Penn announces nine 2022 Thouron Scholars

nine portraits
Five University of Pennsylvania seniors and four alumni have received a 2022 Thouron Award to pursue graduate studies in the United Kingdom. Left to right from the top: senior Ayina Anyachebelu, 2020 graduate Michael John, senior Anjali Mahajan, 2020 graduate Sabine Nix, senior Robert Novak, 2021 graduate Trevor Núñez, senior Andrew Orner, senior Lawrence Phillips, and 2019 graduate Mark Rinder. 

Five University of Pennsylvania seniors and four recent alumni have each received a 2022 Thouron Award to pursue graduate studies in the United Kingdom.

Each scholarship recipient receives tuition for as long as two years, as well as travel and living stipends, to earn a graduate degree there.

Established in 1960 and supported with gifts by the late John Thouron and his wife, Esther du Pont Thouron, the Thouron Award is a graduate exchange program between Penn and U.K. universities that aims to improve understanding and relations between the two countries.

Penn’s nine 2022 Thouron Scholars are:

Ayina Anyachebelu, from Lagos, Nigeria, is a senior in the Huntsman Program in International Studies and Business, in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Wharton School, majoring in business strategy and international studies. As a researcher for the City Climate Resilient Infrastructure Financing Initiative through the Penn Institute for Urban Research (IUR), she helped develop financing strategy recommendations for the new transportation system in Freetown, Sierra Leone. She has been an advocate for clean energy equity, working with Penn Sustainability and the Netter Center for Community Partnerships to finance solar installations at Philadelphia schools with integrated energy education programs. Also, she was the chair of the Wharton Undergraduate Research Board, a founding member of the Black Huntsman advocacy group, and served in Penn Student Government for four years. She was a Perry World House Student Fellow, a Penn IUR Fellow in Urban Leadership, and a Kleinman Energy Fellow. Anyachebelu plans to pursue a master’s degree in geospatial sciences at University College London.

Michael John, from Boston, graduated in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in Africana studies with a minor in political science from the College of Arts and Sciences. He has been working as a strategy consultant at the nonprofit Bridgespan Group, supporting non-profits, investors and philanthropists to accelerate social change. At Penn John was a University Council undergraduate appointee to the Social Responsibility Advisory Committee and the Committee on Diversity and Equity. He was a WISE fellow at the Wharton Social Impact Initiative and conducted research in the Department of Political Science. An undergraduate fellow at the Andrea Mitchell Center for the Study of Democracy, Wolf Humanities Center, and The Center for the Study of Ethnicity, Race and Immigration, John used his academic research to deconstruct legacies of racial exploitation in former colonial territories, examining their relevance for contemporary democracies. John plans to pursue a master’s degree in post-colonial studies and international history.

Anjali Mahajan, of Jackson, Tennessee, is a senior majoring in political science, with minors in French and chemistry in the College of Arts and Sciences. She is interested in social policy, medicine, and political reform. She focuses on health and social justice through her research on Philadelphia’s low-barrier substance-use treatment centers and sexual-wellness programs, her engagement with organizations fighting for community-centered justice through harm reduction, and her honors thesis on the political barriers to decriminalizing sex work. Mahajan was awarded a 2020 United Nations Academic Impact Millennium Fellowship for her work creating a Penn student advocacy group supporting the UNAIDS Initiative to end HIV/AIDS as a public health threat. She was a 2020-21 Amgen Scholar at the National Institutes of Health, where she worked on projects related to disparities in tobacco-related research and vaccine hesitancy. Mahajan plans to pursue a master’s degree in comparative social policy to study the political economy of harm reduction.

