2021 Award Winners


Della Cox

Della Cox is a junior from University City, Missouri, majoring in Sociology and Statistics and minoring in French. She became involved in undergraduate research as a freshman when she was accepted into the MU Honors College’s CIRCA Scholars Program. She has since continued developing her research skills, both academic and applied. For academic research, she has conducted a secondary analysis with Dr. Joan Hermsen on COVID-19 risk-reducing behavior using the Axios Ipsos Coronavirus Index national survey. She presented her results at the 2021 Annual Meeting of the Midwest Sociological Society. She is also a member of the Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities Scholars Program Minority Focused News research team, led by Dr. Christopher Josey and Dr. Andrea Figueroa-Caballero. This team studies minority representation in minority-run news media and was chosen to present the group’s research at the 2021 Undergraduate Research Day at the Capitol. Currently, she is working with an interdisciplinary research team from the Sociology and Communication departments led by Dr. Rebecca Scott and Dr. Haley Horstman to research through interviews how parents have experienced their children’s education during the pandemic. For applied research, she has volunteered at A Red Circle, a racial equity non-profit in St. Louis, where she did exploratory research to draft program descriptions and analyses of the impact, scope, and necessity of A Red Circle’s initiatives. She is currently working with an interdisciplinary group of researchers in her service-learning class to assess the needs of the community served by the Family Impact Center and Career Awareness Related Experience and suggest how their programs could be improved to better meet those needs. In Summer 2021 she will work with the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control as a researcher at Simon Fraser University to research public health messaging and give policy recommendations. She hopes these research experiences will prepare her to influence public policy in her career as a social science researcher.


Shakira Cross

Shakira Cross is a junior from Columbia, Missouri, studying Secondary Language Arts Education and minoring in English. She is dedicated to her work as a student, community member, and future educator. Shakira is a Dorsey Scholar and has spent her junior year conducting undergraduate research on the role of language and identity in the teaching profession under the guidance of Dr. Pilar Mendoza and Dr. Laurie Kingsley. Along with her time as an undergraduate researcher, she has enjoyed her involvement in various College of Education organizations, such as being an ambassador and recruitment and retention undergraduate student staffer. Shakira finds herself in spaces outside of the College of Education where learning and expanding cultural competencies thrive here at MU. To name a few, she has been a writer for the Odyssey, site leader for Mizzou Alternative Breaks, and a student staffer for one of the social justice centers. She is also a resident advisor for Residential Life. Shakira is a member of LSV, an honorary secret society dedicated to promoting and improving the status of women on campus. As Cross continues to embark on her teaching journey, she has found a space to be creative through her podcast, “The Cross Roads Podcast: Self Identity and Self Discovery”. Ultimately, her goal in life is to pursue liberation for herself and others around her.


Mollie Harrison

Mollie Harrison is a senior Chemical Engineering major from Kirkwood, Missouri with minors in Mathematics and Biological Sciences. She joined Dr. Bret Ulery’s Biomodulatory Materials Engineering Laboratory (BioMEL) in the Chemical Engineering Department at the end of her freshman year, where she took over a project investigating the use of hydrogen peroxide for vascularizing regenerated bone tissue. As a sophomore, she continued her research in the lab as a Discovery Fellow. In Summer 2019, she was one of eight MU students selected for the Cherng Summer Scholars Program to conduct full-time research on a project she proposed herself. She has continued to conduct research throughout her time at Mizzou and has presented her work at several MU Undergraduate Research and Creative Achievement Forums, at Undergraduate Research Day at the Capitol, and at the annual American Institute for Chemical Engineers Conference in Orlando, Florida, where her poster was awarded second place in Materials Science and Engineering. Harrison has also been involved in Omega Chi Epsilon, the national honor society for chemical engineers, since her sophomore year and has served as an ambassador for the Office of Undergraduate Research for two years. Harrison was selected for the Barry Goldwater Scholarship in Spring 2020, a nationally competitive scholarship which seeks to recognize students committed to a research career who show great potential to one day be leaders in their field. After graduating in May 2021, Harrison will conduct research at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine over the summer before starting at the University of Texas at Austin in the fall to pursue her Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering.


