Leading the Pack: Eight Huskies Nominated for the Knight-Hennessy Scholarship

We’re delighted to share the names of the eight graduating seniors and recent alums nominated by Northeastern for the Knight-Hennessy Scholarship this fall. The Knight-Hennessy Scholarship recognizes and supports young leaders, tuned to the challenges of the 21st-century, supporting their graduate educations and providing a community of support and engagement. Read below to learn more about the dynamic young leaders nominated for this award.

Brian BestBrian Best COS’22, Cell and Molecular Biology
Mentors: Shawn Jennings, Cornel Fraefel, Yunrong Chai, Shawn Jennings,  Laurie Kramer

An accomplished scientific researcher and a devoted community leader, Brian epitomizes Northeastern’s ethos of advancing knowledge in service of the world. Brian’s research has spanned topics in microbiology including bacterial growth and metabolism, methods to combat transfusion-associated infections, antibody discovery, gene therapy, and herpesvirus replication. While these research experiences have not been constrained by sector (three biotech companies and two academic labs) or even continent (Brian spent six months in a virology lab at the University of Zurich), Brian was drawn to them all because of their potential for impact in the prevention or treatment of disease. In the lab of Professor Yunrong Chai, Brian discovered the question that most fascinates him and on which he plans to center his graduate study: how do bacteria cooperate in multicellular communities to do things like produce extracellular biofilms that protect them against antibiotics? Brian is highly invested in human communities, as well, serving as Scholarship Chair of the Northeastern chapter of Sigma Xi, the scientific research honor society, and as a leader within the University Honors Program. Brian earned a PEAK Experiences Summit Award in the summer of 2021. He is applying for the PhD.


Sabrina BondSabrina Bond COS’22, Behavioral Neuroscience
Mentors: Dagmar Sternad, Christianne Wrann, Vivianne Tawfik

Sabrina Bond’s parallel interests in physics and physiology led her to an intense curiosity about the ways that the extreme environment of outer space, particularly microgravity, affects human behavior and biology. Sabrina is especially intrigued by the effects of environments with different physical dynamics on our neuropsychology. Since her first semester at Northeastern, Sabrina has conducted computational and behavioral neuroscience research in the Action Lab of Professor Dagmar Sternad, investigating impaired motor behavior in children affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Sabrina also completed a co-op studying the effect of the exercise hormone irisin in Alzheimer’s mouse models at Massachusetts General Hospital. Sabrina is a co-author of the resulting paper in Nature Metabolism (the findings also made the New York Times). Cumulatively, Sabrina’s outstanding research record resulted in her being named a 2021 Barry Goldwater Scholar. To gain in-depth human physiological knowledge alongside advanced research credentials, Sabrina intends to pursue the MD/PhD with a focus on the neurophysiological effects of microgravity. Sabrina is also a recipient of a PEAK Experiences Summit Award for the summer of 2021. Sabrina is currently part of the Tawfik Lab at the Stanford University School of Medicine, where she is investigating the role of a gene in improving pain reduction and management.  She is applying for the MD/PhD.


Benjamin Lanava, Portrait 2023Benjamin Lanava COE’24, Environmental Engineering
Mentors: Annalisa Onnis-Hayden, Michaeline Albright, Jessica Ormsby, Tracy Debenport, Rebecca Riccio

A rising senior who believes that access to safe and clean water is a human right, Ben is exploring plant-based solutions to mitigate the lingering effects of PFAS, highly toxic fluorinated “forever chemicals.” But another aspect of this research is these solutions have the potential to be carbon sequestration efforts to stem climate change. This research earned a PEAK Summit Award in Fall 2022. During this time, Ben focused his efforts on providing basic access to water as the project lead for Northeastern’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders, where the organization worked with a large, rural community in Uganda to implement a solar-powered submersible pump for water treatment and distribution systems. Through his co-op at Allonia, Ben explored methods for the solubilization of mining waste that combines with CO2 in the atmosphere to form valuable products in the water treatment process. At Northeastern, Ben has been an integral part of the community, serving as a campus director for the United Nations Millennium Fellowship and vice President of the New England Water & Environment Association. With NEWEA, Ben is working on making community gardens in Boston accessible to members of the disability Community. Ben was a 2023 Udall Honorable Mention for his engineering and environmental leadership efforts. He now aims to pursue a PhD in Civil and Environmental Engineering to continue to be at the forefront of access to clean water for all.

