Fourteen undergraduate students from Stony Brook University have received the 2020 Chancellor’s Award for Excellence, which recognizes students who have best demonstrated, and have been recognized for, the integration of academic excellence with accomplishments in the areas of leadership, athletics, community service, creative and performing arts, campus involvement, or career achievement.
“SUNY’s Chancellor’s Award for Excellence winners are the champions of their campuses, each showing a tireless devotion to their academics and extracurricular pursuits, as well as their care for their fellow students as mentors and leaders,” said SUNY Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson. “They are inspiring, and I have high expectations for how they will contribute to our society as we rebound from this current pandemic that separates us today.”
Each year, SUNY campus presidents establish a selection committee, which reviews the accomplishments of exemplary students. Nominees are forwarded to the Chancellor’s Office for a second round of review. Finalists are then recommended to the Chancellor to become recipients of the award.
The 2020 Chancellor’s Award for Excellence winners from Stony Brook University are:
Isabella Bouklas, East Setauket, New York, Psychology and Sociology
Bouklas graduated cum laude in December 2019 with majors in psychology and sociology and minors in philosophy and women’s studies. At Stony Brook, she served the campus community through various leadership positions, including as a resident assistant, orientation leader, voter engagement intern, psychology research assistant and campus director for the UN Millennium Fellowship. She hopes to follow her passions for education and improving the human condition by pursuing a career in academia, research and advocacy.
Brandon Catalano, East Setauket, New York, Biomedical Engineering
Catalano majors in biomedical engineering with a minor in electrical engineering. He has a passion for research and received a URECA grant this past summer for his work on portable electrocardiography (ECG) in Dr. Wei Lin’s Medical Instrumentation Lab. On the Dean’s List every semester, he was inducted into Alpha Eta Mu Beta, the Biomedical Engineering Honor Society. He is an INSPIRE peer mentor, a member of marching band and member of the robotics team.
Danny DeGennaro, Waterford, New York, Electrical Engineering
DeGennaro is an aspiring energy engineer, focused on implementing more renewables onto our power grid. He will be graduating from his electrical engineering program with honors, and holds minors in physics and writing and rhetoric. Danny is conducting research at Brookhaven National Lab. He is a lead tutor at the Stony Brook Academic Success & Tutoring Center, and is a member of the rugby team, competing both throughout the region and internationally.
Udokama Ezewke Abuja, Nigeria, Biochemistry
Ezewke Abuja is a Nigerian-American majoring in biochemistry who aspires to become a surgeon and is involved in teaching, mentoring, research, leadership and service. She participated in faculty-mentored research, investigating the pathways of ions through the NMDA receptor. As a resident assistant, she works to educate others on social justice, diversity and inclusion. She is also part of a non-profit organization currently establishing an after-school program for the empowerment of secondary school girls in Ghana.
Claire Garfield, Oneonta, New York, Biology
Garfield is a biology major and marine science, French and chemistry minor, pursuing a career in chemical ecology. She is a tutor, a former TA and is on the editorial staff of the Stony Brook Young Investigator’s Review. She has been involved with research since high school. Garfield has been inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, and named a Goldwater Scholar, DAAD-RISE fellow, and Marshall Scholar. She has also co-authored two papers.
Marissa Kelberman, Bolton, Massachusetts, Political Science and Philosophy
Kelberman graduated summa cum laude in December 2019 with majors in political science and philosophy and a minor in professional writing. Part of Stony Brook’s Division I soccer team, she helped her team make the NCAA Tournament twice in her career. She volunteers for the local soccer club, campus children’s hospital, as well as the on-campus food pantry. Kelberman also is involved in Peer Athlete Wellness Seminar (PAWS) and Student Athlete Advisory Committee initiatives.
