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15 SBU Students Receive SUNY’s Highest Distinction

Suny chancellors award 17

Fifteen undergraduate students from Stony Brook University were recognized with the highest honor bestowed by SUNY — the Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence — in a ceremony at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center in Albany on April 5. SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher presented the awards to a total of 256 students.

Left to right: Cole Lee; James Vassallo; Joselin Vargas; Krista Pullen; Gabrielle Khalife; Joel Kovoor; Naveen Mallangada; Charles Robbins, Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education and Dean of the Undergraduate Colleges; Janki Patel; Sonia Joshi; Taylor Brant; Megan Cooney; Rima Madan and Joseph Sweeney (not pictured: Bella Gurevich and Ioana Soaita)
Left to right: Cole Lee; James Vassallo; Joselin Vargas; Krista Pullen; Gabrielle Khalife; Joel Kovoor; Naveen Mallangada; Charles Robbins, Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education and Dean of the Undergraduate Colleges; Janki Patel; Sonia Joshi; Taylor Brant; Megan Cooney; Rima Madan and Joseph Sweeney (not pictured: Bella Gurevich and Ioana Soaita)

Students chosen for the Chancellor’s Award have demonstrated that not only are they exceptional students, but they go above and beyond — developing their talents and skills to contribute the best of themselves to their campuses and communities.

“It is my honor to celebrate the achievements of students who have surpassed SUNY’s highest standards of academic excellence and leadership both on and off campus,” said SUNY Chancellor Zimpher. “Every student we recognize today has demonstrated a strong commitment to their degree program, home campus, greater community, and much more. Congratulations to all of the students receiving this year’s award.”

The Chancellor’s Award was created in 1997 to recognize students who have best demonstrated and 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.

SBU’s Award Winners

Taylor Brant, from Shoreham, NY, is a psychology major who became an orientation leader and student ambassador to help new students acclimate to Stony Brook’s campus. Through these two roles and an internship through her honors program, she has developed a great appreciation for helping others succeed personally and academically. By assisting on various research projects through Stony Brook Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry, she is working toward her goal of becoming a clinical psychologist.

Megan Cooney, from Centennial, CO, is a health sciences major and an aspiring registered dietitian. A Division I student-athlete, she has balanced her commitments to the Stony Brook cross country and track & field teams with a strong dedication to her studies and to community service. She is also involved with National Residence Hall Honorary, University Scholars, and the Senior Legacy Council. Megan has interned with Alternative Spring Break Outreach and serves as the organization’s treasurer.

Bella Gurevich, from Smithtown, NY, is an English major and double minor in writing and art history. Pursuing a career in academia and curating, she energetically promotes the cultivation of an artistic community within and outside of Stony Brook. During a summer internship at The Met Cloisters, she conducted nine weeks of research culminating in a special gallery talk, while leading daily workshops for children. She is currently integrating machine learning with archival research to determine an artistic attribution.

Sonia Joshi, from Jericho, NY, is a biochemistry major who participates in the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) and Scholars for Medicine programs. She serves as vice chair for Stony Brook University President Samuel L. Stanley’s Council of Student Advisors, is a mentor for WISE, a student ambassador, and a researcher in the Department of Medicine. Her research at SBU and the Feinstein Institute has led to co-authorship of two publications. In her spare time, Sonia performs Indian classical dance and plays the bass clarinet.

Gabrielle Khalife, from Commack, NY, is a biology major and an aspiring pediatrician with a passion for helping others. If she’s not in the lab conducting research in cancer biology, you may find her working with the Red Watch Band CARE Team, committed to preventing deaths from alcohol overdose. Gabrielle strives to diversify her experiences though her involvement in teaching, community service, and outreach. In her spare time she enjoys baking, reading, and traveling.

Joel Kovoor, from New City, NY, is a biology major who is committed to the betterment of his community and university. Inspired by the loving and nurturing environment provided by his parents, Joel continues to balance a full-time academic load with an array of leadership positions, research internships, community service, and a stellar academic record. He will be matriculating into medical school next fall to pursue a dynamic career as a clinician, educator, and leader.

