Meet the Fellows

McKearn fellows receive opportunities to explore research, artistry, leadership, and civic, social and global engagement in their respective fields of study. Read more about these outstanding students and learn what inspires them to strive for excellence.


Diana Alvarez is a Health Science major on the Nursing track. After graduation, she plans to attend graduate school and become a nurse practitioner. As a Research Rookie, she researched how to improve early language interactions in children under the age of three. Alvarez is currently President of Bread for the World, a volunteer-based organization that fights to end world hunger. Outside of academics, she can be seen volunteering at various events around campus such as STEM Fest and the food pantry. Alvarez enjoys running and is very passionate about helping others. As a McKearn Fellow, she is excited to continue participating in research projects and to advance her professional development.

Amit Chaudhary hails from the country of the Himalayas, Nepal. Chaudhary is majoring in Mechanical Engineering. He is curious and likes learning things practically. He worked on an electric trike during his senior year in high school, and now he's part of NIU Supermileage, a team that builds vehicles from scratch.

Chaudhary plans to work with professors from different departments to conduct various research as a McKearn Fellow. He wants to work on lithium-ion batteries and electric vehicles to make them efficient and durable. He also wishes to conduct research at Argonne Lab related to Li-ion batteries with the connections he builds at NIU. Chaudhary sees the McKearn program as something that can help him sharpen his leadership qualities and make him a responsible global citizen. Also, he enjoys playing soccer, chess, video games, watching e-sports and singing.

Anna Scanlan is a double major in Media Studies and Psychology along with minors in English and History. At NIU, she is involved in the Research Rookies program, was the editor of The Luminary, a member of the Concert Choir in the School of Music, and writes novels in her free time. She plans to work towards earning a doctorate in screen cultures or media psychology after graduation, as well as pursue work on her own documentary filmmaking. Scanlan wants to study the impact entertainment media has on society’s collective historical memory and modern phenomena and events. She sees the McKearn Fellows program as a way to gain more research experience, grow her professional network, and partake in opportunities that allow insight into different perspectives.

Louise Shannon is a Biochemistry major with research interests in immunology and neurobiology. Upon graduation, Shannon hopes to attend medical school and intern at Northwestern Hospital in Chicago. Her other interests include French, classical literature (especially Russian), and violin performance. As an award-winning violinist, Shannon has traveled internationally with youth orchestras and hopes to develop her love for music and cellular biology in a global context.

Yaileen Velazquez is embarking on the pre-med path with a major in biological sciences along with a minor in Chemistry. After her undergraduate years at NIU, she plans to attend medical school and become an OB/GYN. While obtaining her profession as well as when she acquires her profession, she hopes to advocate for women’s health in underserved areas, promote diversity in medicine, and advocate to end health disparities. She is currently a member of the University Honors Program, Pre-Professional Association, De Mujer a Mujer, and participated in the Research Rookies program, where she investigated the external/internal reasons that lead to a sexual assault survivors reporting their sexual assault through content qualitative analysis of public tweets.

Off-campus, she is a mentee under the I Am Abel foundation, a medical mentoring program that promotes achievement amongst underrepresented groups in medicine. Outside of academics, she enjoys completing puzzles, crocheting, and spending time with family. She is ecstatic about the doors the McKearn Fellows Program will open for her as well as the opportunities she will have to give back to her community.

Emma Whitlock is a biology major and is seeking to double minor in Chemistry and Spanish. After graduating from NIU, she plans to continue her education by attending medical school to become a surgeon. She is involved with the Student Health Organization and volunteers at different events both on and off campus. This past year, she has been involved in Research Rookies, where she researched lithium-ion batteries with a group in the Chemistry Department. Outside of school, she enjoys completing art projects, playing sports, and traveling. Through the McKearn Fellows program, she hopes to continue research and take part in the opportunities made available to her.


Aidan Bengford is a double major in Political Science and English along with a minor in History. Bengford plans to work towards earning a Juris Doctorate after graduation. He served as Senior Patrol Leader of his Boy Scout troop and has earned his eagle. Bengford is participating in the NIU Mock Trial Team, is a reporter for the Northern Star, and is a part of Sunrise DeKalb. This summer he will start helping Dr. Andzik do research into the evolution of the portrayal of diabilities in film in the past two decades. Outside of his vocational interests, Bengford enjoys hiking, camping, watching films, and playing video games. He sees the McKearn Fellows program as a way to heighten not only his academic skills, but also more tangible skills that will make a difference on the world that people can feel. He hopes to do this through involvement in internship programs, learning skills directly from the source.

