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2022 Outstanding Neuroscience Senior Awards

Congratulations Class of 2022!

Every May, as the spring semester comes to a close, the neuroscience faculty honor the program’s exceptional graduating seniors in the Outstanding Neuroscience Student Awards. 

Message from Dr. Saleet Jafri, Director of Interdisciplinary Program in Neuroscience

Dear Honored Graduates, families, colleagues and friends,

It is my honor to congratulate the Neuroscience graduates on their outstanding achievements. I know you all have worked hard through your time here at Mason and made many fond memories. Those of you receiving awards – you have proven yourself to be cream of the crop of very talented and dedicated neuroscience students. Finally, I once more would like to congratulate all you on your achievements and graduation. I am sure all of you have bright futures ahead. Good luck and I hope you will let us know of your future successes.

Outstanding Neuroscience Senior Award
Given to majors with a cumulative 3.5 GPA with at least 60 credits at Mason
Mia Al Mir
Mohammed Al-Abdali
Cooper Almarode
Sophia Azmi
Kyle Blevins
Marc Desa
Natalie Erickson
Jaqueline Escobar
Kerolos Farag
Sohale Hessavi
Zahid Khan
Samrawit Mesfin
Haitham Musmar
Parsa Nadali
Marjan Naraghi
Leslie Velis
Maanvi Vij
Amber Heneghan

Outstanding Academic Achievement in Neuroscience Award 
Given to the student with the highest GPA
Sohale Hessavi (3.98)
Zahid Khan (3.98)
Parsa Nadali (3.98)

Faculty Choice Award 
This award is designed to reward the senior neuroscience major who demonstrates an exceptionally high degree of interest, maturity, motivation, and effort in their neuroscience classes. The primary focus of this award is the attitude of the nominated student. In determining the recipient of this award, personal challenges or circumstances that the student has had to overcome can be considered.
Nazaria Burke
Nominated by Professor Theodore Dumas
In my eyes, Nazaria is a leader in the making. She has the intellect, focus, and communication skills to do special things in her future career, whatever she ends up choosing. She has not worked in my lab, but she aced NEUR327 (cell neuro) and PSYC559 (behavioral chem). Nazaria is member of the eboard for the Multicultural Association for Pre-Health Students (MAPS) and was accepted into the Mason Abroad program to study at Oxford this summer.

Outstanding Neuroscience Researcher Award
Candidates for this award must be graduating seniors who have a minimum overall grade point average of 3.00, while having completed, by graduation, a minimum of 45 credits taken at GMU. The successful candidate will be the one who has excelled at research, either through development of their own project or through contribution to laboratories on campus or in the community. Relevant publications and presentations can be considered when choosing a winner.

Jaqueline Escobar
Nominated by Professor Theodore Dumas
Jackie has worked in my lab for over two years now. Her efforts have been consistent, and she has made substantial research contributions on many fronts. She has extensive experience with transgenic mouse genotyping, behavior testing, behavior parameter extraction from videos, and data management in Excel. Her efforts led to a first authorship on an SfN poster in 2021. She will also complete her training to independence in Western blots before the end of spring semester.

Estiphanos Wodajo
Nominated by Professor Avrama Blackwell
Estiphanos has been working on a computational project in my laboratory since Fall of 2022.  His project involves using parameter optimization software to create realistic neuron models. To improve his understanding of the project, he has been reading some papers in the literature, and our discussions of these papers show that he has a good understanding of what he reads.  To accomplish the project, he has been running the optimization software to find parameters so that a simulation will match the data collected by my collaborator.  As part of this project he has also downloaded some neuron morphologies from and made these morphologies more computationally efficient using additional software,, written in my lab.  He is currently adding a new feature to shapeshifter, which demonstrates his python programming abilities.