August 2010

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Davidson Fellows Scholarship Past Recipients
10th Anniversary Success Stories

$50,000 Scholarship Recipients
Heather Engebretson, 2006 Davidson Fellow Laureate (Music)
Currently 20 years old and a graduate of The Cleveland Institute of Music, Heather will begin her master’s degree this fall at The Juilliard School. At her graduation from The Cleveland Institute, Heather received the Dewey and Mary Gilley Memorial Award for distinguished opera performance. For the past two summers, she has participated in a Young Artist Program, where she had a principal role with singers from the Metropolitan Opera in several productions.

Yale Fan, 2007 Davidson Fellow Laureate (Technology)
Currently 18 years old and a freshman at Harvard University, Yale said, “The Davidson Fellowship gave me tremendous encouragement as an aspiring scientist and has eased my education by helping me pay for both high school and college, which has allowed me to focus on intellectual pursuits. By investing in the abilities of gifted students, the Davidson Fellows program provides them with inspiration to do great things in the future . . . I plan to major in physics and math in college while exploring different areas such as art and philosophy.”

Daniel Kane, 2003 Davidson Fellow Laureate (Mathematics)
Currently 24 years old, a graduate student in mathematics at Harvard University and working as a summer intern at Microsoft Research in Cambridge, Mass., Daniel said, “The Davidson Fellowship helped me to pay my way through undergrad at MIT. Since starting college I have published over two dozen papers in mathematics and computer science, been named Putnam Fellow four times and won the Morgan prize.”

Todd Kramer, 2007 Davidson Fellow Laureate (Music)
Currently 20 years old and attending Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Todd said, “Being named a Davidson Fellow Laureate gave me encouragement as I shifted my attention to music composition . . . The Davidson Fellowship has provided me with very generous support for my studies both at Princeton and abroad in Buenos Aires, Hanoi, and Oxford. I am very grateful to the Davidson Institute for supporting me in a wide range of academic and musical pursuits. I just finished arranging a segment for the upcoming show, ‘Disney/Pixar's Toy Story 3 on Ice,’ which opens in September . . . I would like to thank Jan and Bob Davidson and everyone at the Davidson Institute for their very generous support. The Davidson team has helped me to study around the world and pursue my dreams, and for that I am truly grateful.”

Akhil Mathew, 2008 Davidson Fellow Laureate (Mathematics)
Currently 18 years old and starting his freshmen year at Harvard this fall, Akhil said, “I'm pretty sure having the Davidson award on my resume was the main reason I got into the RSI (Research Science Institute) program at MIT - that's where I learned a lot about representation theory, met many fellow nerds, and got a chance to do another research project. Moreover, the scholarship is also going to help pay for college.”

Kate (Katherine) Orazem, 2007 Davidson Fellow Laureate (Literature)
Currently 20 years old and attending Yale University in New Haven, Conn., Katherine said, “Since becoming a Davidson Fellow Laureate in Literature in 2007, I’ve continued writing and have received a couple of awards. This year, I was selected as one of the Connecticut Poetry Circuit student poets and I received second place in the poetry division of the Atlantic Monthly’s student writing contest . . . I continue to be grateful not only for the financial assistance the Davidson Institute has given me but for the motivation and confidence I gained from my Fellowship . . . The Fellowship has been invaluable in convincing me that I am, in fact, a person with the capacity for “a significant piece of work,” and that, as such, I have a responsibility to strive not only for success but for true excellence.”

Sikandar Porter-Gill, 2008 Davidson Fellow Laureate (Science)
Currently 19 years old and attending Penn State University’s Schreyer Honors College taking courses in the Department of Architectural Engineering and Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Sikandar said, “Receiving the Davidson Fellows Laureate Scholarship has allowed me to attend Penn State University’s College of Engineering. Penn State’s College of Engineering is one of the most prestigious engineering institutes in the world, and this University will give me a great opportunity to explore a passion I have held since I was very young . . . I have been accepted into the Architectural Engineering Department, a five year master’s program, and I am very excited to return to my second year this upcoming fall.”

