UM System President Mun Choi challenges more than 100 young scientists, STARS graduates at UMSL

UM System President Mun Choi was the challenge speaker for the 2017 STARS Program Confirmation Ceremony that happened July 21 at the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center on campus. (Photos by Marisol Ramirez)

UM System President Mun Choi was the challenge speaker for the 2017 STARS Program Confirmation Ceremony July 21 at the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center on campus. (Photos by Marisol Ramirez)

University of Missouri System President Mun Choi visited St. Louis on Friday for a celebration of gifted young minds as 96 high school students and six undergraduate research associates graduated from the 2017 Students and Teachers as Research Scientists summer program at the University of Missouri–St. Louis.

Choi was the featured speaker for the confirmation ceremony on campus. His address pointed to past generational feats – sending a man to the moon, creating the artificial heart, launching the World Wide Web – and challenged the graduates to be as curious, creative, ambitious and civic-minded as their parents and grandparents had been before them.

“Your generation will need to not only match, but dramatically extend the contributions from those who came before you,” said Choi, who cited sustainable energy, climate change and affordable health care as some of the immediate issues facing their generation. “We need your talents, creativity and innovation to help address these and other major problems that confront us. We’re counting on you. Are you ready?”

The event included a ceremonial robing of the graduating science researchers and handshakes from STARS Program Director Ken Mares, Co-director Chuck Granger and UM System President Mun Choi.

Thanks to the STARS program, they may be one step closer to pursuing careers of such discovery and importance after six weeks of intensive, collegiate science research.

STARS pairs academically talented high school rising seniors and new undergraduate students with more than 60 local scientists in the fields of biology, chemistry, computer science, earth science, engineering, environmental science, mathematics, medicine, physics and psychology.

The mentors are top researchers from Confluence Discovery Technologies, the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, Saint Louis University, Washington University in St. Louis and the host institution, UMSL.

“UMSL is happy to offer STARS students, who are some of the best and brightest, exceptional, collegiate research opportunities,” said UMSL Chancellor Tom George. “Hopefully the experience inspires them to become top scientists themselves and help make the world a better place.”

At the ceremony, George announced a scholarship covering tuition and offering $750 for books and research opportunities for any STARS student wishing to enroll at UMSL in fall 2018.

STARS is sponsored by the Office of the Chancellor at UMSL, SLU, WUSTL, St. Louis Symphony, Monsanto, Missouri Botanical Garden, Academy of Science of St. Louis, Easter Seal Midwest, St. Louis Children’s Hospital, Saint Louis Zoo, St. Louis Symphony, University of Missouri–Kansas City, John Burroughs School and Boeing Co.

The graduates of the 2017 STARS program are:

Al-Salam College Preparatory High School: Hania Safitri Nuraini
Anatolia College: Eleni Karyofylli, Elli Stogiannou
Carbondale Community High School: Zeyad Khaled Moustafa
Chaminade College Preparatory School: Michael Kovac Onder
Clayton High School: Sophie Levi Bernstein, Daniel Hwisang Cho, Erin Michelle Kotzbauer, Nikki Seraji, Tong Zhao
Crossroads College Preparatory School: Brendan Alec King
Eureka High School: Ashwin Reddy Garlapaty
Francis Howell High School: Laurie Anne Lee, Ryan Robert Russell
Fort Zumwalt South High School: Unsun Lee
Fort Zumwalt West High School: Shree Govani, Zachary Christian Hoffmann
Jefferson City High School: Rakesh Natarajan
John Burroughs School: Samantha Morgan Hermann, Benjamin Reid Langton, Shirsha Majumdar, Stephanie Mary Podgorny
Kirkwood High School: Annie Grace Bryan
Ladue Horton Watkins High School: Justin Jun Lam, Sophia Li, Leda M. Liang, Annie Jessica Liu, Sanya Vatwani
Lafayette High School: Tricia Alexis Denn, Joseph Shen Lu, Shruti Natarajan, Prathishtha Govind Pitchyaiah, Rithik Reddy, Nina Ruan, Shruthi Narayanan Sangameswaran, Atul Srinivasan, Sanath Venkatesh Srinivasan, Nicole Elizabeth Tang
Lindbergh High School: Iva Cepele, Leanne Mercedes Dang
Marquette High School: William Kaiyuan An, Siddharth Balaji, Neha Bharadwaj, Michelle Li, Michael Suhao Wu, Jerry Zhang
McCluer North High School: Michael Stephen Cambron
Metro Academic and Classical High School: Emily Anne Bischoff
Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day School: Atri Bhattacharyya, Richik Chakraborty, Isabella Victoria Critchfield-Jain, Alexander William Donovan, Amanda Jordan Kalishman, Christine Nicole Moser, Sophie Delphine Paul, Sruthi Sripada
Missouri Academy of Science, Mathematics and Computing: Yoona Kim
Mount Vernon Township High School: Trisha Priya Nair
Oakville High School: Preethi Tumati
Parkway Central High School: Krishny Karunanandaa, Anusha Manjunath, Michael Zhou
Parkway North High School: Sarah Kiran Butterfield, Saayli Nilesh Khambekar, Sohana Sridhar Pai, Deepa Shukla
Parkway South High School: William Chen, Avirath Ananth Dodabele, Nikita Kohli, Enoch Jasper Li, Saikushal Kumar Marri, Sudheesha Paladugu
Parkway West High School: Salomi Nimshi Inje, Abdullah Kuziez
Pleasant Valley High School: Ramya Kumar
Rockwood Summit High School: Katherine Nicole Steinmeyer
San Mateo High School: Jaclyn Hui Liu
St. Joseph’s Academy: Jamie Alexandria Conners
Saint Louis Priory School: Elias George Chahoud, Adrian Noel Federko, Sohan Arun Kancherla, Akshay Mehta, Brett Phelan, Edward Michael Quan, Arron Zheng
St. Louis University High School: Thomas Munsell
Thomas Jefferson School: Nathan Tu Phan, Bennett Wallace Woodard
Timberland High School: Olivia Terese Crowell
University City High School: Della Renee Cox
Visitation Academy of St. Louis: Tiana Yunxiao Stussie
Westminster Christian Academy: Blake Charles Andrews, Markus William Cicka, Jr., Ynseo (Amie) Lee, Daniel Kaiping Wang, Preston McGuire Willis
Whitfield School: Andrew Joseph Bergantz, Kennedi Ginger
Yeshivat Kadimah High School: Jacob Joseph (JJ) Adler

The research associates of the 2017 STARS program are:

Purdue University: Kyle Westendorf
University of Missouri–Columbia: Julia Gauthier
University of Pennsylvania: Olivia Wedig
Washington University in St. Louis: Daniel Berkovich, Hadi Elmesky, Samantha Sansone

For more information about the STARS program contact Ken Mares at 314-516-6155 or


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