McDermott Scholar Class is University’s Largest Yet
Athletes, Artists, Scientists and Writers Among Group of 23 Headed to Campus
Jun. 9, 2011
Kelsey Condra Ciluffo (BA’05) arrived on campus in 2000 as part of a groundbreaking program. The inaugural class of McDermott Scholars didn’t know what opportunities would come from their experience at UT Dallas – they were about to blaze the trail for future students.
At UT Dallas, Ciluffo served in Student Government, helped the University to increase its French-language course offerings, mentored students at DISD’s Kramer Elementary School, interned at Dallas City Hall and spent time abroad in France. She studied literature and government.
Ciluffo went on to The George Washington University Law School in Washington, D.C. She now works as an attorney in Dallas. To give back to the program, she helped select the 2011 class of scholars.
“The standards for McDermott Scholars keep rising. This class has academic backgrounds and achievements that are extraordinarily impressive. I hope that the incoming class pushes themselves to their limits over the next four years, not just in academics, but also in public service, civics, travel and the arts,” Ciluffo said.
Of the 599 high school seniors from more than 30 states and six countries who applied to become part of the 2011 class of the Eugene McDermott Scholars Program, 23 were chosen. It will be the largest class in the program's history.
Collectively, the 11 men and 12 women were in the top 1.4 percent of their high school classes and averaged a two-part SAT score of 1525. They are athletes, artists, scientists and writers. Ten of them are from the Dallas area, five are from other parts of Texas, and the remaining eight hail from seven other states.
“This is a group of remarkable young people who will contribute greatly to the McDermott Program, the University and the greater community while further developing their potential as they take advantage of the opportunities we will help them to access,” program director Molly Seeligson said.
As McDermott Scholars, the students will have educational expenses — including tuition and fees, and stipends for living expenses, books, travel and post-graduation preparation — covered for the next four years. They also will participate in a wide variety of cultural and educational enrichment experiences in the Dallas area and beyond.
The McDermott Scholars Program is carefully designed to incorporate various aspects of experiential learning:
- Freshman year includes an orientation trip, weekly leadership development seminars and a trip to Washington, D.C., for an immersion in national politics.
- During their sophomore year, scholars take leading roles on campus, and they experience state and local politics during a trip to the state’s capitol in Austin.
- Junior year is focused on study abroad and/or internships.
- Senior year centers on final preparations for the next phase of scholars’ lives and includes a class service project.
When the 2011 class arrives on campus, more than a decade will have passed since UT Dallas welcomed the inaugural class of McDermott Scholars. The members of this year’s class will join the 55 Scholars already in attendance; these 78 Scholars will eventually join the 105 current alumni of the McDermott Program.
“These Scholars join a program that is now well-established and demonstrably successful. Scholars have contributed to the campus, the larger community and the world in innumerable ways. Their efforts have been recognized with distinguished prizes such as the Boren, Fulbright, Goldwater, Marshall and Truman awards, and with placements at institutions like Cambridge, Oxford, Harvard and Stanford, and organizations like Texas Instruments, Blizzard Entertainment and the Federal Reserve Bank,” Seeligson added.
The McDermott Scholars Program was made possible by a $32 million gift from Margaret McDermott, wife of the late Eugene McDermott, one of the co-founders of Texas Instruments (TI). McDermott and two of his TI co-founders, Cecil Green and Erik Jonsson, both of whom also are deceased, founded the research institution that in 1969 became UT Dallas.
For more information on the McDermott Scholars Program or the application process, visit the Eugene McDermott Scholars Program website.
Those selected as McDermott Scholars for the 2011 entering class are:
2011 McDermott Scholars
Dalton High School, Dalton
National Achievement Scholar and AP Scholar with Honor Rebecca Tull was active in her high school’s art and math clubs and the National Honor Society. Editor of both the culture and voice sections of her school’s newspaper, Tull was a regional winner in the 2011 Young Georgia Authors’ Writing Competition. She played cello in her school’s senior orchestra and Tango Music Ensemble; she also founded a piano trio and created a summer music program at a local community center. She also volunteered as a peer tutor and at a local homeless shelter. Tull intends to major in literary studies and physics.
