Environmental science

Class of 2022 President’s Engagement, Innovation, and Sustainability Prize winners announced

University of Pennsylvania Interim President Wendell Pritchett today announced the recipients of the 2022 President’s Engagement, Innovation, and Sustainability Prizes. Awarded annually, the Prizes empower Penn students to design and undertake post-graduation projects that make a positive, lasting difference in the world. Each prize-winning project will receive $100,000, as well as a $50,000 living grant per team member.

Five seniors were named recipients of the 2022 President’s Engagement Prize. They are Rowana Miller and Manoj Simha for Cosmic Writers, and Seungkwon Son, Max Strickberger, and Sam Strickberger for College Green Ventures. Two seniors have received the President’s Innovation Prize: William Kohler Danon and Lukas Achilles Yancopoulos for Grapevine. Three seniors and two December 2021 graduates received the inaugural President’s Sustainability Prize. They are Saif Khawaja for Shinkei Systems; Sarah Beth Gleeson, Shoshana Weintraub, and Julia Yan for EcoSPIN; and Eli Moraru for The Community Grocer.

“This year’s Prize recipients have selflessly dedicated themselves to improving environmental, health, and educational outcomes for others,” said Pritchett. “From empowering young people through free creative writing education to building robotics that minimize fish waste to reducing microfiber pollution in the ocean, these outstanding and inspiring projects exemplify the vision and passion of our Penn students, who are deeply committed to making a positive difference in the world.”

The 2022 prize recipients—selected from an applicant pool of 71 people—will spend the next year implementing the following projects:

  • Rowana Miller and Manoj Simha for Cosmic Writers: Miller, a sociology major in the College of Arts and Sciences from New York City, and Simha, an economics major in the Wharton School from Seattle, will provide equitable opportunities for free creative writing education to K-12 students across the United States, available regardless of socioeconomic background. Their nonprofit, Cosmic Writers, is a transformative tool for developing literacy, communication skills, and a passion for words. They are mentored by Al Filreis, the Kelly Family Professor of English in the School of Arts & Sciences.
  • Seungkwon Son, Max Strickberger, and Sam Strickberger for College Green Ventures: Son, a double major in business analytics in the Wharton School and psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences from Allentown, Pennsylvania, along with Max Strickberger, an English major in the College, and Sam Strickberger, an intellectual history major in the College, Both from Chevy Chase, Maryland, will build out College Green Ventures, an organization that aims to be a centralized hub for supporting student social entrepreneurs and creating more of them. They are mentored by Tyler Wry, an associate professor of management at the Wharton School.
  • William Kohler Danon and Lukas Achilles Yancopoulos for Grapevine: Danon, a history major in the College of Arts and Sciences from Miami, and Yancopoulos, an environmental studies major in the College and a bioengineering major in the School of Engineering and Applied Science from Yorktown Heights, New York, will work to increase resilience across the health care supply chain, with a particular focus on small-to-medium businesses. Grapevine builds upon Danon and Yancopoulos’s inspiring work with Pandemic Relief Supply, a venture that delivered $20 million of health care supplies to frontline workers at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. They are mentored by David F. Meaney, the Solomon R. Pollack Professor of Bioengineering and senior associate dean for Penn Engineering.
  • Saif Khawaja for Shinkei Systems: Khawaja, a December 2021 graduate of the Wharton School from Dubai, will continue to grow his startup, Shinkei Systems, which builds robotics that minimize fish waste and multiply shelf life. Shinkei’s robotics automate humane Japanese slaughter techniques—similar to kosher or halal practices for cattle—to ensure that every fish makes it to a plate at top quality. Khawaja is mentored by Jacqueline Kirtley, assistant professor of management at the Wharton School.
  • Sarah Beth Gleeson, Shoshana Weintraub, and Julia Yan for EcoSPIN: Gleeson, from Lexington, Kentucky; Weintraub, from Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania; and Yan, from Cary, North Carolina; are materials science and engineering majors in the School of Engineering and Applied Science. They are pioneering EcoSPIN, an innovative device that captures microfibers at their laundry point source, protecting oceans and waterways. They are mentored by Karen I. Winey, the Harold Pender Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering in Penn Engineering.
  • Eli Moraru for The Community Grocer: Moraru, a December 2021 graduate of the College of Arts and Sciences from Washington, DC, will continue to work on The Community Grocer, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit organization reimagining nutritional assistance to promote health equity and fight food insecurity. He is mentored by Akira Drake Rodriguez, assistant professor in the Stuart Weitzman School of Design’s Department of City and Regional Planning.

This year’s finalists also included the following seniors: Bema Boateng for Project Reignite the Light, a program designed to improve mental health literacy in Ghana; Hector Cure and Saskia Wright for Acción para la Reincorporación Profesional, a program to help demobilized women in Colombia; and Joshua Kim, John Ta, and Myahn Walker for CommuniHealth, a community health care partnership in Philadelphia.

“These inspiring projects,” said Interim Provost Beth A. Winkelstein, “exemplify the wide range of interests that energize our great Penn students and faculty. They aim to make a tangible difference in people’s lives, bringing our shared commitments to social justice, intellectual creativity, and entrepreneurial drive to some of the world’s most urgent challenges. We are indebted to the faculty advisors and the Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships, who worked closely with our students to develop their exciting and innovative initiatives.”

The Prizes are generously supported by Emerita Trustee Judith Bollinger and William G. Bollinger, in honor of Ed Resovsky; Emerita Trustee Lee Spelman Doty and George E. Doty, Jr.; Emeritus Trustees James S. Riepe and Gail Petty Riepe; Trustees David Ertel and Beth Seidenberg Ertel; Trustee Ramanan Raghavendran; Wallis Annenberg and the Annenberg Foundation; and an anonymous donor.

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