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15 SBU Students Honored for Academic Excellence and Leadership

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On April 10, 15 students from Stony Brook University State University received the 2018 Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence. SUNY students, their families, campus presidents, and faculty convened in the Albany Capital Center to congratulate this year’s 249 awardees.

Awardee Sarika Hira with SUNY Chancellor Kristina Johnson and Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education Charles Robbins
Awardee Sarika Hira with SUNY Chancellor Kristina Johnson and Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education Charles Robbins

“I am immensely proud of these students, who have demonstrated academic excellence and dedication to enriching their campuses and communities,” said SUNY Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson. “From research publications in industry journals to volunteering in hospitals and local clinics to holding leadership roles at their institutions, I am inspired by each student we recognize today. Congratulations to all of the students receiving this year’s award.”

The Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence was created in 1997 to recognize 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.

Each year, SUNY campus presidents establish a selection committee, which reviews the accomplishments of exemplary students. Nominees are then 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.

This year’s recipients from Stony Brook are:

Sydney Bryan, an English major, graduated magna cum laude in December 2017 from the English Honors Program and Teacher’s Education program with a minor in Africana Studies. She served as a commuter assistant and Freedom School intern; was on the Black History Month Planning Committee and the Dean’s Student Advisory Board; and chaired the Undergraduate Student Government Elections Board. As a student in the BA/MA program in English, Sydney will continue her education as a graduate student in the spring.

Michael D’Agati, an electrical engineering major, is a 2016 Goldwater Scholar and has been engaged in research at Stony Brook University since high school. He enjoys finding answers to new questions and challenging his limits as a student. Michael is involved in many areas on campus including the SBU crew team, IEEE-HKN honor society, and he is a student ambassador. Michael also enjoys playing piano and painting.

Samantha DiSalvo, a biology major, has excelled both inside and outside of the classroom. She has maintained a 3.99 GPA while being a part of the Stony Brook women’s lacrosse team, one of the top Division I programs in the nation. As a member of both the Student Athlete Advisory Committee and the Red Watch Band Care Team, she is very active within the campus community, and is involved in many campus-wide events.

Christopher Giuliano, an applied mathematics and statistics and chemistry double major in the Honors College, conducts research under Dr. Steven Glynn and Dr. Jason Sheltzer, and has published two co-first author papers on his work. Chris is a recipient of the Goldwater Scholarship, the AACR Bardos Scholarship, and is a founding member of the Stony Brook Synthetic Biology Society. After graduation, Chris plans to continue his research career by earning a PhD in cancer biology.

Sarika Hira, a biology major, is an aspiring physician who conducts cancer research at SBU, helps children affected by a parent’s cancer through Camp Kesem, and volunteers in cytology at Stony Brook Hospital. She is a University Scholar, was elected into Phi Beta Kappa, and graduated summa cum laude in December 2017. Sarika has also served as a resident assistant and an undergraduate fellow in Tabler Quad.

Andrew Kumpfbeck, a biomedical engineering major, is an aspiring physician. With a mother who is a nurse and a father who is a retired FDNY firefighter, Andrew had an early exposure to medicine and to the values of giving back to and caring for others. He has combined these passions at Stony Brook as a peer mentor, hospital volunteer, orientation leader, and student researcher in the Biomedical Engineering and Pharmacological Sciences departments.

Justin Lerner, an English major, is pursuing research in British Renaissance poetry. He specializes in religious texts, such as those of George Herbert. Since transferring from Suffolk County Community College, he has pursued academic research and leadership opportunities. Justin is an orientation leader, commuter assistant, writing tutor, member of the English Honors Program, Vice President of Brothers and Sisters in Christ, historian of the English Honor Society, and has presented at various research conferences.

Awardee Jessica McKay with Chancellor Johnson and Vice Provost Robbins
Awardee Jessica McKay with Chancellor Johnson and Vice Provost Robbins

Jessica McKay, a social work major, is an aspiring policy maker with a passion for research. She is involved as the co-founder of Stony Brook’s Chapter of I AM THAT GIRL, 23 and is also a resident assistant, member of the President’s Council of Student Advisors, student ambassador, and Red Watch BandCARE Team member. Inspired by her fellowship with Teach for America, Jessica plans to obtain a master’s of social work degree with a concentration in economic development. She aspires to run for office.

Ho Nam Nguyen Vung Tau, a physics and astronomy major with a minor in mathematics, is an Honors College student. He has worked closely with students as a resident assistant and a residential tutor. Ho Nam was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa and Sigma Pi Sigma honor societies. In addition, he has worked at CERN, the world’s largest particle physics laboratory, in Summer 2017. Ho Nam is also the first author on a paper submitted to Physical Review D journal.

Michelle Olakkengil, a psychology and sociology double major, is an aspiring advocate for women’s health who graduated Phi Beta Kappa. She is a recipient of the Benjamin Gilman International Scholarship, which allowed her to study abroad in Madagascar and research women’s sexual and reproductive health. Michelle attributes her campus involvement and achievements to university mentors. She is a Global Youth Advocacy Fellow for Planned Parenthood and will soon start her master’s in public health.

Alessandra Riccio, a biochemistry major, is an aspiring physician who intends to fuse her undergraduate experiences in leadership, research, and outreach into her future medical school career. At Stony Brook University, Alessandra has connected with many students in her roles as an orientation leader and resident assistant. Her clinical experiences at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and in Guatemala have shown her the humanistic aspect of medicine that she hopes to emulate as a future physician.

Lydia Senatus, an economics major, is a Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Fellow, a JFEW-SUNY International Relations and Global Affairs Scholar, and was a Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholar. As a student leader, she has served in the Student Government, on numerous committees and councils, and as a student ambassador. Lydia interned at the U.S. Mission to the UN, and studied abroad in China. After earning her bachelor’s degree, she will pursue her master’s degree in international relations.

Amanda Stoerback, a biology major, is pursuing an interdisciplinary biology degree while minoring in health and wellness and business. Her diverse involvement includes teaching, mentoring, research, service, and various leadership positions. Amanda is involved in clinical psychology research, working on processing electroencephalogram (EEG) data from children on and off the autism spectrum. She is also a lead peer academic success coach at the tutoring center, and has completed a clinical scholars program at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

Awardee Omar Zainul with Chancellor Johnson and Vice Provost Robbins
Awardee Omar Zainul with Chancellor Johnson and Vice Provost Robbins

Lyle Suh, a biology major, has experienced the importance of diversity, exploration, and education. She takes an active role in her community, founded a non-profit organization for girls’ education, is a Red Watch Band Care-team member, and serves as a peer assisted learning leader. Lyle has done research in two labs and also was involved in a student-led research project for iGEM. She has found a passion for neuroscience and education through the opportunities at Stony Brook.

Omar Zainul, a pharmacology major, is an aspiring physician with an immense ambition to uncover the brain’s unknowns. He is developing novel neural tracers to image the brain’s neural connectome, and has publications in the journals The Royal Society of Chemistry and The Journal of the American Chemical Society. Aside from his research, Omar works as a personal trainer, volunteers at a drug rehab clinic, and is passionate about enjoying the outdoors.

A complete listing of all SUNY student recipients is available online.

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