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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 2020-2021.

Esai Lopez

Esai Lopez is from southern New Mexico and received his Bachelor’s  in chemical engineering from New Mexico State University (NMSU). He is a 2020 WPI presidential Fellow. At NMSU he worked on research that focused on environmental remediation. He has worked on removing uranium and radium from contaminated soils as well as the adsorption of pollutants on activated carbons. Aside from chemical engineering Esai enjoys community outreach events and engineering education.

Adriyel Nieves

Adriyel Nieves received his Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering from the Pennsylvania State University in 2015. After graduating, he worked as an electrical engineer leading the product development for commercial ventilation control systems. After working three years in industry, he pursued a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering graduating during the summer of 2020 where he researched implementation of modern radar techniques that can be used as a research tool within academia. Adriyel has completed internships focused on radar systems with Boeing Research and Technology in Huntington Beach, CA and Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab in Laurel, Maryland. He will join WPI as an Electrical and Computer Engineering Ph.D. student collaborating with Dr. Alexander Wyglinski in the Wireless Innovation Lab as a WPI Presidential Fellow and GEM Fellow. His research focus is cognitive radar systems and developing algorithms that improve probability of detection for distributed radar systems. With his Ph.D. research, he aspires to define the technology that will improve radar detection capabilities.

John Owens

John Owens recently graduated from the University of Connecticut with his bachelors in science in Electrical Engineering. John is pursuing his PhD in Electrical and Computer Engineering as a WPI Presidential Fellow and GEM Fellow. John recently completed an internship at UTAS and conducted research in Electrical engineering while attending UConn.

Bryanna Samolyk

Bryanna Samolyk will be joining the PhD program in Biomedical Engineering as a WPI Presidential Fellow this upcoming fall. Her research interests include biomaterials, tissue engineering, and regenerative medicine. She recently obtained a Bachelor's Degree in Biomedical Engineering as well as a minor in Material Science Engineering from the University of Connecticut. During her undergraduate career she conducted research in biomechanics, investigating micro-crack formation in femoral cartilage as well as the material properties of TMJ condylar cartilage. On top of her studies, Bryanna has gained industry experience through an internship at Zeptometrix Corporation.

Kiara Sanchez

As a Worcester native, Kiara Sanchez is particularly excited to be joining the Ph.D. program in Mathematical Sciences as a WPI Presidential Fellow in the Fall of 2020. She recently received her Master’s degree in Mathematics at Sam Houston State University. Her master’s thesis, Understanding the Stratospheric Polar Vortex: A Parameter Sensitivity Analysis on a Simple Model of Stratospheric Dynamics, focused on understanding what drives the dynamics (behavior) in the stratosphere the most. Her thesis research started as a part of the 2019 Math and Climate Research Network (MCRN) Summer School. Although most of her previous research is in Math and Climate, Kiara hopes to delve deeper into a newfound interest in financial mathematics while at WPI. Previously, in the spring of 2018, Kiara obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics with a minor in Educational Studies from the College of the Holy Cross. Kiara is also a Doherty Memorial High School graduate.

Endowed Fellowships and External Fellowships

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.  

Avery Harrison 

Avery Harrison is a recipient of the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program to pursue a Ph.D. in Learning Sciences & Technologies. Avery completed her B.A. degree at the University of Richmond where she studied cognitive psychology. This past May, she completed her M.S. degree in Learning Sciences & Technologies at WPI. In addition to her research on math education and learning technologies, Avery is committed to broadening participation in STEM fields through research, mentoring and outreach opportunities and has received internal funding to create such opportunities on campus.


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. 


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.


Bonnie Wang

Bonnie Wang is from Albuquerque, New Mexico, and graduated with a B.S. degree in Materials Science and Engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2017. During her undergraduate years, she participated in various internships in computational materials science, advanced analytics, and social business in Germany, India, and Mexico. After graduation, Bonnie worked at Northrop Grumman for the past two years as a Materials and Processes Engineer in California. She is excited to join the Ph.D. program in Materials Science and Engineering this coming fall on the Norton Fellowship and to begin research on Integrated Computational Materials Engineering (ICME).


Alicia Howell-Munson

Alicia Howell-Munson was awarded the Alden Fellowship. She completed her BS/MS at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in the summer of 2019 and is staying on in the PhD Program for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology starting in the fall of 2019. Her research interests is to develop computers that are more intuitive and streamlined with the intent of the user. She is currently working under Professor Erin Solovey on an NSF grant for adaptive learning environments using non-invasive neuroimaging. 

Previous Fellowship Recipients


Sara Amato, Mathematical Science, WPI Presidential Fellow

Charles Bales, Robotics Engineering, WPI Presidential Fellow

Elizabeth Belden, Chemical Engineering, WPI Presidential Fellow

Kelsey Butler, Joint PhD WPI and UMass Medical School, WPI Presidential Fellow

Alexander Moore, Data Science Engineering, WPI Presidential Fellow


Alex Castaneda, Mechanical Engineering, WPI Presidential Fellow

Brittany Lewis, Computer Science, WPI Presidential Fellow

Jocelyn Petitto, Computational Biology and Bioinformatics, WPI Presidential Fellow

Lynnette Robinson, Mathematical Science, WPI Presidential Fellow and GEM Fellow

Janelle Vultaggio, Biology and Biotechnology, WPI Presidential Fellow

Alycia Abbott, Biomedical Engineering, Stedman Smith Fellow

Geri-Louise Dimas, Data Science, Robert and Esther Goddard Fellow

Juan D. Florez-Castillo, Robotics Engineering, Bruce Mannooch Memorial Fellow

Tofunmi Ogunfunmi, Materials Science, GEM Scholar Fellow

Jessica Rosewitz, Civil Engineering, Spaulding Fellow

Zhanyue “Jimmy” Zhao, Mechanical Engineering, William B. Smith Fellow



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