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Sofia Ali, Claudia Heymach and Brooke Vittemberga win Deans’ Awards for Academic Achievement

Left to Right: Claudia Heymach, Brooke Vittemberga, Sofia Ali

Left to right: Claudia, Brooke, Sofia

Apr 15 2019

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Join Human Biology in congratulating Sofia Ali, Claudia Heymach and Brooke Vittemberga, winners of the Deans' Awards for Academic Achievement, which recognizes a small number of extraordinary undergraduates for their outstanding scholarly achievements.  

Faculty members from across campus nominated students. The winners were selected by Harry Elam, vice provost for undergraduate education, and the deans of Stanford’s three undergraduate schools: Stephen Graham, Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences; Debra Satz, Humanities and Sciences; and Jennifer Widom, Engineering. 

Sofia Ali is a senior majoring in Human Biology. She studies social determinants of health, particularly within communities in sub-Saharan Africa. In her freshman year, Sofia took an introductory seminar on the social and environmental drivers of Zika virus and was selected to be first-author of a resulting review paper published in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases. In 2017, she was a Global Child Health Equity Fellow with the Stanford Global Child Health Program, where she is now a research assistant. In this role, Sofia analyzes child health outcomes for the impact evaluation of Asili, a social enterprise in eastern Congo; she is currently working on two papers about these findings. Last summer, Sofia supported on-site data quality assurance for a study in northern Senegal exploring how social factors affect schistosomiasis risk; she is co-author of a recently submitted publication on this project. Sofia received the President’s Award for Academic Excellence in the Freshman Year. She sits on the Steering Committee for Pacific Free Clinic, volunteers as a health educator with H.E.L.P. For Kids, and is a peer writing tutor at Hume. Beyond Stanford, Sofia hopes to one day work as a physician in her parents’ home country of Ethiopia.

Claudia Heymach is a senior majoring in Human Biology with honors who aspires to be a pediatric neurologist and researcher. In the Sage lab, she has explored stem cell mechanics and carcinogenesis using a flatworm with robust regenerative properties.  She is passionate about resolving health care disparities, and has approached this goal by designing low-cost diagnostics for human papillomavirus (HPV). In addition, she uses storytelling to highlight health disparities and environmental injustices; for instance, she received a grant to create a podcast about a community outside Dallas that has lacked clean water for decades. Her poetry and short fiction have been published and recognized at the state and national level at Stanford, she is co-president of Kids with Dreams, an organization that hosts fun programs for kids with disabilities. She is also a student researcher for the Huntington’s Outreach Project for Education at Stanford, an audio producer for the Stanford Storytelling Project, and a volunteer for Pacific Free Clinic. Last year, she received the Kirsten Frohnmayer Prize for commitment to research and altruism.

Brooke Vittimberga is a senior majoring in Human Biology with honors and minoring in Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity. Her initial research in immunology investigated combined kidney-stem cell transplants. Then, after being diagnosed with leukemia sophomore year and undergoing a stem cell transplant, Brooke returned to school interested in applying immunology to cancer biology. At Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, she performed basic immunology research and contributed to a pending publication in Science. Currently, Brooke is working on her honors thesis in the Mackall lab investigating treatment of pediatric solid tumors with CAR T-Cell therapy. Outside of research, Brooke is a national ambassador for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, which fundraises for pediatric cancer research. She has published narrative pieces about her illness in Stanford Magazine, the St. Baldrick’s Foundation blog, Stanford’s SCOPE Medical Blog, and more.