Penn announces nine 2024 Thouron Scholars

Six fourth-year students and three recent graduates will use the award to pursue graduate studies in the United Kingdom.

nine people pictured in a grid
Nine Penn fourth-years and alumni have been chosen as 2024 Thouron Scholars: (left to right, from top): Maya Brawer-Cohen, Sonali Deliwala, Sheil Desai, Lynn Larabi, Crystal Marshall, Ellie McKeown, George Morcos, Emma  Søndergaard Jensen, Joshua Yang. (Images: Courtesy of the Penn Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships.)

Nine University of Pennsylvania affiliates—six fourth years and three recent graduates—have each received a 2024 Thouron Award to pursue graduate studies in the United Kingdom. Each Thouron Scholar receives tuition for up to two years, as well as travel and living stipends.

Penn’s 2024 Thouron Scholars are fourth-years Maya Brawer-Cohen, Lynn Larabi, Crystal Marshall, Ellie McKeown, George Morcos, and Emma Søndergaard Jensen and 2023 graduates Sheil Desai and Joshua Yang; and 2022 graduate Sonali Deliwala.

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 nations.

Maya Brawer-Cohen, from Los Angeles, is majoring in neuroscience with minors in healthcare management and chemistry in the College of Arts and Sciences. With an interest in health policy, her research under Dominique Duncan at the University of Southern California has focused on Post-Traumatic Eileptogenesis and neurological symptoms of Post-Acute COVID-19 Syndrome. At Penn, Brawer-Cohen is vice president of the Penn Neuroscience Society, a committee member of the Wharton Undergraduate Healthcare Club, and a shift captain for the Kite and Key Society. Last summer she worked as a clinical research intern at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, investigating the diagnosis and treatment for several spinal conditions. Her goal is to address global health challenges through both clinical care and policy reform. As a Thouron Scholar, Brawer-Cohen plans to pursue a master’s degree in global health management at a university in London to study the healthcare landscape and to advocate for vulnerable populations.

Sonali Deliwala, from Yardley, Pennsylvania, graduated from the College with a political science and economics double major and a minor in creative writing. Since September, she has been a research associate at the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) in Chennai, India. As a 2022-2023 Fulbright-Nehru Research Scholar, she studied the economic development of nomadic tribes in central Gujarat in India. While at Penn, Deliwala was a youth leader for the grassroots organization #VoteThatJawn created by English faculty Lorene Cary. Deliwala founded the student advocacy group SEAS Wellness. In 2021, she was a Research and Service Fellow for Penn’s Program on Public Opinion Research & Election Studies and a Robert A. Fox Leadership Fellow at the Brookings Institution. She was also an intern for the Council on Foreign Relations. In 2019, she was awarded the Terry B. Heled Travel & Research Grant to pursue an ethnographic study of Indigenous communities in rural Gujarat, as well as the 2020-2021 U.S. Department of Education’s Foreign Language Area Studies Fellowship in Hindi and South Asian Studies. As a Thouron Scholar, Deliwala plans to pursue a master’s degree in economic policy for international development at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Sheil Desai, from Voorhees, New Jersey, graduated from the College with a philosophy, and economics (PPE) major, with minors in chemistry and environmental studies. He is a clinical research coordinator at the Perelman School of Medicine, studying long-term health outcomes in lung transplant recipients. At Penn, Desai co-founded a chapter of C-4, a student group advocating for environmental justice in Chester, Pennsylvania. As a STEER Fellow, Desai worked with Blanca Himes and Penn’s Center of Excellence in Environmental Toxicology to study air pollution at the former Philadelphia Energy Solutions oil refinery. Desai interned for U.S. Sen. Cory Booker contributing to environmental health legislation, including a bill regulating chemical pesticides that affect migrant farmworker health. Desai was a Penn Program for Public Service Intern with the Netter Center for Community Partnerships. He received the Goldstone Prize for best PPE senior thesis, and a Hassenfeld Foundation Social Impact Grant. He was involved with the healthcare fraternity Alpha Iota Gamma, the 34th Street Magazine, and the United Minorities Council. As a Thouron Scholar, Desai plans to pursue a master’s degree in planetary health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine with a goal of going to medical school. 

Lynn Larabi, from Philadelphia, is majoring in political science with a concentration in international relations with a minor in anthropology in the College. Last year, she was an intern in the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and a public affairs intern with the United Nations Foundation. She also was a fellow for U.S. Rep. Gabe Amo of Rhode Island. At Penn, Larabi has supported the Penn Libraries Community and Engagement Center in creating a colloquial English language course for adult learners. As president of the College’s First Generation/Low-Income Dean’s Advisory Board, Larabi led efforts to expand outreach during the transition from virtual to in-person learning. For two years, she was a student fellow with Penn’s Office of Social Equity and Community. Larabi is a Philadelphia Mayor’s Scholar, a Robeson Cooper Scholar, and a SNF Paideia Fellow. She is vice president of the Onyx Senior Honor Society, president and founder of the Menagerie student band, and founder of a free community pantry in partnership with The Rotunda. She sings with The Inspiration A Capella and Fuerza student groups. As a Thouron Scholar, Larabi plans to pursue a master’s degree in policy evaluation and social intervention, or education policy and international development. 

