Celebrating the 2024 College of Natural Sciences Dean’s Honored Graduates

May 3, 2024 • by Esther Robards-Forbes

Meet the graduating seniors being recognized for excellence in research, academics and improving the community.

Image includes the profile photos of the DHG honorees on an orange background

The title of Dean’s Honored Graduate is the highest honor a College of Natural Sciences student can receive. Each year, graduating seniors are nominated by faculty members for their achievements in research, academics, community building and service to the college. Read on to learn about this year’s graduating seniors who will receive recognition at the May 11 college ceremonies. 

Sarina Attri
Dean’s Honored Graduate in Public Health

Sarina Attri will graduate with a B.S. in public health, a minor in health communication and a certificate in applied statistical modeling. Attri conducts research on adolescent health and traffic safety at the UTHealth Houston School of Public Health under Steve Kelder’s supervision. She has been published as a co-author and has submitted two first-author publications for her work on vaping and school connectedness. She wrote her Dean’s Scholars thesis on the relationship between social norms and vaping among middle school students. Attri also conducts research at the University of Houston College of Medicine under Ben King, where she developed the 2022 Harris County Homelessness Mortality Report. Outside of research, Attri interned at the Centers for Disease Control, where she promoted interventions recommended by the Community Preventive Services Task Force. She also interned at the Texas Department of State Health Services, where she created promotional materials shared across the state. At UT, Attri was a course assistant for Epidemiology I and II and has helped organize several university-wide events through the Natural Sciences Council and Dean’s Scholars Student Association. In the fall, Attri will pursue her master’s of public health in epidemiology at Emory University with a scholarship covering full tuition and fees.

Emma Babaian
Dean’s Honored Graduate in Neuroscience

Emma Babaian is a member of the Dean’s Scholars Honors Program, graduating with a B.S. in neuroscience and a minor in science communication. She has earned distinctions in research and community and student engagement. As a sophomore, she joined Lief Fenno’s lab in the departments of Neuroscience and Psychiatry, where she has conducted research for her thesis, “Investigating Endogenous DMT Biosynthesis and VMAT2 Activity.” She has earned several awards for her research, including the Undergraduate Research Fellowship, the CNS Advanced Summer Research Fellowship and Best in Section at Rice University’s Gulf Coast Undergraduate Research Symposium. As a Dean’s Scholars Student Council member, she has served as the community focus committee chair, led mental health efforts, including the annual mental health discussion in the Dean’s Scholars freshman seminar, and contributed to the CNS inter-honors community focus group. During her junior year, she served as the vice president of Synapse. Her interest in science communication brought her to the Media Ethics Initiative, where she conducts qualitative research examining ethical issues in science communication. After graduation, she will continue researching in the Fenno Lab while preparing to apply to M.D./Ph.D. programs to pursue a career bridging neuroscience and psychiatry.

Brett Boyle 
Dean’s Honored Graduate in Chemistry

Brett Boyle is graduating with a B.S. in chemistry. He has worked in Michael Rose’s lab for over two years where he studies the kinetics of organometallic complexes with flexible ligand scaffolds. Boyle helped publish a paper titled “Synthesis, Characterization & Conformational Dynamics of Selenanthrene (Oxides): Establishing a Quantitative ‘Energetic Flexibility Index’ for Scaffolds,” which describes the first project he worked on in the Rose group. Last summer, he won a scholarship and internship from the German Academic Exchange Service, which allowed him to conduct research at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. In Germany, he synthesized bimetallic porphyrin complexes for carbond dioxide reduction in Stephan Bräse’s lab. Outside of school Boyle loves to climb, hike and camp. He plans on spending a year traveling the U.S. to climb and hike before applying to graduate school next fall. 

Alex Burton
Dean’s Honored Graduate in Mathematics and Computer Science

Alex Burton is a Turing Scholar from Austin, Texas, graduating with degrees in mathematics and computer science. As a passionate student of both math and computer science, his research interests are in applied cryptography, which lies at the intersection of these two fields. His work in applied cryptography focuses on bridging the gap between theoretical frameworks and practical efficiency. His honors thesis with David Wu applies both algebraic and systems-level optimizations to improve the concrete efficiency of private information retrieval schemes. He is currently working towards extending the work in his thesis to be published in ACM CCS, a top cybersecurity conference. He has previously been an undergraduate course assistant for discrete math, where he takes pride in helping his fellow students. Outside of class, whether he is lifting in Gregory Gym, jogging around Austin or hiking in the remote wilderness, Burton embraces physical challenges as much as intellectual ones. After graduation, he will continue his research in applied cryptography at UT Austin in the five-year master’s program. In the future, he hopes that he can keep using his talents to keep the world of digital information free and secure.

