Rising Researcher trophies

Rising Researchers

The UMass Amherst Rising Researcher program recognizes undergraduate students who excel in research, challenge their intellect, and exercise exceptional creativity.

The Rising Researcher recognition has been awarded to students from a wide variety of majors.

Faculty members are encouraged to nominate eligible students whom they advise/mentor. Calls for nomination will be issued twice a year at the beginning of spring and fall semesters.

The nomination period for the spring 2024 UMass Amherst Rising Researcher student award program has closed.

Find more information on the nomination process, eligibility, and recognition.

See an archive of past Rising Researcher classes.

Spring 2024 Class

From the research lab to the theater stage, the Spring 2024 Rising Researchers are pushing boundaries and exercising their creative muscles. With curiosity and grit—and unwavering support from their faculty mentors and lab mates—they are taking what they’ve learned in the classroom and applying it to solve challenging real-world problems. The research conducted by these undergraduates may one day lead to more effective treatments for devastating diseases, new drugs to combat the rise of antibiotic resistance, or new plant-based foods to shift consumer preferences to more sustainable choices. Learn about the boundless opportunities UMass Amherst offers undergraduates to make a difference in the world through research, scholarship, and creative activity. 

Ramita Dhamrongsirivadh

Ramita "Mimi" Dhamrongsirivadh ’24 analyzes data from wearable sensors to better understand movement patterns in stroke survivors to aid their recovery. 

Adam Charest

Adam Charest ’24 conducts research to develop new natural antimicrobial treatments to help combat the rise in antibiotic-resistant microbes. 

Sophia Millan

Sophia Millan ’24 studies the role of circadian rhythms in bone regeneration to identify new potential treatment approaches.

Claudia Maurino

Claudia Maurino ’24 has produced and directed two plays at the UMass Fringe Fest, including one she wrote herself.  

Xiaoke Xiang

Xiaoke Xiang ’25 uses a soft matter physics approach to develop plant-based meat and egg alternatives with realistic textures and comparable nutritional profiles to their animal-derived analogs. 

Owen Hurlbut Lesk

Owen Hurlbut Lesk ’25 conducts research to improve understanding of protein folding in cells, with possible implications for treating diseases such as diabetes. 

Fall 2023 Class

Whether studying disparities in preventative health care, using computing to advance an equitable energy transition, or exploring LGBTQ+ experiences through art, the Rising Researchers are helping to tackle real-world challenges and propel society forward. Their research and scholarship offer opportunities to put concepts learned in the classroom into action, explore different topics in depth, and discover passions to pursue after graduation. Often, their work takes them out of their comfort zones and beyond the bounds of campus, whether by presenting at conferences, participating in summer internships, or interfacing with community stakeholders. And for many students, the people they meet along the way inspire them, mentor them, and help them grow both personally and professionally. Learn more about how research, scholarship, and creative activity became an integral part of these students’ UMass experience—taking their education to the next level. 

Anupama Sitaraman

Anupama Sitaraman ’24 uses computer science tools to explore pressing issues facing humanity, including combatting climate change and promoting sustainability. 

Dante Lamenza Naylor

Dante Lamenza Naylor '24 studies natural physics systems—such as a bird wing moving through air or a fish fin in water—to explore potential enhancements to renewable energy technologies using soft materials.

Adam Forbes

Adam Forbes '24 studies a new, more efficient and cost-effective method of assessing how natural food colorants interact with iron, commonly used to fortify foods.

TJ LaLonde

TJ LaLonde’s [’24] creative works span a range of artistic mediums—from 3D modeling, animation, and illustration, to graphic novels, film, poetry, and prose—and have been featured at artistic festivals and in literary magazines.

Charlotte Gilson

Charlotte Gilson ’25 studies healthcare disparities and has taken a leading role in a project examining pediatric fluoride varnish application patterns in Massachusetts. 

Taras Nagornyy

Taras Nagornyy ’24 conducts research that seeks to minimize the release of harmful gases from vehicles with diesel engines, such as trucks, trains, ships, and military vehicles. 

Spring 2023 Class

At UMass Amherst, undergraduates find ample opportunities to get involved in research, scholarship, and creative activity. These young scholars apply their intellectual curiosity and grit to solving challenging problems and sharing their talents for the benefit of society. Whether studying foodborne pathogens or the health-related effects of cigarette smoking, the earliest stages of star formation in distant galaxies or the evolution of communities on social media platforms, the Rising Researchers have contributed to projects that may just change the world. Along the way, they have learned new skills, gained new confidence, discovered new passions, and forged new pathways for discovery. Read on to learn more.

