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2016 Haslam Scholars Finalists Announcement

We are pleased to announce the 2016 Haslam Scholar Program Finalists. Below you will find the full list of finalists and a short excerpt from their biographies.


UntitledAubrey Bader

Myers Park High School

Charlotte, NC

Engineering Exploratory Track

Aubrey Bader is a devoted student, mentor, athlete, volunteer, sister, daughter, and friend. She enjoys a challenge and isn’t afraid to try something new—a new class, sport, or even instrument. She thoroughly enjoys music and has played violin for six years, taught herself guitar, and has participated in church choir, bells, and liturgical dance since middle school. But she is not only musical; Aubrey is athletic and has played on the Varsity tennis and lacrosse teams throughout high school with much success in both sports.


UntitledMadison Chan

Bearden High School

Knoxville, TN

Engineering Exploratory Track

Madison Chan is a senior at Bearden High School in Knoxville, TN, where she has pursued academic excellence for the past four years. During this four-year journey, Madison has been a proud member of the Bearden High School Marching Band, where she played clarinet for two years and then led the band as a drum major during her junior and senior year. She discovered the joy of playing clarinet in both the concert and symphonic band, and placed at ETSBOA All-East Junior Clinic her freshman year and ETSBOA All-East Senior Clinic the next three successive years.


Untitled Thomas Clarity

Christ School

Piney Flats, TN


Thomas Clarity was born in Vietnam, but has lived the majority of his life in Johnson City, Tennessee. He now attends Christ School, a boarding school in Asheville, North Carolina. As a Prefect and senior leader on campus, Thomas plays a significant role in the school through his positions on the Judiciary Council and in the dorm. Outside of the classroom, he is captain of the ski, snowboard, and cross country teams. As president of the TedEd Club, Thomas conducted a sleep study of Christ School students, which followed the national trend of sleep deprivation in high school students.


Untitled Caroline Cotton

Oneida High School

Oneida, TN

Industrial Engineering

Caroline Cotton is from the beautiful Appalachian region of Scott County, Tennessee. She finds her life enriched by music, the joy of helping others, and meeting people with diverse cultural and life experiences. Caroline is an accomplished French Horn player earning a position in the All East Tennessee top band. She is a member of the National Honor Society and will graduate with honors in the top of her class. Coming from a county experiencing severe unemployment, Caroline has dedicated herself to making a difference in the lives of others by performing hundreds of hours of volunteer service for charities heavily involved in health, wellness and education.


Untitled Justin Cross

L&N STEM Academy

Knoxville, TN

Public Administration

Justin Cross is a senior at the L&N STEM Academy and serves as the Student Body president. He holds leadership positions in 4-H at the county, regional, and state levels and serves as the 2015-2016 Tennessee 4-H State Council president. As a leader, Justin always strives to give back to his community and school, and he is an active volunteer through several clubs and organizations. Justin is also active in several school extracurricular programs, including Mock Trial, Ethics Bowl, Scholars Bowl, and National Honor Society.

Untitled Ben Cruz

Ooltewah High School

Chattanooga, TN

Biosystems Engineering

Working as an intern at an organic farm in Oregon during the summer of 2012 was life changing for Ben. This experience coupled with attending the Tennessee Governor’s School for the Agricultural Sciences the summer of 2013 led Ben to develop a passion for agricultural systems and processes. With Ben’s desire for serving others and his interest in global issues, he intends to pursue and utilize a degree in Biosystems Engineering in order to create engineering systems solutions on a global level.



Untitled Sophia Cui 

Hardin Valley Academy

Knoxville, TN

Biological Sciences

For the past two years, Sophia has been doing microbiological research on vaccines against antibiotic-resistant infections under the tutelage of a professor of infectious diseases at UTK. She presented her research at a research symposium and science fair last year and won multiple awards. As the President of American Red Cross Club at school, she serves her community through fire safety canvassing, raising awareness about health issues, organizing blood drives, and fundraising. She is also the founder of UNICEF (United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund) Club and vice-president of HOSA (Future Health Professionals). Sophia spends her free time volunteering at a number of hospitals, helping patients and assisting medical staff.

