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Oct 06

Jacob Enders.jpgEminence Fellow Jacob Enders may dedicate much of his time to science, but it hasn't stopped him from learning to recite the alphabet backwards, do one-handed push-ups, or sing impressively enough to join one of OSU's well-known acapella groups, Scarlet Fever. The 4th-year from Chagrin Falls, Ohio also enjoys theater and reading. Currently, he is making his way through two fascinating books on medicine: Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science by Atul Gawande and When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. A slightly less fun fact about Enders is that he had not one, not two, but twelve teeth pulled in middle school. Fortunately, modern medical technology makes dentist and doctor visits much more efficient—and hopefully much less intimidating— than they used to be, and there's a high probability that Enders will be helping develop such technology in the near future.

Enders became interested in biomedical engineering after shadowing a surgeon in high school and realizing what a critical role medical equipment could play in helping patients. After graduation, he will attend medical school for four years to become an orthopedic or vascular surgeon. He is also interested in the possibility of designing medical equipment while working as a physician. Enders recognizes that medical school will be even more rigorous than honors engineering coursework; he is also preparing for the idea of moving to a less familiar city and having to start over with meeting people. However, the huge influx of new knowledge and new environments is part of the intrigue. "I think I'm most excited to be learning about all the fascinating mechanisms that make us who we are, and how problems with these mechanisms lead to life-altering diseases," he says. He is considering attending Case Western University, the University of Virginia, the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine, the University of Illinois at Chicago, Cornell University, and—of course— Ohio State. He has interviewed with a few schools already and has several interviews coming up throughout October.

For the past two years, Enders has conducted research in the Microsystems for Mechanobiology and Medicine laboratory. "I study cancer cell migration using DNA origami force sensors," he explains. In addition to his research here, he worked as an intern for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) this past summer. There, he listened to talks by biophysicists from prestigious research universities in the U.S. as well as a leading biochemistry researcher from the U.K. Enders also worked on an independent project, presented a poster, and wrote a paper about his work. Much of his time, however, was spent working in the lab with a post-baccalaureate student. "We used Atomic Force Microscopy to study the effects of base-pair mismatching on supercoiled DNA conformation, which had implications in understanding how people develop cancer," he says. The internship gave him exposure to a different field of research in a different setting than what he already had exposure to.

Enders notes that the Eminence program has allowed him to focus on research, classes, extracurricular involvement, and volunteering rather than worrying about how to afford his education. For example, in addition to recently joining Scarlet Fever, he is a member of Tau Beta Pi (the nation's oldest engineering honor society), PassGo (an organization that helps veterans and formerly incarcerated individuals find employment), and Phi Kappa Phi (an interdisciplinary service organization). He will soon be coordinating an undergraduate research forum for Tau Beta Pi for the second year in a row. He currently works as a teaching assistant for the Fundamentals of Engineering course sequence, which is taken by all first-years in the Honors program. Ender's own involvement in Honors was part of what motivated him to conduct undergraduate research; he wanted hands-on practice with the skills he was learning in class. Of the G.O.A.L.S. of H&S, he is particular drawn to global awareness, original inquiry, and academic enrichment. However, looking at his accomplishments in his four years at OSU, it is obvious that he has incorporated each of the five G.O.A.L.S. into his experience.

At last year's H&S Launch, Enders spoke about his personal experience with one of his favorite G.O.A.L.S.—original inquiry. This year, he got to be one of the emcees for the event. He and fellow emcee Olivia were given a script for the morning, but were also able to add personal touches, talk a bit about their own backgrounds, and make up a few of the inevitable corny jokes. Enders recalls that one of the most exciting moments was yelling "O-H!" to the crowd and hearing approximately 2,300 new students respond with the "I-O!" He suspects that students' favorite part was singing Carmen, Ohio together for what was likely their first time. He likes to think they enjoyed the corny jokes, too.

Thinking back to his own freshman year, sitting in that same auditorium, Enders notes how much his future goals have evolved and how many experiences he never would have expected to have, whether it was working for the NIH, emceeing the Launch, or being in the pit for a Bastille concert a few weeks ago. He does miss the many trips to Mirror Lake Creamery from that first year. For nostalgia's sake (or perhaps the ice cream, grilled mac and cheese, or only decent General Tso's on campus), he hopes to go back one more time before he graduates. If it doesn't open back up by spring, he just might have to make a trip from medical school next year.  

"For the last three years, I have attended a dinner with President Drake as part of my scholarship group, and at each of those dinners he has always asked us one thing that we wish we could improve about Ohio State," says Enders.  "My answer was to finish with all the construction."


By Christina Szuch, H&S Student Staff Writer                   


Oct 02

Leah Dunston.jpgIf you've ever seen someone frantically chase down a CABS bus, unapologetically clad in Christmas-themed pajamas, it may have been second-year STEM Scholar Leah Dunston. She counts this as one of her most notable memories from freshman year, along with making pesto pasta at 1am and being on a noble mission to find the best bookstores, bakeries, and coffee shops in Columbus. It didn't take her long to get used to being at a new school; though she is from a small town in Virginia, she has also lived in four other states (including Ohio) and in England. She has visited countries in Europe and Central America and has been to China. As much as she enjoys travelling, sometimes it is nice to take the Floo network back home and sit down to read or watch her favorite book and movie series, Harry Potter. Other hobbies include watching television, painting, and learning about the universe.

Dunston originally planned to be an astrophysics major, but ultimately decided to focus on one of her favorite things about earth: the animals. She studies zoology and is on a pre-vet track, planning to attend veterinary school immediately after graduation and focus on either small animals of exotic medicine. She is open to the idea of private practice or something different such as working at a zoo. "I have always held an admiration and respect for the animal world," she explains. "They have been a crucial part of our past and will continue to be an integral part of our lives."