Caitlin Hensley majors in Actuarial Science with a minor in Finance. She was the treasurer of the NIU Actuary Club and a member of the NIU Financial Management Association. Outside of academics, Hensley enjoys playing volleyball, going boating, and spending time with her friends and family. After graduating, she plans to become an actuary. She has always wanted to pursue a career that built on her love of mathematics. As a McKearn Fellow, Hensley hopes to advance her academic career as well as to be able to give back to the community.

Emily Herbert is majoring in Biomedical Engineering with a double minor in Public Health and Music. She is a member of the Society of Women Engineers and the Biomedical Engineering Society. Outside of engineering, she is involved in the music program as a pianist and can't wait to play in concert and jazz ensembles. In the past, she participated as a researcher in the International Student Science Fair in Thailand and hopes to get involved in more research through the Research Rookies program. She looks forward to joining the McKearn Fellows and utilizing all of the opportunities it opens.

Yousuf Khan is a Marketing major and also on the Pre-Medicine track. After graduation he plans to attend medical school and pursue a career in psychiatry. Khan participated in Research Rookies, where he researched the appearance of tonic immobility in fish. Additionally, Khan is involved with OHANA, New Hall Community Council, an Orientation Leader, and on the e-board of the Pre-Professional Association. Khan is passionate about multicultural dialogue as well as addressing health disparities. As a McKearn Fellow, he hopes to participate in research regarding equitable access to mental health services. Additionally, he is excited to contribute to the NIU community and have opportunities for professional development.

Merveille "Yvette" Muyizere is a student with a double major in Biology and French. Her goal is to attend medical school after college with hopes of becoming a surgeon one day. Muyizere was part of the NIU Research Rookies this past year where she studied the ecosystem impact of native and non-native plants, and she volunteered a lot in hospitals and organizations such as Batavia Food Pantry. Muyizere fell in love with the NIU community and decided to engage in activities such as student health organization and the Alpha Omega Epsilon sorority. Her hobbies include learning languages such as Japanese, Chinese and Korean, and she also likes to play the guitar in her free time. Muyizere has always loved helping people and hopes to become a missionary surgeon one day after her studies.


Amanda majors in biology with a chemistry minor. At NIU, she was involved in research and a volunteering organization known as Bread for the World. While much of her time was spent focused on her academics, Amanda really enjoyed playing the piano, dancing, and spending time with her family and friends. She has always wanted to pursue a career in the medical field due to her interest in anatomy, genetics, and helping others to feel better physically and mentally. After attaining her undergraduate degree, she plans to attend graduate school to become a physician assistant.

Grant double majors in political science and economics along with a minor in history. He hopes to earn his J.D. and enter the field of law after graduation. Grant participated in the NIU Research Rookies program where he is now studying the budgetary feasibility of a universal basic income program in the United States. Grant served as the President of the New Hall Community Council, a member of the Huskie Food Pantry Leadership Team, as well as a part of Model United Nations. Outside of school, Grant enjoys reading, cooking, and meditating. He sees the McKearn Fellows program as an opportunity to grow in his academic capabilities and to further his commitment to the NIU-DeKalb community.

Leif double majors in biology and computational mathematics. He was a member of the NIU Rover Club and Math Club. He has been involved in undergraduate research, studying the mechanisms and genetics of cell migration using Drosophila melanogaster. After graduation, he hopes to attend graduate school and continue his education in Biological Sciences. In his free time, he enjoys music, reading, and hiking. As a McKearn Fellow, he hopes to expand on his research, become a more involved leader on campus, and further give back to the DeKalb-Sycamore community.

Rebekah is a General Health Sciences major with an intended major in Medical Laboratory Sciences and a minor in Special Education Foundations. As a Research Rookie, she is completing research on the levels of awareness that the traditional, undergraduate student has on Pre-Diabetes and Adult onset (Type 2) Diabetes. She is also a Huskie Service Scholar, which created the opportunity for her to be involved with the NIU Penguin Players. On campus she is involved in Women's Volleyball Club and Swim Club. As a McKearn Fellow, Rebekah hopes that she will be able to have a positive impact on the community through her efforts while also being focused on advancing her academic career. After graduation, Rebekah plans on attending graduate school.


