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Category: Student Profiles

Max Shinn, a UHP senior studying Neuroscience and Mathematics, has been named a 2015 Churchill Scholar by the Winston Churchill Foundation of the United States. He is the sixth U of M student to receive this prestigious honor.

Shinn—who is enrolled in the College of Biological Sciences, the College of Science and Engineering, and the University Honors Program—will reside at Churchill College for the 2015–16 academic year and complete an MPhil in Psychiatry at Cambridge University. He plans to work with Professor Edward Bullmore, who is applying mathematical graph theory to fMRI data to uncover the roots of psychiatric disorders. Shinn hopes that his research will provide a new diagnostic tool that will enable early identification and preventative care for mental illness—something he cares deeply about.

"Mental illness is arguably the most important public health problem in developed countries," said Shinn. "But we still don't understand what is happening in the brain when someone has a psychiatric disorder. I am excited to use mathematics to improve the study and treatment of these very complicated disorders. The possibility of improving lives is what drives me to continue my work."

At the U of M, Shinn has pursued the study of the human mind from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, conducting research with faculty in Psychology, Neuroscience, Mathematics, and Biomedical Engineering. The University offered further support with an Undergraduate Research Opportunities grant, and the Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst (DAAD) funded a summer research internship in Germany. As a student at Chaska (Minn.) High School, Shinn developed WriteType, a word processor that helps children with learning difficulties learn to write. For his exceptional drive and achievement, he was awarded an AXA Scholarship given to ten top student leaders in the U.S.

Shinn, the son of Kurt and Jennifer Shinn of Chaska, Minn., was also named a Goldwater Scholar in 2013 and an Astronaut Scholar in 2014.

"The award of the Churchill Scholarship is the culmination of a long line of honors recognizing Max's many accomplishments during his uniquely impressive undergraduate career at the University of Minnesota," said Serge Rudaz, Director of the University Honors Program. "I am very proud of Max for taking full advantage of the wealth of opportunities offered by the University, and of the faculty and staff who provided him with mentorship and support. I know that he will do wonderfully well at Cambridge."

About the Winston Churchill Foundation of the United States

The Winston Churchill Foundation of the United States was founded in 1959 to offer American students of exceptional ability and achievement in the sciences, engineering, and mathematics the opportunity to pursue graduate studies at Cambridge. Fourteen seniors from the top colleges and research universities in the United States are selected as Churchill Scholars each year, making the $60,000 award one of the most selective and prestigious post-graduate scholarships. Five graduates of the University of Minnesota have previously been named as Churchill Scholars.

UHP Students Win SEED Awards

November 13, 2014

The Office for Equity and Diversity's Scholarly Excellence in Equity and Diversity (SEED) Awards program honors and acknowledges diverse students who are doing outstanding work at the University of Minnesota, both in and out of the classroom. Recipients of the 2014 awards were honored at the seventh annual Equity and Diversity Breakfast held on November 12. Of the seven University of Minnesota–Twin Cities students honored, five are UHP students. We're incredibly proud to be so well represented in this exemplary group of undergraduates. Congratulations are also in order for the other SEED Award recipients, Lawrence Karongo (UMTC/Economics), Jayce Koester (UM-Morris English/Political Science), Michael Prideaux (UM-Morris/Philosophy, GWSS), and Kimiya Rabu (UMTC/Elementary Education).

President's SEED Award for Outstanding Academic Achievment

This award is given in honor of outstanding academic performance and demonstration of engagement with and commitment to issues of equity and diversity.

Mary Gao is a third-year UHP student majoring in economics and psychology and pursuing minors in statistics and management. In addition to her work with disadvantaged youth in education, she is also one of the founding members of the Psychology Student Diversity Council, promoting and providing support for underrepresented students to seek research opportunities and graduate education. Mary does research through the College of Liberal Arts and the Carlson School of Management and plans to attend graduate school for a PhD in industrial organizational psychology.

Sue W. Hancock SEEDs of Change Awards

Multiple awards are given to students demonstrating impressive engagement with and commitment to issues of equity and diversity through outstanding academic achievment and activism.