Clearly, Dunston is a scientist at heart, whether she is learning about astrophysics or animals. STEM Scholars has connected her with students and mentors who have similar interests. Her favorite aspect of Scholars is the guest speakers, who may be upperclassmen, staff, or experts from across the country. She particularly enjoyed getting to participate in a video chat with a zoo veterinarian from Busch Gardens in Florida.

For Dunston, fulfilling STEM Scholars requirements during her first year was anything but a chore. This is how she got involved in WOW, an organization dedicated to science outreach for elementary school students. Struck by the children's excitement about learning new scientific concepts, Dunston decided to continue volunteering with WOW when her Scholars requirements were met, and she is currently working on a capstone project with the program director. She hopes to be a role model for all the students by expressing her own love of the scientific world. Her favorite group to work with has been third-graders because they are beginning to learn more complex concepts but have not lost their childlike curiosity and enthusiasm.

Unlike many humans, dogs never seem to lose their enthusiasm at all, and they have always had a special place in Dunston's heart. "Since I was born I have been around dogs, which makes being in a dorm a struggle since there is no wagging tail to greet me when a return," she says. While hanging out on the Oval may be a solution on days with particularly pleasant weather, Dunston found a way to guarantee some quality canine time every week by getting involved with Partnering Up for Pets (PUPs), an organization that walks dogs at the Franklin Country Dog Shelter. This year, she became an officer for PUPs. She loves each dog for their unique backstory and their unwavering excitement about human interaction. Needless to say, she plans to adopt a shelter dog in the future. "Despite their quirks and challenges, they are able to find companionship again in people. They act like all past wrongs are in the past and look forward to the future," she says.

Dunston is also a member of Pre-Vet Club, Zoology Club, and a Christian student organization called Cru. In addition to her campus involvement, she had two exciting opportunities this past summer that confirmed her love for veterinary science. One was setting up spay and neuter clinics throughout Guatemala and helping with intake, surgery, and recovery through an organization called Vida. Though this was somewhat nerve-wracking, as it was Dunston's first experience working with surgery, it went well and she considers it an unforgettable trip. As if this wasn't exciting enough, she also got to help with husbandry and nutrition efforts at Blue Ridge Wildlife Center in Virginia…so yes, that means she had an internship feeding baby birds, mammals, and reptiles.

The next step for Leah Dunston's already enviable resume is a goal shared by many a Buckeye who has walked those dreadful stone steps next to Thompson library before her: "I want to get a picture with Brutus during my time here."

By Christina Szuch, H&S Student Staff Writer​

Sep 22

Keyser1.pngC​orey Keyser describes himself as "an outdoorsman, scientist techie from Tennessee." He is a third-year Eminence Fellow majoring in philosophy and neuroscience with the ultimate goal of combating food and health issues as well as helping new entrepreneurs succeed by working as a venture capitalist. If he is not off hiking or climbing mountains, he is probably sitting in front of a computer, but not to binge-watch Netflix or contrive the perfect combination of Instagram hashtags. Instead, most of his time is currently spent coding or working on projects to reduce food insecurity.

Keyser has always had broad interests, which made philosophy an ideal area of study. He explains, "Philosophy basically specializes in looking at everything and just breaking it down, showing why it's wrong, showing how it could get better, and there is a literally a "Philosophy of" everything: philosophy of science, philosophy of politics, moral philosophy…" He became interested in neuroscience in high school, realizing that studying the brain could give him insight into his unanswered questions about philosophy and vice versa. He chose to attend Ohio State because it would give him an opportunity to take an interdisciplinary approach to both his majors.

Keyser credits Honors & Scholars with defining his college experience so far. He notes that both financial resources and academic resources— such as mentors and advisors— have given him the freedom to pursue any projects he is passionate about. The Eminence program also introduced him to students with similarly high ambition. Keyser says, "H&S gave me a community as soon as I got here and it made the transition into college life a hundred times easier."

In addition to being an Eminence Fellow, he is involved in OSU Mountaineers, where he met most of his friends. He helps with a startup that builds logistics software and is hoping to start a campus publication about technology and entrepreneurship. Most of his time, however, goes into a student organization called Best Food Forward, for which he is the current president.

Best Food Forward is based on a co-op model and provides students with healthy, affordable groceries. The idea stemmed from Keyser's Eminence cohort; during his freshman year, food insecurity was highlighted at the Buckeye Summit, in a study by the Office of Student Life, and in the summer reading book assigned to first-years (Good Food Revolution by Will Allen and Charles Wilson). Though food insecurity is a problem all around the globe, approximately 15-20% of students at here at OSU do not know where their next meal will come from. Since each Eminence cohort is challenged to focus on a societal issue and develop solutions, Keyser and his peers decided to tackle the problem they were hearing so much about. Like most projects, it was a process of trial-and-error and the pieces did not fully come together until this past January, but it was well worth the wait. Best Food Forward purchases local produce in bulk and is able to sell it at significantly lower prices than grocery stores and campus convenience stores, sometimes selling bundles of items at almost one-third of the regular cost. Members send in their money and vote on the produce that will be included in the next bulk package. Students do not have to be stressed about transportation since the groceries can be picked up right on campus, making the food more accessible in addition to being cheaper. Keyser hopes to cut the rate of food insecurity on campus in half by the time he graduates.

Keyser's coding knowledge helped him develop an app for food co-ops to handle voting, payment, and other administrative responsibilities. Through a summer-long program in San Francisco at the Horizons School of Technology, Keyser gained about three years' worth of coding knowledge in the span of three months. He now has the skills necessary to be a full-stack software engineer, meaning he has experience in each layer of development rather than specializing in front end or back end. Keyser got to learn from very experienced software engineers and build several apps, and he highly recommends the program. However, he notes that Silicon Valley has its problems, some of which he witnessed firsthand. At one point, a Molotov cocktail was thrown into his apartment; luckily, no one was hurt, but Keyser says. "It gave me a horrible first-look into the downside of the Silicon Valley tech culture— namely, massive inequality, gentrification, and community tension." Thus, the summer was an important learning experience in more ways than expected.

