Meet the 2017 Holster Scholars

Introducing the 2017 Holster Scholars

The Holster Scholars First Year Project is a highly selective enrichment opportunity for curious first-year Honors students that supports a small number of motivated students interested in independent research the summer following their first year. Holster projects are in-depth, individualized learning experiences.  Beyond some basic requirements, projects are self-designed.  The Holster Scholars Program is made possible by a generous gift from Robert (’68) and Carlotta (’68) Holster.


  Van Augur, from Northford, Connecticut is a political science major interested in pursuing a policy-making career. Van’s interest in campaign finance emerged after taking a course on congressional elections in the fall, during which he wrote an extensive case study analyzing the role of outside spending in an Arizona House race. Outside of the classroom, Van serves as a mentor and coach of the robotics team he helped start in high school, and practices kempo karate and Brazilian jujitsu. Van graduated summa cum laude from Xavier High School in Middletown, Connecticut, where he had severed as President of numerous honor societies.  He was recognized as a Southern Connecticut Conference Scholar Leader, and was awarded the Brother Celestine Medal of Academic Achievement.


Project:  Relationships Between Individual Donor Demographics and SuperPAC Contribution Behavior


Mentor:  Prof. Paul Herrnson, Dept. of Political Science

  Ariane Garrett, from Poughkeepsie, NY, is a STEM Scholar majoring in Biomedical engineering and Spanish. She is passionate about creating innovative technologies and aspires to make a positive impact on people’s lives through engineering. Ariane is an active member of Engineers without Borders and their executive board, and is excited to travel to India this summer and implement a rainwater harvesting system. She is also a member of Honors Across State Borders and participated in an alternative break to Atlanta this spring. In high school, Ariane was captain of the cross country team and continues to enjoy running in her free time.


Project:  A Stationary Camera for Use with Other Implantable Medical Devices


Mentor:  Prof. Kazunori Hoshino, Dept. of Biomedical Engineering

  Madeleine Gastonguay, from Simsbury, CT, is a mathematics/statistics major with minors in bioinformatics and French. In high school she participated in musicals, choir, and a cappella, and has continued her love of music into college as a member of one of UConn’s all female a cappella groups, Rubyfruit. She is also an accomplished ballerina, and has been certified in the Cecchetti syllabus grades 2-7. Madeleine gained research experience in high school as an intern for Metrum Research Group while working in conjunction with Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. The projects she worked on inspired her interests in the field of personalized medicine as well as computational and systems biology.


Project:  The Effect of Host Genetic Variability on Epstein Barr Virus-Derived Cancer Susceptibility


Mentor:  Prof. Rachel O’Neill, Dept. of Molecular & Cell Biology

  Andrew Levin, from Yorktown Heights, NY, is a STEM Scholar majoring in materials science and engineering and minoring in mathematics. In high school, he participated in a three-year research program where he worked alongside an engineer at the IBM T.J. Watson Research Center. Through this project, he competed in various regional science fairs and was named a national Intel STS Semifinalist. He was also a member of Science Olympiad and the Boys Varsity Swim Team. Currently, he is working in Professor Bryan Huey’s laboratory and learning how to use Atomic Force Microscopy for solar cell analysis. In addition, he loves the outdoors and is a member of the UConn Outing Club and Ski & Snowboard Club.


Project:  Finding Optimal CdTe Thin-Film Solar Cell Structure Using Conductive Tomographic Atomic Force Microscopy


Mentor:  Prof. Bryan Huey, Dept. of Materials Science & Engineering

  Xinyu Lin, from Mansfield, CT, is a civil engineering major with a minor in mathematics and environmental engineering. She can be found eating endless amounts of cereal in the dining hall, falling off holds at the rock climbing gym, or jamming out to her music on the way to class. During high school, Xinyu was captain of her swim team, president of various honor societies, and an accomplished cellist. At UConn, she is an a dedicated member of the SOS Food Recovery Program and Outing Club, serves as build coordinator for the Habitat for Humanity campus chapter, and works at the Adventure Center. Xinyu’s passions for the environment, buildings, and service drive her long-term hopes in working to create low-cost, sustainable structures for disadvantaged areas.


Project:  Energy Harvesting from Structural Vibrations Using Piezoelectric Materials


Mentor:  Prof. Ramesh Malla, Dept. of Civil & Environmental Engineering


Kanika Malani, from Glastonbury, CT, is a STEM Scholar and a double major in Molecular and Cell Biology and Anthropology in the Special Program in Medicine. She graduated from Glastonbury High School where she was involved in Model UN, Math Team, and was a member of her school’s varsity swim team. She was also involved in research at UConn Health Center and presented work at various science fairs in which she received a Connecticut Science Fair award for biological research and a Junior Sciences and Humanities Symposium Poster Award. On campus, Kanika is involved in various education related clubs, including ASHA for Education and Kids and UConn Bridging Education.


Project:  Investigating Changes in Mitophagy as a Consequence of Aging


Mentor:  Prof. Kenneth Campellone, Dept. of Molecular & Cell Biology

  Susan Naseri, from Wolcott, CT, is a political science and human rights double major and a member of the Special Program in Law. With a passion for humanities and legal education, Susan has served as a Bennett Research Assistant for Professor David Richards, for whom she documents cases of violence against women and girls in several different countries. She serves as the Event Supervisor for the Middle Eastern Student Association, participates in Model United Nations, volunteers with Honors Initiative for Prospective Students, and serves as Student Representative at Honors faculty meetings. The former president of her HS student government, Susan was recently selected to represent UConn at the NEW Leadership Program at Saint Anselm College, for women interested in politics and public policy.


Project:  Respecting Refugees:  Evaluation of Integration Practices by Connecticut Service Providers


Mentor:  Prof. Jennifer Sterling-Folker, Dept. of Political Science

  Mason Witko, from New City, NY, is a chemistry major who has a passion for science. During high school, he served as the vice-president of the New City Library Youth board, for which he helped to organize fun and free events for his local community. He also volunteered at the Hi Tor Animal Care center, where he assisted with the care of sheltered animals. He is currently a member of the Alpha Lambda Delta honor society, and is a research assistant in Prof. Nicholas Leadbeater’s lab, which hosts a variety of research projects that fall under the umbrella of environmentally-friendly organic chemistry.


Project:  Converting Plastics to Value-Added Chemicals  through the Application of Microwave Heating and Catalysts


Mentor:  Prof. Nicholas Leadbeater, Dept. of Chemistry



Congratulations to the eight outstanding students who comprise the 7th Class of Holster Scholars!


To learn more about the Holster Scholars Program, contact


Vincent G. Moscardelli, PhD

Director, Office of National Scholarships and Fellowships

Coordinator, Holster Scholars Program