Profile pic of Sierra Chadwick

Sierra Chadwick 
Dean’s Honored Graduate in Environmental Science and Biology

With a love for all that is buried in and grows out of soil, Sierra Elizabeth Chadwick is graduating with a B.S.A. in biology, B.S. in environmental science, minor in anthropology and honors certificate in evidence and inquiry.  Her undergraduate research included freshman work in plant signaling; two years with the Sedio Lab, from which her capstone, “An Ecological Metabolomics Perspective on Elevational Diversity Gradients,” will be submitted for publication; and environmental archaeology work in the Rosen Lab, where her ardor for historical ecology supported her honors thesis, “Anthropogenic Forest Landscapes in North America.” Chadwick is passionate about science communication and plant ecology engagement across diverse communities and has served the City of Austin as an outdoor educator since 2021. Previously honored as a Distinguished College Scholar and Second-Year Excellence Award recipient, Sierra treasured her time on the Forty Acres as Adventist Christian Fellowship president, Natural Sciences Council Student-Faculty and Catalyst Committee member, Polymathic Scholars Honors Program Emerald mentor, and a member of various athletic teams. Chadwick hopes to carry forward the impact of beloved professors by becoming one herself and will pursue her Ph.D. after a year with the National Park Service as an archaeological technician.

Rupali Chowdhry
Dean’s Honored Graduate in Public Health

Rupali Chowdhry is graduating with a degree in public health and is passionate about health innovation, research, education and equity. At UT, Chowdhry is part of the Samanta laboratory and is developing cell-permeable and biocompatible DNA-protein conjugates for cancer diagnostics and therapeutics. She has presented her work at more than 10 conferences including at Harvard University and Stanford University and first-authored a publication titled,  “Enhancing CRISPR/Cas Systems with Nanostructures.” Outside of the lab, she has contributed to public health as a researcher with Oxford University’s COVID-19 Government Response Tracker and as a Dell Medical School Contact Tracer during COVID-19. Chowdhry is also the director of training and resource development at the Mental Health Initiative for South Asians (MHISA), a nonprofit where she works to research and develop culturally competent mental healthcare resources to reduce inequities in mental healthcare access. For her work, Chowdhry has been awarded distinctions in both research and entrepreneurship. She is passionate about research and public health and hopes to incorporate both fields in her career. After her time at UT, Chowdhry will pursue psycho-oncology research in Hungary with the support of the Fulbright Scholarship. Upon returning, she plans to attend medical school and become a research physician. 

Hailey Currie
Dean’s Honored Graduate in Physics

Hailey Currie is a biophysicist graduating with an honors degree in physics. She is interested in studying dynamics on the cellular and microbial scale, where small lives interact. Her work with Marilyn Wells in Vernita Gordon’s lab, in which she helped uncover unique structural and mechanical properties of Pseudomonas aeruginosa biofilms grown with calcium, was published in Langmuir last November. She attributes much of her success to the supportive and welcoming community she found in the Gordon lab, the Physics Department’s Center for Nonlinear Dynamics, and the undergraduate physics student organizations. She is passionate about supporting the physics community at UT in return. She guided and encouraged underclassmen in their studies as a physics learning assistant with Greg Sitz. In the physics lecture demonstrations office under Aida Torabi, she designed new demos and led volunteers in a physics demos showcase at STEM Girl Day at UT Austin. For two years, she served as an American Physical Society Student Ambassador and leader of the Society of Physics Students, collaborating with leaders of the Gender Minorities in Physics and Astronomy Students Association organizations to create opportunities and advocate for her peers. After graduation, she will begin her Ph.D. studies in biophysics.