Sheikh Saqlain

Sheikh Saqlain ’23 uses computational models and novel machine learning techniques to simulate physical systems for the benefit of science.

Helkin Sosa

Helkin Sosa ’23 is a composer, musician, and music producer who released his debut album in 2022.

Isabella Boyack

Isabella Boyack ’23 studies the effects of PFAS chemicals on the development of the exocrine pancreas, which is crucial for a healthy metabolism.

Julia Hershelman

Julia Hershelman '23 studies a food-borne pathogen and its tolerance to sanitizers and antibiotics, for the benefit of public health.

Sean Bannon

Sean Bannon '24 conducts research on the effects of cigarette smoke on mitochondrial function, with important implications for public health.

Jasmine Mangat

Jasmine Mangat ’23 is a computer science and economics major who has carried out original research examining how communities, known as subreddits, evolve on the popular social media platform Reddit.

Tim McQuaid

Timothy McQuaid ’23 is an astronomy and physics double major who studies the evolution of young star clusters using data from the Hubble Space Telescope.

Julietta Mascitelli

Julietta Mascitelli ’23 is a plant and soil sciences major who studies fungal pathogens that affect grapes, with implications for vineyard management practices.

Bao Le

Bao Quang Gia Le ’23 is a chemistry major who works on the synthesis of molecules for cell surface modification, research with implications for a novel targeted approach to treat and image cancer.

Fall 2022 Class

By participating in research, scholarship, and creative activity, undergraduates have an opportunity to tackle challenging problems and push the frontiers of a field. They also have their overall educational experience, and personal development, enhanced in innumerable ways. The Fall 2022 Rising Researchers felt their work gave purpose to their classroom learning. They were better prepared and more willing to engage in class. They also developed important soft skills—like critical thinking, creativity, time management, collaboration, communication, and learning from failure—and confidence in themselves as scientists and scholars. As they grew increasingly skilled and independent, they even stepped up to mentor other up-and-coming researchers. Read below about all these students have gained through research, scholarship, and creative activity, and how they plan to apply it in the world.

Tergel Molom-Ochir

Tergel Molom-Ochir ’23 studies mobile edge computing in order to design energy-efficient systems with improved performance and lower operating costs.

Kaleigh Hill

Kaleigh Hill ’23 has channeled her passion for nature and sustainability into an undergraduate research career focused on renewable energy. 

Claire Fong

Claire Fong ’23 conducts research on the possible toxic effects of PFAS and other “forever chemicals,” commonly used for decades in the production of plastics, cookware, and firefighting foam.

Lauren Kelly

Lauren Kelly ‘23 studies wastewater-based epidemiology and its effectiveness as a public health tool to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 on the UMass Amherst campus.

Timothy Merhmann

Timothy Merhmann ’23 studies Kaposi’s sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV), a virus that causes aggressive cancers, particularly in immunocompromised patients.


Lauren Brown

Lauren Brown ’23 conducts research with implications for improving understanding of wound healing, cancer metastasis, and human brain development and patterning. 

Hung (Harry) Pham

Hung (Harry) Pham ’23 conducts interdisciplinary research to develop new plant-based foods that are better for human health and the planet.

Chloe Eggleston

Chloe Eggleston ’23 uses state-of-the-art artificial intelligence techniques to process large swaths of text on social media in order to study sociological phenomena.

Spring 2022 Class

When undergraduates take on a research project, they develop a wide range of new skills—from research techniques and protocols to experience operating state-of-the-art equipment. They often learn even more about themselves and what they are capable of. In fields ranging from food science to chemical engineering, Middle Eastern politics to computer science, the Spring 2022 Rising Researchers found in themselves a tenacity to push through frustrations and setbacks. With support from their faculty mentors and research teams, they discovered how these unexpected moments in research often open new lines of inquiry, and sometimes lead to the greatest breakthroughs. Read below about all these students have accomplished through patience and persistence.

Jahinaya Parker

Jahinaya Parker ’22 has contributed to four research studies and three published articles on the interface between drivers and vehicle technology.

Kanon Kobata

Kanon Kobata ’22 is passionate about innovating new, delicious, plant-based alternative foods for a more sustainable food system.

Trevor Stearns

Trevor Stearns ’22 has followed his interests in political science and the Middle East to conduct research that he hopes will contribute to concrete change in the world.