Cole Lee, from Staten Island, NY, is a political science major and a first-generation college student who has devoted his life to public service and to making a difference in the lives of others. As a former intern for elected officials at the federal, state, and city level, Cole’s love and passion for his community and public service led him to become just the fourth student in Stony Brook University history to serve two terms as student body president.

Rima Madan, from Bethpage, NY, is a biology major and a student ambassador, Honors College peer mentor, and has been named a URECA Researcher of the Month. After studying abroad in Madagascar, Rima did a project on disease transmission in lemurs and became founder and president of Students Helping Malagasy Students, a club that provides educational tools and resources to underprivileged children in Madagascar. Rima is an aspiring physician and will attend SUNY Upstate Medical University.

Naveen Mallangada, from Jericho, NY, is a biology major in the Scholars for Medicine Program (BS/MD) and is a pancreatic cancer researcher in the Division of Cancer Prevention. He has designed beautification projects, (Heart Beats of Stony Brook and Piano Steps) and promotes interdisciplinary collaboration through the SBU Innovation Lab. He is a student ambassador, Honors College mentor, and received the Gelfond Leadership Scholarship and Outstanding Future Alumni Award. Naveen maintains a 4.0 GPA and will attend the SBU School of Medicine.

Janki Patel, from Binghamton, NY, is a biochemistry major whose interests in science, teaching, and serving communities led her to pursue medicine. She was able to foster her passions at Stony Brook through experiences in leadership, teaching, and service. Janki’s academics have been complemented by her many roles on and off campus, including president of Undergraduate Biochemistry Society, an intern and volunteer at Stony Brook University Hospital, a teaching assistant for chemistry, an intern at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and a researcher in biochemistry.

Krista Pullen, from New Milford, CT, is an applied mathematics & statistics and a biology double major who is very involved in Stony Brook’s campus community. She has studied abroad in New Zealand and participated in a medical brigade in Nicaragua. She conducted research in locomotor learning and big data analysis. In addition, Krista is a student ambassador, a mentor in the Women in Science and Engineering program, and a marching band member. She advocated for gender equality as one of the original student members of Stony Brook’s HeforShe steering committee.

Ioana Soaita, from Danbury, CT, is a biomedical engineering major and an aspiring research scientist who wishes to develop novel biomedical approaches to counter the suffering associated with metabolic diseases such as diabetes. Ioana is a 2016 Goldwater Scholar and a member of the Honors College. She has a passion for teaching as well as research, and is an internationally certified tutor with more than 200 hours of tutoring experience.

Joseph Sweeney, from Hicksville, NY, is a pharmacology major and music minor who uses his love of both science and music to guide his experiences at Stony Brook. In addition to being a member of Stony Brook’s marching band and vice president of SB Live, a student-run jazz band, Joseph conducts biochemistry research concerning the endocannabinoid system under the guidance of Dr. Dale Deutsch. As an aspiring physician-scientist, Joseph plans to pursue an MD-PhD degree after graduation.

Joselin Vargas, from Brooklyn, NY, is a biology major and a first-generation college student with a strong academic record and profound leadership experience outside the classroom. She has received numerous fellowships and scholarships and she is a University Scholar and student ambassador. Joselin is an active undergraduate researcher and instructor and has presented at numerous scientific meetings. Her future career goal is to become a physician-scientist in the field of oncology.

James Vassallo, from Bellport, NY, is a biology and sociology double major who is a student leader devoted to enriching the overall student experience on campus and increasing transparency between students and administration. His involvement includes leading institutional research projects as executive chair of the President’s Council of Student Advisors, creating new opportunities for commuter student engagement as president of the Commuter Student Association, volunteering with pediatric patients and families as vice president of Project Sunshine, and supporting campus initiatives for gender equality and against toxic drinking.

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