Jonah Downs
Dean’s Honored Graduate in Chemistry

Jonah Downs, a graduating student with a B.S. in chemistry, has always been captivated by the intricate wonders of nature. His research interest in synthetic organic chemistry led him to the lab of Michael J. Krische, where he delved into the realms of natural product synthesis and methodology. During his time there, Downs collaborated in the development of enantioselective alcohol C-H allylations, utilizing non-conjugated dienes as proelectrophiles via a hydrogen auto-transfer pathway. For his thesis, Downs investigated accessing non-canonical amino acids and aminobutenol derivatives by way of enantioselective transition metal catalysis. Beyond Downs’ distinctions in research and academia, he enjoyed serving as an undergraduate course assistant for three years, motivating and assisting students to engage in research opportunities. Outside of academia, Downs showcased his musical talents as a member of the Longhorn Band for all four years. Additionally, he was selected by rigorous auditions to compete with the Cadets Drum and Bugle Corps. After graduation, Downs will be pursuing a Ph.D. in organic chemistry at Harvard University.

Zachary Endres
Dean’s Honored Graduate in Neuroscience

Zachary Endres is graduating with a B.S. in neuroscience, complemented by a certificate in elements of computing. Throughout his undergraduate journey, Endres has demonstrated a dedication to advancing scientific understanding, particularly in the realm of molecular neuroscience. Under the mentorship of Marcel Goldschen-Ohm, Endres conducted groundbreaking research focusing on applying mutagenesis and electrophysiology techniques to synaptic α1β2γ2 GABAARs. His contributions were realized through co-authoring a significant paper that unveiled the dynamics of the M2-M3 linkers within distinct subunits of these GABAARs, shedding light on their role in the closed-open equilibrium and its modulation by DZ. Beyond his academic pursuits, Endres actively engages with his community through volunteering at St. David’s Medical Center, where he gains invaluable insights into the inner workings of healthcare. Additionally, he has proven his commitment to education by serving as an undergradaute course assistant for M.J. Johns in an Elements of Computing course. With his multifaceted experiences and unwavering passion for scientific inquiry, Endres is poised to embark on the next phase of his journey, as he sets his sights on pursuing medical school and continuing his quest for knowledge and impact in the field of medicine.

Corinne Floyd
Dean’s Honored Graduate in Human Development and Family Sciences

Corinne Floyd is from Fort Worth, Texas, and is graduating with a B.S. in honors in advanced human development and family sciences and a B.A. in Plan II Honors, with a minor in African and African diaspora studies. She began research in the Relationship Experiences Across the Lifespan (REAL) Lab in the fall of 2020, where she contributed to the COVID-19 Family Stressors Study and REAL Project. After nearly three years of work with the REAL Project data, Floyd completed her honors thesis, titled “Are There Age-Related Differences in Couples’ Support Exchanges?” under the guidance of Lisa Neff. During her time at UT, Floyd has also held numerous positions within the Senate of College Councils including the Equity and Inclusion Committee co-chair, equity and inclusion director, and president; was a PPIA Public Service Scholar; and served as the University-Wide Appointee and Student Coordinator for the Contextualization and Commemoration Initiative. Her work has earned her several awards, including the Second-Year Excellence Award, Natural Sciences Council Endowed Service Scholarship and Theodore Henry Strauss Award for Exemplary University Service. Immediately following graduation, she will study abroad in Oxford, England, with Richard Reddick and Joshua Childs.

Stephane Hatgis-Kessell 
Dean’s Honored Graduate in Computer Science

Stephane Hatgis-Kessell is graduating with a B.S. in computer science, with Turing Scholars Honors. For the last 3 years, he has worked with Brad Knox, Peter Stone and Scott Niekum on understanding how to learn human-aligned behaviors for decision-making systems from human data. Hatgis-Kessell has co-authored a conference paper, entitled “Learning optimal advantage from preferences and mistaking it for reward,” and a journal paper entitled “Models of human preference for learning reward functions.” For his research, Hatgis-Kessell received the UT Co-Op George H. Mitchell Award and was selected for Honorable Mention of the 2024 Computing Research Association’s Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Award. He is excited to continue developing new methods for ensuring that intelligent agents do what we actually want them to do as a Ph.D. student at Stanford University. Outside of his academic pursuits, Hatgis-Kessell has enjoyed backpacking through Asia for the last four months. 

AJ Lewis
Dean’s Honored Graduate in Biology

AJ Lewis is graduating with a B.S in biology with a focus in genetics and genomics. For the past two years, he has worked in Steven Vokes’s lab as an undergraduate research assistant. His independent research project has focused on determining how fibroblast growth factor 10 establishes early limb bud initiation and formation. During his time in the Vokes lab, Lewis was awarded an undergraduate research fellowship, research distinction and presented his research at the southwest regional Society of Developmental Biology conference in Aurora, Colorado, in March 2024. After graduation, he will pursue a Ph.D. in cell and molecular biology at UT Austin. 

