Cutting-Edge!: UW Students with International Focus Win Prestigious Scholarships

UW News Release

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CONTACT:  Julie Stubbs, (608) 890-0370,


MADISON – University of Wisconsin-Madison juniors Asad L. Asad and Nicholas Lillios have recently been awarded $30,000 each for graduate study. Asad was recently announced as one of only 20 undergraduates in the U.S. to be selected as a 2010 Beinecke Scholar, and Lillios was recently announced as one of only 60 to be selected as a 2010 Truman Scholar.

Additionally, three UW-Madison undergraduates were recently announced as Barry M. Goldwater Scholars and two were announced as Morris K. Udall Scholars. Kimberli Kramer, Sonia Trevino-Dopatka and Steven Banik are counted among only 278 students across the country to earn a $7,500 Goldwater Scholarship for the 2010-2011 academic year. Steven Olikara and Emily Duma are counted each earned a $5,000 Udall Scholarship.

Asad is double major in political science and Spanish. He plans to study immigration policy through an interdisciplinary perspective by pursuing a doctorate in political science, with a joint emphasis in international relations and American politics, from Columbia University.

A son of Palestinian immigrants, Asad says he did not always understand the influence his mother and father had on his interests until recently. Asad says that as a kid he distanced himself from anything “foreign.” “I rejected my family’s native language, despised visiting my grandparents in Palestine, and did not want to be considered ‘Palestinian-American’-being ‘American’ more than sufficed.”

Asad says he overcame this self-rejection by learning a foreign language, Spanish, and ultimately began to take interest in international policy related to Latino immigration.

“Initially, learning Spanish only meant traveling to ‘exotic’ destinations, but as I began working with Latino immigrants in my hometown of Milwaukee and in Madison, I realized that ‘foreigners,’ my parents included, continue to fuel American economic and cultural vitality,” says Asad.

“Instead of addressing the underlying causes of illegal immigration-economic underdevelopment in Latin America and poor enforcement of U.S. labor laws – recent approaches emphasize high-tech border fences and increased border patrol. I hope that my research becomes significant enough one day to be able to bring about a necessary change in the way the U.S. constructs its immigration policy,” Asad adds.

When Asad returns to UW this summer after a year studying in Madrid, Spain, he will begin working on his senior honors thesis for the Department of Spanish & Portuguese with Professor Kathryn Sanchez.

Lillios was selected to be a Truman Scholar by sixteen independent panels on the basis of leadership potential, intellectual ability, and likelihood of making a difference.

As a Truman Scholar, Lillios may receive priority admission and supplemental financial aid at some premier graduate institutions, leadership training, career and graduate school counseling, and special internship opportunities within the federal government.

Lillios, a political science and biochemistry major, is seeking both M.D. and M.P.H. degrees. He hopes to pursue a career in medicine and public health. He has served as an intern in the offices of U.S. Senator Paul Sarbanes and former U.S. Rep. Rahm Emanuel and has volunteered in U.S. congressional and presidential election campaigns.

Lillios is most interested in researching and finding solutions to the health care disparities in the U.S., and around the world, amongst different populations. “I think that health care disparities are largely a product of a number of social, economic, and political factors,” Lillios says.

He adds that cooperation between science, medicine and government today is good, but can be improved to address health care disparities. “I would hope that we can find more effective ways to translate advancements in science and medicine into effective public policy, and to increase the communication between scientists, doctors and public policy makers,” Lillios says.

Lillios is currently a presidential fellow at the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress in Washington, D.C., and conducts breast cancer research at McArdle Laboratory at UW-Madison. He is dedicated to using advancements in science and medicine to create innovative governmental policies to improve the health of socially and economically disadvantaged populations.

Kramer, Trevino-Dopatka and Banik were each awarded Goldman scholarships on the basis of academic merit from a pool of more than 1,000 mathematics, science, and engineering students who were nominated by college and university faculties.

Kramer is double majoring in biomedical engineering and biochemistry. She plans to pursue a Ph.D. in chemical biology, and a career conducting research in biomedical science in the biotechnology industry.

Trevino-Dopatka is a biochemistry major. She plans to pursue a Ph.D. in the field, and a career conduction biomedical research in a national laboratory or teach at the university level. Trevino-Dopatka currently works on the role of different flagellar components in bacterial surface-sensing.

“What I find most fascinating, and this is generally true for any project, is the sheer complexity and I dare say beauty of the intricate mechanics and delicate balances of the science behind it all,” she says, adding, “I look forward to a career in research, whether in academia or another laboratory setting such as a national lab or pharmaceutical company, and this Goldman scholarship focuses on just this.”

Banik is a chemistry major. He plans to pursue a Ph.D. in the field and a career conducting research at the interface of inorganic and organic chemistry and teach at the university level.

Olikara and Duma were two of only 80 undergraduates in the country to earn Udall scholarships. A 14-member independent review committee selected this year’s group of Scholars on the basis of commitment to careers in the environment, health care or tribal public policy; leadership potential; and academic achievement.

Olikara is a sophomore majoring in political science, and pursuing a self-designed cross-disciplinary major in global sustainability. He is interested in clean energy policy and technology, and plans to bring green jobs to low-income urban communities as a “nonprofit social entrepreneur.” As a freshman, Olikara researched plug-in hybrid vehicles with the Department of Civil Engineering. Later he researched solar energy initiatives in Madison.  Olikara chairs the Associated Students of Madison Diversity Committee, sits on the Center for First-Year Experience advisory board, and the admissions director search and screen committee. He also is a member of campus Sustainability Task Force.

Duma is a junior completing majors in political science and international studies, and certificates in environmental studies and African studies. She is interested in improving the sustainability and security of domestic and international food systems through a career with the U.S. government or a non-governmental organization. Duma is a long-time member of the UW Slow Foods organization and the F.H. King Student Garden. She is currently studying abroad in Kenya, and conducting research on food security and sovereignty while interning with the Community Rehabilitation and Environmental Protection Programme.

The Beinecke Scholarship Program was established in 1971 by the Board of Directors of The Sperry and Hutchinson Company to honor Edwin, Frederick, and Walter Beinecke. The Board created an endowment to provide substantial scholarships for the graduate education of young men and women with exceptional promise. The program seeks to encourage and enable highly motivated students to pursue opportunities in the arts, humanities and social sciences.

The Truman Scholarship Foundation was established by Congress in 1975 as the federal memorial to our thirty-third president. The Foundation awards scholarships for college students to attend graduate school in preparation for careers in government or elsewhere in public service.

The Goldwater Foundation is a federally endowed agency established in 1986. The Scholarship Program honoring Senator Barry M. Goldwater was designed to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences, and engineering. The Goldwater Scholarship is a premier undergraduate award of its type in these fields.

The Udall Scholarships honor the legacy former U.S. Rep. Morris K. Udall, supporting students who have demonstrated outstanding potential and a commitment to pursuing careers related to the environment.
– Sara Lieburn, (608) 890-2167,