Leah RagostaLeah Ragosta COE/COS’24, Chemical Engineering/ Biochemistry
Mentors: Lyn Jones, Lee Belding, Roodolph St Pierre, Breanna Zerfas, Julianne Pondelli

Leah seeks to not only create new methods and drugs to eradicate “undruggable” proteins, but to ensure healthcare equity so that these treatments are designed for and accessible to all populations. In preparation for this undertaking, Leah has pursued a rigorous course of study as a dual chemical engineering and biochemistry major. She has put her coursework into action through three research and discovery co-op experiences. First, with FogPharma, she engaged in research and developed methodologies to enhance the cell permeability of minor proteins. Following this experience, Leah began work at Dana Farber, where she optimized and evaluated the mechanism for a covalent degrader with the goal of new cancer therapies, work which led to a co-authored manuscript. More recently, she has been conducting research at Jnana Therapeutics for her third and final co-op. In her work here, Lead utilizes chemoproteomics to discover novel medicines for rare diseases. Leah is an empathetic student and community leader who has actively sought out and cultivated an inclusive and diverse community of peers. Leah serves as the Vice President of Social Affairs, Diversity and Inclusion Director for Phi Sigma Ro, and Vice President for Northeastern’s Club Figure Skating group. She is also the Secretary for Engineers Without Borders and a Tau Beta Pi, Honors Engineering Society member. 

Kritika SinghKritika Singh COE’20, Bioengineering 
Mentors: John Schiller, Oyinda Oyeleran, & Ralph Mazitschek

Kritika Singh’s work on neglected diseases—that is, a set of diseases common in low-income populations that receive little attention or research funding because of those they impact and the fact that, though they significantly impair human health, they are often non-lethal—combines the tools of biomedical research, clinical practice, and global health policy. A highly decorated scientific researcher, recipient of both the Thermo Fisher Scientific Antibody Scholarship and the Goldwater Scholarship, Kritika spent a year as a research assistant in a malaria immunology lab at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases while in high school and, with the support of the Summer Scholars Independent Research Fellowship, worked for over two years on epigenetics and malaria in the Mazitschek Lab at Massachusetts General Hospital. But Kritika, who was a member of the University Scholars and Honors Programs, understands that science alone will not eradicate disease, and in parallel with her research, she has also developed skills in policy and advocacy to amplify her impact. She founded and directs a nonprofit organization, Malaria Free World, which engages in peer-to-peer education, fundraising, and political lobbying, and she has worked to empower others through the Northeastern University Global Health Initiative (NUGHI), which she also founded. Kritika and the NUGHI team earned a Service/Research Project Award to produce one of the largest student-led undergraduate global health conferences in the nation, bringing together a broad interdisciplinary range of students, practitioners, and experts who embodied Kritika’s collaborative vision for making change. In recognition of her advocacy, Kritika earned a Truman Scholarship and a Rhodes Scholarship. Kritika is completing her DPhil through the NIH/OxCam Program and hopes to earn the MD to prepare her for a career at the intersection of cutting-edge bioscience, translational care, and public health advocacy.