Jessica Liu  
Dean’s Honored Graduate in Nutrition

Jessica Liu is graduating with a B.S. in nutrition in the Honors in Advanced Nutritional Sciences program with a pre-health professions certificate and the Didactic Program in Dietetics Verification Statement. A member of the Jefferson Scholars Program, Liu participated in the Freshman Research Initiative focusing on nutrigenomics; she examined the effect of different sucralose concentrations on Lactobacillus casei growth. In her undergraduate career, she has received the CNS Advanced Summer Research Fellowship; presented in the Interprofessional Health Showcase for development of a supplemental muffin to alleviate depressive symptoms; taught TEKS-aligned lessons to third- and fifth-grade students about gardening and nutrition; and contributed to the curriculum redesign of NTR 126L where she developed weekly lecture slides spanning topics from DNA/RNA extraction to PCR, gel electrophoresis and western blot. Her honor’s thesis examined the effects of intuitive eating on BMI, food choices and three areas of eating behavior. Liu plans on exploring intuitive eating, hunger and satiety cues and eating disorder research in graduate school, where she will pursue a Ph.D. in Nutrition at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In her free time, she is an avid rock climber and works as a climbing wall supervisor. 

Keena Medina
Dean’s Honored Graduate in Textiles and Apparel

Keena Medina is a university honors graduate majoring in textiles and apparel merchandising and consumer sciences and minoring in business and architectural interior design. Medina began with University Fashion Group, subsequently transitioning to roles within Spark Magazine and Glaze Magazine, as a stylist and events coordinator, while furthering community outreach initiatives. Under the guidance of Sara Stewart Stevens, she undertook a undergraduate course assistant role. Collaborating with peers under the mentorship of Jessica Ciarla, her team developed a winning jewelry design sold at Kendra Scott stores. Selection for the prestigious UT in NYC program, alongside industry luminary Iris Apfel and faculty member Jennifer Wilson, underscored Medina’s commitment to immersive learning experiences. Medina’s academic journey was enriched by a study abroad experience at the Paris College of Art under the guidance of Gail Chovan. Professional internships with Lefty Production Co. and Stitch Texas honed her skills as an account manager, bridging the gap between clientele brand vision and industry execution. Beyond academia, she is attentive to fostering human connection, pursuing avenues of justice and committing to a lifetime of advocacy. Moving forward, she aims to synergize her diverse academic background and impassioned interests into a career focused on creative direction, design and catalyzing transformative societal change at a larger scale.

Jenn Mickel
Dean’s Honored Graduate in Computer Science and Mathematics

Jennifer Mickel is a Turing Scholar and Polymathic Scholar, graduating with degrees in computer science and mathematics, as well as minors in African and African diaspora studies, sociology, and women and gender studies. During her time at UT, Mickel worked on research in artificial intelligence fairness, where she used sociological insights to uncover biases in AI systems, develop fair algorithms, and outline intersectionally-informed model development choices. Her work has been accepted to the ACM Conference on Fairness, Accountability and Transparency. Mickel has worked with Maria De-Arteaga and Sina Fazelpour on understanding diversity considerations during dataset development and with Kevin Tian on developing algorithms to improve group performance in demographic-free settings. She has also worked with Hugging Face to understand the social impact of existing evaluations for generative AI. Her Polymathic Scholars honors thesis was titled  “The Importance of Multi-dimensional Intersectionality in Algorithmic Fairness and AI Model Development.” In addition to her research contributions, Mickel was co-president of the Turing Scholars Student Association and led ACM for Change’s DEI initiative, where she worked to improve the experiences of underrepresented groups within computer science. Following graduation, Mickel intends to pursue graduate school and continue her research in AI fairness.

Mahan Mirza Khanlari
Dean’s Honored Graduate in Astronomy and Physics

Mahan Mirza Khanlari is from Iran and is graduating with a B.S. in astronomy and a B.S. in physics. His journey has been a deep dive into the mysteries of the universe, blending astrophysics with machine learning. Working on the Hobby-Eberly Telescope Dark Energy Experiment (HETDEX) has been a highlight of his journey, enhancing our understanding of how the universe expands and galaxies evolve. He has contributed to notable research, including peer-reviewed publications in galaxy evolution, and is working on a first-author paper. Beyond academia, his passion for astrophotography allows him to capture and share the beauty of the night sky. He has been honored with awards such as the John Kelley Texas Amateur Astronomers’ Scholarship and Summer Undergraduate Research Scholarship. He has also presented his research findings in front of the McDonald Observatory’s Board of Visitors and the Dean of the College of Natural Sciences, and in the American Astronomical Society (AAS). UT Austin has taught him that imagination is his only limit. As he prepares to start his Ph.D. in astronomy, most likely right here at UT , he’s eager to tackle the challenge of mapping the cosmic web to an unprecedented scale, continuing his quest to unravel the secrets of the cosmos.

