WPI Presidential Fellowship

The WPI Presidential Fellowship launches the PhD career of highly talented students to WPI. Students selected are US citizens pursuing a PhD in STEM or business, and demonstrate leadership in their field. Five students have been selected in 2018-2019.

Lynnette Robinson

Lynnette Robinson

Lynnette Robinson will be joining the Ph.D. program in Mathematical Sciences during the Fall of 2018 as a WPI Presidential Fellow and a GEM Scholar. She recently obtained a B.S. degree in Mathematics from Fisk University, in Nashville, TN. Lynnette has completed various research opportunities for undergraduate students, where she engaged in both statistical research regarding drug use, as well as epidemiological modelling of the severe Ebola outbreak in 2014. She has also held multiple internship positions and experiences at the Department of Treasury. 

Janelle Vultaggio

Janelle Vultagglo

Janelle Vultaggio received a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Biology from Providence College in 2013 and finished her M.S. degree in Molecular and Cellular Biology at Brandeis University with laboratory experience focused on biotechnology in February of 2016. Since graduating from Brandeis, she has worked with Dr. Marc Kirschner, Dr. Leon Peshkin, and Dr. Johan Paulsson as a Research Assistant and Lab Coordinator in the Systems Biology Department at Harvard Medical School. She has an interest in infectious diseases and microbiology. She is fascinated by microbial stress response, environmental and microbial relationships, and various factors that may influence a microbial community. For general activities, she enjoys running, boxing, and indoor cycling. She also loves her volunteer work at RARA, an organization in Lowell Massachusetts whose mission is to enrich the lives of adults with intellectual disabilities through recreational programs. With a positive, energetic attitude and eagerness to learn, she is thrilled to join the Ph.D. program at WPI in the Biology and Biotechnology Department as a WPI Presidential Fellow.

Jocelyn Petitto

Jocelyn Petitto

Jocelyn Petitto entered Tufts University in 2016 as a DVM/MPH candidate and left the DVM program in the fall of 2017 to concentrate her MPH studies on epidemiology and biostatistics. She worked with the Mass Department of Public Health, analyzing the data quality of their Immunization Information System. She is currently comparing the efficacy of using alternative methods of Lyme Disease surveillance. In a previous life, she earned a MAT with a focus on secondary math and science education from Marlboro College, where she researched open-ended assessments as a mode to gauge student understanding. She has a BA in Mathematics and Philosophy at Boston College. She is excited to join the Computational Biology and Bioinformatics program as a PhD candidate and WPI Presidential Fellow.

Brittany Lewis

Brittany Lewis

Brittany Lewis is currently enrolled in a PhD program in the Department of Computer Science at Worcester Polytechnic Institute as a WPI Presidential Fellow. Prior to joining WPI, she graduated from the University of Delaware with an Honor’s Bachelor Degree in Computer Science and a minor in Philosophy. She then spent three years working as a software engineer at Microsoft.

Alex Castaneda

Alex Castaneda

Alex Castaneda will be joining the PhD program in Mechanical Engineering in the Fall of 2018 as a WPI Presidential Fellow, where he plans to focus on thermal and fluid sciences. He has a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. During his undergraduate career, Alex received multiple academic awards, and he was a member of the top senior design team during his final semester. While at Illinois, Alex also obtained his Six Sigma Green Belt, he gained industry experience at CNH Industrial and Ford Motor Company, and he was a research engineer at Creative Thermal Solutions.

WPI Endowed Graduate Fellowships

Tofunmi Ogunfunmi 

Tofunmi Ogunfunmi

Tofunmi Ogunfunmi, from Dallas, TX, graduated with a B.S. degree in Materials Science and Engineering from the Massachusetts institute of Technology. During her time at MIT, she participated in industrial research with Draper, IBA and IBM. She has worked In the US, India and Belgium. She will be joining the M.S. program in Materials Science and Engineering this coming fall as a GEM Scholar.

Geri-Louise Dimas

Gerl-Louise Dimas

Geri-Louise Dimas will be joining the WPI PhD Data Science program in fall 2018 as the Robert and Esther Goddard fellow.  She has a BS in Computer Science, BA in Actuarial Science, with a minor in Business from Roosevelt University (Chicago, IL). In addition, she received an MS in Applied Statistics from Bowling Green State University (Bowling Green, OH). Geri-Louise currently is currently working for the director of Illinois’ DCFS as part of a team to improve the departments’ efforts to serve and protect the children of the state.

Juan D. Florez-Castillo

Juan Flores-Castillo

Juan D. Florez-Castillo is the Bruce Mannooch Memorial Fellow.  Juan is a graduate (Magna Cum Laude) of the Florida Institute of Technology (FIT) with a Bachelors degree in Mechanical Engineering. He was Chief Engineer of a NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) sponsored multi-rover system design project through FIT. Juan is pursuing a PhD in Robotics Engineering from WPI.

Alycia Abbott

Alycia Abbott

Alycia  Abbott has been awarded the Stedman Smith Fellowship. Alycia received her BS in Biomedical Engineering with minors in Chemical Engineering and Computer Science from the University of Rochester in 2016. Her undergraduate work has been published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research. She is pursuing her PhD in Biomedical Engineering at WPI and her research interests are in biomaterials and tissue engineering. She received Honorable Mention for Teaching Assistant of the Year for the 2016-2017 school year and is highly active in outreach activities on campus.

Jessica Rosewitz

Jessica Rosewitz

Jessica Rosewitz has been awarded the Spaulding Fellowship. Jessica received her BS in Civil Engineering from WPI in 2007. Jessica’s IQP, advised by Prof. Jill Rulfs, was awarded a President’s Award. She received her MS in Civil Engineering from WPI in 2016. Her anticipated date for completion of her PhD in Civil Engineering is May 2019. Jessica also became a mom to her first child, Ethan.