Ian Lesnick, Smithtown, New York, Linguistics/TESOL, Spanish Languages and Literature
Lesnick is a proud Seawolf working toward his master’s in teaching with two certifications: Spanish and TESOL. Equity, inclusion and social justice are pivotal to his work, on and off campus. From serving as USG director of Diversity Affairs and director for Camp Kesem at Stony Brook, to supporting students as a resident assistant and as president of the Honors College student advisory board, his on-campus experiences have shaped his future of helping and supporting others.
Sishir Pasumarthy, North Attleboro, Massachusetts, Biomedical Engineering
Pasumarthy is an aspiring physician scientist in the Honors College who is majoring in biomedical engineering and minoring in nanotechnology studies. He performs research in Dr. Mei Lin Chan’s osteoimmunology lab, and serves as president of Alpha Eta Mu Beta (International Biomedical Engineering Honor Society), vice president of Doctors Without Borders, student ambassador and a genetic engineering teaching assistant. Sishir plans to earn his MD/PhD degrees to pursue a career in immunoengineering research.
Nicholas Roig, Clifton Park, New York, Biochemistry
Roig is an aspiring physician in the Honors College, majoring in biochemistry. He conducts mycobacterial research under Dr. Jessica Seeliger, and is a geriatric intern at Stony Brook Primary Care. He is passionate about student engagement and has been a resident assistant in Roth Quad the past two years, additionally serving as the RA liaison for his Hall Council. He is also a runner, and competed in the 2019 Mohawk Hudson River Marathon.
Chloe Savino, Garden City, New York, Chemistry
Savino is an aspiring physician in the Honors College, pursuing a degree in chemistry. She conducts research in Dr. Eszter Boros’ laboratory, and has been published in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry for her work in developing theranostic molecules for bacterial infections. Savino demonstrates her passion for helping others through her roles as president of Project Sunshine Stony Brook, teaching assistant, undergraduate geriatric intern and head of a water safety program for underprivileged girls.
Caleb Sooknanan, Queens, New York, Biomedical Engineering, Applied Mathematics and Statistics
Sooknanan is a proud, first-generation Honors College student majoring in biomedical engineering and applied mathematics and statistics. An aspiring physician, he combines compassion, innovation and leadership to enhance people’s lives as the president of 3Diatrics, a student-led organization dedicated to 3D printing toys for patients at Stony Brook Medicine. He has also conducted clinical imaging research at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and Stony Brook Medicine, where he currently shadows a gynecological oncologist.
Jessica Tom, Flushing, New York, Biology, Women’s and Gender Studies
Tom is an aspiring physician, majoring in biology and women’s and gender studies. She is a student ambassador, a peer academic success coach tutor, and serves on the President’s Council of Student Advisors. She is passionate about oncology, conducts research on chronic myeloid leukemia with Dr. Markus Seeliger, volunteers in the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit at Stony Brook Hospital, and has completed a clinical oncology internship at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
Peony Tse, Flushing, New York, Social Work, Sociology
Tse is a proud first-generation student who is passionate about ensuring access to quality education around the world. Pursuing a BS in social work, a BA in sociology and a minor in international studies, she is the New York district governor for Circle K International, a student ambassador, a Center for Civic Justice intern, a University Scholar, a 2019 Gilman Scholar and a 2017-2019 JFEW SUNY Global Affairs Scholar.
Jessica Vilas-Boas, Central Islip, New York, Biochemistry
Vilas-Boas is a biochemistry major and aspiring structural biologist, researching a novel series of inhibitors related to FDA-approved leukemia drugs. She presents at national research conferences, serves as a CSTEP Advisory Board member and is an INSPIRE peer mentor. Vilas-Boas is a member of the President’s Council of Student Advisors, the Women’s Leadership Council, and Women in Science and Engineering. A studio art minor, she explores sociology and environmentalism in her photography and has exhibited at the Staller Center.
A complete listing of student recipients is available online along with videos from Chancellor Johnson and the awardees.
In place of the annual in-person ceremony, these achievements will be recognize via a virtual video celebration.