Six Seniors in College Honored as 2020 Merrill Presidential Scholars

The Merrill Presidential Scholars Program honors the university’s most successful seniors, who each recognize a UMD faculty member and high school teacher for contributing to their education

Six seniors in the University of Maryland’s College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences have been named 2020 Merrill Presidential Scholars. The Merrill Presidential Scholars Program honors the university’s most successful seniors, who each recognize a UMD faculty member and high school teacher for contributing to their education.

This year’s recipients were Siri Neerchal, Nicole Oehlmann, Daniel Oh, Pavan Ravindra, Veeraj Shah and Mary Yilma. In addition, kinesiology major Danielle Livingstone honored Chemistry and Biochemistry Senior Lecturer Lenea Stocker.

Siri Neerchal, a mathematics and history dual-degree student, honored Joanne Scheler from Centennial Lane Elementary School in Ellicott City, Maryland, and Associate Professor Colleen Woods from the Department of History. “When I first came to the University of Maryland, I was a mathematics major searching for other areas to explore. As a sophomore, I added a second major in history,” Neerchal said. “I approached Professor Colleen Woods for guidance in an independent study on postcolonial theory, and since then, she has been a source of conversation, ideas, and support. My discussions with her have shaped my ideas and have helped me rework existing systems and concepts into a refined critical framework that informs my approach to quantitative research.”

Atmospheric and oceanic science major Nicole Oehlmann honored her high school teacher Deborah Hewitt from West River Home School in Galesville, Maryland, and Assistant Professor Timothy Canty from the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Science. “My mentor at the University of Maryland is Professor Tim Canty. As my professor and academic advisor in the atmospheric and oceanic science program, he has done a great deal to help me further my education,” she said. “He has pushed me to enroll in challenging coursework, including graduate-level courses, and he has connected me with scientists at the Ocean Prediction Center. With his guidance, I have found a research project that I am passionate about and am looking forward to working on during my senior year.”

Daniel Oh, a biological sciences major, honored his high school teacher Catherine Ulicny from Clarksburg High School in Clarksburg, Maryland, and Sabrina Kramer, Associate Director of the Integrated Life Sciences program in the Honors College. “In my high school AP Biology class, Ms. Ulicny helped me discover my passion for the biological sciences. I served as her student assistant, where she helped me teach other students and initiated my spark for education. Ms. Ulicny’s dedication to her students, always going above and beyond to ensure the success of her students, is a trait I admire and hope to replicate,” Oh said. “As the associate director for the Integrated Life Sciences Honors program and my professor for cell biology, Professor Kramer was one of the first people I met at University of Maryland, and she is always available to talk with students looking for academic and professional guidance. Her mentorship has helped me with finding internships and navigating my plans for graduate school. Professor Kramer has also been a strong mentor in my experience as an undergraduate teaching assistant, helping me improve my teaching abilities and reinforce my interest in education.” 

Biochemistry and computer science dual-degree student Pavan Ravindra honored his high school teacher Kelly Wester, from River Hill High School in Clarksville, Maryland, and Assistant Professor Pratyush Tiwary from the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. “Professor Pratyush Tiwary has been a huge role model for me,” Ravindra said. “I started doing research in his lab at a time when I wasn't sure about what career path I wanted to choose, but after talking to him and working with him for just a few weeks, I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in research. Professor Tiwary has a way of looking at the world of research and a passion for learning that has inspired me and all of the students in his lab to learn as much as we can.”

Veeraj Shah, a biological sciences and health policy and technology dual-degree student, honored his high school teacher Theresa Goldberg, from Severna Park High School in Severna Park, Maryland, and Professor Todd Cooke from the Department of Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics. “I remember coming to college and meeting Professor Cooke in my first week,” Shah said. “He has helped me navigate University of Maryland and translate my interests into action. He helps guide my indecisiveness and has taught me to always be true to myself. At each step of my growth, Professor Cooke has been there for me, and I cannot thank him enough. In fact, often when I make a decision about my academics or co-curriculars today, I ask myself, ‘What would Professor Cooke think?’”

Mathematics and economics dual-degree student Mary Yilma honored her high school teacher Paul Kevin Moose, from Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, Maryland, and Associate Professor Jessica Goldberg from the Department of Economics. “I am delighted to say ‘thank you’ to Professor Jessica Goldberg,” Yilma said. “Dr. Goldberg directs PADE, a program that provides academic support to students with the aim of increasing diversity and achievement among economics majors. She gave me tireless feedback on my academic choices, introduced me to some great graduate student mentors, and helped me learn about different careers in economics and what their day-to-day entails. Dr. Goldberg is always in my corner and willing to suggest options I didn’t even know existed; her office is always open, and she goes above and beyond for her students. I cannot thank her enough for her guidance.”

The Merrill Presidential Scholars Program honors the University of Maryland’s most successful seniors and their designated faculty and K-12 teachers for their mentorship. The legacy of academic excellence, teaching and mentoring continues as scholarships are awarded in the K-12 teacher’s name to a new first-year student from that teacher’s high school or school district.

About the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences

The College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences at the University of Maryland educates more than 9,000 future scientific leaders in its undergraduate and graduate programs each year. The college's 10 departments and six interdisciplinary research centers foster scientific discovery with annual sponsored research funding exceeding $200 million.