Maria Lee is a third-year UHP student majoring in Geography and pursuing minors in Park and Protected Area Management and Outdoor Recreation and Education. Maria is passionate about ensuring access to outdoor spaces for all people. Currently, Maria works to connect students in Minneapolis and St. Paul schools with local outdoor spaces through the Urban Wilderness Canoe Adventure program. On the Twin Cities campus, Maria works with the Multicultural Center for Academic Excellence and helps others connect their passions to community organizations as a peer advisor in the Community Service—Learning Center.

Gabriel Ramirez-Hernandez is a fourth-year UHP student majoring in psychology and French studies. His activities outside of the classroom focus on service to underrepresented students in education. He has served as a mentor for the Multicultural Family Literacy Program for the past two years and as president of the Latino International Student Association for the past year. Through these positions, he has found opportunities to promote cultural awareness and share information about higher education options among underrepresented students in South Minneapolis. Gabriel is currently learning abroad in Montpellier in southern France.

Liandra Sy is a fourth-year UHP student majoring in psychology and English. Liandra spent the first 12 years of her life in the Philippines. After moving to the United States, her dual identity as a first generation immigrant and naturalized American citizen impacted her views on social inequity, especially in education. She hopes to pursue literary studies with an emphasis on postcolonial literature to understand the role of language and literature in relation to oppressive status quo ideologies.

Ian Taylor, Jr. is a fourth-year UHP student majoring in English and African American & American Studies. Ian was born in New Orleans and raised in Woodbury, Minnesota, and his passion for community empowerment has taken him from the streets of Minneapolis to Africa—he's currently learning abroad in Kenya. He strives to make a powerful impact in every community he joins by adding value and learning more from others. After graduation, he plans to spend a year working and preparing for law school.


November 12, 2014

fridays@noon is a series of events hosted by the University Honors Program throughout the course of the academic year, typically featuring Honors students sharing something unique about their undergraduate experiences here at the University and around the world. This year, we've expanded the series to include several musical performances by our talented students.

At one of our October events, parents, friends, and staff gathered for a triple-bill featuring tuba duets by Connor Neil (first year, Neuroscience) and Jonathon Meyer (first year, Electrical Engineering / Computer Science), a classical guitar performance by Tyler Tracy (third year, Music / Political Science), and a vocal performance by Madison Holtze (first year, Music):

There are still a few excellent fridays@noon events this semester, including a chance to meet Northrop's 2014 McKnight International Artist, Cuban choreographer Osnel Delgado on November 21st! The full list of fall 2014 events is as follows:

Upcoming (note: please double-check our calendar to ensure accurate and up-to-date info.)

  • November 14: Joelle Stangler, a junior Political Science and Journalism major and current president of the Minnesota Student Association (MSA), talks about getting involved in student government at the University.
  • November 21: Renowned Cuban choreographer and Northrop's McKnight International Artist in residence, Osnel Delgado, joins us for a special edition for fridays@noon. Co-sponsored by the Institute for Advanced Study.
  • December 5: Feeling intimidated by the medical school application process? Our panel of UHP seniors have been through the gauntlet and survived to share their stories!


  • September 19: Sarah Bening, a senior Biomedical Engineering major who works in the Living Devices Lab and spent this past summer working in a research program at MIT, shared her experience with undergraduate research.
  • September 26: Arianna Wegley, a freshman majoring in music, performed on the cello.
  • October 3: Quincy "Sherlock" Rosemarie, a senior majoring in Genetics, Cell Biology & Development, uncovered the truth about her experiences with undergraduate research and internships at Mayo Clinic and the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension in St. Paul.
  • October 17: Joshua Quinn, a senior majoring in political science, talked about his experience traveling to Beijing for a year with the CET Intensive Chinese Language program.
  • October 24: Kieran McCabe, a senior Aerospace Engineering major and president of Gopher Motorsports, talked about building open-wheel sports cars for the Formula SAE competition.
  • October 31: Tuba duet from freshmen Connor Neil and Jonathon Meyer; classical guitar performance by senior Tyler Tracy; vocal performance by freshman Madison Holtze.
  • November 7: Emily Myers, a senior Anthropology major, spoke about her experience last summer in Cuba with the SPAN program, which offers opportunities for faculty-directed research abroad. Evelyn Anderson, the Administrative Coordinator from SPAN also attended and answered questions about the program.

