33 Lehigh Students and Faculty Awarded Prestigious Fellowships and Scholarships
The fellowships will allow individuals to travel or research to expand their studies.
Kirsten Sjoberg ’24
Kirsten Sjoberg, a double major in materials science and computer science, was awarded the nationally competitive Goldwater Scholarship. Sjoberg participates in the Global Social Impact Fellowship, conducting research on recycling multilayer film plastic in the Philippines. She recently presented her research in Saudi Arabia, where she won first place in the poster competition.
In 2022, Sjoberg joined PlasTech, a research team formed in Lehigh’s Office of Creative Inquiry working to determine methodology to create value-added products from single-use plastic waste in the Philippines. The team is a student-led cooperative, and the research is impact-based, as the experiments contain a socially-driven goal.
Within the team, Sjoberg has engaged in several bodies of work. She began by intensely studying plastic films and low density polyethylene in tandem with an investigation into the plastic crisis in the Philippines. Last summer, she worked on framing business models, coalition building and preparing for fieldwork. The PlasTech team traveled to the Philippines last July, and for two weeks, met with partners and mapped out the local waste management network. After returning from the trip, Sjoberg designed a method of testing the plastic, conducted compression tests and analyzed the resulting data.
Grateful for the opportunity, Sjoberg says, “I am hoping that receiving the Goldwater Scholarship will distinguish me among many other applicants for graduate school and help me in continuing my education.”
In the last decade, only two other Lehigh students received the Goldwater Scholarship: Matthew Kilgore ’15 and Eric Wolf ’20.
The Goldwater Scholarship program is designed to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue research careers in the fields of the natural sciences, engineering and mathematics.
Allison Duane ’23
As a Boren Scholar, Allison Duane will be immersed in the Zulu language. She will spend the summer studying the language at the University of Florida, followed by six months taking intensive Zulu language classes in South Africa. Upon completion of those courses, she will secure a position with the U.S. government for at least one year.
Duane is an international relations/economics major with minors in earth and environmental studies and Spanish. As a recipient of the Boren award, she looks forward to immersing herself in South African culture.
“I am honored to have received the Boren Scholarship, and I am excited to become a better global citizen by learning a new language and culture,” Duane said.
The Boren Awards are an initiative of the U.S. Defense Language and National Security Education Office. Duane is Lehigh's fourth Boren winner in the last two years.
Elizabeth Bielen ’25
The Ruhr Fellowship Program connects highly motivated undergraduate students in the U.S. with an experience aimed at expanding their portfolio and networks in a dynamic and technologically-advanced area of Germany: the Ruhr district. Referred to as Germany’s “Cradle of Industry,” the Ruhr district is synonymous with creativity and innovation.
As a recipient of the Ruhr Fellowship, Elizabeth Bielen, a civil engineering major and Spanish minor, will spend eight weeks in Germany’s Ruhr district this summer to study and gain hands-on experience in the German business environment. Two weeks will be spent completing a university-level intercultural immersion program that includes language courses, lectures from German professors and excursions in cities located in the Ruhr region.
The Ruhr program matches students with German businesses based on the student’s skills and academic interests. After immersion, Bielen will work for six weeks with the German company Emschergenossenschaft, the oldest and largest German water board. The organization’s focus lies in river protection and restoration, flood control and treatment of water and wastewater.
"I am excited to gain hands-on experience in my field of study with Emschergenossenschaft, where I will have the opportunity to grow my understanding of topics I am interested in, including water treatment and river management,” Bielen said. “I am also looking forward to being immersed in German culture and language and getting to know other Ruhr fellows."
Samuel Miller ’26
When he returns to Lehigh in fall 2023, Samuel Miller will possess a new global perspective that may enrich his studies. This summer, he will travel to Bochum, Germany to experience the German business world. Through the Ruhr Fellowship program, Miller, a chemical engineering major and German minor, will have the opportunity to establish a professional network in Germany’s Ruhr district.
Miller says he is looking forward to making connections in Germany and gaining new knowledge through experience, which he can apply to his studies at Lehigh.
"This fellowship will allow me to immerse myself in the German business world, build a network in the Ruhr Valley, connect that with my current network in the U.S., and work in Europe in the future,” Miller said. “I will be immersed in language and culture, of both Germany in general and from a German business perspective, which will improve my communication skills and my competence as a world citizen. I am beyond excited for the opportunity."
Nada Stojanović ’25
Computer science and engineering major Nada Stojanović is studying in Dortmund, Germany through the Ruhr Fellowship program. During her trip, she will engage in machine learning research at the Institute of Production Systems at TU Dortmund University. Her research will focus on developing an effective anomaly detection model for a machine at the institute, followed by a research paper in which she will document her findings.
Stojanović is excited for this opportunity and the potential it has to influence her future career.
“Becoming a part of the newest cohort of Ruhr fellows is, for me, a gateway to new experiences that will shape both my personal and professional growth,” Stojanović said. “By collaborating with experts in the field and working on a real anomaly detection problem this summer, I anticipate gaining invaluable insights into the intricacies of machine learning and its real-world applications. I am eager to seize this opportunity and begin carving out a space for myself in this field.”