Sabine Nix, from South Salem, New York, graduated in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in earth science from the College of Arts and Sciences. She is interested in using remote sensing and geospatial technology to study environmental change as it relates to human well being. Nix currently is working as an analyst at Spark Climate Solutions. Previously she worked as an Adirondack conservation associate at The Nature Conservancy and as an analytics fellow at the nonprofit Project Regeneration, and a book on climate solutions. She also completed three terms with the NASA DEVELOP National Program, where she used satellite remote sensing to study drought impacts in Kenya, the urban heat island effect in Huntsville, Alabama, and flood vulnerability in West Virginia. While at Penn she was a University Scholar and a member of Epsilon Eta, and worked as a teaching assistant and tutor in biology. She completed two independent research projects studying land use and land-cover change along the Interoceanic Highway in Peru and urban tree cover change in Philadelphia parkland. Nix plans to pursue a master’s degree in geography or the environment.

Robert Novak, from Chatham, New Jersey, is a senior a majoring in biochemistry, biophysics, and physics and is submatriculating for a master’s degree in chemistry, as part of the Roy and Diana Vagelos Scholars Program in the Molecular Life Sciences in the School of Arts & Sciences. He is a member of the Eisenlohr Laboratory at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute where he studies endogenous Major Histocompatibility Complex Class II antigen processing and presentation as well as monoclonal antibody development. Novak has been the chief trip leader of the Penn Outdoors club for two years and is the current vice president of the Penn Bucket club. His academic distinctions at Penn include the Vagelos Challenge Award and Phi Beta Kappa. Novak plans to pursue a master’s in physics at the University of Cambridge.

Trevor Núñez, of Brooklyn, New York, graduated in 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in political science with a concentration in American politics from the College of Arts and Sciences. He has conducted research on protest and social change under Daniel Gillion, the Platt Presidential Professor of Political Science. He was an intern with the U.S. Congress through the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation and was a 2021 Advantage Testing Foundation TRIALS Scholar. Interested in understanding conflict and restorative justice, Núñez studied African political thought at the University of Cape Town in South Africa and was an Encompass Fellow through Penn Hillel, visiting Israel and the Palestinian territories. Identifying as a first-generation, low-income student, he has been a volunteer for the past four years with Prep for Prep, teaching leadership and current events. A lifelong dancer, he was a member of the Penn student Latin dance troupe Onda Latina. Núñez plans to study human migration with a focus on social integration.

Andrew Orner, from Darien, Connecticut, is a senior double majoring in economics and in political science with a concentration in international relations, with a minor in Hispanic studies, in the College of Arts and Sciences. He is a Perry World House Undergraduate Fellow and a Benjamin Franklin Scholar and has worked as an intern project leader at the Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program at the Lauder Institute. In summer 2021 Orner interned at the National Defense University’s Institute for National Strategic Studies and completed the Hertog Foundation War Studies Program Fellowship. In addition, he is a four-year member of Penn’s men's varsity lightweight rowing team. Orner plans pursue a master’s degree in war studies at King’s College London.

Lawrence Phillips, of Harrison, New York, is a senior majoring in physics and philosophy in the College of Arts and Sciences. He is a member of Penn's varsity lightweight rowing team. A Benjamin Franklin Scholar, he conducts computational astrophysics research under Associate Professor James Aguirre. Phillips is the founder and director of the Penn Physics Outreach Program, a Netter Center student organization to facilitate after-school physics experiments in West Philadelphia high schools. He was project chair for the Student Committee on Undergraduate Education in Student Government and housing manager for the Kappa Sigma fraternity chapter. Phillips plans to pursue a master’s degree in the philosophy of physics.

Mark Rinder, of Morganville, New Jersey, graduated in 2019 from the Huntsman Program in International Studies and Business in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Wharton School, with concentrations in statistics and business economics and public policy and a minor in Latin American and Latino studies. He currently works at Deloitte Consulting where he supports the international development organizations and technology strategy practices. While at Penn, Rinder was president of 180 Degrees Consulting, leading pro bono projects for social enterprises and nonprofits. After graduating, he was a Fulbright Binational Business Program grantee in Mexico, conducting research on innovation and entrepreneurship in Latin America at Endeavor, a nonprofit promoting high-impact startup networks. Rinder plans to pursue a master’s degree in development studies at The London School of Economics.

The Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships serves as Penn’s primary information hub and support office for students and alumni applying for major grants and fellowships, including the Thouron Award.