Top Seniors Honored as 2015 Merrill Presidential Scholars

The 2015 Merrill Presidential Scholars included five seniors from the University of Maryland College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences.

Marissa Dattler, Ryan Kuo, Neomi Rao, Julia Wainger and Sarahann Yeh were honored as outstanding graduating seniors. Celebrating the importance of teaching and mentoring the next generation, each scholar is given the opportunity to recognize and acknowledge one inspirational high school teacher and one UMD faculty member who contributed significantly to his or her college experience.

Marissa Dattler, an atmospheric and oceanic sciences major, honored Tim Canty of the Department of Atmospheric & Oceanic Science and Arlene Natalo of Hackettstown High School, Hackettstown, NJ.
“I, and many others, cannot imagine the undergraduate program in atmospheric and oceanic science without Professor Tim Canty,” Dattler said. “He really cares and is always recruiting new students to our tiny group. He is the type of adviser who sends emails with new internship or scholarship opportunities. He encourages me, and others, to move forward academically, despite any challenges we may face.”

Ryan Kuo, a computer science and electrical and computer engineering double major, honored Gilmer Blankenship of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Bethany Petr of Thomas Sprigg Wootton High School, Rockville, MD. “Whenever my teammates and I were stuck on our research project, Professor Blankenship provided insight or a new direction to try because he wanted to see us succeed,” Kuo said. “He inspires me to be the best that I can be and to try to accomplish as much as I can.”

Neomi Rao, a biological sciences and linguistics double major, honored Margaret Antonisse of the Department of Linguistics and William Manion of Eleanor Roosevelt High School, Greenbelt, MD.
“From language science research, to serving on the [College of Arts and Humanities] Dean's Advisory Board, to recommendations for my semester abroad in Amsterdam, Professor Antonisse encouraged my personal and academic growth,” Rao said.

Julia Wainger, a biological sciences major, honored David Buehrle of the Department of Physics and Justin Sybenga of the Capital City Public Charter School, Washington, DC.
“[Professor Buehrle] does an excellent job framing physical concepts in a biological light,” said Wainger. “He is approachable and always available for my questions, regardless of how relevant they were to coursework. Not only did he teach me physics, he taught me a new and integrative way to think about the sciences.”

Sarahann Yeh, a biological sciences major, honored Reid Compton of the Department of Biology and Donna Considine of the Magruder High School, Rockville, MD.
“From coordinating the annual Scholars Life Sciences camping trip, to inviting speakers to our colloquiums, to meeting with freshmen one-on-one, Professor Compton shows astounding care and dedication,” said Yeh. “I cannot think of a more deserving or passionate faculty member, and I am so grateful for all of his work.”

Patricia Shields of the Department of Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics was honored by psychology senior Mackenzie Wittle. “Her course was somewhat of a struggle, but Professor Shields pushed me to become more devoted to my academics, to be a more confident student and to realize the importance of hard work,” said Wittle. “She challenged me to learn more about the biological aspect of psychology, which has become one my favorite topics at UMD.”

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.

President Loh welcomed the scholars and mentors during a luncheon celebration held Nov. 13, 2015 at the university’s Riggs Alumni Center.

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 8,000 future scientific leaders in its undergraduate and graduate programs each year. The college's 10 departments and nine interdisciplinary research centers foster scientific discovery with annual sponsored research funding exceeding $250 million.