Even while dedicating so much time to software development and combating social problems, Keyser has found the time to be involved with undergraduate research. He works under Dr. Brandon Turner in the neuroscience department, specifically doing computational neuroscience work. They turn data about human behavior and brain phenomena into computational models, sometimes involving complicated mathematics. Keyser explains, "I take on my own projects and try compare and create models for human decision. Right now, I am working on a project to use structural brain data to optimize existing models." His research experience has led him to think about science differently, realizing that the goal of just about any scientific field is to create models to explain data. He has also realized how little we truly know yet about the brain, which is part of what makes neuroscience so exciting for him.

Though he jokes about being afraid to sound too pretentious, Keyser believes that philosophy is what ties everything in his life together. He says that it fills in many of the explanatory gaps of neuroscience, and that the two fields complement each other. Similarly, computational neuroscience and coding are closely related, whether he is working on research in Dr. Turner's lab or creating a new app for co-ops. He sees coding, neuroscience, and philosophy as occupying the same "knowledge basket" in his life because he needs to be competent with all three in order to accomplish his goals. "On the other hand," he says, "Best Food Forward seems kind of weird and distant and it throws in this extra factor that you don't normally have to worry about in science: people." Combatting food insecurity, in his opinion, is a separate "knowledge basket" he is working on filling. Of course, some skills, such as general problem-solving, have transferred over between the two.

Keyser credits his family and girlfriend with keeping him grounded while he tackles so many projects. He is also a strong believer in the occasional trip to escape from the stresses of every day life; his most recent journey was to West Virginia, where he went climbing and made sure not to worry about school. "On top of that," he says, "I am just very excited about everything I do, so it is really easy to work on these things non-stop."​

By C​​hristina Szuch, H&S Student Staff Writer

Sep 11
STUDENT SPOTLIGHT: Ogochukwu Obiagwu

obiagwu1.jpgAt age twelve, many of us spent our days feeding Tamagotchi's, listening to angst-ridden punk rock, heating up Kid Cuisines, and trying on brightly-colored skinny jeans at the mall. Meanwhile, at the same age, current Business Scholar Ogochukwu Obiagwu was fostering an early interest in creativity and entrepreneurship by starting her own fashion business, ByOgochukwu, for which the motto is "expressing cultural pride through fashion."

Despite the many responsibilities of being a young businesswoman, Obiagwu did and still does find time for hobbies, including watching popular TV series such as Scandal, Power, and Blacklist. She loves volunteering with babies and youth, especially from underrepresented communities. Outside of her coursework as a second-year Accounting major, she is involved with campus organizations including the National Association for Black Accountants (for which she is the current Philanthropy Chair), the Office of Diversity and Inclusion Undergraduate Recruitment Society, the Deloitte Career Launch Program, Becker Professional Education Student Ambassadors, Ey Scholars, Project Thrive, and Morrill Scholars. Many of these organizations are focused on professional development for minority students; some are specifically geared toward business and accounting.

Off campus, Obiagwu works for Google through The Campus Agency, helping market the new Google Smart Messaging App. She is also a Senior Ambassador for a start-up called MYLE (Make Your Life Entertaining), which helps smartphone users find local events tailored to their interests. She has had two internship experiences so far: one with U.S. Social Security Administration as a senior in high school and one with PricewaterhouseCoopers LLC this past summer. In recognition for her accomplishments both on and off campus, Obiagwu has received the Freshman Black Excellence Award and has been an Education honoree for the African Distinction Awards.

Though Obiagwu was born and raised here in Columbus along with four siblings, she is Nigerian and speaks Igbo and Pidgin in addition to English. Growing up bicultural played a large role in her decision to start a clothing line that expresses cultural pride. "I was shy about my culture after being made fun of by my peers for my 'weird name' and 'weird hair' for so long," she recalls. "After visiting Nigeria in 2008, I fell in love with my culture and who I was and where I came from." She realized how remarkable it is to come from a continent with 54 countries and a country with over 200 spoken languages.

As she watched classmates start their first jobs, she became eager to take on a new challenge as of her own. Thinking of other young people who may struggle to accept and appreciate where they are from, she decided to create an affordable clothing line offering modern versions of traditional cultural clothing. She notes, "This diverts away from the misconception that all African clothing is 'the big hat on the woman's head' or 'the dresses guys wear.'" Her website features sweatshirts and tees that combine traditional elements of fashion with more modern, Westernized elements.

As her business has grown, Obiagwu has attended events as a vendor and has put together outfits for fashion shows; this has required a lot of planning and logistics. She says her biggest responsibility is overseeing her team of brand ambassadors and interns, who she describes as wonderful. She hopes to continue fighting against the underrepresentation of minorities in the fashion industry. Balancing these missions has given her a real-world lesson in communication, time management, and teamwork. These skills are undoubtedly transferrable to her future career as a Big 4 or private accountant and to her additional goal of spreading financial literacy and professional development opportunities to youth.

Obiagwu plans to graduate from OSU in 2020 after completing the dual-degree Master of Accounting program. So far, many of her favorite memories as a Buckeye have been related to her participation in Business Scholars. In fact, she met one of her closest friends in Scholars last year, and now the two of them are roommates. She has also connected with several minority students in the program to share opportunities; for example, this is how she found out about the study abroad program she attended in Germany as a freshman. She is also grateful for the H&S Enrichment Grant that made the trip possible. One of Obiagwu's favorite memories from Germany was going canoeing with several friends from the program; one of the boats tipped over, causing her friends to tumble into the water in a moment they will likely be reminiscing and laughing about for years.