Michael Veit, who graduated summa cum laude in 2014 with degrees in both Physics and Mathematics, has been named the winner of the 2014 Leroy Apker Award by the American Physical Society. Veit will receive a $5,000 prize in recognition of research that formed the basis of his Honors Thesis. The University of Minnesota's School of Physics will also receive $5,000 to further support undergraduate research here at the University.

"The Apker is the most distinguished award recognizing excellence in undergraduate research in physics in this country," said Serge Rudaz, director of the University Honors Program and Professor of Physics. "We are all incredibly proud of Michael's achievement, which reflects brightly on the University, its School of Physics, and its Honors Program."

Veit entered the University Honors Program as a sophomore, motivated by UHP's emphasis on research. "I think the research component of the Honors Program had the most profound impact on my undergraduate career," he says. He credits UHP as a a major influence on his success and current career path: "My experience with research has been the biggest factor in choosing to continue studying physics in graduate school. Without UHP, I'm not sure I would have started conducting research as early as I did, and I would have missed out on some incredible experiences that shaped my career plans."

Veit is now pursuing a PhD in Applied Physics at Stanford University. "Michael's interests spanned many disciplines in science and engineering," explains Andrea Beloy, Michael's Honors Advisor. "When he found his fit in Physics, he really took off. I enjoyed working with him and am excited to follow his research career."

Interested students can learn more about faculty-directed research here on the UHP website.

About Michael's Research

My Honors Thesis was a study of transport measurements in the cuprate superconductor HgBa2CuO4+d. The cuprates are a class of superconductors which have a high superconducting transition temperature. This means that the cuprates do not have to be cooled as much as more conventional superconductors to become superconducting.

A full understanding of the cuprates remains elusive due to the observation of a number of anomalous properties which have been taken to be strong indicators that the physics of the cuprates cannot be described by the conventional model for simple metals, known as Fermi-liquid theory. However, I measured the resistivity, Hall effect, magnetoresistance, and Seebeck coefficient of the cuprate HgBa2CuO4+d, and I remarkably found that it behaves as it should in the Fermi-liquid theory. Such transport measurements are often among the first experiments to be performed on a new material. However, they are typically the least understood. My work has shown that there some aspects of these complex materials are rather conventional, and that there is still much to be learned from such measurements in the cuprates.

More about the Apker Award

The Leroy Apker Award recognizes outstanding achievements in physics by undergraduate students, and thereby provides encouragement to young physicists who have demonstrated great potential for future scientific accomplishment. Two awards may be presented each year, one to a student from a PhD granting institution and one to a student from a non-PhD granting institution. More information is available on the American Physical Society website.

Joelle Stangler and John Reichl have recently been elected as President and VP of the Minnesota Student Association! The MSA veterans are currently serving on the executive board of the University Honors Student Association (UHSA) and will begin their term at the start of the 2014–15 academic year.

Stangler, a sophomore majoring in Political Science, has been serving as Ranking Representative to the Board of Regents for MSA. She sees her new role as an opportunity to give back to students on campus. "I would encourage every UHP student to join MSA, even if it's only for a semester," Stanger said. "You will learn how to change policy, lobby effectively, and lead groups on projects."

Reichl, a junior majoring in Finance, is the current President of UHSA and also serves as a Representative to the Board of Regents for MSA. He cites his experience with UHP and UHSA as preparation for his new role in MSA, and encourages all UHP students to become more involved. "To be an effective advocate for students, it's crucial to experience the breadth and depth of the entire undergraduate experience here at the U of M," Reichl explains. "MSA would be strengthened immensely by drawing on the unique perspectives, talents, and knowledge of UHP students."

To learn more about opportunities with MSA, check out their website.

Congratulations, Joelle and John!

Lee Stecklein, a UHP student in the Carlson School of Management, was the youngest player to skate with the United States Women's Hockey Team at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Stecklein and her teammates won a Silver Medal. "It was the experience of a lifetime," Stecklein recently told The Minnesota Daily. "It didn't turn out exactly the way we all wanted at the end, but [it was] still something I'll remember forever."