Shivani Sud, 2006 Davidson Fellow Laureate (Science)
Currently 20 years old and a student at Princeton University where she plans to major in Molecular Biology and pursue a certificate in Global Health Policy, Shivani said, “The Davidson Fellowship provided resources and encouragement for me to continue cancer research. Their acknowledgement and support of my passion for learning at a young age helped to further motivate me to pursue research that can someday result in better health in our global community.” Two years after being awarded the Davidson Fellowship, Shivani placed first in the Intel Science Talent Search (STS) for her genomics research. She helped to establish a science and mentorship program in her school district. She spent last summer, after her freshman year, abroad in South Africa understanding how various stakeholders, including the government and businesses, address issues of infectious disease. This summer she is testing biocompatible devices for localized anti-cancer drug delivery and the development of a low-cost portable imaging system that can be used to diagnose cervical cancer in rural Africa. 

Shuyu Wang, 2004 Davidson Fellow Laureate (Science)
Currently 23 years old and beginning her second year in the M.D./Ph.D. program at Harvard Medical School, Shuyu said, “I cannot even begin to express my gratitude for the Davidson Foundation and its generous support of my academic endeavors over the past six years. Not only did my scholarship significantly ease the financial burden of my college education, it also permitted me to devote three summers to the activity about which I felt most passionate – science research . . . As an undergraduate, I studied the structural biology of DNA damage repair enzymes, which are known to play key roles in both cancer and neurodegeneration. Following my graduation from college, I completed an MPhil thesis in chemistry at the University of Cambridge in England . . . It was through these formative laboratory experiences, as well as my eye-opening experiences volunteering and shadowing physicians on the wards, that I decided academic medicine was the career path I wished to pursue. While I have many more years of training ahead of me, I hope one day to contribute to our understanding of, and to develop improved treatments for, currently intractable diseases. I must again thank the Davidson Foundation, whose amazing support over the years enabled me to explore, and ultimately to choose, the career path of a physician-scientist.”

Milana Zaurova, 2005 Davidson Fellow Laureate (Science)
Currently 22 years old, living in New York City and attending Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, Milana said, “The Davidson Fellowship has covered my first year of Medical School, which is an incredible help. With one less year of loans to worry about, I was able to dedicate this summer to doing research and volunteering for several organizations in an under-served neighborhood.”

$25,000 Scholarship Recipients
Molly Carr, 2004 Davidson Fellow (Music)
Currently 23 years old, a master’s candidate in Viola Performance as well as a Soloist and Chamber Musician and Teaching Assistant at The Juilliard School, and a teacher at The Juilliard Pre-College Program, Molly said, “Completing my Davidson project as a 17-year-old helped me to define who I wanted to be as a musician and to set priorities for my future . . . My thanks to Jan and Bob Davidson for their incredible gifts to young people – encouraging excellence and inspiring the Davidson Fellows to continually give our gifts back to the communities in which we work and live.”

Erika DeBenedictis, 2009 Davidson Fellow (Science)
Currently 18 years old, Erika will be a freshman this fall at the California Institute of Technology. Her mother wrote, “The Davidson Fellowship has already had a powerful and empowering effect on our daughter. Erika saw her research taken seriously by experts, and then seriously recognized . . . Her work, persistence and creativity really mattered. This message to her from Mr. and Mrs. Davidson is as valuable to our daughter's future as the scholarship itself.”

Hilda Huang, 2008 Davidson Fellow (Music)
Currently 14 years old, Hilda is a sophomore in Palo Alto High School. Hilda’s mother wrote, “Hilda was named a 2008 Davidson Fellow by the Davidson Institute for Talent Development and received her award at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. In October of the same year, she made her concerto debut with the Cincinnati Pops under Erich Kunzel and this also marked her international recording debut with Telarc. The fellowship has given Hilda great encouragement to continue on her mission of sharing her Bach music. This past year, Hilda was interviewed by – a global forum connecting people and ideas.” 