In addition to her adventures abroad, she also has fond (or at least notable) memories of studying for calculus exams until 4am in Morrill Tower with her friend Sierra. Though she feels she has had a variety of exciting experiences at OSU already, she looks forward to the next several years, noting that one of the best things about the university and H&S is that "there is always more to do, more to see." For Obiagwu, this will ideally include participating in a study abroad program with a community service purpose and attending her first Buckeye game.  

by Christina Szuch, H&S Student Staff Writer

May 01
Ohio State Honors Student Awarded Udall Scholarship
Udall 2017 - Tal Shutkin 3.jpgTal Shutkin, a sophomore from Shaker Heights, Ohio, has been named a 2017 Udall Scholar.  The Udall Scholarship recognizes fifty college sophomores and juniors committed to careers related to the environment with a $7,000 scholarship; the award is also open to Native American students interested in tribal policy or native healthcare.  Since the first awards in 1996, the Udall Foundation has awarded 1,574 scholarships totaling $8,090,000. An Honors student, Tal is pursuing a degree in Environmental Policy and Decision Making; he is Ohio State’s twelfth Udall Scholar.  

Though only a sophomore, Tal has already distinguished himself as an environmental leader on and off campus.  He co-founded Renew OSU, a student group advocating for Ohio State’s divestment from fossil fuels, and serves as Vice President of the Sierra Club Student Coalition.  He was selected to participate in the Sierra Club Summer Leadership Program in 2015, and represented Ohio State at the Environmental Defense Fund’s 2016 National Campus Leadership Summit.  Tal also sought out experience in political advocacy, working as a field canvasser for the Ohio Citizen Action and a campaign organizer for the Rainforest Action Network.  He is also an active participant in Mountaineers at Ohio State, recently leading a student climbing trip to Mt Washington in New Hampshire.  

Beyond his campus and community activities, Tal has looked to ground his environmentalism within a strong academic framework.  He has begun research for his honors thesis on conservation policy evaluating the effectiveness of indigenous natural resource reserves as a conservation strategy in British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest.  Advised by Dr. Anna Wilson in the Department of Anthropology, he chose to focus on this particular location because of the ecological importance of the region as the largest protected old-growth coastal temperate rainforest on the planet, and the potentially groundbreaking conservation strategies being practiced there.  After graduation, Tal plans to pursue a PhD in political ecology before pursuing a career as a policy specialist for an environmental NGO focusing on individualized, research-based approaches to conservation governance.  

“I am honored to have been chosen for this scholarship and excited for the opportunity to connect with students from across the country who are passionate about environmental and tribal issues,” Shutkin noted. “I look forward to learning from my Udall cohort about each person’s unique but interrelated area of interest. This process has reassured me that I am on the right track for creating the kind of change that I want to see and has motivated me to pursue this vision with more vigor.”
Only 60 Udall Scholars are selected annually across the country. The Scholars were chosen from a pool of from 494 applicants nominated by 224 universities; each university may nominate up to four students in the environment category.  A 15-member independent review committee appointed by the Udall Foundation selected this year's group of Udall Scholars on the basis of commitment to careers in the environment, leadership potential, academic achievement, and record of public service. The review committee also awarded 50 Honorable Mentions.  The Udall Foundations honors the legacy of the late Congressman Morris K. Udall and his brother Stewart L. Udall, also a Congressman and former Secretary of the Interior.  

For more information and a complete list of recipients, please visit the Udall Foundation website,​.  Students interested in applying for the Udall Scholarship should contact the Undergraduate Fellowship Office (  

Apr 21
Student Spotlight: Alex Northrop

Alex Northrop could be known for many things. For example, he is a hard-working, intelligent 4th year participating in both the University Honors Program and the International Affairs Scholars programs. He is also an athlete, having completed his first full marathon in October. He is a world traveler, Public Health major, and self-proclaimed nerd. He hikes, snowboards, and salsa dances. He reads books by favorite authors John Krakauer and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and spends a fair amount of time watching Scrubs. Perhaps most importantly, however, he is known among friends and family for being an avid consumer of ice cream. (Growing up in Lakewood, he is particularly partial to Mitchell's Ice Cream in Cleveland.)

In addition to always seeking out the best tasting ice cream flavors, Northrop is also seeking tangible ways to fulfill the often vague goal of "changing the world." He has determined that public health would be an ideal way for him to achieve this, and he plans to become a doctor. He is particularly interested in studying health on a macroscopic level, looking at how society and the environment affect individual patients. OSU has proven to be a great place for him to study these topics; he particularly enjoys the inclusivity and size of the university, which have allowed him to find his own niche, even within his own major. He also notes that many of the faculty members he has encouraged have inspired him.

As many Honors students would attest, being part of the program is particularly beneficial in that it helps students get to know the faculty more personally. Northrop is grateful for the smaller, more individually-focused honors courses he has been able to take. He considers joining International Affairs Scholars one of the best decisions of his college career, particularly because he had considered becoming an International Studies major before pursuing Public Health. Public Health involves his passion for healthcare and biology, and thanks to Scholars, he does not have to abandon his other interests. In fact, he traveled to Bolivia with many of his fellow Scholars during freshman year, and this experience played a major role in his decision to study abroad in Ecuador later on. Though he has less free time to attend Scholars events now that he is a senior, he has stayed involved by being part of the Leadership Council. He recalls that one of the most successful events they planned was a trip to the Italian Festival last semester.

Northrop is also working on a project that builds upon the research he did in Ecuador. He is examining perceptions of the healthcare system in Cotacachi, Ecuador and has been involved with designing the study, conducting interviews, analyzing data, and writing about the findings. This research is especially challenging because his advisor for the project is based in Ecuador and the writing is in Spanish, but Northrop remains unfazed by these difficulties. He adds that he has learned several skills that are generalizable and important to any research project: scientific methodology, ethics, and respecting other cultures. When he got the opportunity to go to Ecuador, conducting this research was just one facet of an incredible experience. He recalls that his host family felt like a true family by the end of the trip, and interacting with them as well as new friends in Ecuador helped him become more fluent in Spanish. He also had the opportunity to work in a hospital and learn from a doctor he admires greatly. He had time for some hiking (including to Machu Picchu and to the top of a 15,000 foot mountain), surfing, eating, getting lost, watching an active volcano erupt, and fulfilling a long-held dream of exploring the Amazon…meeting some river dolphins in the process. He says, "[Studying abroad] was an amazing way to add perspective and depth to a lot of my public health courses."

