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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 2021-2022.

Darren Cole

Darren Cole seeks to blend emerging technologies with contemporary art practices through the form of site-specific research. As a film and video professor at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design he created performance based work using 16mm film and interactive video. He was the first ever Digital Storyteller at Boston City Hall, Art New England Magazine nominated him as one of the top emerging artists of 2019, and he is currently a Revolutionary Spaces Artist Fellow. Darren is excited and honored to join the IMGD program as a WPI Presidential Fellow this coming fall.


Steven Hyland

Steven Hyland will be joining the Robotics Engineering Ph.D. program in fall 2021 as a WPI Presidential Fellow. After graduating from Columbia University with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering, Steven worked for two years as an Implementation Field Engineer for Seegrid, integrating Autonomous Mobile Robots across U.S. manufacturers. After experiencing many of the shortcomings of industrial automation, he wishes to be at the forefront of robotics research in human-robot interaction. Steven’s goal is to design and create robots that allow for humans to work more efficiently and safely, while offloading mundane tasks to those same robots.


Timothy Jones

Timothy Jones will be pursuing his PhD in Robotics Engineering as a WPI Presidential Fellow. Timothy graduated from Bethany College in 2019 with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science. His research interests include human augmentation and novel actuators.





Brianna Raphino

Brianna Raphino received her Bachelor's Degree in Mechanical Engineering in 2020 from Merrimack College. Upon graduating she joined WPI as a Ph.D. student in Mechanical Engineering and this upcoming fall she will be collaborating with Dr. Yihao Zheng in the MedMan Lab as a WPI Presidential Fellow and GEM Fellow.




Timothy Woodard

Timothy Woodard received his Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering from the University of California Riverside (UCR) in 2020. During his time as an undergraduate he worked in research focused on renewable energy production and integration. He spent his time in lab performing reactions that would produce renewable energy from different types of biomasses with the goal of understanding the fundamentals of how biomass can be broken down by chemical and biological processes. He will be joining WPI to pursue his PhD in chemical engineering. During his time in the program, he will be working with Dr. Michael Timko in the energy research group as a WPI Presidential Fellow. He aspires to contribute to the higher utilization of sustainable processes by creating environmentally friendly and economical alternative methods for creating fuels and chemicals.


Endowed Fellowships and External Fellowships

Brandon Asencio

Brandon Asencio received his Bachelor of Engineering degree in mechanical engineering from the City College of New York in 2020. During his undergraduate years, Brandon completed internships supporting public school HVAC retrofits with the NYC School Construction Authority and organ manufacturing research with the United Therapeutics Corporation. After graduation, he worked as a Safety Support Engineer at Amazon Robotics where he ensured optimal safety performance of global operations. Brandon is excited to pursue an M.S. degree in Robotics Engineering at WPI as an Arvid Anderson Fellow and GEM Fellow.  Brandon’s research interests include human-robot interaction and medical robotics. Brandon’s overall goal is to create safer, more efficient robotic environments.


Patrick Chernjavsky

Patrick will be continuing his journey with WPI this Fall by joining the Mechanical Engineering PhD program as a William B. Smith Fellow. He recently completed his B.S. degree in mechanical engineering from WPI. As an undergraduate, Patrick’s research focused on flexible driveshaft fixed abrasive grinding, metal additive manufacturing, and surface epolishing. Additionally, this summer he completed an internship with Saint-Gobain Research North America which focused on fixed abrasive grinding of silicon carbide wafers. 



Gabrielle Conard

Gabrielle Conard is a recipient of the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program.  Gabrielle recently completed her undergraduate studies at Lafayette College this past May where she earned a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering and a minor in Physics.  During that time, she conducted robotics research with a focus on quadruped robots, including developing a low-cost quadruped platform, became a member of the PA Epsilon Chapter of Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society, and served as a peer tutor and Supplemental Instructor for several physics and engineering courses.  This fall, Gabrielle will begin pursuing her M.S. degree in Robotics Engineering at WPI and conduct research in the Soft Robotics Lab.


William DeMaria

William DeMaria has been awarded the Stedman Smith Fellowship. William is from Millbury, MA and received his Bachelor of Science degree in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Rochester in 2019. As an undergraduate, William conducted research related to the study of macular degeneration in Dr. Danielle Benoit’s lab, received three internships at Medtronic in North Haven, CT, and served as the president of Engineers Without Borders. William’s research in the Benoit lab was published in the Cell Stem Cell journal, and his work at Medtronic was published in the 2017 and 2018 BMES Annual Meetings. As a Ph.D. candidate at WPI in the Biomedical Engineering department, William has published his work in the 2020 BMES Annual Meeting and enjoyed participating in and leading community outreach and STEM education events.


Qingli Ding

Qingli received a Bachelor degree in Chemistry and Materials Science from Northwestern University (Shaanxi, China) in 2017. She received the MS degree in Materials Science and Engineering from WPI in May 2019. Qingli participated in research on the Synthesis and Properties of Near-Infrared Fluorescent Dyes during her undergraduate years. While pursuing her master’s degree, Qingli worked on rare earth and copper elements recycling in the Center for Resource Recovery and Recycling (CR3) at WPI. Qingli is excited to enroll in a Ph.D. program at WPI as a William B Smith fellow working on Corrosion testing and measurement with Professor Mishra Brajendra 


Melissa Wojnowski

As the recipient of the Aberdale Fellowship, Melissa Wojnowski is eager to continue her research in functional biomaterials for tissue engineering and drug delivery, specifically focusing on their applications in neuroregenerative medicine. A recent graduate of the university’s B.S./M.S program, she received both her Bachelor’s degree and Master’s degree in Biomedical Engineering from WPI, after which she matriculated into the WPI PhD program in Biomedical Engineering during the Fall of 2020. Under her advisor Prof. Jeannine Coburn, Melissa is currently developing biomaterial-based cell therapy delivery systems for the treatment of traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI). Through her dissertation research, Melissa aspires to improve the efficacy of pre-clinical SCI cell therapies, ultimately contributing to the clinical realization of their potential to recover lost neurological functions in SCI patients. 

Previous Fellowship Recipients


Dayna Mercadante, Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program

Avery Harrison, Learning Sciences & Technologies, NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program

Zhaotong Yang, Manufacturing Engineering, William B. Smith Fellowship

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

Jabari Stegall, Electrical Engineering, Robert S. Parks Fellow

Michael Yereniuk, Mathematical Sciences, SMART (Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation Scholarship-for-Service Program) fellowship

Bonnie Wang, Materials Science and Engineering, Norton Fellowship

Alicia Howell-Munson, Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, Alden Fellowship

Esai Lopez, Chemical Engineering, WPI Presidential Fellow

Adriyel Nieves, Electrical Engineering, WPI Presidential Fellow and GEM Fellow

John Owens, Electrical Engineering, WPI Presidential Fellow and GEM Fellow

Bryanna Samolyk, Biomedical Engineering, WPI Presidential Fellow

Kiara Sanchez, Mathematical Engineering, WPI Presidential Fellow

Heather LeClerc, Chemical Engineering, NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program/Fulbright Fellow



Sara Amato, Mathematical Science, WPI Presidential Fellow

Charles Bales, Robotics Engineering, WPI Presidential Fellow

Elizabeth Belden, Chemical Engineering, NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program, 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