Benjamin Jones

Ben Jones is a senior Biological Sciences major, with minors in Chemistry and Black Studies, from Hebron, Kentucky. As a member of the MARC/IMSD program for four years, Ben has been in the lab of Dr. Erika Boerman, in the department of Medical Pharmacology and Physiology, since the fall of 2018 researching the effects of Inflammatory Bowel Disease on blood flow in the intestines of mice. Ben’s project looks at two metalloproteases and their role in the overall pathway of impaired vasodilation. He has presented his work on numerous occasions, including winning an Outstanding Poster Presentation award at the 2019 Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students in Anaheim, California. He has been published as an author with Dr. Boerman twice. Ben has also been a peer mentor for the IMSD program for the last two years, helping science majors find opportunities in research. Last semester, Ben was a teaching assistant for the Honors Experience FIG class, taught by Dr. JD Bowers. Ben has also been involved in Minority Association of Pre-Health Students, as the Treasurer and Vice President, Pre-Med Society, and has been a volunteer at the University Hospital. He and his twin brother, Andrew, were honored to be recipients of the Mizzou ‘39 award together. Ben is extremely proud to be the youngest in an entire family of Mizzou Tigers. This July, Ben will begin his medical school journey at the University of Kansas.


Dominique Joseph

Dominique (Nicki) Joseph  is a senior double majoring in Biological Sciences and German. She has a passion for scientific research. In her freshman year, Nicki joined MU’s Initiative for Maximizing Student Diversity (IMSD), which allowed her to begin conducting research as a first-year student. Currently, Nicki works in a Biochemistry lab under Dr. Charlotte Phillips, researching the interactions between muscles and bone as they relate to brittle bones disease. Nicki is a member of the Tri-Beta biological honors society and MARC/IMSD research program. In September 2019, Nicki won her first poster presentation award at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students. Since then, she has presented her work seven times and has won two national presentation awards. She has also spent a year and a half mentoring other minority students in STEM and is passionate about her role as a mentor. As a MARC scholar, she has enjoyed bonding and growing with other underrepresented individuals in STEM and aims to continue supporting other minority students as a mentor in graduate school. After graduation, Nicki will attend the Ohio State University to pursue her PhD in Entomology. She aims to research insects and vector borne diseases at the Center for Disease Control one day.


James Kim

James Kim is a senior, pre-med Biomedical Engineering major with an emphasis in Bioinformatics. He is from St. Louis, Missouri. He is currently finishing his honors thesis with Dr. Peter Tonellato and Dr. Gary Yao, through which he completed a statistical analysis of electronic medical record use metrics to identify potential risk factors for physician burnout. James also conducted research at Emory University as a Summer Undergraduate Research Experience fellow, where he researched factors of cardiovascular disease using the machine-learning technology of text-mining. He was accepted to present this research at the National Conference for Undergraduate Research and Stanford Research Conference before they were cancelled by COVID-19. James then presented his thesis research at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students as well as the Class Project Day and strives to continue informatics research to reduce inequities in US public health. During his time at MU, James has enjoyed Club Tennis, TEDxMU, Freestyle Your Expression, and many more extracurriculars. After graduation, he will pursue a Master of Science in Health Data Analytics and Machine Learning at Imperial College London while applying for medical school.


Elizabeth Kujath

Elizabeth Kujath is a senior from Kansas City, Missouri, studying Linguistics and Religious Studies. During her time at Mizzou, Kujath was the first student to participate in an exchange program with Ghent University in Belgium, where she completed master’s level courses in their Department of African Languages and Cultures. Kujath has since been a recipient of the Boren Award for studying critical languages, spending a semester at the University of Florida followed by two semesters in Arusha, Tanzania, to study Swahili. Kujath has worked under Dr. Michael R Marlo studying linguistic phenomenon in languages of central and western Kenya, during which she has worked on the Arts, Social Sciences, & Humanities team, Documenting Luyia Together, as well as being a recipient of the Cherng Summer Scholars program. Through this program, she conducted original data collection in Uasin Gishu, Kenya. Kujath is the eighth recipient of the Mark Twain Fellowship, which she will use to earn her master’s degree in Linguistic Documentation and Description form Leiden University in the Netherlands.


Brandon Lee

Brandon Lee is a Physics and Chemical Engineering double major and Mathematics minor from Kearney, Missouri. At Mizzou, he does computational materials research relevant to nuclear fusion under Dr. Karl Hammond in the Biomedical, Biological, and Chemical Engineering Department. He has also pursued a related project in the Theory Department at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory as a Department of Energy Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internship program participant. Brandon has presented his research twice at Mizzou and once at the American Physical Society Division of Plasma Physics annual meeting, earning at Outstanding Poster Award at the latter. He is second author on one publication and first author on a manuscript that is under review. For his academic efforts, he has been awarded both the Goldwater Scholarship and the Tau Beta Pi Scholarship. Brandon has also served as the president of Mizzou Engineers Without Borders and the Tau Beta Pi Missouri Alpha chapter. He intends to earn a Ph.D. in Plasma Physics.