Northrop hopes to get his research from Ecuador published in the near future. In the meantime, he is also studying antiretroviral resistance mutations at the Yoder Lab within the Wexner Medical Center. Given this research experience, he is well-suited for his work for the Pure Water Project, a nonprofit organization where he helps with research methodology. The goal of the Pure Water Project is provide data and research skills to organizations that focus on water interventions in developing countries. Access to clean, healthy water is an issue Northrop has been passionate about for a while, and is something he got to look into further during an internship with the CDC. "I worked as part of the Collegiate Leaders in Environmental Health (CLEH) program, where we gave presentations, attended seminars on exciting advances in environmental health, and had our own research projects,
he explains. "My project involved a scoping review of waterborne disease outbreaks associated with aging water infrastructure. It may sound a little nerdy, but I loved it." His suggestion to people who share his goals is to do some research on our water infrastructure and contact policymakers about it.

Northrop has also worked as an RA on campus. Despite the difficulties of maintaining a work-life balance while essentially living at work, he views the role as worthwhile for the friendships, diverse perspectives, and sense of community involved. One of his favorite memories of his residents was the time they surprised him on his birthday by presenting him with an Espress-OH muffin with a birthday candle on it, a small but meaningful gesture he will not forget any time soon.

Even after studying abroad, working on two research projects, helping at a nonprofit, completing a project for the CDC, and meeting river dolphins,  there are still more exciting plans in Northrop's future. He plans to receive his MD/MPH, but is first applying for fellowships for a gap year. In his future career, he hopes to combine his interests in infectious diseases and environmental health. Before he journeys to grad school and then to a career, however, he has two important missions left to accomplish at Ohio State: attending a basketball game and finding out what the Columbus ice cream scene has to offer.

by Christina Szuch, H&S Student Staff Writer

Apr 14
Student Spotlight: Jenna DeCarlo & Dan Gage

When asked to introduce themselves with a fun fact, Jenna DeCarlo and Dan Gage almost immediately bring up an apparently infamous quote once uttered by Gage: "We bleed Honors & Scholars in the best and worst way possible." During the interview, though, it seems to be only in the best way; the pair of close friends is constantly teasing each other, mentioning funny memories, and being enthusiastic about their H&S involvement.

Gage is a 4th year biology major from Salem, Connecticut, and is a member of Biological Sciences (BioSci) Scholars. Though his parents met when they attended OSU, they never pushed him to go here. However, starting out as a Buckeye football fan, Gage eventually became a fan of the academic side of the university as well. He had been interested in biology since he took a course on it in high school, and he knew that OSU had a strong program with many options for specialization. He realized that attending OSU would help him work toward his goal of attending medical school and becoming a physician. In addition to being a very enthusiastic Scholars member, Gage does research for a comprehensive cancer center and works as a T.A. for Organic Chemistry. As a more concrete fun fact, Gage estimates that he has been to Disney more than ten times since childhood.

DeCarlo, also a 4th year, is from Charleston, West Virginia. Her go-to fun fact is that she once rode in a hot air balloon over the Serengeti, which she insists was not that scary. She is an Honors student majoring in Speech and Hearing Sciences with minors in Spanish and Developmental Psychology. When she started out as an Exploration major, she learned about the differences between broad and narrow fields, and decided that Speech and Hearing struck the perfect balance, giving her a clear career path but still many options and a variety of people she could someday work with. DeCarlo also works in the Autism and Child Language Learning Lab and does ABA (applied behavioral analysis) with kids who have autism. She is a part of Student Leadership Advocates and was involved during her sophomore year in The Girls Circle Project, which seeks to empower the voices of girls and women through service learning and discussion groups. DeCarlo recalls that her Honors visiting day as a prospective student set the tone for her entire college experience. Specifically, she remembers being impressed by the enthusiasm and dedication of the H&S Ambassadors, joking that they were suckers for being up at 8am on a Friday to help with the event. "And now I'm going to be at the Union at 8am tomorrow," she laughs. "I'm a sucker."

DeCarlo shares an anecdote about the "The" in "The Ohio State University," noting that legend has it that the word is actually an acronym for Tradition, Honor, and Excellence. After thorough research, she was disappointed to learn that this was not an official acronym. However, she says, "It speaks a lot to the community and three things I've tried to adopt in my time here." (Luckily, H&S has a clever acronym of their own with the G.O.A.L.S.​!) Gage notes that OSU is unique because people tend to have a huge amount of school pride and a sense of honor for being a part of the community. Students really embrace their decision to attend the university, maybe even as much as DeCarlo and Gage embrace their decision to be a part of H&S…maybe.

For Gage, one of the major ways H&S has affected his time at OSU has been by allowing him to connect with people he never would have met otherwise, people who live on opposite ends of campus or have completely different interests. He also adds that in H&S, resources come to the students rather than students having to seek them out. DeCarlo seconds this, noting that she has enjoyed befriending the Kuhn staff, making friends with other H&S students, and finding connections for future opportunities.

Both DeCarlo and Gage have been H&S Ambassadors for four years, served on the Executive Board for three, and emceed the H&S Launch this year. They agree that their favorite H&S event (besides maybe All-Skate) is Scholars Day, when they get to meet incoming Scholars students and their parents and introduce them to the program. Gage says he can always feel the excitement in the air throughout the day as the students ask questions and seek out whatever they're interested in. "We showcase our own experiences, and that allows us to reflect on them," he says. For similar reasons, DeCarlo always looks forward to orientation, especially the parent session. "It's finally real for these students and families attending OSU," she says. The students tend to be "bright-eyed and bushy-tailed" and as for the parents, she does her best to ease their concerns about their kids going off to college.

