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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 2019-2020.

Sara Amato

Sarah Amato

Sara Amato received her Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics from Assumption College in 2019. Sara has completed various research opportunities for undergraduate students. During the summer of 2017, Sara received an Honors Program Fellowship to conduct mathematics research at Assumption College. The following summer, she participated in the Research Experience for Undergraduates in Industrial Mathematics and Statistics at WPI. Most recently, she has become a member of the Enhancing Diversity in Graduate Education (EDGE) Program. In addition to mathematics, Sara enjoys running, hiking, and traveling. Sara is particularly interested in the applications of mathematics to biology and is excited to join the Ph.D. program in Mathematical Sciences in the Fall of 2019 as a WPI Presidential Fellow.

Charles Bales

Charles Bales

Charles Bales will be joining the Robotics Engineering PhD program at Worcester Polytechnic Institute as a WPI Presidential Fellow this upcoming Fall. He recently obtained his Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering at the University of Tulsa, where he had participated in multiple undergraduate research programs. He has also taken part in several internship experiences abroad in the UK and Spain, including research at the 5G Innovation Center in Surrey.

Elizabeth Belden

Elizabeth Belden

Elizabeth Belden will be joining the Ph.D. program in Chemical Engineering as a WPI Presidential Fellow.  She recently graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, NY with a B.S in Chemical Engineering and a minor in Chinese. She has participated in research developing analytical approximants to solve complex chemical engineering and mathematical problems.  She gained industry experience at UTC Aerospace Systems and Loureiro Engineering Associates during her undergraduate career.

Kelsey Butler

Kelsey Butler

Kelsey Butler holds a BA in psychology from the University of Vermont and a BS in chemistry from Castleton University. She has research experience in biochemistry and pharmacology and tries to approach projects from a multidisciplinary perspective. Her current research interests center around medicinal chemistry. This fall she will be enrolling in a joint PhD program with WPI and UMass Medical School as a WPI Presidential Fellow

Alexander Moore

Alexander Moore

Alexander Moore will be joining the PhD program in Data Science Engineering in the Fall of 2019 as a WPI Presidential Fellow.  He plans to focus on statistical modelling, but Alexander is eager to delve deeper into the computer science elements of data science. He has a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics and Statistics from Reed College. During his undergraduate career, Alexander wrote his senior research on the use of modified neural networks to impute complex survey data.  Previously, Alexander was on-track to become an actuary after working for Milliman, where he developed automation software for healthcare claim re-pricing, but he gravitated into machine learning after he became disillusioned with actuarial practice.

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


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

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