Cameron is double majoring in english and history, with a minor in communication studies. On campus, she is a member of the Forensics team, the editing board of Stone House Academic Journal, and the Honors Committee. She is also an English Student Ambassador and is working on a project with the Regional History Center, restoring an architectural model of the Haish family mansion that used to stand in DeKalb. Cameron sees the McKearn Fellowship program as an important opportunity for her to gain access to perspectives apart from her own via research and service. In addition, she looks forward to growing her professional network and gaining experiences that can both sharpen her professional interests and enhance her credentials.

Cameron Simpson

Alison is pursuing a major in accounting and a minor in social entrepreneurship. She is involved in many organizations in the College of Business. Those include Leaders in Ethics and Academic Discipline (LEAD), Collegiate Association of Unreasonable Social Entrepreneurs (CAUSE), and Women's Leadership Institute. She is a Research Rookie and is finishing her research on how impact investment funds can gain legitimacy in the market. She plans to continue researching in the social entrepreneurship field throughout her college career. Outside of school, she likes to spend her free time outdoors, traveling, and volunteering. After graduation, Alison plans on pursuing her master's degree and then entering her field.

Alison Kramer

Sara is pursuing a major in nursing and a minor in public health. Her interest in the healthcare field stems from her passion for science and helping others. She is a member of the NIU Huskie Marching Band and Pep Band where she plays the flute. Sara is also involved in Speaker's Bureau, which is made up of volunteers at NIU who answer questions and share their experiences in the LGBT+ community. Sara enjoys giving back and volunteering at her church's nursery and preschool services. As a McKearn Fellow, Sara hopes to positively impact her community with her combined interests in healthcare and human rights. After graduating, Sara hopes to work as either a nurse or occupational therapist.

Sara Plettau

Jeremy is pursuing a double major in history and economics, as well as a minor in German studies. He is passionate about the study of history, specifically the Civil War era, and hopes to earn a PhD in history and become a history professor. Jeremy is currently involved in the Research Rookies program, where he is completing a historical research project focusing on the resistance strategies employed by Confederate prisoners of war held in Midwestern Union prisons during the Civil War.

He is currently involved in the Residence Hall Association as the Secretary of the New Hall Community Council and is the President of the Quiz Bowl Association, as well as a Presidential Scholar. Outside of school, Jeremy enjoys hiking, watching TV with friends, and going to thrift and antique stores. He is excited to see how the McKearn Fellows program can better prepare him for his future career goals and expand his presence on campus and in the DeKalb-Sycamore community.

Jeremy Knoll

Emmett is a chemistry major who finds himself focused primarily on academics. In high school, his favorite coursework was mathematics and now he has found a passion for chemistry. Emmett hopes to obtain a dual major in chemistry and mathematics with a minor in biology. While he finds himself spending most of his time on his academics, he most enjoys spending time with his closest friends. The large student population at NIU was initially overwhelming but he is grateful to meet and make many new friends. He hopes to increase his campus presence through research in the 2019 fall semester and through the participation of the McKearn Fellows Program. According to Emmett, he made substantial strides in high school to develop into a better person, improving his character and personal morals. He hopes that the McKearn Fellows Program continues the development of his character among other traits. After Emmett graduates, he hopes to pursue a higher degree. He feels committed to continuing his education beyond NIU and currently hopes to attend medical school.

Emmett Rogman

Past Fellows


  • Todd Durham
  • Matthew McCoy
  • Cassandra Kamp
  • Alexandra Karnuth
  • Kylie Zawisza


  • Dayne Coveyou
  • Leena Ghrayeb
  • Victoria Kwaben
  • Aspen Wheeler


  • Emily Fiala
  • Nicole Hoffmann
  • Zohra Sattar
  • Sarah Shapley
  • Peyton Whiston


  • Jessica Cox
  • Katie Denius
  • Wataru Hashimoto
  • Margaret (Maggie) Miller
  • John (Jack) Sauter
  • Jayson Shiau
  • Andrew Waite
  • Christine Wang
  • Theodore (Tripp) Weiner


  • Ken Barnett
  • Shekinah Bergmann
  • Zachary Howard
  • Rachel Lapidus
  • Lexie Williams


  • Lauren Boddy
  • Jeffery Kamholtz
  • Juliana Leprich
  • Ashley Palin
  • Patrick Price
  • Kathryn Rapp
  • Linnea Scherer
  • Sarah Stuebing
  • Brittany Warner
  • Melissa Woodall

Contact Us

University Honors Program
Campus Life Building 110
DeKalb, IL 60115