Blue Valley West High, Overland Park
Cory Sagduyu was named a National Merit Scholar and an AP Scholar with Distinction. She won the Northwestern Book Award, was selected to participate in Girl’s State and was nominated to the Youth Civic Leadership Institute at Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics. Sagduyu was a member of the National Honor Society and the National Art Honor Society. She was a section leader for a youth symphony orchestra, and also earned varsity letters in cross country and tennis. Her service included leading 5K events benefiting cancer and Parkinson’s disease charities. Sagduyu is a student of Spanish, Turkish and Arabic and will enter UT Dallas as an undeclared freshman.
Central High School, Springfield
Nate Fairbank is a National Merit Scholar who graduated with an International Baccalaureate Diploma. Throughout high school, Fairbank was active in student government and served on its executive branch during his senior year. A member of the varsity hockey and tennis teams, Fairbank also represented Central High School in Model United Nations and in speech and debate. He also was deeply involved in the school’s broadcast journalism program, leading the production of award-winning news programming. Fairbank’s service activities focused on peer tutoring and on supporting the work of the Relay for Life and the Walk to Defeat ALS charities. Fairbank will enter UT Dallas as an undeclared freshman.
Billings West High School, Billings
High school valedictorian Ryan Marcotte was a National Merit Scholar and a semifinalist for the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program. Marcotte was involved in the National Honor Society, the math and science clubs and the Trading Cards anti-drug organization. He was a member of the Ecology Club and also co-founded El Apagon Patrol, an Earth Hour advocacy group. Marcotte sang in Westwinds, his school’s a cappella group. He also played on the varsity golf team. Active in service, Marcotte was a member of the Key Club and also volunteered with Habitat for Humanity, Dress a Child and the Montana Marathon. Marcotte speaks Spanish and will major in electrical or mechanical engineering.
Monroe Township High School, Monroe Township
Akanksha Saxena was a member of the National Honor Society, the Spanish Honor Society and the Science League. She studied lipid metabolism and genomic DNA replication as an intern at the University of Pennsylvania and the National Institutes of Health through the Physician Scientist Training Program. Saxena volunteered as a Hindi literacy teacher for young children and raised funds for India’s Sankara Eye Foundation, which assists the blind. She has published a book, Unconditional Love: a Bond between Parents and their Children, and in her free time enjoys dancing. Saxena will enter UT Dallas as an undeclared freshman.
Laurel School, Independence
AP Scholar Sarah Kuczmarski was a captain of Laurel School’s speech and debate team and was state champion in Novice Public Forum Debate. Ranked first in her region in the National Forensic League, she was recognized with one of its Academic All-American awards. She participated in Junior State of America and completed a judicial internship in a Cuyahoga County court. Kuczmarski is a classical pianist who also played field hockey and rowed on her school’s crew team. Her service activities included membership on the Laurel Community Service Board, tutoring peers and volunteering at Cuyahoga National Park. Kuczmarski has studied French and Chinese. She will major in economics.
Sunset High School, Portland
National Merit Scholar Vivek Raman earned a perfect score on the ACT and graduated as salutatorian with an International Baccalaureate Diploma. He was a member of the National Honor Society, the National French Honor Society and the Science Bowl team, which finished first in Oregon in both 2010 and 2011, and third in the nation in 2011. Raman was also active in Model United Nations, serving as Oregon State Committee Chair for two years. A member of the Key Club, Raman volunteered with various projects and initiated a clothing drive benefiting an Indian orphanage. Raman speaks French and Tamil. He intends to major in computer science and electrical engineering at UT Dallas.
Saint Mary’s Academy, Newberg
Valedictorian Elizabeth Peterkort was named a National Merit Scholar and an AP Scholar. She won both a Bryn Mawr Book Award and an American Chemical Society Outstanding Chemistry Student Award. Peterkort was a member of a varsity mock trial team that placed fourth in state competition. She was active in National Honor Society and the Tri-M Musicians’ Honor society. She was the principal violist with Portland’s Metropolitan Youth Symphony and a soprano with her school’s Marian Singers, and she has also created a music education program. Peterkort volunteered with a Portland feline shelter and taught therapeutic horseback riding to individuals with disabilities. She speaks French and Spanish and, while interested in law, will major in chemistry and political science.
Greenhill School, Addison
Raheel Ata is a National Merit Commended Student and AP Scholar who graduated on Greenhill School’s High Honor Roll. Ata was active in marching and concert band, serving as drumline captain and percussion section leader. He was also a member of the varsity tennis team and was involved in UIL, Destination Imagination, student government, Quiz Bowl and the Spanish Club. Ata focused his volunteer involvement on service in local hospitals and with medical organizations. Ata plans to major in biomedical engineering at UT Dallas. This summer he will be a student researcher in the polymer chemistry laboratory of UT Dallas faculty member and 2001 McDermott Scholar Dr. Walter Voit.