Anders Kaseorg, 2003 Davidson Fellow (Mathematics)
Currently 24 years old, living in Cambridge Mass. and co-founder of K-Splice, Anders graduated phi beta kappa from MIT in June 2008. He immediately helped co-found and launch K-Splice, a software security company that has won numerous awards, including the MIT $100,000 Entrepreneur of the Year award. 

Harish Khandrika, 2004 Davidson Fellow (Science)
Currently 23 years old and a staff research associate at the Center for Astrophysics and Space Sciences, University of California San Diego, Harish said “The scholarship allowed me to fulfill my dream of studying cosmology and astrophysics at the University of California Berkeley, and greatly contributed to my positive experiences at the university. Not having to worry about part-time jobs and other financial aids, I could focus not only on my course work at the University, but also on research and volunteer activities. I joined the elite Supernova search team of renowned Berkeley astrophysicist and over the course of four years I discovered or co-discovered more than 25 new supernovae . . . Being a Davidson Fellow also means giving back to the community, and carrying on the work of the Institute in helping gifted children. As part of this endeavor, I joined Project Astro, a national program that pairs astronomers with elementary and middle school teachers from across the country. . . Even as I write this, I am at the Las Campanas Observatory in Chile, South America, getting ready to make a series of observations using the Magellan telescopes! I am planning to apply for graduate programs in astronomy this fall . . . I am grateful for the many opportunities the Davidson scholarship provided me, and for the investment of the Institute in me and in my future. I am, and will always remain, honored to be a Davidson Fellow. “

Celeste Lipkes, 2007 Davidson Fellow (Literature)
Currently 20 years old, Celeste is in her final year at Johns Hopkins University “thanks in part to the Davidson Fellowship,” according to her mother. As a pre-med student majoring in Writing Seminars, Celeste’s poetry has been published in The Bellevue Literary Review, Smartish Pace, Measure, and Unsplendid. 

Natasha Simonova, 2004 Davidson Fellow (Literature)
Currently 23 years old and a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, UK, Natasha said, “Receiving a Davidson Fellowship in 2004 helped me to fund my studies in English Literature at the University of Edinburgh. I graduated in 2009 with a first-class MA (Hons.) degree (the highest in my subject that year), and was awarded the James Elliot Prize and Janet S. Christie Bequest.”

Justin Solomon, 2005 Davidson Fellow (Technology)
Currently 22 years old and a Ph.D. student in Computer Science at Standford University, Justin has been traveling the world presenting his research. Justin’s mother wrote, “Justin is very modest, but I think you should know how much inspiration and motivation the Davidson award gave him early in his career. It's been a great ride and I know he appreciates everything you have done for him.”

August Siena Thomas, 2008 Davidson Fellow (Literature)
Currently 19 years old, a graduate of the University of Massachusetts Amherst Honors College, and living in Montague, Mass., August said, “Standing there in the Library of Congress with 19 other Davidson Fellows was one of the most thrilling, heartening experiences of my life – it meant more to me than my college graduation . . . I grew up as a Davidson Young Scholar and becoming a Davidson Fellow was the culmination of a decade of Davidson’s kind support and encouragement: they made this possible . . . I am so inspired by my fellow Fellows – brilliant, funny, engaged, down-to-earth, modest, incredible young people, whom I am proud to know . . . The Davidson Fellows scholarship is a celebration not only of hard work and persistence– but of curiosity, enthusiasm and, crucially, joy . . . Davidson recognizes and rewards independent thought and creativity early on – when no one else will . . . Another incredible aspect of the Davidson Fellows Scholarship is their rare, enlightened flexibility – a ten-year window to follow your heart and study anything you can dream up, anywhere in the world . . . Davidson has given me the tools to help me make my dreams come true.”