Untitled Mary Katherine DeWane

White Station High School

Memphis, TN

Biological Sciences

Throughout her high school career, Mary Katherine DeWane has been involved in several extracurricular activities that have allowed her to pursue her varied interests. In Girl Scouts, she developed a passion for the environment, and she continued this in 4-H as a member of the Forestry Judging Team and the National 4-H Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Leadership Team, working with the US Fish and Wildlife Service this summer in San Diego, California. This inspired her AP Research project, in which she looked at the effects of channelization on the distribution of an invasive plant species around the Wolf River, a Mississippi tributary that runs through her hometown of Memphis. Mary Katherine is an avid reader and writer, and she has competed in the WordSmith writing competition since she was in seventh grade, and she was a staff member of the Teen Appeal, a city-wide youth newspaper.

Untitled Lillian Ekem

MLK Jr. Magnet Academy

Nashville, TN

Biomedical Engineering

Lillian has built much of her high school experience around cultivating meaningful relationships that enlarge the scale of her academic learning. She is determined to continue achieving this purpose, which is heavily influenced by the struggles of her parents’ immigration from Nigeria. She believes every encounter is a chance to challenge herself by engaging unique backgrounds and mindsets. This belief has been rediscovered time and again through her volunteering efforts with the Adventure Science Center, Rising Above, FCA, and her home church. Lillian enjoys linking this purpose with her academic atmospheres through leadership roles in the TN Intercollegiate State Legislature, Females Advancing and Changing Science and Engineering, and the National French Honor Society. She appreciates working with others in these varied arenas to benefit and encourage her community.

Untitled Liz Enyenihi

Farragut High School

Knoxville, TN

Biomedical Sciences

Liz Enyenihi lives in Knoxville and attends Farragut High School, a place where she has thrived academically as an AP Scholar with Distinction, National Merit Semifinalist, and perfect ACT score recipient. She is active in numerous clubs, including Student Government, French Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta, the National Honor Society, the Health Occupation Students of America (where she served as Historian and Treasurer), and finally, Jr. Optimists, of which she is currently Vice President and formerly Treasurer. Through these clubs, she has earned several awards such as a medal for the National French Exam and two 1st place awards at the HOSA State Leadership Conference. Her passion for science extends beyond the classroom to numerous summer research internships, most recently at the National Cancer Institute of the NIH in Bethesda, MD.

Untitled Elisabeth Gallmeier

Oak Ridge High School

Oak Ridge, TN


From a young age, Elisabeth developed a curiosity inherent to every aspect of her life, both in her scholarly and past-time pursuits. Her fascination with the esoteric and unknown developed from a multi-cultural family and trips abroad to her parents’ home countries of Germany and Russia. This past summer, Elisabeth’s inclination for query led her to explore the realm of scientific research at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, where she created statistical modeling programs to aid hydrocarbon exploration and prediction analyses to examine shale play production. She will be publishing her work with her mentor and research partner later this year.



Untitled Braden Lype

Ooltewah High School

Ooltewah, TN


Although he finds the description a little embarrassing, Braden Lype has been called a “Renaissance Man” or a “Man for All Seasons” by his teachers and peers. Maybe it is partly because he is left-handed (and right-brain dominant), but Braden brings a unique mix of talents, attributes and perspectives to any group. For example, he has studied piano for many years, achieving Superior ratings in festivals and competitions. In music, Braden is aided by having “absolute pitch,” and he has both a knack and a love for music. At the same time, Braden has excelled in tennis, playing the highest seed for his school for three years and winning a District Title in singles as a junior (with hopes of repeating in his senior season), as well as being part of the Region Team title as a freshman. While doing these time-consuming things, Braden has excelled academically through a rigorous course schedule.



Untitled Taryn Moyer

North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics

Concord, NC


Taryn Moyer is currently attending the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics (NCSSM), an application-based, residential high school in Durham, NC for juniors and seniors. She has been attending since August 2014 and it is located two hours from her home. At NCSSM, she serves as a Multicultural Peer Counselor where she, along with a select group of her peers, works to spread cultural awareness and promote diversity on the campus. She is also apart of other culture-oriented groups such as NIA and Hope, which both provide a space for underrepresented minorities to come together and celebrate their backgrounds.

UntitledMichael Nicholson

Merrol Hyde Magnet School

Hendersonville, TN


Starting his freshman year, Michael Nicholson worked with the Sumner County Teen Court program, where he volunteered as a prosecuting and defense attorney in real juvenile cases. In these cases he witnessed the stories of his peers who lacked the opportunities he had been afforded in both the classroom and beyond. Later in the summer of his junior year, he worked in downtown Nashville for a business called Steamatic. In this job he worked in homes and businesses across the state and encountered people from all backgrounds and socioeconomic levels. Inspired by these experiences and driven by a desire to give back, Michael intends to focus his undergraduate research in the field of economics on the effects low parental income has on education and future income potential, in addition to the recurring generational poverty this creates.