Bailey SmithBailey Smith COS’22, Cell and Molecular Biology
Mentors: Wendy Smith, Stephanie DeCandida, Samuel McBrayer, Roy Coates, Gregory Emmanuel

Bailey Smith is applying for the MD at Stanford, focusing on developing safe, effective, affordable treatments for cancers. At Northeastern, Bailey balanced her time as a Division 1 athlete in the pool with her academic coursework and research in the lab. As a Research Assistant in Professor Johnathan Tilly’s Aging and Infertility Research Lab Bailey began investigating ovarian cancer (OC) tumor formations—the most lethal form of cancer in women. Building off this experience, Bailey began a co-op at Tango Therapeutics in January 2021. This clinical-based biotech company is one of the global leaders in novel precision cancer medicines. Here, she utilized CRISPR-Cas9 to try to identify synthetic lethality and vulnerabilities in unique cancer pathways. Noted for her efforts in and out of the pool, the Colonial Athletic Association recognized Baily for the Leadership and Sports Excellence Award, representing the highest academic and athletic achievement standards. Since graduating summa cum laude, Bailey has since joined the research team of  Dr. Samuel McBrayer at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, one of the nation’s leading cancer research centers, where she is exploring glioblastoma (GBM).


Alex StorrerAlex Storrer COE/COS’24, Mechanical Engineering/Physics
Mentors: Xiaoyu Tang, Jack Mohajer, Anne-Marie Schreyer, Daniel Hourigan,  Michael Ahern

Alex Storrer is interested in understanding fundamental problems within turbulent fluid mechanics. These are difficult theoretical and practical problems, the unlocking of which will enable the proliferation of new, more efficient technologies in fields where we desperately need them, from wind turbines to aeronautics. During his time at Northeastern, Alex has excelled in his studies and complemented them with extensive and impactful co-curricular experiences, conducting research at Northeastern, SharkNinja, SpaceX, and the MIT Plasma Science and Fusion Center. At Northeastern, he has worked in the Multiple Phase Flow Lab under Professor Xiaoyu Tang and played a key role in our university’s nationally-recognized NASA’s Mars Ice Challenge Team. Here, Alex helped to build a robot to autonomously melt and extract subterranean ice from a simulated Martian surface, designing critical subsystems that enabled the robot to break the competition’s record for water extracted. In his first co-op, Alex worked at SharkNinja, where he prototyped kitchen appliances and improved their performance and design. Building upon this experience, Alex served as a Propulsion Intern working to increase the reliability the next generation of rockets for space exploration at SpaceX. Time spent working in aviation drew Alex towards the study of fundamental turbulence and through the DAAD RISE Scholarship, Alex joined the Experimental High-Speed Aerodynamics Team at RWTH Aachen University, where he analyzed shock-wave boundary layer interactions (SWBLI). This experience led Alex to create a data analysis tool and presented findings from this summer experience to the American Physical Society Division of Fluid Dynamics. Alex is the captain of Northeastern’s Ultimate Frisbee Team and an accomplished trumpeter. He is working on his final co-op at MIT Plasma Science and Fusion Center. 


Clara WuClara Wu, COS’23 Behavioral Neuroscience
Mentors: Jamie Bunce, Jude Mathews, Theo Davis

Clara Wu hopes to earn the MD at Stanford and pursue a career focused on improving quality of life through advances in palliative care. Northeastern’s 2023 Commencement Speaker, Wu has blazed an impressive trail through the university. One of the top students in her behavioral neuroscience program, Clara has taken advantage of every opportunity Northeastern provides to strengthen and deepened her capacities as a future physician-scientist. Clara’s resumé features research and co-operative education experiences at some of the top institutions for medical research in the world: in addition to her research at Northeastern, Clara has conducted impactful research at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF); Brigham and Women’s Hospital; Tübingen University Hospital (UKT) in Germany; and Boston Children’s Hospital. Clara’s work has led to two abstract publications in Stroke and Pediatric Blood and Cancer and a third as first author in the Journal of Child Neurology. Not only does Clara excel in the classroom and the lab, but also she shines in service to her community. At George Mark Children’s House, one of only three pediatric palliative care homes in the U.S., Clara conducted a co-op (and continues to volunteer when able) where she worked with patients and staff to provide daily care, support, and activities.


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