Alexa Morton
Dean’s Honored Graduate in Biochemistry

Alexa Morton is a native Austinite, graduating with an honors B.S. in biochemistry, with certificates in forensic science and pre-health professions. She served as a student leader of the 2023 UT Austin iGEM synthetic biology team, where she helped develop a project that involved engineering bacteria to secrete antimicrobial peptides to protect plants from disease. The team received a gold medal and were nominated for excellence in several categories at the iGEM Grand Jamboree in Paris. This work went on to inspire her honors thesis, “Developing a Modular Microcin Secretion System to Protect Plants from Bacterial Pathogens.” Morton has a passion for fostering community and passing on knowledge to new cohorts of students, and during her time at UT, she has served as a course assistant in molecular biology, a CNS orientation advisor, an FRI peer mentor and multiple other mentorship positions on the Forty Acres. Beyond academics, Morton has been involved in Labyrinth, a progressive Christian community on campus, and she shared her outlook as a young queer Christian in an Austin American-Statesman article in 2023. She plans to attend graduate school after conducting postbaccalaureate research.

Leo Orshansky
Dean’s Honored Graduate in Computer Science and Mathematics

Leo Orshansky is graduating with a B.S. in computer science and a B.S. in mathematics, and with Turing Scholars honors. In addition, he is receiving a minor in Chinese. He grew up in Austin, Texas, and has been passionate about solving problems in computer science and mathematics from the moment he came to UT Austin. Since 2022, he has been an undergraduate researcher in the unconventional computing theory group at UT led by David Soloveichik, where he contributed to the group’s work on DNA computing and zero-energy computing. Two of his research results were featured in the DNA29 conference, with one receiving the Best Student Presentation Award. He has been recognized as a CNS Honors Scholar in his sophomore year and received the Outstanding Chinese Language Student award in his junior year. In Fall 2023, he defended a computer science honors thesis with the title “Computation in Isolated Thermodynamic Systems.” He recently received the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, which will fund his ongoing and future research in theoretical computer science for three years of graduate school. Outside of his academic life, he enjoys running with the Texas Running Club, playing racquetball and solving crossword puzzles. After graduation, Orshansky will pursue a Ph.D. in theoretical computer science at Columbia University.

Shankar Padmanabhan
Dean’s Honored Graduate in Mathematics

Shankar Padmanabhan is a graduating Dean’s Scholar earning a B.S in mathematics with honors and the elements of computing certificate. Since Fall 2022, Padmanabhan has worked with Eunsol Choi and Greg Durrett in the Department of Computer Science on developing methods that enable language models such as ChatGPT to be lifelong learners. His work has resulted in publications presented at top machine learning conferences, including Neural Information Processing Systems (NeurIPS) 2023 and Association for Computational Linguistics (ACL) 2023. In the short term, Padmanabhan is interested in working towards a better understanding of when and how language models learn from data. In the long term, he wants to deeply understand the foundations of intelligence. Padmanabhan has also earned the CRA Undergraduate Researcher Award Honorable Mention, the Eva Stevenson Woods Presidential Scholarship and an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. Outside of research, Padmanabhan has played for UT’s club ultimate frisbee team and enjoys learning new languages. After graduation, Padmanabhan will pursue a Ph.D. in computer science, specializing in natural language processing at Cornell University. He is grateful for his time at UT and for the support of his professors.