Stecklein, who helped the Golden Gophers women's hockey team to a National Championship in her freshman season, will return to the University to resume her studies—and her college hockey career—this fall.

Read the full article in the Daily to hear more about Stecklein's Olympic Experience. Congratulations, Lee!

Vidya Rao is Senior Editor for, the website of the TODAY Show on NBC. Her exciting work has taken her across the globe to Russia, where she is currently covering the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Vidya graduated magna cum laude in 2004 with degrees in both African American & African Studies and Political Science, and went on to receive a a master's degree in Journalism at Columbia University. She's been with TODAY since 2008, and recently checked in to share a bit about her experience in Sochi. Read Vidya's update below, check out a slideshow featuring a few of her Sochi photos, and follow her on Twitter for more Olympic excitement from an Honors alum!

From meeting the famed "Nightmare Bear" mascot and seeing the Opening Ceremony in person to getting to know the hilarious Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski and interviewing some of the world's most amazing athletes, the Sochi Olympics has been a whirlwind adventure unlike any other.

I've worked at NBC for nearly six years, covering a variety of lifestyle and news stories at When I was brought into my boss's office last August and asked if I wanted to go, I screamed. I actually jumped up and down and screamed. As the Games grew closer, there were increasing concerns over potential terrorist attacks. Friends and family urged me to rethink going to Sochi. But if there's one thing that we all know, it's that you are never guaranteed a second chance. I wasn't about to miss the opportunity of a lifetime to see the world's biggest event in person. And because NBC is a rights holder, I knew that even as a lowly dotcom producer I'd be able to interview most of Team USA.

These athletes are amazing people, and most of them (with a couple exceptions, of course) are so down-to-earth, friendly and open, it's easy to forget that they are Olympians. They laugh and joke, share their personal stories and are open to talking about both their successes and failures—a dream for a journalist.

While the days are long—we routinely work at least 16 hours a day and don't get much sleep—the work is rewarding and well worth it. I'm coming away from this experience with so many lessons, both for my career and my life, and am truly inspired by the Olympians' stories. I'm also coming away 10 pounds heavier, thanks to the NBC commissary, which serves us up free food and the now-famous free Starbucks. And in case you're wondering, no, I don't have any hotel horror stories—my hotel room is bigger than my whole New York City apartment!

Jasmine Omorogbe graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor's degree in Communications Studies in 2010—her experience in the University Honors Program was rich and rewarding, and it helped to prepare her for what came next.

After working at the U's Office of Admissions and the Multicultural Center for Academic Excellence after graduation, Jasmine left Minnesota to study at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. While there, she served as a Graduate Research Assistant with Dr. Bridget Terry Long, started three student organizations, and participated in four others (serving as an officer in two groups). After completing 32 graduate credits in the intensive nine-month program, Jasmine graduated with a Master of Education degree in Higher Education on May 30, 2013. She was nominated by her cohort to serve as the Class MarshaI, and had the honor of receiving a medal and leading her class at the graduation ceremony.

Only four days after graduation, Jasmine moved to Raleigh, North Carolina, where she will begin her career as Assistant Director of Multicultural Student Affairs at North Carolina State University. She'll be teaching an undergraduate course, coordinating programming, mentoring students, and making many other efforts to boost the success of students at N.C. State.

Congratulations, Jasmine!

More on Jasmine's experience in the University Honors Program

Meet Katrina Klett. With a major in Asian languages and literatures/Chinese and a minor in sustainability studies, Klett focuses on beekeeping as a means to alleviate poverty and protect biodiversity in developing countries. Dr. Marla Spivak, Distinguished McKnight University Professor of Apiculture & Social Insects, has worked with Klett on her research and calls her "the most remarkable young woman and undergraduate I have ever met," noting her "incredible potential to make an enormous impact in international development and environmental sustainability."

After winning two prestigious scholarships this spring—both the Harry S. Truman Scholarship and the Udall Scholarship—Klett will return to the University of Minnesota for the final year of her undergraduate experience in the University Honors Program, and plans to pursue a Masters degree in Public Affairs at Columbia University. We had the chance to catch up with Katrina before the end of the spring 2013 term.

Photo by Patrick O'Leary for University Relations.