Of course, hosting the Launch wasn't exactly boring, either. Gage claims that he was offered the opportunity to be an emcee as a compromise after he was not allowed to have a dunk tank at Kuhnival. Though they didn't rehearse at all until three days before, they were happy with how the day turned out. Well, for the most part. "I thought it was gonna be my big break," Gage says, "but not a single student has come up to me and said they recognize me." Before he can elaborate further on the disappointing lack of fame the Launch brought forth, DeCarlo interjects. "So, what he meant to say is that it was exciting to be the students' introduction to this group that has meant so much to us," she clarifies.

In fact, DeCarlo and Gage have enjoyed their time at OSU so much, they are not quite ready to leave. DeCarlo is going on to earn her Master's in Speech and Language Pathology here, planning to work with kids who have developmental disabilities. Gage will be attending medical school here to become a physician. Hopefully, they will still find the time to pursue their non-academic goals. For Gage, this means travelling to Europe. For DeCarlo, this means seeing a sunset on every continent. "Three down, four to go," she adds.

Though they love Columbus, Ohio, both Gage and DeCarlo have done some travelling in the past four years. Gage went on a week-long service trip to Panama with a group called Global Brigades. Their mission was to provide me​dical care to communities in need. "I got to view how healthcare is applied from a global perspective," he says. "It showed me a passion I'll have in my future as a physician." DeCarlo went on a trip to Spain through OSU's Global May Madrid program. She recalls that it was particularly interesting to watch herself slowly integrate into the culture, whether that meant adjusting to meal times or taking on the more laid-back ("no pasa nada") attitude. By the third week, she felt much more at home than that first day when the Spanish contact for the trip managed to identify her and her friend by "looking for the wandering Americans."

As they try to answer the final question of the interview—which involves funny anecdotes from H&S events—they both scroll through the GroupMe app on their phones. After a few minutes, they finally decide on a worthy tale. People who stay up-to-date on the H&S Weekly may recall Scholars student Will Wahl​, who was the youngest contestant to ever compete on
Survivor. Unsurprisingly, this makes him a bit of a celebrity in the community, so when DeCarlo and Gage prepared to interview him for an Ambassador position (which he ended up receiving!), they knew exactly who he was. However, they decided it would be best to treat him like they would any other student and not even mention Survivor. This plan was ruined pretty quickly when Gage, without thinking, greeted him by asking if he was "surviving" freshman year, a slip of the tongue that DeCarlo instantly picked up on. Later, she had her own embarrassing moment. After concluding a successful, engaging interview entirely devoid of TV references, they asked a final fun question that would normally sound innocuous enough: "If you were stranded on a desert island, what five items would you bring?" However, when it came time for DeCarlo to pose the question, she could not hold back her laughter, and they had to admit that they wanted to hear about Wahl's time as a Survivor contestant.

But the anecdotes don't end there. "How many can you write?" they retort when asked how many they want to share. They spend several minutes reflecting on other fond memories from the past four years, trying to decide which ones would look best in print. "I did meme myself once," Gage offers. DeCarlo sighs. "That's not how memes work, Dan."

by Christina Szuch, H&S Student Staff Writer

Apr 07
Student Spotlight: HES Design Challenge Winners

In early March, twenty-six Scholars students worked in teams to complete the 2017 Humanitarian Engineering Scholars (HES)​ Design Challenge. The event involved a three-hour Build Day, followed by one week for teams to finish their design and prepare a brief presentation. Shortly afterward, the winners were decided. During the Design Challenge's first year in 2015, the students designed and built homeless shelters, keeping in mind factors such as heat retention, ventilation, portability, moisture resistance, etc. The next event's theme was a STEM project that involved slightly more planning but still a large amount of hands-on building. This year's theme was almost entirely design-oriented; the challenge was to create an expandable shoe that could last a child for years, "growing" to accommodate them as their feet grow.  Shoes are a resource many impoverished people have trouble affording both in the US and abroad, especially for young children who outgrow shoes quickly. These people could greatly benefit from owning a more versatile, long-lasting pair of shoes that expands to meet the needs of their feet.

Since the Design Challenge is meant to teach students what humanitarian engineering is like in the real world, time and budget constraints are important factors. In the industry, an idea may seem like a perfect solution but if it is too expensive to actually implement, it will not eliminate the problem. This means that participants must excel at both creative and practical thinking, always keeping feasibility in mind. At the end of the week, teams are judged based on a total of five criteria: design development, structure, materials, budget, and presentation. The judges include faculty from across the College of Engineering, giving participants an opportunity to network during the event.

This year's winning team included Ben Jackson, Riley Niekamp, Matt Schiller, and Cole Zemelka. They created an expandable shoe called the Groe, designed partly like a Chaco shoe (a sandal with adjustable webbing woven into the sole).  For sole expansion, they drew inspiration from a Nike Free shoe design. "The tip of the sole would wrap over the toes and could be lowered as time went on to accommodate foot growth. The webbing could be tightened for width and height adjustment," Zemelka describes. The bottom of the shoe would be made from recycled tires, which puts an old material to good use while simultaneously reducing production costs.

Ben Jackson is a pre-mechanical engineering student. He fell in love with the field after working on several exciting projects in high school, including a 3D-printed music manipulative staff for visually impaired students and a portable hydroelectric generator. The Design Challenges are his favorite HES events; he says that the time limit puts on a lot of pressure, but that this can be a good thing. "It definitely leads to some really creative thoughts and allows you to learn a bit more about what each individual HES student has to offer," he explains. Jackson considers himself "the numbers guy" of the team, having researched shoe sizes, foot growth, and what original shoe size would maximize their design's effectiveness. In the future, Jackson hopes to work for a company that takes on similar projects to those of the Design Challenge, projects that use creative thinking to directly impact the lives of people in need. In addition, he would love to travel to Europe.

