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Academic prowess, passion for discovery and service earn West Virginia students Bucklew Scholarship

2021 Bucklew Scholars

WVU has announced its 2021 Bucklew Scholars.

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Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, West Virginia University’s Bucklew Scholars continue to maintain high standards for academics, a passion for discovery and a desire to serve their state and others, while eagerly awaiting an opportunity to travel abroad.

The Bucklew Scholarship is given to 20 high-achieving West Virginia students accepted to the University and qualifies them to be considered for the Foundation Scholarship, WVU’s highest academic scholarship.

Resolute in pursuit of their goals, a thirst for knowledge and dedication to their communities, these high school seniors have demonstrated resiliency as disruption hit at a pivotal time in their lives.

Six scholars seek careers in engineering: Dayne Gibson, an engineering major from University High School, Isabella Hart, a mechanical and aerospace engineering major from Hurricane High School, and Zara Zervos, and aerospace engineering major minoring in business from John Marshall High School.

Gibson, who found his passion for innovative product development while attending the West Virginia Governor's STEM Institute and has immersed himself in projects to confront poverty in his community, hopes to help others on a larger scale as an engineer.

As SpaceX honed its reusable rocket technology, Hart strengthened her resolve to become an aerodynamicist, an aspiration she has had since a third-grade school trip to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

The only student in the state to be chosen as a nominee for the U.S. Presidential Scholar in Career and Technical Education, Zervos dreams of leading the way in space travel and exploration with her cutting-edge designs.

After an illness left a family member with severe movement problems, Daniel McDonald, a mechanical engineering major minoring in biomedical engineering from Morgantown High School, is determined to develop assistive technology for the mobility-impaired. 

Diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, Aidan Palmer, a biomedical engineering major minoring in Spanish from University High School, hopes to use his keen interest in machine learning and 3D modeling to ultimately create a self-contained artificial pancreas.

State tennis champion Emma Whittaker from Winfield High School, also a biomedical engineering major, plans to use her degree in biomedical engineering as a path to a customized auditory prosthesis and artificial bone research and development.

A proud member of the Harrison County 4-H Shotgun Team who bought her first share of stock at age 10, Fiona Smith, a finance major minoring in environmental economics from Notre Dame High School, will pursue a career that will enable her to advocate for and educate others on socially responsible and gender lens investing. 

A published poet and glider pilot who has a passion for storytelling, Elizabeth Warner, an international studies major minoring in creative writing from University High Schoolplans to attend law school and ultimately enjoy a fulfilling career in international human rights advocacy.

Twelve scholars will begin their journey in medicine at WVU.

Samantha Antol, an immunology and medical microbiology major minoring in ceramics from Weir High School and whose long-time interest in vaccine development and virology was fueled by the pandemic, looks forward to a career as an immunologist.

And with a newfound interest in viruses, Madalena Daugherty, a biochemistry major from Madonna High School who earned a varsity letter in soccer and volleyball, is ready to “heed the call for action to contribute to the global fight against deadly diseases.”

Biochemistry majors, Zachary Ellis, a family farmer from Greenbrier East High School will use his agricultural background to pursue a career as a physician-scientist, focused on research in nutritional biochemistry and its role in human health, and Emily Escue, a competitive dancer from South Charleston High School, hopes to transform primary health care for women and other underrepresented patients as an obstetrician-gynecologist.

Laasya Chennuru, a biochemistry major minoring in Spanish and medical humanities and health studies, from Martinsburg High School, and Kaitlyn Keith, a chemistry major from Charleston Catholic High School, are beginning their journey to become pediatricians.

Chennuru, who seeks a career that will bridge her scientific curiosity, humanitarianism and interest in working with children, believes “a doctor-patient relationship accentuated by compassion and a commitment to improving welfare lies at the heart of medicine.”

Also managing pediatric diabetes, Keith is familiar with the distance and travel time to seek quality healthcare and seeks to expand healthcare available to children in rural areas of West Virginia to reduce the burden of care for patients and their families.

Aspiring neurologists, Lilah Coe, a biology major from Herbert Hoover High School, was inspired to pursue a medical career as she watched her younger brother suffer from a congenital brain disorder and her running coach from Parkinson’s disease. And Elijah Wright, a music and health major and four-year member of the All-State Orchestra from Wheeling Park High School, has been “infatuated with understanding the brain and nervous system diseases” since he was diagnosed with epilepsy in middle school.

Isaac McCarthy from Musselman High School, who plays more than a dozen instruments and believes his degree in music and health will bridge his passions, aims to follow in his father’s footsteps both as a WVU Foundation Scholar and physician.

Awarded the Congressional Award Gold Medal and completing more than 1700 service hours, Lauren Sexton, a home school student from Williamstown, is a Biology major minoring in violin performance and psychology and is eager to begin her career as an ophthalmologist.

Inspired while shadowing her uncle, an interventional cardiologist, Annabel Goddard, an exercise physiology major from Bridgeport High School, plans to pursue her own career as cardiologist “to help West Virginia’s aging population live longer and happier lives.”

Rounding out the scholars bound for medical school are Lauren Keplinger, a chemistry major minoring in biology from Braxton County High School, who aspires to become a cardiothoracic surgeon to join the fight against the leading cause of death and disability in her home state —heart disease.

The Neil S. Bucklew Scholarship is named after WVU’s 20th president and is valued at $40,000, providing its recipients with $10,000 per year over four years to be used toward educational costs. All Bucklew Scholars have qualified for the Honors College at WVU, and the scholarship may be used in addition to the state’s PROMISE Scholarship.

The scholarships are part of the University’s comprehensive awards program and are supported, in part, by the WVU Foundation, the private non-profit corporation that generates, receives and administers private gifts for the benefit of WVU. 



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