2020 Dean's Scholars

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Penn Arts & Sciences has named 20 students from the College of Arts & Sciences, the College of Liberal & Professional Studies, and the Graduate Division as 2020 Dean’s Scholars. They were chosen from over 10,000 students for their exceptional academic performance and intellectual promise.

Often described by their professors as “superstars,” these students include undergraduates who have already presented at conferences and made important contributions to their fields, and graduate students who have published, invented, and found fresh ways to teach the next generation. The Dean’s Scholars are usually recognized as part of the Stephen A. Levin Family Dean’s Forum in the spring, but the event was cancelled this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“While I wish I could celebrate with these impressive students in person, it gives me great pleasure to recognize their exceptional academic performance and their sense of intellectual adventure,” says Steven J. Fluharty, Dean and Thomas S. Gates, Jr. Professor of Psychology, Pharmacology, and Neuroscience. “Our Dean’s Scholars truly are the best of the best.”



Fahad Ahmed, C’20, was a University Scholar with a major in communication (concentration in health communication) and a minor in chemistry. He has already co-authored a number of peer-reviewed publications.

Omkar Katta, C’20, majored in mathematical economics, completing five graduate courses and contributing to three research projects. One professor called him “the best of the best.”

Srinivas Mandyam, C’20, was a Roy and Diana Vagelos Science Scholar who won a Vagelos Challenge Award and a Churchill Scholarship. He majored in biophysics, mathematics, and physics, while also pursuing a master’s in physics.

Melisande B. McLaughlin, C’20, was recognized in her cinema and media studies program as “a highly accomplished filmmaker,” exploring contemporary social, political, and humanitarian issues to effect social change.

Leo J. Sarbanes, C’20, majored in music and distinguished himself both as a scholar and a performer. He minored in Biological Basis of Behavior, and his drive to understand music from multiple perspectives is noteworthy.

Adithya Sriram, C’20, was a senior Benjamin Franklin Scholar in the Vagelos Integrated Program in Energy Research, with majors in biophysics and physics. He was also a Vagelos Science Challenge Award winner.

Christina M. Steele, C’20, majored in psychology and was a Benjamin Franklin Scholar and a Beinecke and Marshall Scholar. She participated in two National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates programs.

Piotr Wojcik, C’20, majored in urban studies. He was part of the inaugural group of Gordon Fellows in Urban Studies at Penn and received high praise for his work as an intern with The Heidelberg Project in Detroit.

Qingyang (Freya) Zhou, C’20, majored in cinema and media studies, comparative literature, and German. She won an award for her presentation at the Northeast Modern Language Association meeting.



Nathan Duane Coonts, LPS’20, a political science and history major, helped conduct several research projects. He was selected to present at this year’s Student Veterans of America National Conference.



Hope Elliott, earning her Master of Science in Applied Geosciences, was recognized as an exceptional young scholar and departmental citizen with a focus in env- ironmental chemistry and human health.



Shorouk Badir (Chemistry) already has nine scientific publications, and her contributions to various lab projects are expected to be “hugely impactful.”

Eilidh Beaton (Philosophy) is a graduate associate at Perry World House who has cultivated interdisciplinary knowledge in political philosophy and policy engagement.

Tanner Kaptanoglu (Physics and Astronomy) is the co-inventor of the dichroicon, the first device capable of sorting photons by wavelength in large-scale neutrino detectors.

Davy Knittle (English) has been called an intellectual “force” across multiple fields of study ranging from poetics and urban studies to queer theory and trans studies.

Mina Khalil (Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations) is recognized in his department as a skilled researcher with a sharply analytical mind.

Ruth Moyer (Criminology) uses quantitative methods to examine the impact of changes to the urban community on crime, and has been widely published.

Benjamin Oyler (Music) is a philosopher and critical theorist with a background in jazz performance. A professor described him as a “rare scholar and teacher.”

Claire Conklin Sabel (History and Sociology of Science) studies the relationship between global commerce and the earth sciences, and stands out as a dynamic thinker.

Aline Zanardini (Mathematics) researches the geometry of elliptic fibrations and the stability of pencils of plane curves of degree six, and is a “master TA.”