UHP: You've been around bees for much of your life. Can you tell me a bit about your family's business and how it shaped your experiences as a young person?

Klett: We moved between North Dakota and Texas all my life. We are queen breeders, so we breed queen bees in the South and produce honey in the North. This meant we were on the road together quite a lot of the time, moving between our seasonal work. As a child, I spent a lot more time with my family and less time with friends than other kids did. We worked, moved, and socialized with other beekeeping families that also were migratory, and we still do. Our business is a central part of my life and always has been.

UHP: Bees have been in the news lately—unfortunately, mostly due to declining honeybee populations. There have been stories on NPR and in U.S. News and World Reports about the challenges faced by bee populations—specifically "Colony Collapse Disorder." What do you see as the most significant challenges faced by bee populations now and in the future, and how do you hope to be involved in meeting those challenges?

Klett: To risk oversimplifying the problem, a lot of what is happening is a result of the ultra modern agricultural system in the United States today. Our bees are flying out into pesticide-laden dead zones of monocrop agriculture—particularly corn and beans in this part of the world. Of course there are many things that are impacting honeybee health, but in a nutshell, ultra efficient industrial agriculture isn't good for bees. I am quite focused right now on working in developing countries that are starting to look to industrialized nations for examples on how to develop their own agriculture. I want to help farmers, beekeepers, and local governments understand that following directly in our footsteps is not the right direction for their apicultural industries. There are better, lower impact ways to increase income, to increase food production, and to maintain environmental integrity. As for U.S. issues, my family is focused on breeding a more disease-resistant honeybee. This is our contribution to the bee health issue in the U.S. After I graduate from the U, I want to get involved in policy advocacy, especially with issues surrounding the Farm Bill.

UHP: You're the beekeeping expert for Shangrila Farms in China's Yunnan region. You're also studying Chinese here at the U. How did these interests first intersect, and how did your interest in bees first bring you to China?

Klett: I have always been a lover of foreign languages. I keep bees because I have always been around bees, but the study of language is a real hobby of mine! I was studying Chinese and was paying attention to the controversy here in the U.S. about Chinese honey production practices. It's a very touchy issue here. The Chinese are accused of dumping honey on our market, and so relations are not very good between Chinese and American beekeepers—yet they are the number one producers of honey. The Chinese Government is quite liberal in their funding of apicultural research, and the species diversity of bees in China is very rich. I wanted to go over there and see for myself, I guess. There isn't much exchange of real information between beekeepers in China and the United States, I guess because of anger over trade issues—but trade is one thing, and bees and beekeeping are quite another. I wanted to establish contacts and learn about their bees and beekeepers. I wanted to have a bit of an exchange, and it turned into a long journey.

UHP: Can you tell us a bit more about the organic beekeeping process at Shangrila and the surrounding region in China?

Klett: Shangrila Farms is a brand of honey and other natural products sold in Beijing and around China. It was started by Sahra, Alia, and Safi Malik, who purchase coffee and honey directly from farmers in a fair trade manner. In addition to supporting farmers with a guaranteed market, they support training programs to teach farmers how to produce coffee or raise bees, which is where I come in. We started very small, but have expanded our outreach considerably and are going to expand even more this coming year. They are absolutely wonderful people to work for, and their model of socially responsible business as a way to give back to the community is really a great model.

UHP: What can bees teach us about the importance of biodiversity and sustainability?

Klett: I think bees teach us that our current method of agricultural food production in the U.S. is not sustainable. Before World War II, when farming was still done on family farms, bees were flourishing in this country. Admittedly, honeybee decline is not a simple problem with a clear, smoking-gun culprit. But it is very clear to researchers and people who work in the beekeeping industry, that when you lose biodiversity in the form of natural areas, or small family farms which grow a variety of crops, you create large monocrop areas where pollinators (as well as other life forms) cannot survive. Bees struggle to survive with the level of pesticides needed for such intensive agricultural production and they struggle to find adequate nutrition when they forage over miles and miles of a single crop species. In this country, we have turned our diverse prairies into fields of corn and beans, most of it not even for human consumption. Our bees now fly out into a landscape completely altered by humans, and we are finding that they cannot easily make it. If this is the case for the Midwest, what was traditionally our largest honey-producing region, then we can say that the deaths of our honeybees are like canaries in the mineshaft. This should be sounding the alert to everyone that we need to seriously rethink how we grow food and operate our agricultural industries, as well as how we write our agricultural policy.

