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.

 

Natalia Misunou, PhD
Scientific Officer, Crocker Group, EMBL
2021 Career Re-entry Recipient

2022 Awardees

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

Maya C. Schumer

WINNER, 2022 DISTINGUISHED DOCTORAL RESEARCH SCHOLARSHIP

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

WINNER, 2022 OPPORTUNITY SCHOLARSHIP FOR CAREER RE-ENTRY

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

WINNER, 2022 OPPORTUNITY SCHOLARSHIP FOR CAREER RE-ENTRY

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.

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.

 

Kate Pletcher

WINNER, 2022 Kirsten R. Lorentzen Scholarship Recipient 

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!

 

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 an AWIS member whose dissertation research project is judged likely to make important and original contributions to her 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. Information on the 2023 awards will be announced in December 2022. Not an AWIS member? Consider joining.

Applicants will need to provide:

  • Professional Goals Essay (500 – 1,000 words)
  • Resume/CV
  • Research synopsis
  • Recommendation letter from current professor, advisor, dissertation committee member or most recent employer
  • Recommendation letter 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 four 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. Information on the 2023 awards will be announced in December 2022. Not an AWIS member? Consider joining.

Applicants will need to provide:

  • Professional Goals Essay (500 – 1,000 words)
  • Resume/CV
  • Intended use of funds
  • Unofficial transcript (optional)
  • Recommendation letter from professor, former employer, or new organization
  • Recommendation letter 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. Information on the 2023 awards will be announced in December 2022.

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. Information on the 2023 awards will be announced in December 2022. Not an AWIS member? Consider joining.

Applicants will need to provide:

  • Professional/Academic Goals Essay (500-1,000 words)
  • 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 written references regarding her 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.

2021 Scholarship Recipients
Sarah Berlinger, PhD

Sarah A. Berlinger

WINNER, 2021 DISTINGUISHED DOCTORAL RESEARCH SCHOLARSHIP

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

WINNER, 2021 OPPORTUNITY SCHOLARSHIP FOR CAREER RE-ENTRY

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

WINNER, 2021 OPPORTUNITY SCHOLARSHIP FOR CAREER RE-ENTRY

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

WINNER, 2021 KRISTEN R. LORENTZEN AWARD

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

WINNER, 2020 KRISTEN R. LORENTZEN AWARD
2019 Scholarship Recipients

Alexandra Detweiler

WINNER, 2019 KRISTEN R. LORENTZEN AWARD
2018 Scholarship Recipients
Sophia Sanchez-Maes

Sophia Sánchez-Maes

WINNER, 2018 KRISTEN R. LORENTZEN AWARD

Acknowledgements

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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© 2022 Association for Women in Science. All Rights Reserved.

© 2022 Association for Women in Science. All Rights Reserved.