Riley Niekamp has also made travelling his long-term goal, hoping to see as much of the world as possible while he is still young. He comes from the small Ohio town of St. Mary's and chose to attend OSU after watching many of his relatives graduate from the university as engineers. Outside of his busy mechanical engineering class schedule, Niekamp enjoys sports— particularly soccer, swimming, and tennis, all of which he played year-round throughout high school. Niekamp participated in the Design Challenge to get hands-on experience with a humanitarian engineering project. He explains, "My task for the group was to determine what materials would be incorporated into the shoe in order for the shoe to be flexible with our design, but also be able to take the wear and tear without costing a lot."

Matt Schiller may be from the state up north, but he was ultimately drawn to OSU based on how many new people he knew he could meet here and the variety of activities he could pursue. In fact, as lover of all things outdoors, he has already gotten to lead a trip for the Outdoor Adventure Center (OAC), where he works as a climbing instructor; they went rock climbing in Kentucky for a weekend. Schiller's goals for the future include leading more OAC trips, travelling to all fifty states, and living out west after graduation. He is considering being an aerospace engineer but is also interested in electrical engineering. So far, his favorite HES events have been a trip to NYC for park clean-up and—of course—the Design Challenge. He recalls that the most difficult part was making sure their design addressed each important issue rather than some or even most of them. "My group brainstormed for the first few days and started to combine our ideas," he recalls.  "I was in charge of sketching out all of our ideas and the process we followed. I also designed and created the final PowerPoint presentation and birthed the idea of making a tangible 3D printed shoe."  Schiller will be ending off an exciting first year of college by travelling to Guatemala over the summer with HES, where he will teach STEM classes and present research to young students.

Cole Zemelka is from Middlefield, Ohio and is majoring in Electrical and Computer Engineering. The Scholars program was part of what drew him to the university; he knew HES would give him the chance to work on meaningful, philanthropic projects beginning in his first few months on campus. He enjoys learning about the "seemingly endless" applications for materials, and hopes to put that knowledge to use to improve people's lives in his future career path. The Design Challenge allowed him to do precisely that. Suddenly, the things he had been learning in classes were being used to develop a solution for an important (and often overlooked) real-world issue. "It was also very rewarding to see our idea go from something in SolidWorks to something tangible that we could hold in our hands," he says. Besides the Design Challenge, his favorite HES event was the Scavenger Hunt, which allowed him to get to know not only other HES students but also some of the coolest things about the city of Columbus.

These four students are proof of what a combination of brilliant minds can accomplish in the span of only a week. Of course, that doesn't mean it was easy. Jackson describes a comical moment of frustration that occurred after they printed out a 3D model of their design. "We were all ready to add on the makeshift straps to complete the shoe when we realized we had designed the right shoe with the left shoe strap slots. The positions for all of the slots were messed up and it took us forever to realize why things did not look right," he recalls. They had also forgotten the front strap slot. The team's creative thinking came in use once again; they were able to solve this mix-up in time for presenting to the judges, and, of course, leave the competition with first place and a design that could become life-changing for many people.

Mar 31
Four Ohio State Honors Students Recognized by Goldwater Scholarship

Four Ohio State Honors students have been recognized by the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program.  Juniors Scott Garner, Maya Gosztyla, and Griffin Spychalski were named 2017 Goldwater Scholars; Taylor Schaffner has been presented with an Honorable Mention.  The Goldwater is the most prestigious national award for undergraduate researchers in science, math, and engineering.  Goldwater Scholars receive an award to cover the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board up to a maximum of $7,500.  

240 scholarships were awarded to sophomores and juniors on the basis of academic merit from a field of 1,286 mathematics, science, and engineering students who were nominated by colleges and universities nationwide. An additional 307 Honorable Mentions were also awarded. Each institution may only nominate four students for this award.  Since the award's inception in 1986, Ohio State has produced 55 Goldwater Scholars; forty-six of the university's last forty-eight nominees have been recognized as a scholar or honorable mention.  

2017 Scholars:

Scott Garner, a junior honors student in chemistry, is investigating the spectroscopy of reactive chemical intermediates with Dr. Terry Miller (Dept. of Chemistry and Biochemistry). Scott's current project analyzes the Jahn-Teller distortions in atmospherically important NO3 radicals through rotationally and vibrationally resolved spectra. Previously, he worked with Dr. Anne McCoy optimizing Diffusion Monte Carlo studies using Zundel water clusters.  In addition, he spent a summer conducting toxicology research as an intern for the Federal Bureau of Investigations.  When not focusing on his own academics, he helps other students excel in the sciences.  Scott has served as a teaching assistant for the Department of Chemistry for multiple years, and was recognized in 2016 with their Distinguished Teaching Award.  Scott also is active as Vice President of the Chemistry Club, a site leader for Pay It Forward, and a volunteer for Science Olympiad.  After obtaining a PhD in physical chemistry, he plans a career as a university professor investigating topics in theoretical chemistry and spectroscopy.

Maya Gosztyla, a junior honors student in molecular genetics and neuroscience, is conducting research characterizing a collection of Drosophila natural population lines for defects in embryonic axon guidance with Dr. Mark Seeger (Dept. of Molecular Genetics).  She previously conducted research at Ohio State on leptin signaling in type-2 diabetes and at Nationwide Children's Hospital on the genetics of retinal development.   Outside the laboratory, Maya is dedicated to fostering science communication between researchers and the public.  She serves as Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Young Investigators, an international student journal, and is the creator of AlzScience, a blog that presents the science of Alzheimer's disease and brain health in accessible language for the general reader.  In addition, Maya is active with the Junior Committee of the Central Ohio Alzheimer's Association, Buckeyes Against Alzheimer's, and the Honors Collegium.  After receiving a PhD in molecular neurobiology, she plans to dedicate her career to researching the genetic and epigenetic mechanisms that contribute to neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. 

