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.


Vana is majoring in Biological Sciences and Medical Laboratory Sciences and minoring in Chemistry. She is conducting undergraduate research that aims to understand the genes and mechanisms responsible for the arrangement and maintenance of epithelial cells, using Drosophila melanogaster as a model system. She has volunteered for STEM Fest as part of Chemistry Club, participated in the Asian American Resource Center’s OHANA Lecture Series, and played viola for the Kishwaukee Symphony Orchestra. Vana’s passion for physiology motivates her to attend medical school and become a physician. Healthcare access is important to her; she imagines herself working in an underserved community and participating in pro bono services. As a McKearn Fellow, Vana is excited to continue her research, build career skills, and give back to her community.

Roshay Grant is a meteorology major and communication studies minor. After his undergraduate years at NIU he plans to continue his education by attending graduate school for his masters. He's currently a member of the University honors program, NIU forensics, and a part of the NIU huskie athletic bands. Outside of school He loves to watch films, play his trombone, and sew. The McKearn Fellows program presents an opportunity for him to be introduced to what research is like, expand his professional connections, and engage in activities that provide him with valuable insights.

Hannah Havel is a double major in OM&IS and computer science. She has a previous academic background in computer science with business applications and has been recognized by the National Center for Women & Information Technology for her academic efforts.

Thus far, she has engaged in undergraduate research within the Mathematical Sciences department in new advances towards predicting the motions of particles under mutual gravitational attraction. She has further research interests in machine learning/AI and computational software. After graduation, she plans to attend graduate school for computer science and continue research in computer science and discrete mathematics.

Her other passions include music production as an alto saxophonist, volunteering such as in STEM Fest and foreign language as a Spanish minor.

Alia Moran is an anthropology and art history major with minors in French and a focus in classical studies. Upon graduation, she plans to attend a Ph.D. program abroad to work onsite in archaeological digs and in museums. This past year, she researched how museum curation works from start to end through Research Rookies. In her free time, she enjoys reading all genres of literature and writing poetry. Through McKearn Fellows Program, she is excited to continue research and partake in opportunities to explore the world and other perspectives.

Emanuel Naumann is a Chemistry major who is currently exploring which subfields of chemistry he prefers. After graduating from NIU, he plans to continue his studies as a graduate student in chemistry and hopes to eventually conduct his own research. During the 2022-2023 academic year, he participated in Research Rookies, where he utilized computational chemistry to analyze the structure of ions that could potentially be used in lithium-ion batteries. He hopes to use his attention to detail, pragmatic demeanor, and mathematical understanding to further explore his interests in chemistry, and looks forward to the research opportunities and experiences that await being a McKearn Fellow.

In addition to expanding his connections with the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Naumann has taken on leadership roles in other spaces. Recently, he was inaugurated as the 2023-2024 Secretary for NIU’s Circle K Club, a subcategory of the volunteer organization Kiwanis International. He also volunteers as a moderator to a small online game server that aims to provide a safe space for kids to interact online. In his free time, he enjoys playing old-school video games and exploring ways to improve his health.


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.

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.

Past Fellows


  • Grant Goral
  • Leif Verace
  • Rebekah Gonzalez
  • Amanda Pollock


  • Cameron Simpson
  • Alison Kramer
  • Sara Plettau
  • Jeremy Knoll
  • Emmett Rogman


  • 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