Club, and secretary of the Mu Phi chapter. This past summer, she completed a WAVE fellowship at Caltech which aims to foster diversity by increasing the participation of underrepresented students in science and engineering Ph.D. programs and making Caltech’s programs more visible and accessible to students not traditionally exposed to Caltech. She plans to continue her education by going to graduate school and earning a Ph.D. in either material science or mechanical engineering.

Sophie Weiss

Sophie Weiss


Alexandra Detweiler

Sophia Sanchez-Maes

Sophia Sánchez-Maes


2025 Application Cycle

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Scholarship Descriptions

These annual prizes support the professional development and advancement of AWIS members. Due to the generous support of our donors, AWIS has awarded over 50 scholarships in the last decade. Scroll down to see recent recipients.


First-Generation College Student Scholarship (NEW AWARDS FOR 2024!)

Up to four scholarships of $2,000 will be awarded to a college undergraduate in her Freshman through Junior year whose parents and/or guardians did not complete a four-year college degree and whose field of study will be one of the sciences recognized by the National Science Foundation. Applications will open in December 2024. Not an AWIS member? Consider joining.

Applicants will need to provide:

  • Professional/Academic Goals Essay addressing the following (500-1,500 words):
    1. Your background
    2. Career/academic goals
    3. How this award will help you meet those career and educational objectives as they relate to STEM and the AWIS mission
  • Resume/CV Intended use of funds
  • Unofficial transcript
  • Must be a woman currently enrolled in a US based college or university studying a field in the sciences
  • Two recommendation questionnaires completed from a professor or advisor who is aware of your scientific ability and interestsember 

Kirsten R. Lorentzen Award

Funded by the AWIS Educational Foundation, this $2,500 award goes to an undergraduate woman studying physics, geophysics, or geoscience. Applications are to the Society of Physics Students, an organization of the American Institute of Physics. The SPS Scholarship Committee will determine the recipients. Applicants must be active members of the SPS national organization. Applications will open in December 2024. Apply here!

Applicants will need to provide:

  • Unofficial Transcripts
  • Outline of the physics and related courses
  • Written statement of career objectives
  • Written statement of participation in SPS activities
  • Written statement providing evidence of being an exceptionally well-rounded female student
  • Certification from the Department Chair
  • Two letters of recommendation from faculty members

Dr. Vicki L. Schechtman Scholarship

This scholarship of $2,000 will be awarded to a college undergraduate in her Freshman through Junior year whose field of study will be one of the sciences recognized by the National Science Foundation and continues Dr. Schechtman’s dreams of scientific progress. Applications will open in December 2024. Not an AWIS member? Consider joining.

Applicants will need to provide:

  • Professional/Academic Goals Essay addressing the following (500-1,500 words):
    1. Your background
    2. Career/academic goals
    3. How this award will help you meet those career and educational objectives as they relate to STEM and the AWIS mission
  • Resume/CV Intended use of funds
  • Unofficial transcript
  • Must be a woman currently enrolled in a US based college or university studying a field in the sciences
  • Two recommendation questionnaires completed from a professor or advisor who is aware of your scientific ability and interests


AWIS Distinguished Doctoral Research Scholarship

Awarded to an AWIS member whose dissertation research project is judged likely to make important and original contributions to their field. This $10,000 award is intended for a pre-doctoral student in Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, Behavioral Sciences, Mathematics or Engineering who is a woman expecting to graduate within 2 years of the application deadline. Applications will open in December 2024. Not an AWIS member? Consider joining.

Applicants will need to provide:

  • Professional Goals Essay addressing the following (500 – 1,500 words):
    1. Your background
    2. Career goals
    3. Impact of the work as it relates to STEM and the AWIS mission
    4. How this award will help meet your objectives and goals
  • Resume/CV
  • Research synopsis
  • Recommendation questionnaire from current professor, advisor, dissertation committee member or most recent employer
  • Recommendation questionnaire from a past professor, past employer, colleague or other professional acquaintance
  • Program acceptance letter (optional)
  • Unofficial transcript
  • Intended use of funds


AWIS Opportunity Scholarships for Career Re-entry

Up to two women (AWIS members with a bachelor’s degree in a STEM-related field) will receive individual awards of $2,500 to be used for expenses that will support and enable return to a STEM career after being out of the workforce for more than one year. Scholarships may be used for job search fees, technology needs, commuting, family care, additional education, participation in an incubator, or start-up fees for a scientific innovation or product. Applications will open in December 2024Not an AWIS member? Consider joining.

Applicants will need to provide:

  • Professional Goals Essay addressing the following (500 – 1,500 words):
    1. Reasons for exiting and entering the workforce
    2. Career contributions before exiting the workforce
    3. Impact of the STEM career being pursued as related to AWIS mission
    4. How the award will help your career
  • Resume/CV Intended use of funds
  • Unofficial transcript (optional)
  • Recommendation questionnaire from professor, former employer, or new organization
  • Recommendation questionnaire from an external person familiar with your work and its impact

Featured Partners


Thank you to our featured partners for their support of AWIS and the AWIS Foundation Awards.

We would also like to thank the Scholarship Committee for the administration of these programs.

We are grateful for all AWIS donors and supporters for helping women in science and related STEM fields achieve their dreams and reach their full potential.