Ravi Parekh 
Dean’s Honored Graduate in Public Health

Ravi Parekh is graduating with a B.S. in public health. During his time at UT, he co-founded a nonprofit grassroots organization called the Mental Health Initiative for South Asians (MHISA) after the tragic loss of his close friend and his family due to mental health struggles. Forming partnerships with the Kevin Love Fund and the Office of the Surgeon General, MHISA has explored novel ways to combat the growing mental health crisis. Through MHISA, Parekh and his team have developed culturally tailored mental health resources, provided comprehensive mental health education to South Asian religious communities and created a dedicated mental health provider database, one of the largest of its kind in the United States, with over 11,000 South Asian clinicians. Parekh’s passion for mental health led him to spend several months in Jordan, where he worked with an organization called JHASi to coordinate mental health treatment for Syrian refugees. An aspiring physician-researcher and a Fulbright semi-finalist, Parekh’s plans after graduation are to spend nine months in Zambia to research, with the organization StrongMinds, how interpersonal-group therapy impacts mental health outcomes amongst Zambian adolescents. In his free time, Parekh enjoys producing hip-hop and 80’s music on his computer and spending time with friends. 

Caroline Penn
Dean’s Honored Graduate in Medical Laboratory Science

Caroline Penn is from Dallas, Texas, graduating with a B.S. in medical laboratory science (MLS) and a minor in French studies, and MLS certification. She completed an internship at the Institute of Genetics and Molecular and Cellular Biology in Strasbourg, France, developing methods to evaluate the neurodevelopmental effects in zebrafish animal models of mutations in the RLIM gene, associated with intellectual disability and autism spectrum disorders. At Tarleton State University’s MLS Program, she assisted in research to determine the role of fibroblast transformation in the production of human tumors from lab-generated tumoroids. She was the recipient of the Dr. Anson L. Clark Presidential Endowed Scholarship at UT Austin, as well as the Dr. May Owen Memorial Medical Laboratory Science Scholarship and the Richard C. Schaffer Clinical Laboratory Science Scholarship from the Tarleton State University MLS program. She plans to work in the clinical lab as she prepares to pursue her interest in pathology and language access in healthcare in medical school.

Noé Reyna
Dean’s Honored Graduate in Biology

Noé Reyna is a McNair Scholar from Brownsville, Texas, earning a B.S. in computational biology with distinctions in research and in community and student engagement in the College of Natural Sciences. They started their research journey via the Freshman Research Initiative as a freshman progressing as a lead peer mentor in the EvoDevOmics stream. As an undergraduate researcher mentored by Becca Young and Hans Hofmann, Reyna got hooked on bioinformatics and genetics as they analyzed genetic differences in Icelandic fish populations. Reyna also participated in the Bruins in Genomics NSF research experience for undergraduates at UCLA, furthering their research breadth in cancer genetics, data science and precision medicine. Their research journey has resulted in four best poster awards, including at international conferences, and two research manuscripts in preparation. Outside of science, Reyna is involved in actionable DEI efforts addressing the systemic inequities in higher education which they plan to continue in graduate school. Reyna’s next step will be starting their Ph.D. at UCLA this August as a proud first-generation, gay Latino. Here, they plan to combine their interests in biobanks, bioinformatics and population genetics to advance equity and genetic discovery in genomic health in non-European ancestry populations that are disproportionately underrepresented in genomic health.

Arvind Subramanian
Dean’s Honored Graduate in Public Health

Arvind Subramanian is graduating with a B.S. in public health and with a minor in business, a certificate in forensic science and College of Natural Sciences distinctions in service and leadership and in community and student engagement. During his time at UT, Subramanian has served as president of the Natural Sciences Council, the governing student organization for CNS. In his role, Subramanian served as the liaison between students and college administration to improve the CNS student experience. He has worked with the Office of Emergency Management to create a map of AEDs on campus and advocated for research equity to establish the Research Mentorship and Apprenticeship Program in collaboration with the Office of Undergraduate Research. In addition to advocacy, Subramanian has also worked as an EMT in the Austin area for the last four years and served as the chief of Longhorn EMS, working towards the presence of an on-campus emergency response team. Passionate about the intersection of policy and patient care, he is committed to continuing public health clinical research to explore policy decisions that shape healthcare accessibility and preventative care. After graduation, Subramanian will attend UT Southwestern Medical School, where he hopes to leverage his experiences to positively impact the lives of those in the community. Read a Q&A with Arvind, who was a student speaker at commencement, here.