Andrew Mitchell

Andrew Mitchell is a junior from Lee’s Summit, Missouri, majoring in Chemistry and minoring in Psychology. Through the Stamps Scholars program, he has conducted research under the mentorship of Dr. Silvia Jurisson for three years. Andrew has investigated novel compounds for use in both imaging and therapy of multi-drug-resistant tumors. He participated in the Arts and Science Undergraduate Research Mentorship program during which his first publication was accepted to Dalton Transactions. His work was recognized by the American Chemical Society with the Charles D. Coryell Award in Nuclear Chemistry. Andrew’s research continues to focus on the next generation of theranostic cancer agents, utilizing established structures as a basis for innovation by adding additional specificity and versatility to create safer, more adaptable cancer-fighting therapies. Beyond research, Andrew is a member of the executive board for the MU Residence Halls Association, authoring legislation to address current campus issues, as well as the Alpha Chi Sigma Professional Chemistry Fraternity, mentoring underclassmen pursuing a career in applied sciences.


David Retherford

David Retherford is a junior Finance and Economics major from Whitewater, Missouri. On campus, David currently serves as President of PROclaim, Chief Operating Officer of the University of Missouri Investment Group, Undergraduate Teaching Assistant for Managerial Economics, member of the Cornell Leadership Program, and member of the Honors College. Within these roles, David has provided mentoring and career guidance to younger students pursuing careers in finance. Additionally, he has enjoyed welcoming new students to Mizzou as a Welcome Week Leader in 2019 and 2020. In Summer 2020, David served as an Analyst Intern for the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City where he provided financial and data analytical support to technology groups within the Bank and the Federal Reserve System. During the Summer of 2019, David served as a Control Management Accounting Intern for the university, Sciences-U in Lyon, France. He provided budget recommendations and analyses for their upcoming school year. In his free time, David is an automobile enthusiast who enjoys mountain biking and serving on the worship team at his local church. David Retherford is passionate about pursuing a career in finance with a desire to learn and work with cultures from around the world.

Abigail Ruhman Headshot

Abigail Ruhman

Abigail Ruhman is a junior from Raytown, Missouri majoring in Journalism (Convergence-Radio Reporting), Sociology, and Women’s and Gender Studies. Abigail is also pursuing minors in history, peace studies, leadership and public service, as well as completing a Multicultural Certificate. She is also a member of the inaugural class of the KC Scholars program.

Abigail is an intern for the Center for Academic Success & Excellence marketing team where she writes student features and co-hosts “BookCASE and Chill,” a monthly book club style podcast that features literature about topics related to inclusivity, diversity, and equity. She is also a Student Ambassador for the Student Success Center, and an education committee intern for The Center Project, Mid-Missouri’s first and only LGBTQIA+ community resource center. At The Center Project, Abigail developed educational materials on topics related to the queer and gender non-conforming community and assisted with the launch of their BRITE program, which offers education on how to create a safe space for LGBTQIA+ individuals to organizations, business, and other groups within the Mid-Missouri area and beyond.

In the past, Abigail was an executive member of the student radio station’s news team, where she helped write, produce, and host “The Pulse” and “Basic Liabilities.” She was also a writer for the Odyssey, a member of MU’s ASL club, and an opinions columnist for The Maneater, MU’s student paper. At The Maneater, Abigail won first place for the Missouri College Media Association award for newspaper division 1 column writing. During her sophomore year, Abigail also worked on an independent study that analyzed how the AP stylebook, and other sources of perceptive language for journalists, exclude the voices of marginalized communities under the guise of “journalistic objectivity.”

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Rebecca Shyu

Rebecca Shyu is a junior studying Computer Science from Columbia, Missouri. She has been involved in undergraduate research since freshman year, mentored by Dr. Mirna Becevic and Dr. Iris Zachary. Since Summer 2020, she has also interned with a research lab at Harvard Medical School. Her interests in public health, data science, and public policy are reflected in her research. Recently, Shyu was selected as a 2021 Goldwater Scholar and was chosen for the nationally prestigious Council on Undergraduate Research Posters on the Hill event. Outside of research, Shyu is involved in a plethora of activities, including 2020 Homecoming Steering Committee as a Tri-Director, Undergraduate Research Ambassadors, Engineering Ambassadors, Upsilon Pi Epsilon as President, Society of Women Engineers, and being tapped into Mortar Board, one of MU’s secret societies. Additionally, she works as a tutor at the Writing Center under Dr. Stephanie Kimmey and Dr. Aaron Harms. Rebecca is extremely grateful to her mentors and peers for supporting and cultivating her growth throughout her time at Mizzou.


