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2024 MGI Awards Ceremony honors outstanding students

By Debbie Walton

Sixty-three exceptional students from MSU’s Department of Microbiology, Genetics, & Immunology were honored at a departmental awards ceremony held on April 16 at the Interdisciplinary Science and Technology Building. More than 100 faculty, students, donors and parents joined to celebrate this year’s recipients.

"This joyful celebration enables us to honor the people for whom our awards are named, who have had such a lasting impact on our department, and to recognize the excellence of our trainees who receive them,” said Victor DiRita, MGI chair. “For that we are ever grateful to our donors, as it is through their vision and generosity that we can so nicely connect our past with our future."

MGI has twenty individual endowments which fund both undergraduate and graduate awards. As a result of the donors’ exceptional generosity, the department was able to award just over $80,000 to this year’s recipients.  

The criteria for the awards are delineated in each specific endowment document.

“We have descriptions of each endowment and what the donor wanted us to look for in the students,” said Amber Bedore, graduate program coordinator for MGI. “It could be based broadly on their research excellence or on their professional development or academic achievements.”

For the graduate awards, nominations are solicited in the fall from the department’s faculty and include a letter of support as well as the student’s CV. The graduate committee reads through all the nominations and makes the final selections.

Undergraduate award nominations are requested directly from the students.

“At the beginning of the year, I solicit applications. I send an email out to every one of the undergraduate majors, and they send in a letter and also get a letter of support from a faculty member or their research mentor, “said Scott Mulrooney, director of undergraduate studies for MGI. “Then I access their academic records and the members of the undergraduate committee select from that.”

“As an international graduate student who faced financial challenges when first moved to the U.S., the Richardson Scholarship Award is not only a tremendous financial help but also an encouragement for me and my family to continue studying immunology and microbiology with the objective of deciphering the complexities of the human immune system in the context of infectious diseases, “ said Maria Soledad Soverina Escobar, this year’s recipient of the Marvis A. Richardson Scholarship Award in a thank you letter to the donors, “This award truly helps me achieve my career aspirations without the burden of financial worries.

“Your generosity has not only eased the financial burden but has also inspired in me a sense of responsibility and gratitude. I am committed to making the most of this opportunity and honoring your investment in my future. I pledge to work diligently and contribute positively to the field of immunology in the hope that my research will improve long-term global health outcomes.”

To see photos from the ceremony, visit: https://photos.app.goo.gl/yW3j5oXiU5ocMk5G7

For more information about the specific awards, please visit the MGI website.

Here is the full list of this year’s recipients:

Graduate Awards

Berttina Wentworth Award

Jared Godfrey

Jasper Gomez

Hazel McGuffin

Han Wen


Ralph Evans Award

Kaylee Wilburn


Rudolph Hugh Award

Adam Kibiloski

Thomas Kim

Hunter North


Edith Hsiung & Margaret Everett Kimball Award

Beth Ottosen


C.A. & Sasikala Reddy Endowed Award

Manos Kokarakis


Marvis A. Richardson Award

Heather Murdoch

Sole Soverina Escobar


Thomas S. Whittam Graduate Student Award

Troy Burtchett


Graduate & Undergraduate Awards

Russel & Dorothy Duvall Award


Ava Erickson

Carol Hogan

Dylan Luce

Jimyung Ryu


Megan Korne


Philipp & Vera Gerhardt Award


Aubree Muethel

Zoe Pozios


Esther Chen

Marcela Tabares Ruiz


Eleanor L. Gilmore Endowed Excellence Award


Meghana Karumuri

Anne Lemek

Marissa Malleck

James Nelon

Samuel Snowden


Morgen Clark

Alex Wessel


Frank Peabody Microbiology Student Research Award


Anna Barker

Leah Colombo

Bailey Delcamp

Kyleen Hall

Ananya Kamath

Ishana Kapoor

Rosemary Northcote

Bhavya Thotakura

Elise Trost

Taryn Vielma


Sergio Hernandez-Ortiz

Saanjh Sundar


Undergraduate Awards

Dietrich C. Bauer Award

Tim Baldwin

Caitlin Dougherty

Madison Enviya

Faith Nhkum


Karen & David Gloss Award

Abigail Lippert

Elizabeth Widun


Norman & Hanna Kelker Undergraduate Research Scholarship Award

Adam Grove

Katie McGrath

Bryce Waller


Theodore & Alice Rykala Scholarship Award

Ella Garza


William S. Sayer Award

Eric Puttaiah


Amber Cody Springman Memorial Scholarship Award

Jessica Bailey

Olivia Beckman

Veona Cutinho

Xander Fetterman

Matthew Gagea

Sooahn Jang

Nicole Smith


Richard & Susan Van Frank Undergraduate Research Fund Award

Achala Bannur

Graham Jackson

Shawn Peek

Alassane Sow