William Yuan, 2008 Davidson Fellow (Science)
Currently 14 years old, William said, “The Davidson Fellowship has motivated me to excel in academics. I cross registered in a middle school, high school, and a community college, with a 4.0 GPA at each . . .Winning the Davidson Fellowship has also opened up many opportunities for me to advance my research. I have been fortunate to receive guidance from professors at Portland State University, UC Berkeley and other professionals . . . I also hold a pending U.S. patent . . . I also gained confidence as a Davidson Fellow, especially in leadership. I formed and captained my school Science Bowl team, leading the team to a first place finish at the regional competition and a top-10 finish nationally: a first in our school’s 50+ year history . . . The Davidson Fellowship has not only been an honor to me, but also to my school. After I was featured in Popular Science magazine, my school used my story to motivate students to excel and attract students to attend. My school was transformed from a normal public school to one of the top (2nd overall) schools in the state, as rated by Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Talented Youth (CTY) . . . Through public speaking, I have shared my learning to inspire others . . . What I appreciate the most about the Davidsons is their vision: that youth can excel and fully develop their talent . . . This experience allows me to truly appreciate the value of the Davidson Fellowship, which lies in a wealth of experiences and opportunities. I could not have developed as far as I have without support that I gained from the Davidson Institute.”

$10,000 Scholarship Recipients
Eric Anderson, 2001 Davidson Fellow (Technology)
Currently 26 years old, a graduate of Digipen Institute of Technology and a Software Development Engineer at Microsoft Game Studios in Seattle, Eric said, “While in school I was a member of the team who created ‘Bontago,’ a 3D physics block stacking strategy game which won an award at the Independent Games Festival (IGF) in 2004 for game design . . . The Davidson Fellows program helped immensely with me being able to focus on getting an awesome education and eventually an equally awesome job doing what I enjoy.”

Christina Beasley, 2007 Davidson Fellow (Literature)
Currently 20 years old, attending George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs, Conflict and Security, and working at the Department of State in the Bureau for Reconstruction and Stabilization, Christina said, “My Davidson Fellows project in Literature has inspired me in ways that, at the time of its compilation, I could not have even imagined. My current career path has been informed, and certainly motivated, by my creative portfolio pertaining to culturally subjective opinions of beauty. The opportunity to observe different societies, and to learn their language and manner of thinking, has made me inclined to work abroad in a foreign affairs-related vocation. Having the ability to assist communities internationally in the preservation of their human rights, and the preservation of their unique cultural identities, is my reason for remaining so invested in my education . . . Often, the way through which art conveys information is far more emotionally poignant and ultimately effective than policy that feels dissociated from those to whom it pertains.

Illya Filshtinskiy, 2004 Davidson Fellow (Music)
Currently 23 years old, Illya said, “In 2008, I completed my undergraduate degree in piano performance at The Juilliard School and this spring I completed my master’s degree in Piano Performance from the Manhattan School of Music . . . I have been fortunate to have had opportunities to perform internationally as well as in numerous cities large and small across America . . . I will always be grateful for the boost The Davidson Scholarship gave me as I began my studies at The Juilliard School in 2004. It has been gratifying to have been included in the company of so many accomplished Davidson Fellows . . . This fall I will enter the Mannes College Professional Studies Diploma Program to further develop my professional skills in classical piano to build my career as a pianist . . . My website is” 

Prithwis Mukhopadhyay, 2009 Davidson Fellow (Science)
Currently 17 years old and attending Woodbury High School in Minnesota, Prithwis said, “I am truly honored to have been named as a 2009 Davidson Fellow. The Davidson Fellowship means more than just the scholarship money for me. This award has been instrumental in helping me further my interest and confidence in cancer research, providing me an opportunity to make friendship with some of the finest students of the nation, and presenting my research at some of the places that are beyond the imagination of many.”

Divya Nag, 2008 Davidson Fellow (Science)
Currently 19 years old and attending Stanford University, Divya said, “The Davidson scholarship has helped me in more ways than I could even begin to name. It told me to ‘go for it’, when circumstances and others told me not to. Since becoming a Davidson Fellow, never once have I been afraid of trying new things . . . of pushing myself, really challenging myself, to achieve what others have told me I can't. But this scholarship is also bigger than just me as an individual - it has taught me about civic responsibility, about giving back to the community which inspires you . . . I am currently working in a Stem Cell laboratory at the Stanford School of Medicine to utilize stem cell therapy in treating myocardial infarctions, or heart attacks, and would never have been where I am today without the encouragement and support from the Davidsons.”