Zeynep Alptekin

Zeynep Alptekin ’23 has taken on the challenge of developing environmentally friendlier permanent magnet alternatives for use in a wide range of tech applications.

Adam Lechowicz

Adam Lechowicz ’22 applies his dual majors in computer science and political science to research and innovation that benefits society.

Emily Leonard

Through her research, Emily Leonard ’22 seeks to understand the potential health effects of chemicals commonly found in drinking water, food, and consumer products.

Ryan Baker

Ryan Baker ’22 has played a vital role in research to understand how SARS-CoV-2 antibodies are transferred to nursing infants through breast milk.

Yue Zhu

Yue Zhu’s [’22] research explores possibilities for using AI and robots in the hospitality industry to enable and enhance the employment of people with disabilities.

Fall 2021 Class

These eight UMass Amherst undergraduates have performed outstanding research in a variety of fields—computer engineering, political science, public health, biology, and more. Many have published research papers in prestigious journals. Some are determined to continue their research while they study for a PhD. Others aspire to apply their research to industry or to society. But what all eight Rising Researchers have in common is the mentorship of a UMass Amherst faculty member. With the personal, scholarly, and practical support of their professors, the Fall 2021 Rising Researchers have flourished at UMass Amherst. Read about their accomplishments below.

Marisa DaCosta

As an undergraduate researcher in the Quality for All (Q4A) lab, Marisa DaCosta '22 has contributed to several scholarly papers on issues of health equity.

Ethan French

Ethan French '23 has applied machine learning to the study of quantum chemistry, resulting in a published paper.

Rebecca Louisthelmy

Rebecca Louisthelmy '22 studies how brain cells are affected by glioblastoma, the most aggressive and deadly form of brain cancer.

Jiun Tseng

Jiun Tseng '22 has worked in two different research labs and earned several fellowships while learning to use mathematical computation to understand biological processes.

Mackenzie Smith

Mackenzie Smith '22 combines psychology and political science in her research, which she presented at her field’s most prestigious conference.

Shaun Ghosh

Working in the Nanoscale Computing Fabrics Lab, Shaun Ghosh '22 has helped design the next generation of significantly more powerful and efficient computer chips.

Benjamin Aaronson

Benjamin Aaronson's ['22] research on the roles of the environment and DNA in bone plasticity resulted in a study published in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS).

Tieqi Sun

Studying the role of genes in embryo development, Tieqi Sun '22 has fallen for the thrill of scientific discovery.

Spring 2021 Class

In spring 2021, persistent UMass Amherst undergraduates adapted to COVID-19 restrictions as they engaged in substantial research, exercised their creativity, and elevated campus and the community. They found ways to thrive—they worked on campus when permitted and capitalized on remote research, learning, and volunteer opportunities. Read about the remarkable accomplishments of the nine spring 2021 UMass Amherst Rising Researchers below.

Isabel Levin

Isabel Levin '22 conducted independent studies of the experiences of families in school systems in North Carolina and Amherst, and has presented her findings at major research conferences.

Solomon Siskind

Solomon Siskind '21 was honored as a Rising Researcher for his research project analyzing the experiences of non-white student athletes.

Rising Researcher Samantha Hano '22: “I’ve always had a desire to help people who have challenges and are struggling with life. I believe an individual can make changes that can create a domino effect to improve the lives of the vulnerable and overlooked.”

Samantha Hano '22 is responsible for spearheading the research, planning, and evaluation of a program to reduce opioid overdoses among court-involved individuals.

Nicholas Sbalbi

Chemical engineering student Nicholas Sbalbi ’22 discovered a method for synthesizing Janus nanoparticles resembling jellyfish.

Kathleen Loonie

Kathleen Loonie '21 studies a gene family in ruminants (such as sheep and cattle), with implications for protecting the health and well-being of these animals and the society that depends on them.

Eugenia Roberts ’21, biochemistry and molecular biology, Commonwealth Honors College

Eugenia Roberts ’21 helped develop new technology to rapidly detect bacterial bloodstream infections.

Al Simon

Alan Simon's ['21] research on the labor history of a textile mill in his hometown has been accepted for publication in the Connecticut History Review.

Ali Abdel-Maksoud ’21

Working in the Wearable Electronics Lab, Ali Abdel-Maksoud '21 uses a specialized technique to create electronic polymer films on textiles.

Claire Healy

Claire Healy '21 founded an international, multilingual magazine to create community across borders among young people through the exchange of art and narrative.