Dayna Mercadante

Danya Mercandante

Dayna Mercadante is a recipient of the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program.  She is pursuing a PhD in Bioinformatics and Computational Biology.  She began at WPI in Fall 2017 as one of the inaugural Presidential Fellows. She has BS degrees in Biology and Math from Franklin Pierce University. She has completed a Research Experience for Undergraduates program at Missouri State University, and has previous industrial experience as a research associate at the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Therapeutics, Inc.  Dayna’s undergraduate research has been published in Discrete and Continuous Dynamical Systems, Series B, and her industry research has been published in SLAS Technology and the British Journal of Pharmacology.  In addition to becoming an NSF Fellow this academic year, Dayna will be the inaugural president of the Association for Women in Mathematics chapter at WPI.  

Zhaotong Yang

Zhaotong Yang

Zhaotong Yang has been awarded a William B. Smith Fellowship. Zhaotong has completed a BS degree in Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Science and Technology of Beijing, China. He received an MS in Materials Science and Engineering from WPI in May 2017. He is currently enrolled in the PhD program in  Manufacturing Engineering. Zhaotong is the first PhD student to become a part of the WPI-Tsinghua University Center for Global Public Safety. 


Zhanyue "Jimmy" Zhao

Zhanyue Zhao

Zhanyue "Jimmy" Zhao is a recipient of the William B. Smith Fellowship. He received a BS degree in Electrical Mechanics Engineering from University of Science and Technology of Beijing (USTB) and a MS degree in Aerospace Material and Mechanical Engineering from Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT). He began his research career at the beginning of his undergraduate career, including Robotics Competition Lab in USTB, and Robotics Lab in IIT, where he participated in a military project working for JPL, NASA. After graduation, he began to focus on the biomedical device area, and worked at Pediatric Cardiac Bioengineering Laboratory in Boston Children's Hospital, NSG Biomedical Engineering Lab in Massachusetts General Hospital and the Laboratory for Advanced Biomaterials, and Stem-Cell-Based Therapeutics in Brigham & Women’s Hospital for years in succession. He has published 10+ patents and 5+ journal & conference papers. He will be joining WPI Automation and Interventional Medicine Robotics Research Laboratory (AIM Lab) to develop further research on image-guided surgical robots while pursuing a PhD in Mechanical Engineering at WPI.

Yasmina Benkhoui

Yasmina Benkhoui

Yasmina Benkhoui is the recipient of the Mohammad A. Bin Khaled Alshawaf MD Graduate Engineering Distinguished Fellowship. Yasmina has BS and MS degrees in Electrical and Computer Engineering from ENSIAS (National School of Computer Science and Systems Analysis) in Morocco. She also completed two years of preparatory study in Tours, France. Yasmina completed internships with Zodiac Aerospace and with the Moroccan Ministry of Finance. She will be joining the PhD program in Electrical and Computer Engineering at WPI, and she would like to focus on power systems and renewable energy. The Fellowship was established by a generous gift to WPI from Dr. Tarek Al-Shawaf ’55, and supports a graduate student from an Arab League Nation.

Jabari Stegall

Jabari Stegall

Jabari Stegall joined WPI as a Ph.D. student in Electrical Engineering in Fall 2016 as a Gates Millennium Scholar and a Robert S. Parks Fellow. Jabari received his B.S. in Electrical Engineering from North Carolina A&T State University. As an undergrad, Jabari conducted research in the field of telecommunications with a focus on the internet of things. Jabari served as the president of the NC A&T Gates Millennium Scholars chapter, an E-board member in the Institute of Electrical Engineers and as a member of National Society of Black Engineers. During Jabari’s matriculation at WPI, he has received 2 internships from the General Motors Company in Detroit Michigan as a vehicle engineer. Jabari’s research conducted at WPI’s Wireless Information Lab has been published at the VTC Chicago 2018 conference. Jabari lives in Worcester with his wife Khadejah and his daughter Lola.

Michael Yereniuk

Michael Yerniuk

Michael Yereniuk received a SMART (Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation Scholarship-for-Service Program) fellowship, which is sponsored by the TRAC-White Sand Missile Range (WSMR).  He has a BA degree in Philosophy from UMass Dartmouth as well as BS and MS degrees in Mathematics from the University of New Hampshire.  Currently, he is pursuing a PhD in Mathematical Sciences and is Vice President of the WPI chapter of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM).  With his advisor, Sarah D. Olson, Michael is researching analytical methods for agent-based models with Biological applications.

*There are multiple recipients this year of the William B. Smith Fellowship. This fund was established through a generous gift by William B. Smith, a supporter and friend of WPI, who wished for the funds to support Mechanical Engineering.

Previous Fellowship Recipients


Dayna Mercadante, Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, WPI Presidential Fellow

Veronica Kimmerly, Fire Protection Engineering, WPI Presidential Fellow

Alexandra Rose Valiton, Robotics Engineering, WPI Presidential Fellow 

Laura Reyes, Materials Science and Engineering, George I. Alden Fellow

Avery Harrison, Learning Sciences & Technology, Marietta Anderson Fellow

Yasmina Benkhoui, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Mohammad A. Bin Khaled Alshawaf MD Graduate Engineering Distinguished Fellow

Caitlin Walde, Materials Science and Engineering, Helen E. Stoddard Fellow

Andrei Koch, Aerospace Engineering, Bruce Mannooch Memorial Fellow

Zhaotong Yang, Materials Science and Engineering, William B. Smith Fellow

Maryam Masroor Shalmani, Mechanical Engineering, William B. Smith Fellow

Lydia Hantsche, Aerospace Engineering, William B. Smith Fellow

Mengqiao Yang, Mechanical Engineering, William B. Smith Fellow