Rahul Pandey, 2009 Davidson Fellow (Science)
Currently 18 years old, a sophomore at Stanford University and interning as a software engineer at a start-up in San Francisco called “Shop It To Me”, Rahul said, “The people responsible for this wonderful scholarship - from Mr. and Mrs. Davidson to the staff at the Institute - are making an incredible impact in the lives of so many young people. Looking back at my freshman year at Stanford, I realize how fortunate I am to pursue a great education . . . Although the learning process is often fearful, I am reminded of an obligation I have to myself as a Davidson Fellow: I need to direct my full efforts in to something I am passionate about and something that I think can make an impact to others.” 

Graham Van Schaik, 2007 Davidson Fellow (Science)
Currently 20 years old, attending MIT and majoring in Material Science and Engineering, Graham said, “For me, being a Davidson Fellow is more than just being a scholarship recipient. It is a privilege and also a responsibility. Knowing that you were selected to be part of a distinguished group of young people who show promise in an area of study is a powerful idea. Each and every Davidson Fellow has the potential to make the world a better place . . . Being a Davidson Fellow brings with it the expectation that I, too, will use my gifts and skills for meaningful work beyond myself - a concept that has, throughout time, been the driving force behind success. While at MIT I have been awarded a Public Service Fellowship for my community work. In addition, I was named a Burchard Scholar, and currently volunteer at hospitals in the Boston area during the school year.”

Xin (Cindy) Wang, 2006 Davidson Fellow (Science)
Currently 21 years old and a recent graduate of Harvard University with a degree in Chemical and Physical Biology, Cindy has been traveling in Europe and will be spending a year in China thanks to two traveling fellowships from Harvard, during which she plans produce an audio documentary on Chinese musical development after the Cultural Revolution. Afterwards, Cindy “will take up my place at UC Berkeley in the Molecular and Cell Biology / Chemical Biology graduate program, which I've currently deferred. I'd love to go into science academia, but the arena is highly competitive and stressful. Whatever it is, I will always remember those few days that I spent in Washington with all the other fellows, when it was so inspiring to meet others who were so precociously immersed in so many different things.”

Marc Yu
, 2005 Davidson Fellow (Music)
Currently 11 years old and homeschooled, Marc lives in San Francisco, Calif. Marc’s mother wrote, “Throughout his young career, Marc has performed for dignitaries and Congressmen, and has helped to raise awareness and millions of dollars for various causes through benefit concerts. For being a ‘spiritual agent of change worldwide’ and causing ‘an indelible effect in imparting a sense of significance, community and loftier meaning’, Marc received the Most Innovative Person Award at the World Summit on Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Dubai in April 2008. Winning the Davidson Fellowship Award allowed to help Marc get his dream piano, a Steinway Concert Grand Model D, on which he practices still an average of eight hours a day. He continues to perform worldwide, but will be lightening his schedule for the next few years in order to focus on his academics.” 

Darren Zhu, 2009 Davidson Fellow (Science)
Currently 18 years old and a sophomore at Yale University, Darren said, “I have been spending the summer in Beijing, China, working for an investor relations company that specializes in guiding China-based companies that are looking to add capital by publicly listing in the United States. At Yale, I have continued pursuing my scientific passions, taking several specialized science course offerings and beginning to work in a lab again . . . The Davidson Fellows program not only provided substantial support in the development of my post-secondary interests, but also connected me with a network of extraordinary talent and creativity. I can still distinctly recall the conversations I had with the other Fellows during the scholarship weekend – talking about Chopin Etude techniques with the piano virtuosos, discussing frontiers in biotechnology with the research prodigies, and listening to the ambitious goals and dreams of all the Fellows. I think it suffices to say that as the leading young artists, philosophers, and scientists, the other Davidson Fellows have truly left an immeasurable impression on me, and that, to me, has been the real gem of the Davidson Fellows program.”


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