Environmental Leaders Nominated for Udall Scholarship

The Udall Scholarship recognizes college sophomores and juniors for leadership, public service, and commitment to issues related to Native American nations or to the environment. The Udall Scholarship honors the legacies of Morris Udall and Stewart Udall, whose careers had a significant impact on Native American self-governance, health care, and the stewardship of public lands and natural resources. We’re proud to share with you the names and biographies of the Northeastern University students nominated for this important award.

Kiran BajajKiran Bajaj COS’25, Marine Biology
Mentors: Kathleen Lotterhos, Stephanie Eby, Tara Duffy
Home State: Massachusetts

Kiran is a Marine Biology major with a minor in Data Science. Kiran hopes to pursue a career as a conservation biologist, focusing on coastal ecosystems such as salt marshes and oyster reefs that provide essential ecosystem services and have intrinsic or economic value to local communities. As a NOAA Hollings scholar, Kiran is driven to integrate research and public service within the federal government and aims to better inform environmental protection policy for coastal areas disproportionately affected by climate change, aiding human and nonhuman communities that are most vulnerable. At the Northeastern Marine Science Center, Kiran works in the Lotterhos lab to assess adaptation of juvenile oysters to their diverse environments across the East Coast. Previously, Kiran was an AJC Merit Research Scholars Co-op in the lab and helped develop a genetic dataset for oysters across the same locations. Both projects highlight vulnerable populations, helping to sustain productive aquaculture, habitat restoration, and ecosystem services that coastal communities depend on. Outside of research, Kiran is motivated to increase environmental education access to young students and mentorship support and community within her department, and is involved with the EcoScholars organization and Marine and Environmental Science Peer Mentoring on campus.


Diane GrantDiane Grant  Khoury25, Computer Science/Political Science
Mentors: Kat Eshel, Auroop R Ganguly, Kirsten Rodine-Hardy
Home State: Maryland

Diane Grant aims to become a leader in solving public problems leveraging sustainability artificial intelligence (AI). Pursuing a combined major in computer science and political science, Diane has long focused on bringing a strong technical background to the environmental policy sector. Diane believes that leveraging the newest technologies in the public sector will empower policymakers and community members to build powerful, data-informed, environmental justice policies. Her first co-op experience at the City of Boston Environment Department solidified her dedication to public service and showed her the possibilities of leveraging environmental data to reduce emissions. Carrying this passion with her, Diane’s current research analyzes and maps the current state of sustainability AI, to better understand gaps in research, funding, and the subsequent effect on environmental justice. On her second co-op, Diane is in the inaugural AI4Impact cohort where she is improving the Massachusetts state energy and environmental grant discovery process for applicants with limited resources. She intends to pursue a master’s in engineering and public policy to further her knowledge of climate-focused technology and policy. On campus, Diane is a member of the Valkyries ultimate frisbee team, Husky Ambassadors, and WRBB 104.9 where she co-hosts the radio show Nifty Fifty.

Luz JohnsonLuz Johnson COS’25, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
Mentors: Jonathan Grabowski, Aisulu Raspayeva, Paula Strassle
Home State: Washington, D.C.

Having grown up in the nation’s capital, Luz was familiar with what both justice and inequity looked like from a young age. After interning at the Office of Human rights, she took on a passion for community engagement. She went on to work with the International Mayan League and the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, facilitating the translation of legal information into indigenous languages for people seeking asylum and participating in the development of research on ethnic disparities in postpartum depression risk. Now studying ecology, she’s leading a project on augmented fish and invertebrate use of restored oyster reefs at Northeastern’s marine fisheries lab at the Marine Science Center and is developing her animal husbandry and diving skills as an aquarist at the New England Aquarium. She also investigates courtroom discourse in the InLab, a research group focusing on the intersection between language and gender. She plans to bridge the gap between science and indigenous knowledge as an animal ecologist in equatorial communities such as her family’s hometown in Ecuador, which are disproportionately affected by environmental change. She enjoys watching the dogs she trains as an MSPCA volunteer become more sociable and happy and her favorite fish at the aquarium is a Florida pompano she calls Popeye.

Cassandra VongrejCassandra Vongrej COS’25, Biology/Mathematics
Mentors: Aron Stubbins, Jessica Gould, John Wnek
Home State: New Jersey

Cassandra is a combined Biology and Mathematics major, focusing on the field of environmental science. She hopes to tackle the ongoing issue of increasing atmospheric carbon concentrations by using natural carbon dioxide reducing technologies, one such CDR being macroalgae. Macroalgae can sequester large amounts of carbon in the form of dissolved organic carbon, which can potentially reach the deep sea to be stored for millennia. She is a current member of the Stubbins lab where she researches this issue in collaboration with Running Tide, a company focused on naturally sourced methods of atmospheric carbon removal for climate change mitigation. Starting in her marine-focused high school in New Jersey, Cassandra has always had a passion for environmental leadership. Here, she researched a land-based germination restoration initiative for a local seagrass species. Along with her research in the Stubbins lab, she is currently the Vice President for Engagement and Leadership for the Resident Student Association, where she plans different recruitment and retention opportunities. In her free time, she enjoys going to concerts and exploring new places in Boston, coffee in hand!