Andrew Koerner ’24
DAAD Rise Scholarship
Universität Siegen in Siegen, Germany will welcome Andrew Koerner as a student this summer. The physics major and computer science and music minor will study two-dimensional materials–specifically, preparing and characterizing them.
In recent years, numerous materials in this class were discovered. Due to their extreme thinness and unique properties, these materials have a wide range of applications in electronics and are promising building blocks for future ultrathin devices.
Koerner will be researching which materials can be synthesized, examining their atomic structure and electronic properties. He will prepare two-dimensional materials under highly-controlled conditions in ultra-high-vacuum systems, which maintain a pressure lower than outer space. He will then deposit molecules and atoms on surfaces that organize themselves into two-dimensional materials under the correct conditions. The resulting ultrathin materials can be used for devices such as solar cells, transistors and devices in the field of biomedicine.
“Having never traveled out of the country, I am very excited to spend this summer in Germany,” Koerner said. “I will be doing what I am passionate about–physics research–in a totally new setting. Dedicating my talents to a cause greater than myself deeply motivates me. Lehigh has greatly prepared me for this life-changing experience, and I am confident I will draw on this throughout my career.”
Koerner has participated in several research studies at Lehigh, and says the support he received from faculty, family and friends was invaluable. He plans to continue his research-focused studies at the graduate level. Those plans are a direct result of his undergraduate experience at Lehigh.
“Because of Lehigh, what once seemed out of reach has become possible.
Isabela Giraldo ’25
Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship
Gilman Scholarship recipient Isabela Giraldo will travel to Copenhagen, Denmark to study sustainability initiatives and systems. Giraldo is a student in the College of Arts & Sciences interdisciplinary major in health, medicine and society. She also is pursuing a major in political science and a minor in global studies.
“I am extremely grateful and excited for the unparalleled opportunity to study abroad and explore a healthcare system as successful as Denmark’s, which will not only tremendously broaden my knowledge and perspective, but also provide me with valuable international experience that stretches far beyond the classroom,” Giraldo said.
As founder and president of Lehigh’s Litterbug Club, part of Giraldo’s time in Copenhagen will be spent creating content for a sustainability newsletter that the club will publish upon her return to the U.S. The newsletter will prompt discussion of comparison between Danish and American sustainability efforts, as well as potential ways both systems can adopt techniques and learn from each other.
Additionally, Giraldo plans to partner with the Sustainable Society, a public/political group based in Copenhagen with a goal of improving sustainability and green communities in the city. Through this collaboration, she will facilitate the development of a global relationship and professional network for the Lehigh community.
Giraldo says she is looking forward to embracing Copenhagen’s prevalent bike culture as she explores the city’s sustainable systems and eco-friendly initiatives.
To increase student awareness of the Gilman program and its opportunities, Giraldo plans to partner with Lehigh’s Office of Sustainability and Center for Student Access and Success.
Amir Jemal ’24
Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship
Amir Jemal is pursuing a dual degree in electrical engineering and computer science along with a minor in Arabic. Under the Gilman Scholarship, Jemal will travel to Cairo, Egypt in fall 2023, followed by Madrid, Spain in spring 2024.
“This invaluable opportunity will provide me with a unique breadth in the engineering field as it scores across the Middle East and Europe in a range of disciplines related to electrical engineering and computer science,” Jemal said.
Noting that this trip will have great impact on his future academic and professional pursuits, it also provides the opportunity to solidify his Arabic language journey, as he will complete coursework for his Arabic minor in Cairo. In Madrid, he plans to commence a new language journey: learning Spanish.
Lya Joseph ’25:
Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship
A political science and Spanish dual major and Africana studies minor, the Gilman Scholarship will provide Lya Joseph the opportunity to study abroad in Chile to immerse herself in the Spanish language and learn about cultural identity, community development and social justice in the country.
“I’m excited because this will give me an opportunity to learn Spanish around native speakers while learning so much about Chilean people and culture,” Joseph said. “I hope that by the time the program is over, I will have become a friend to those that I meet and be able to fluently speak Spanish. This will bring new experiences to my life because I have never traveled outside the U.S. before, so this may be my first step into becoming a regular traveler.”
David Ruiz ’24
Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship
David Ruiz, a marketing major and entrepreneurship minor, will travel to Leuven, Belgium this summer to study and gain hands-on experience in global marketing.
While in Leuven, Ruiz says he will delve into global marketing and oversee a marketing project. He is looking forward to experiencing all that Belgium has to offer and plans to enjoy every moment.
“I am beyond grateful to be selected as a recipient of the Gilman Scholarship,” Ruiz said, “as it will allow me to participate in the Lehigh in Belgium study abroad program and pursue my passion for marketing. This scholarship is a life-changing opportunity for me as a first-generation Latino scholarship student at Lehigh, and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to immerse myself in a new culture and expand my knowledge in an area that I am passionate about.”