Griffin Spychalski, a junior honors student in biomedical engineering, conducts microfluidics research with Dr. Jonathan Song (Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering).  Their current work studies the effect of fluid forces on angiogenesis, the sprouting of new blood vessels from pre-existing ones. His work was presented last fall at the annual meeting for the Biomedical Engineering Society.  An Eminence Fellow, Griffin is the recipient of a 2016 American Heart Association Summer Research Fellowship, Undergraduate Research Office Summer Fellowship, and the Engineering Dean's Scholarship. He is also an officer in Tau Beta Pi, volunteers at the James Comprehensive Cancer Center, and co-founded PassGo, a service organization connecting local underemployed populations with meaningful employment. Griffin plans to pursue an MD/PhD in biomedical engineering and pursue a career developing microscale engineering technology to advance current methods of cancer diagnosis, prognosis, and multi-target therapy selection.

2017 Honorable Mention:

Taylor Schaffner, a junior honors student in physics, researches nuclear many-body problems with Dr. Richard Furnstahl​ (Dept. of Physics).   His current project involves applying Bayesian statistical methods to effective field theory expansion coefficients.  Previously, Taylor conducted high-energy physics research with Dr. Harris Kagan (Dept. of Physics).  Taylor has been awarded the Biard Undergraduate Research Award, Smith Sophomore Award, and the Undergraduate Research Office Research Scholar Award.  He is Vice President of the Holography Club, serves as a Physics Peer Mentor, and actively participates in Sigma Pi Sigma and the Society of Physics Students.  Taylor plans to pursue a PhD in physics and a career as a professor pushing the boundaries of the utilization of computational tools in nuclear physics research.

A complete list of Goldwater Scholars and Honorable Mentions, arranged by state of residence, can be found on the Goldwater website,   

Applications for OSU's Goldwater nomination will be due in mid-November 2017. Prospective applicants should contact the Undergraduate Fellowship Office ( and plan to attend an info session in early fall semester.

Mar 24
Student Spotlight: Peletonia Undergraduate Fellows

When many Ohio State students think about a Buckeye initiative to cure cancer, Buckeyethon is what typically comes to mind. This year's dance marathon raised $1,510,039.39, a great sum to fund cancer research.

What many students might not know, however, is that there are a few select undergraduate students who are not just helping to fund the research, but rather are leading their own cancer-research projects.

The Pelotonia Undergraduate Fellowship Program offers Ohio State students the opportunity for a one-year research fellowship in which they are given access to equipment and faculty members to aid in their extensive projects. To date, nearly 179 Pelotonia Undergraduate Fellows have been funded after being admitted to the program, following a highly competitive application process. The typical pool of around 80 applications tends to be quite diverse as undergraduates from any major can apply for the fellowship. Of the 25 undergraduate students accepted in 2016, 15 were Honors students​.

Shannon Loftus, a senior Honors student from Newark, Ohio, first heard of the fellowship from colleagues in her lab who were former recipients.  As Shannon began working through the lengthy application process, which includes writing a detailed proposal as well as submitting several letters of recommendation, she was further encouraged by her mentors at the lab.

Shannon's interest and passion for cancer research comes from a personal experience she had when her father was diagnosed with melanoma when she was in grade school. Luckily, her father's cancer was cured with little to no complications, but Shannon recognizes that this is typically not the case.  Her passion and drive will carry Shannon to graduate school in the fall to continue in the biomedical sciences field with a plan to continue to do research on cancer immunology.

Until then, the Pelotonia Fellowship provides her with an excellent platform from which she can research, develop and execute her own project. Shannon chose to focus on prostate cancer, the leading cancer diagnosis in men. Research has shown that people with higher levels of soy in their diet typically have a lower risk for prostate cancer. These findings are due to the isoflavones found in soy that have been shown to have anticancer activity. Shannon will be studying these biologically active chemicals and how they affect the immune system, specifically in respect to prostate cancer. The hope is that these studies will result in a new therapy in which soy can be used in the diet as a less invasive treatment for patients.

To implement the study, Shannon has conducted two long-term studies in which mice with prostate cancer are being fed either a control or soy-enriched diet for a number of weeks. She will then be observing the fluctuations of numbers in both good and bad immune cells and then comparing the two diets' results.

Similar to Shannon's story, Ryan Judd, a senior double majoring in Biology and Biochemistry, has had an interest in cancer research since a young age as a result of a family member being personally affected by lymphoma.

It was within his first week of his freshman year that Ryan, an Honors student, reached out to Dr. Michael Caligiui, CEO of the James, and was soon able to work in the lab. For his Pelotonia project, Ryan wanted to focus on "understanding the role of the social environment in cancer progression through the function of a stress hormone in causing immune cells to kill cancer cells."

Ryan also used mice to demonstrate how specific hormones work in human cancer as well as in regards to the social environment's effect on the progression of the cancer.  While stress hormones in connection with a poor social environment have already been correlated with a cancer prognosis, the effects of eustress, healthy stress and a good social environment have not been researched as well. The goal of the study is to observe the role that glucocorticoids, stress hormones, have in activating T cells to improve their cancer cell killing abilities.

Though Shannon and Ryan's projects are nearing completion, there are new Pelotonia Fellows on the rise with new and innovative ideas on how to cure cancer. The multi-cooperative approach on cancer research is one aspect of the Pelotonia Fellowship that makes it a real threat to the disease. By looking at cancer as not just one disease but a complex problem, the program allows those who may not have had the chance in their major to conduct research on their projects. Together, Buckeyes are raising awareness, raising money, and, hopefully, finding a cure.  

by Colleen Matthews, H&S Student Staff Writer​

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