Carroll Senior High School, Southlake
National Honor Society member Kanwal Ahmed was named a National Merit Commended Student and an AP Scholar with Honor. She co-founded and led her school’s Southeast Asian Culture Club. She competed on the swim, tennis, and track and field teams. Ahmed served as both a member of her school’s community service club and as the volunteer Youth Coordinator for the Islamic Association of the Mid Cities. Ahmed also tutored peers and served with local medical institutions; she was recognized for her service as a Carroll ISD Success Scholar. She speaks Urdu, Hindi, Punjabi and some Spanish, and intends to major in political science at UT Dallas. She will spend the summer before college interning in the laboratory of UT Dallas neuroscience researcher Dr. Michael Kilgard.
St. Agnes Academy, Houston
Elin Britton was named a National Merit Scholar and was a recipient of a Bryn Mawr Book Award. She served as president and secretary of her school’s French National Honor Society; she was also a member of the National Honor Society and Science National Honor Society. Active in student government, Britton participated in Junior State of America. She was a member of her school’s volleyball team, practiced aikido and is a certified sailboat captain. As a Girl Scout, Britton initiated an after-school program for local elementary school students; she also co-founded and led an organization assisting families affected by pediatric cancer. She is an award-winning French and Latin student. Britton will enter UT Dallas as an undeclared freshman.
Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science, Denton
National Merit Commended Student Anita Chandrahas is a classical pianist who was a member of her school’s yearbook and math clubs, the drill team, and the World Affairs Council. Chandrahas served on Congressman Sam Johnson’s Congressional Youth Advisory Council and on the Plano Youth Advisory Commission. She also volunteered at Dallas’ Presbyterian Hospital. She was a Regional Semifinalist in the Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology, and placed third in the biochemistry division of the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair and first in the biochemistry division of the ExxonMobil Texas Science and Engineering Fair. Research that Chandrahas conducted at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center was published in The Journal of Cell Biology. Chandrahas will study molecular biology.
St. Mark’s School of Texas, Dallas
An award-winning debater, Max Grunewald was also a varsity wrestler who placed 4th individually at the state level and helped St. Mark’s to its 13th state title and 35th conference championship. A member of the school’s honor service organization, Grunewald volunteered with Jewish Family Services and the Dallas Food Bank, and was a founding member of the Jewish Youth Tzedekah Foundation. He spent last summer in UT Dallas’ George A. Jeffrey NanoExplorers Program; his resulting research on carbon nanotubes earned second place in the chemistry section of the ExxonMobil Texas Science and Engineering Fair. To prepare for a career in environmental engineering, he plans to major in engineering. This summer, he will be studying business and Chinese at Yunnan University in Kunming, China.
Texas Academy of Mathematics and Sciences, Denton
Nikhil Karnik was named a National Merit Commended Student and excelled in his college-level studies at the University of North Texas. A leader in TAMS’ Medical Society, Karnik volunteered at local hospitals and nursing homes, and as a counselor for disabled campers at Camp Summit. He was also active in intramural basketball and football, and in the robotics and karate clubs; at his previous high school he founded the Cricket Club. During the summer of 2010, Karnik conducted research on cancer-detecting biosensors under UT Dallas researcher Dr. Yves Chabal; his work is part of a paper that was published in the journal Soft Matter. He will major in economics and computer science at UT Dallas.
Friendswood High School, Friendswood
Diana Kirov earned a perfect SAT score and was named a National Merit Scholar and an AP Scholar with Honor. She was also a candidate for the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program and was named a Moody Scholar by Texas’ Moody Foundation. A United States Tennis Association champion-level player, Kirov was co-captain of her school’s varsity tennis team. She was also part of Health Occupation Students of America, the UIL math team and the Rotary service organization Interact, through which she volunteered at Clear Lake Regional Hospital, at Friendswood Public Library and at Hope Village. Kirov has conducted independent research under Dr. Gale Stokes of Rice University. She plans to major in neuroscience.