Paige Smith

Paige Smith is a December 2020 graduate from St. Peter’s, Missouri, who majored in Public Health with minors in Biological Sciences and Leadership & Public Service. Paige spent her sophomore year as a Discovery Fellow working with Dr. Enid Schatz on research about HIV in the elderly population in sub-Saharan Africa. In Fall 2019, Paige traveled to Uganda to present this research at the Eighth African Populations Conference. Through this experience, Paige’s passion for public health research grew, leading her to pursue additional research positions in the public health, anthropology, and social work departments. Her senior year, she was selected as a Cherng Summer Scholar, where she pursued an independent research project on how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the well-being of Mizzou’s college students. She has since presented this research at Mizzou’s Undergraduate Research Forum, Missouri State’s Mental Health Impact Summit, and the 2021 Populations Association of America Conference. In addition to research opportunities, Paige enjoyed involvement with the community as she attended a service-learning trip to Vietnam, served as the Vice President of Mizzou’s Public Health Club, and served as a member of the School of Health Professions Diversity and Inclusion Committee. Paige currently works as a Project Coordinator and Editor at Family Physicians Inquiries Network, a nonprofit in Missouri that focuses on equipping primary care physicians with the skills to apply evidence-based medicine to their practice and produce scholarship.


Rebecca Wells

Becca Wells is a senior from Columbia, Missouri, majoring in Political Science and Statistics and minoring in Sociology and Constitutional Democracy. Her academic interests center on the intersection of data analytics and social justice. Since her freshman year, Becca has researched democratic institutions in Poland with Professor Mary Stegmaier, Vice Provost for International Programs. Her involvement with the Kinder Institute on Constitutional Democracy as a Kinder Scholar led her to intern with the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, where she developed an independent policy proposal on water quality as a national security concern. As a current Kinder Fellow, Becca writes for the Journal on Constitutional Democracy on folk art’s connection to political identity and participation. In her final semester at Mizzou, Becca participated in DataFest, a data science competition, where she won best use of external data. She was 1 of 9 students to complete the Political Science Honors Capstone, where she prepared a 40-page research paper on health disparities between Appalachian states.

At Mizzou, Becca has been heavily involved in the Mizzou Mock Trial Association, currently serving as President, as well as in her service sorority, Little Sisters of the Gold Rose, where she is currently President as well. She is President of Women of Worth, a mentorship program, a member of the Honors College and a Deaton Scholar, working on initiatives such as addressing food insecurity. This passion for involvement led Becca to work as an Involvement Ambassador, where she served as Vice President of Curriculum and Program Development, working to expand services to reach more students and focus on a holistic definition of involvement. Becca was honored to be tapped into Omicron Delta Kappa in 2020 and chosen as a Mizzou ’39 recipient in 2021. She has worked on political campaigns from the city to the congressional level, and upon graduation, Becca plans to attend law school to pursue a career in public policy, bridging the gaps between data, people, and policy.


Alice Yu

Alice A. Yu is a senior from Columbia, Missouri, double majoring in Journalism with an emphasis in strategic communication and psychology. She also has minors in Music, Business, Political Science, and Leadership & Public service. Yu has been involved in identity-based organizations since her freshman year, first serving as the freshman representative for the Asian American Association and later on as the president during her sophomore year. She is currently the executive chair of the Midwest Asian Pacific Islander Desi American Students Union (MAASU), a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that aims to connect Asian Pacific Islander Desi American student organizations from across the Midwest.

Beyond her involvement in student organizations, Yu has held four ambassadorial positions in various MU departments (Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life, Missouri School of Journalism, Missouri Student Unions, and Campus Involvement) and served as a Summer Welcome Leader in 2019. Yu credits her study abroad experiences for instilling in her an interest in public policy and international relations; her first time studying abroad was in Gwangju, South Korea and the second time in Edinburgh, Scotland. She has held internships with Refugee and Immigration Services as well as the Missouri Commission on Human Rights, and was a 2020 scholar with the Conference on Asian Pacific American Leadership. After graduation, Yu will complete an MPhil in International Relations at the University of Oxford.