Crystal Marshall, from Miami Gardens, Florida, is majoring in communications with a minor in cinema and media studies in the College. Identifying as a first-generation, limited-income student, Marshall is a work-study student at the Penn First Plus resource center. With an interest in advancing the representation of and opportunities for Black artists, she is co-president of the Monolith Arts Collective, which hosts campus events highlighting the work of Black artists in the West Philadelphia community. She also is co-director of the student-led, international Bifocal Film Festival at Penn. She is a Robeson Cooper Scholar, a member of Kinoki Senior Society and a Mellon Fellow at the Collective for Advancing Multimodal Research Arts (CAMRA). She received the Netter Center’s Civic and Community Engagement Award in 2022 for her mentorship of Black middle and high school students through the Ase Academy student group. Her previous research has centered on diversifying and globalizing introductory film education and preserving images of Black joy in film and television. As a Thouron Scholar, Marshall plans to pursue a master’s degree in film programming and curating at the University of London, Birbeck, to advance her studies of Black film archival histories, film pedagogy, and film festival curation. 

Ellie McKeown, from Philadelphia, is a triple-major: in gender, sexuality, and women’s studies with a concentration in health and disability; in biology; and in English in the College. McKeown, who identifies as an autistic self-advocate, is interested in studying autism in a sociological context, focusing on broadening autism research to better reflect the community it represents. They are currently working as an autism research assistant in the Edward Brodkin Lab at the Perelman School of Medicine, and as an archival assistant in the Rare Book Collection at the Free Library of Philadelphia. McKeown is one of the founders and co-leaders of Advocates for Neurodiversity and a member of NeuroQueer at Penn, two new student groups. A Philadelphia Mayor’s Scholar, McKeown has received several research grants, including from the Penn Undergraduate Research Mentoring Program, College Houses and Academic Services Undergraduate Research Program, and the Penn Student Neurodiversity Advocacy Initiative. They also have been a consultant and organized autism and disability advocacy workshops for Penn, Temple University, and Drexel University. McKeown is also a board member of Stimulus Children’s Theater. As a Thouron scholar, McKeown plans to pursue a master’s degree in social research at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. 

George Morcos, from Rochester, New York, is majoring in biology with a concentration in molecular and cell biology, with minors in classical studies and nutrition in the College. As a University Scholar through the Center for Undergraduate Research & Fellowships, Morcos conducts research in the Koumenis Lab in Penn Medicine’s Department of Radiation Oncology. He is also a writing fellow at the Marks Family Center for Excellence in Writing and an advising fellow in the student club Matriculate, which provides mentorship to high school students. He is an undergraduate coordinator at the Heart Health Bridge to Care, an extension of the United Community Clinic of West Philadelphia focused primarily on management of hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease. Morcos is an American Association of Cancer Research Undergraduate Scholar and has presented his work at national conferences. As a Thouron Scholar, Morcos plans to pursue a master’s degree in pathology, conducting basic and translational research on therapeutic toxicities in cancer, at the University of Cambridge in England.

Emma Søndergaard Jensen, from Newton, Massachusetts, is a philosophy major in the College whose studies focus on the philosophy of disability. She is the author of the book “How to Excel in Undergraduate Philosophy, published in December 2022. Søndergaard Jensen also hosts a podcast series that aims to make philosophy accessible to a wide audience. In addition, she has taught philosophy as a learning assistant for bioethics in the Department of Philosophy. She is a writing fellow at Penn’s Marks Family Center for Excellence in Writing, where she helped lead an initiative to formalize the center’s commitment as an accessible learning environment. A member of several student groups, Søndergaard Jensen was president and artistic director of the Penn Ballet Company, on the executive committee of the Collegium Institute’s Undergraduate Fellowship, and vice president of membership in the Sigma Kappa sorority. As a Thouron Scholar, she plans to pursue a master’s degree in philosophy and aims to contribute to a comprehensive theory of knowledge that incorporates an adequate Deaf epistemology.

Joshua Yang, from Northbrook, Illinois, graduated from the Huntsman Program in International Studies & Business, a dual-degree program in the School of Arts & Sciences and the Wharton School. He is interested in international relations and public policy with a focus on United States-East Asia relations and global economic development. At Penn, Yang was a Perry World House Student Fellow, and his senior thesis explored the U.S.-Republic of Korea relationship and its impact on South Korea’s economic growth. In 2022, he conducted sustainability research in South Korea through Penn Abroad’s Global Research Internship Program. As a 2021 recipient of the U.S. State Department Critical Language Scholarship, he studied Mandarin Chinese at Taiwan’s National Cheng Kung University. Yang also worked in national parks as an AmeriCorps volunteer, promoted voter registration as a Public Citizen organizer, and was a senior consultant for NGOs with the student-led Penn International Impact Consulting. He was a board member of the Penn Korean Student Association, and a Collegium Student Fellow. As a Thouron Scholar, Yang plans to pursue a master’s degree in public policy and economic development to inform a career in public service.

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.