Texas Academy of Mathematics and Sciences, Denton
Matthew Krenik is a National Merit Commended Student who earned a perfect SAT score. A Regional Semifinalist in the Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology in 2008, 2009 and 2010, he was also president of TAMS’ Research Organization and served in student government. Krenik composes and performs music for the piano and was a member of his school’s bands. He also played varsity tennis and led the Ultimate Frisbee team. An Eagle Scout, Krenik volunteered in a nursing home and as a science fair judge. He will spend this summer at Brazil’s Sao Paulo University as part of a chemistry research program sponsored by the National Science Foundation. He plans to major in engineering.
Amarillo High School, Amarillo
Nicholas Levy graduated as salutatorian of his class with an International Baccalaureate Diploma; he was also recognized as a National Merit Scholar and an AP Scholar. Levy is an avid musician who sings in choirs, performs in musicals, and played with both his high school orchestra and the Amarillo Youth Symphony. Captain of Amarillo High School’s swim team, Levy was also active in the National Honor Society andstudent government and as president of the Spanish Club. His service activities included volunteering at Ronald McDonald House and the Amarillo Museum of Art, and coordinating food drives. He will enter UT Dallas as an undeclared freshman.
Plano Senior High School, Plano
Ali Mahmoud is an amateur humorist and filmmaker who graduated from high school after three years. He was active in the National Honor Society and served as the student representative on Plano High’s School-Based Improvement Committee. In his senior year he created Press Play Plano, an Internet-based talk show about issues faced by Plano Senior High students. Outside of school, Mahmoud worked as a soccer referee and was selected by the Plano Sports Authority to mentor and train other referees. He focused his volunteer time on working with the MAS Youth Center as a youth leader and event coordinator. Mahmoud plans to major in biology.
Red Oak High School, Red Oak
Chris McClure was valedictorian of his graduating class and was recognized as a National Merit Scholar. McClure served Red Oak High School in two prominent ways: as the school mascot, Hawk, and as the anchorman and chief editor of Hawk Eye News, the school’s student-run television news program. He was also a member of the National Honor Society and participated in UIL competitions. His service activities centered on volunteering with a city-wide clean-up initiative and a teacher support program. McClure was selected as a High School Aerospace Scholar at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. He will major in engineering.
Plano Senior High School, Plano
After only three years in high school, Bhasi Nair graduated as valedictorian and was a National Merit Scholar and AP Scholar. Nair was active in the math, engineering and computer science clubs and in the Economics Challenge. His service activities included National Honor Society projects, tutoring peers and volunteering with Organizing for America. Research that Nair conducted at India’s National Institute of Interdisciplinary Science and Technology earned him recognition as: a Semifinalist of the 2011 Intel Science Talent Search; a Regional Finalist in the 2010 Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology; and the first-place winner in the cellular and molecular biology section of the ExxonMobil Texas Science and Engineering Fair. He plans to study physics and biology.
Allen High School, Allen
Puja Panwar graduated third in her class with an International Baccalaureate Diploma and was named a National Merit Commended Student. She was a member of Allen High School’s varsity tennis team and competed in United States Tennis Association tournaments. She was president of the school’s chapter of the Business Professionals of America and active in the National Honor Society. Panwar chaired her school’s community service committee and volunteered in numerous service projects through Key Club and the Rotary Interact Club. Fluent in Hindi, she also was active at Chinmaya Mission DFW. She will enter UT Dallas as an undeclared freshman.
Richard King High School, Robstown
Zoe Wilson was named an AP Scholar with Honor. She was editor-in-chief for her school literary magazine and feature editor for the school newspaper. She also worked with the Corpus Christi Literary Reading Series to bring authors to her community. She was a member of the varsity tennis team, and was also active in the National Honor Society, competed in Academic Decathlon and was captain of King High School’s team for the local quiz show. A French speaker, she was elected as her community’s ambassador to France as part of its sister city exchange program. Wilson volunteered through Key Club and with Feast of Sharing. She will enter UT Dallas as an undeclared freshman.
Friendswood High School, Friendswood
Elizabeth Ziegler was named a National Merit Commended Student and an AP Scholar with Honor. A member of the Latin Club, and able to read and write Latin, she earned magna cum laude recognition on the National Latin Exam. Ziegler was co-captain of her school’s junior varsity co-ed ice hockey team and was on the tennis team; she also sang in the Friendswood United Methodist Youth Choir. Ziegler was an award-winning member of Future Farmers of America and also participated in the Emory Pre-College Program in public health. She was active in National Honor Society and volunteered with Angel Food Ministries and as a tutor for elementary school students. She plans to major in biochemistry.
Friendswood High School,