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. Schumer
PhD Candidate, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
2022 Distinguished Doctoral Research Scholarship Recipient

2023 Awardees

Please join us in congratulating this year’s scholarship recipients! Scroll through their profiles below.

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. 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, PhD


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. 

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. 


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.


Scholarship and Grant 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 40 scholarships in the last decade and awarded hundreds of grants to local AWIS chapters. See below for past recipients. 

AWIS Distinguished Doctoral Research Scholarship

Awarded to three AWIS members 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 open in December 2023Not 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 eight 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 two years. 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 open in December 2023. Not 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

Kirsten R. Lorentzen Award

Funded by the AWIS Educational Foundation, this $2,000 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 close March 15, 2023. 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 open in December 2023. 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 Shooting Star Chapter Awards

These awards provide AWIS Chapters with a grant to be used towards local programming and activities such as K-12 science fairs, mentoring programs, advocacy, outreach, college scholarships, entrepreneurship, and leadership training. Chapter Award recipients are selected by AWIS’ Chapter Advisory Committee based upon end-of-year reports submitted by chapters, and awards are distributed in the spring.

2023 Applications are now closed!

If you missed your opportunity to apply but would like to be notified for next year, click the form below to get on our mailing list. 

2022 Scholarship Recipients

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.

2021 Scholarship Recipients
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.

2020 Scholarship Recipients
Sophie Weiss

Sophie Weiss

2019 Scholarship Recipients

Alexandra Detweiler

2018 Scholarship Recipients
Sophia Sanchez-Maes

Sophia Sánchez-Maes



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. 

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© 2023 Association for Women in Science. All Rights Reserved.

© 2023 Association for Women in Science. All Rights Reserved.