UHP: Here at the University, you've worked directly with Professor Marla Spivak, who focuses on Apiculture and Social Insects in the Department of Entomology. Can you talk a bit about how you were connected with Professor Spivak, and about the research you've been doing?

Klett: I received a UROP undergraduate research grant to study the mechanism by which bees collect propolis. Propolis is a sticky plant sap, which has been found to also act as a kind of pseudo immune system for honeybees. It is very amazing stuff, propolis. It's well known that bees dance to stimulate foraging behavior for honey collection—the dance communicates the location and quality of the nectar source. We wanted to see if they were doing the same for propolis. It turns out that they do not seem to dance to stimulate propolis collection, but it was good information to establish. It was also my first real experience in research and in a laboratory, and I learned a great deal working in Dr. Spivak's lab.

UHP: You've been pretty busy lately, with Truman and Udall Scholarships to show for it! You have one more year here as an undergraduate at the U—can you tell us about what you hope to achieve next year, and beyond?

Klett: Well I'm very interested in urban agriculture that is starting to crop up (no pun intended) around the United States. Lately people have been talking to me about Chicago and Detroit as examples where agriculture in the urban environment can sometimes revitalize certain neighborhoods and communities. I have also watched with interest as they have changed the policy in Minneapolis about keeping bees on rooftops. They are now making it much easier to do that, by eliminating the need for 80 percent of nearby dwellers to sign an agreement that hives can be kept. I would love to get involved in some of these kinds of efforts. I am excited to see the new Minneapolis 2025 initiatives and I hope that urban agriculture and bees are going to play a part in some of the exciting new plans in the works. After graduation I am going to move to New York, where I will be applying for an M.S in Environmental Science and Policy at Columbia University. A little further into the future, I see a potential Ph.D. and more rural development projects. I am hoping to partner with people who are focused in environmental public health, because I think we do can some really interesting things together. And of course, my goals always include going home to work in my family's business, which is very close to my heart.

I also want to talk a bit about the University Honors Program and how they have really shaped my experience at the University of Minnesota. I started at the University of Minnesota as a transfer student in 2007. I transferred directly into the UHP and met Sally Lieberman (Associate Director for National & International Scholarships) early on. I am really grateful that UHP has Sally on its staff. She is so dedicated to her work with students and national scholarships. She leaves no detail unexamined, and really pushes students to refine their writing, future goals, and overall worldview. Sally quite literally changed the entire direction that I am headed after graduation.

I also have been very fortunate to have Tim Jones as my UHP advisor. He has gone way above the call of duty to assist me in my academic goals. He even took the time to introduce me to an NGO leader in the Twin Cities community so that I could seek advice and learn more about this person's professional development. Being a UHP student is probably the best thing I could have done at the U, because I have been in this very close advising community. UHP sends me email about scholarships and grants that I seem eligible for, and they just really believe in their students and try to help us refine our goals and ourselves. I always love it when I have an excuse to go see them!

The University of Minnesota is a world-class university located in a national park, along one of the great rivers of the world. The Mississippi National River and Recreation Area (MNRRA), established by Congress in 1988, stretches for 72 miles on each side of the Mississippi through the heart of the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area. A "partnership park," because the Park Service owns very little land, MNRRA works with public agencies and nonprofit partners throughout the corridor to protect significant resources and interpret the stories and places of this nationally-significant corridor.

UHP students have been researching and discovering the Mississippi River in exciting ways -- both as part of HSEM courses and internships. Here are two excellent pieces that were produced in conjunction with these learning opportunities:

Joseph Manulik, a current UHP student in the College of Science & Engineering, wrote about the 1962 Oil Spills while working a river-related internship with the Minnesota Historical Society. Published in December 2012 by MinnPost.

Derek Holmer, a current UHP student in the College of Design, wrote about the river and Saint Paul Union Depot while taking HSEM 3039: Sustainability & Planning on the Great River. Published in January 2013 on the River Life website.