Berea Suen 
Dean’s Honored Graduate in Chemistry

Berea Suen was born and raised in Austin, Texas, and is graduating with a B.S. in chemistry. She is pursuing a career in research, inspired by the fascinating advancements at the intersection of chemistry and biology. As a student researcher, Suen worked under the supervision of Yi-Chih Lin to build an optical setup for visualizing light-sensitive proteins using high-speed atomic force microscopy. She also worked with Robert Newberry to probe interactions in protein beta strands to elucidate the molecular mechanisms of amyloid-forming neurodegenerative diseases. During her time at UT, Suen has been a recipient of the Ray Davis Endowed Scholarship in Chemistry and Biochemistry, the CNS Second-Year Excellence Award, the Eva Stevenson Endowed Presidential Scholarship, the Nick Conley Scholarship, an undergraduate research fellowship and a distinction in service and leadership, and she is a three-time Distinguished College Scholar. She also discovered a passion for mentoring others and has served as an undergraduate course assistant in general chemistry for three years and a Longhorn Wellness Peer Educator for two years. In her spare time, Suen is an avid boulderer and word puzzle enthusiast. Upon graduation, Suen will be pursuing a Ph.D. in chemical biology at the California Institute of Technology.

Kevin Wen
Dean’s Honored Graduate in Physics and Mathematics

Kevin Wen is graduating with an honors B.S. in physics and a B.S. in mathematics. He is interested in studying the properties of quantum materials – solid state systems in which electron correlations or wave-function topology yield fun new phases of matter. Wen’s work optimizing semiconductor quantum wells for large nonlinear optical susceptibilities with Seth Bank was published in Applied Physics Letters last December, and he is currently working on a paper with Bruno Uchoa from the University of Oklahoma on the thermoelectric properties of topological flat bands. Additionally, Wen worked to develop magnetic lenses for a cold atomic lithium source with Daniel Heinzen, for which he was awarded the Barry Goldwater Scholarship. Outside of research, Wen has been active in the community as a peer mentor in John Markert’s Magnetic Matter FRI stream and an officer in the Society of Physics Students, organizing outreach events and building physics demonstrations with faculty member Greg Sitz. He is also an officer of the UT Guild of Student Carillonneurs, where he plays music such as Holst’s Jupiter and Mussorgsky’s Pictures on the bell tower. After graduation, Wen will pursue a Ph.D. in physics at the University of California, Berkeley.

Grace Wulffraat 
Dean’s Honored Graduate in Neuroscience

Grace Wulffraat is graduating with a B.S. in neuroscience. Since 2018, she has been involved in research with a diverse range of interests. At UT, she first studied the social transmission of information in rats under the guidance of Marie Monfils. Her current research in the lab of Eric Senning investigates interesting structure-function relationships in the ion channel TRPV1. In her research, Wulffraat employs bioinformatic tools to identify outliers in human population variant trends and performs patch-clamp electrophysiology experiments to test hypotheses. For her TRPV1 project, Wulffraat was awarded the CNS Advanced Summer Research Fellowship by UT and a research distinction, work presented at UT’s Undergraduate Research Forum. In addition to her research, Wulffraat is passionate about teaching, having mentored undergraduates in the Senning lab, taught peers and led projects in the Monfils Memory Lab and worked as an undergraduate lab assistant for the introductory biology teaching lab at UT for two semesters. Outside of the lab, Wulffraat enjoys sculpture art, book illustration, fashion design and aquascaping. After graduation, she plans to conclude her research project in the Senning lab and hopes to pursue a Ph.D. in the future. 

Jeffrey You
Dean’s Honored Graduate in Biochemistry

Jeffrey You is graduating with an honors B.S.A. in biochemistry. He has earned distinctions in research for his scholarship in the laboratory of Tanya Paull and in community and student engagement for his work with the Freshman Research Initiative. As a member of the Polymathic Scholars honors program, he completed a thesis titled  “A Comparative Investigation of Medical and Scientific Ethos: Case Studies of American Pharmacology and Chinese Ethnopharmacology.” The project combined his aptitude for research with his enduring curiosity about the relationship between science, medicine and society. He has been a peer mentor in the Biobricks FRI stream for the past three years, a role that he has used to educate others in molecular biology and to promote social engagement and community-building within the lab. Under the mentorship of Paull, he independently led a project over the course of three years studying cellular senescence in cancer. He has presented his work at local, regional and national conferences, and has won multiple awards including the New England Biolabs Award for Excellence in Molecular Biology, an undergraduate research fellowship and an advanced summer research fellowship. After graduation, he plans to take a gap year while applying to M.D./Ph.D. programs.


Students in a lecture hall discussing a problem and looking at laptop screens

Oden Institute

Summer School on Quantum Materials

Aerial view of an astronomical observatory set atop a mountain

McDonald Observatory

Bass Foundation Gift Strengthens Outreach at McDonald Observatory