Untitled Tanay Patri

McCallie High School

Chattanooga, TN

Business Analytics

Tanay Patri is a senior at McCallie HS in Chattanooga, TN. In his life, Tanay talks about bridging the gap between policy, technology, and society. In order to achieve this goal, he has taken an active role in Model United Nations, in which he has won numerous awards as a delegate and was selected to be one of 15 high school students across the Southeast to staff a conference. As the captain of McCallie’s Public Forum debate team, he has earned numerous Tournament of Champions bids and won various tournaments across the Georgia and Alabama circuits.



Untitled Autumn Ragland

Bolton High School

Lakeland, TN


Autumn Ragland is a dedicated volunteer. In high school she ran for the office of National Honor Society Secretary because a key responsibility was coordinating the community volunteer program. Autumn volunteered locally with Habit for Humanity for four years and internationally with H2O for Life. She created a lasting legacy at her high school by spearheading and raising enough money to build clean water wells for two third-world primary schools in Africa.

Untitled Andrea Ramirez

Cookeville High School

Cookeville, TN


Andrea Ramirez is a well-rounded, independent individual with fresh perspectives. Her cultural background and own personal experiences, good and bad, have molded her into a confident, dedicated, and driven to succeed young lady. Andrea is also very aware of others and always tries to offer her help. Specifically, her passion is working with and helping kids, as reflected through her career goal of becoming a pediatrician.



UntitledKaylie Richard

Dobyns-Bennett High School

Kingsporet, TN

Biomedical Engineering

Kaylie Richard is passionate about delving into the unknown and inspiring others. From tutoring to girl scouts to teaching swim lessons for special needs children, Kaylie helps students overcome their challenges in order to reach their goals. She refuses to live a passive life and embraces every challenge she faces. Identifying a lack of awareness regarding a common female disease called Endometriosis inspired Kaylie to organize a race. The race informs her community about the basic signs and symptoms of the condition with the ultimate goal of decreasing the time between initial symptoms and final diagnosis.




Isabel Risch

Hutchison High School

Collierville, TN


Isabel Risch is fascinated by biology and modern medicine. As the first graduate of Hutchison School’s Science Research Fellows Program, she has spent summers interning with physicians at Columbus Air Force Base, transplant surgeons at UT Methodist, a genomics lab at the University of Memphis, and even a veterinary dentist. She especially loves learning about epigenetics and firmly believes that induced pluripotent stem cells are the coolest things ever. As a proud Memphian, she hopes to one day return to her native city to serve those who have limited access to healthcare.



Untitled Valerie Romanko

Fred J. Page High School

Franklin, TN

Biomedical Engineering

Valerie Romanko has an ambition to create new technologies currently unavailable in patient health care treatments. At the University of Tennessee she plans on fulfilling this goal by majoring in Biomedical Engineering. She participated in Microbiology and Immunology courses at the Vanderbilt Summer Academy and attended the National Student Leadership Conference on Medicine and Healthcare at Harvard Medical School. Her medical experiences influenced her to volunteer with the Young Scholars Institute as an EMS/CPR instructor.



Untitled Ayushi Sinha

Girls Preparatory School

Ooltewah, TN

Ayushi Sinha is an intellectually curious student, responsible friend, and passionate member of the community. She spends her days playing tennis, researching the attachment abilities of zebra mussels (an invasive species of freshwater mussels), coding and 3D-printing new designs, and playing the drum set to Michael Jackson. She enjoys playing tennis and running cross-country with her teammates, watching TED talks, and volunteering with friends. As an advocate for gender equality in the STEM field and an opponent of “food deserts,” Ayushi has organized and participated in free Computer Science classes and nutrition class for elementary and middle school students.


Untitled Chad Smith

Tennessee High School

Bristol, TN

Education, Health, and Human Sciences

Committed, ambitious, and trustworthy. These are the words that best describe Chad Smith. Over the years, he has developed and grown not only as an influential leader in his school and community, but also as a person of integrity and drive. His “go-getter” attitude was exemplified by the leadership and perseverance he showed when organizing Tennessee High School’s Winter Semi-Formal. Despite lack of funding and little support, he was able to successfully organize the first school dance outside of prom in over a decade. His keen dedication is evident in his remarkable involvement with local nonprofits, including Believe in Bristol and Birthplace of Country Music, Inc.