Also awarded the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship were Vaniah Barrera ’25, who will study in Ecuador; Spencer Duff ’25, who plans to study in Italy; Xinyi (Nix) Huang ’25 and Maritza Mones ’25, who will continue their studies in Ireland; and Annie Jiwon Seong ’24, who will travel to Germany to study.
María Bárbara Zepeda Cortés
Institute for Advanced Study Fellowship, John Carter Brown Library Fellow
Maria Barbara Zepeda Cortés, associate professor of history, will spend the 2023-24 academic year in Princeton, New Jersey under the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) Fellowship, and six months of academic year 2024-25 in Providence, Rhode Island as a John Carter Brown Library Fellow.
Zepeda Cortés earned three awards, each for a different body of work.
The IAS Fellowship was awarded to foster completion of her current book manuscript, a biography of 18th century Spanish statesman José de Gálvez titled "Minister, Madman, Mastermind: José de Gálvez and the Transformation of the Spanish Empire." The book, under contract with Yale University Press, is slated to become a reference for future studies on colonial Latin America, imperial Spain, and the Spanish Enlightenment.
“Each year, top historians from around the world in nearly all major fields of study are members at the IAS,” Zepeda Cortés said. “Membership selection is extremely competitive, and even more so for year-long awards. I am honored, therefore, that the Institute recognized that my current book manuscript matches their mission. The IAS engaging academic environment is precisely what I need to complete it.”
Zepeda Cortés says that her motivation to write this book is deeper than a desire to tell the story of a historical figure.
“Latina scholars need to break the glass ceiling of a field typically dominated by senior white male historians.”
As a John Carter Brown Library Fellow, Zepeda Cortés will work on her next book, tentatively titled “Toolkits for Government: The Private Libraries of Eighteenth Century Spanish and Spanish American Statesmen.” This interdisciplinary project studies various aspects of libraries, from materials to cultural, intellectual and political dimensions. Zepeda Cortés hopes that the book will contribute significantly to understanding the Global Enlightenment.
Finally, she was awarded a Fulbright-Garcia Robles Social Sciences and Humanities research grant for Mexico, which she declined, for the project “Mexico and the American Revolution” in which she was aiming to create a network of collaboration between herself and Mexican scholars to study, from a decolonial perspective, how Mexicans contributed to the independence of the U.S.
Fulbright Specialist Fellowship
Hugo Ceron-Anaya, associate professor of sociology, describes himself as a “studying up” sociologist: an ethnographer who studies both disenfranchised groups and those who wield power in society. He examines how wealth and privilege contribute to the reproduction of inequalities and seeks to offer a unique perspective on how social scientists globally think about inequalities.
Researching in Brazil under a Fulbright Specialist Fellowship, Ceron-Anaya’s goal is to collaborate with colleagues to demonstrate the importance of viewing wealth as an inseparable side of poverty.
“This angle could offer new ideas and understandings about the organization and perpetuation of social exclusion,” he says. “In doing so, I could contribute to developing efficient anti-poverty policies worldwide.”
Ceron-Anaya says that sharing his expertise has the potential to help social scientists seeking to start “studying up” projects in various countries. In line with the Fulbright mission, his participation will contribute to advancing undergraduate and graduate social sciences programs abroad and promote closer connections among international scholars.
“As a Fulbright Specialist in Brazil, I plan to offer talks and lead seminars with local students and researchers, showing the relevance of ‘studying up’ projects,” Ceron-Anaya said.
Ceron-Anaya will also draw on this experience to help colleagues design graduate courses and seminars on the topic.
“My participation in the Fulbright Specialist initiative will help Lehigh to create a more internationalized environment, not only in terms of the knowledge shared in the classroom but also in fostering genuine global academic collaboration between faculty and students,” Ceron-Anaya said.
As a Fulbright Scholar, Deo will travel to Mumbai, India, to share the findings from her research on the aftermath of the 2013 revisions to the Company Act, which created a new arena of corporate social responsibility. The Indian parliament required large corporations to donate at least 2% of their annual profits towards social causes and strongly encouraged them to partner with non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The result has been a huge influx of corporate funding and influence into the social inclusion and sustainable development sphere
Through insights from business leaders, NGO activists, and the new intermediaries who connect them, Deo’s research shows that this influence is not reciprocal. That is, corporate social responsibility seems to change NGOs more than it changes the businesses involved in it. This trip to Mumbai will allow her to share her findings with the NGOs, companies and development consultants who were interviewed for this project and give them a chance to “talk back” to the research findings. In this way a recursive and accountable research process will enable a more useful and accurate assessment of the civil society-corporate partnership experience.
In addition to research, Deo is looking forward to sharing her deep subject knowledge and research methods skills with students in India. She plans to share exciting pedagogical approaches with colleagues who want to explore “ungrading” and “student-centered” and “active learning” curriculum design.
Deo hopes to build connections with faculty in India and explore the possibility of creating and co-teaching an annual U.S./India course with students from both our universities.
A total of 33 students and faculty won nationally competitive awards, including individuals not profiled in this article.