Untitled Christine Smothers

Brentwood High School

Brentwood, TN


When Christine Smothers started high school, she asked herself, “How will I make a difference in my community, my country and this world?” Her curiosity led her to Kierkegaard, who noted that one of the best ways to succeed in life is by helping other people optimize their lives. Her goal today is to someday serve as a healthcare professor, helping others by contributing to the body of healthcare research and training the next generation of scientists. She’s already begun to explore her research and teaching potential. On the research side, in the summer of 2015, she arranged a research internship at a cancer drug discovery lab at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. Research was an exciting experience that she now knows she wants to pursue further.

Untitled Oumar Souleymane Diallo 

Oak Ridge High School

Oak Ridge, TN

Oumar enjoys taking appliances apart in order to gain a better understanding of the various objects we usually take for granted. When not looking for accidently dropped parts and pieces from his various projects, Oumar can be found searching for something new to learn, from video editing to sculpting and modern art to cooking. He is also interested in computer science and the interactions between and uses of various engineering fields such as nuclear energy, mechanical, and biomedical.

Untitled Cole Tipton 

David Crockett High School

Telford, TN

Plant Sciences

Cole Tipton enjoys a variety of activities. His two main passions are for agricultural leadership and music performance. He is the 2015-2016 East Tennessee Regional Treasurer for the National FFA Organization. In that role, he facilitates leadership workshops for members and assists in Tennessee FFA events. Cole was also the drum major for the 2015-2016 Pioneer Marching Band. He taught and conducted the sixty-member ensemble.

UntitledKellie Veltri

Summit High School

Thompson’s Station, TN


Kellie Veltri has logged over 100 hours of community service in high school and has held leadership positions in numerous clubs, including one as a statewide Youth in Government officer. She is a member of the National Honor Society and the National Latin Honor Society, and has been honored as a multiple-time Junior Classical League medalist, a National Merit Commended Scholar, and an AP Scholar with Distinction. Kellie is a determined student who attended Governor’s School for the Humanities and is excited to research developmental psychology in adolescents at UTK.

Untitled Nithya Vemula

White Station High School

Cordova, TN


High school has been a place where Nithya Vemula has discovered her passions and interests. She loves being involved in her school and community. Currently, she is president of her Student Council’s Executive Board and Optimist Volunteering Club, as well as Secretary-General for Model United Nations. She enjoys de-stressing by volunteering at local soup kitchens or the Veteran’s Memorial Hospital to help her community. Outside her academics, her hobbies include indulging in historical fiction novels and crafting.

Untitled Lewis Wang

Oak Ridge High School

Oak Ridge, TN

Economics (Business Administration)

Lewis Wang has been extremely passionate about his extracurricular activities from volunteer work to academic clubs to competitive soccer. These activities have helped to shape the person he is today.  Through his volunteer work serving as the chairman of Oak Ridge’s Youth Advisory, he learned the socioeconomic differences in his local community first hand and is involved in developing projects such as the water awareness program for the disadvantaged youth and managing concessions during the city Halloween party to raise money for Mission of Hope.

Untitled Taylor Washington

Arlington High School

Lakeland, TN

Political Science

A senior at Arlington High School, Taylor Washington has an appreciation for learning, diversity, and volunteering. When she graduates from high school, she will have completed seven Advanced Placement classes. Her favorite subjects are A.P. World History and A.P. Government. Her most valued high school experience occurred the summer of 2014 when she traveled abroad to Eastern Europe with her history teacher and peers. After college, Taylor plans to attend law school and become a lobbyist or congresswoman. Taylor is currently an intern with Bridge Builders in Memphis, Tennessee, a nonprofit organization focused on developing confident and courageous leaders who are committed to transforming their community across racial, ethnic, socio-economic, religious, and gender lines.



Untitled Courtney Wombles

Loudon High School

Loudon, TN

Biological Sciences

Courtney Wombles is a perfectionist, a self-proclaimed “pre-crastinator,” and a proud advocate for the Oxford comma. As her friends and family would grudgingly admit, the majority of Courtney’s sentences begin with “Did you know…” followed by one of the numerous facts she has memorized. The daughter of an English educator, Courtney has been inundated with knowledge, education, and literature for the entirety of her life. As she has grown, so has her love of learning. It is this love that has led to her academic success and honors such as being chosen as a Girls State delegate, a Knoxville Teen Board presentee, and the Loudon County Board of Education student representative.