This highly competitive award recognizes graduating undergraduate students who have sustained a record of academic excellence and exceptional academic success as exemplified by extraordinary publications, research, creative work, merit awards, or competitive selection for presentations at regional and national academic societies and conferences.
Hometown: Bristol, Rhode Island
Major/College: Public Health, College of Arts & Sciences
Rachel Bernardo, a graduating senior in the BS in Public Health Program, has excelled academically and maximized her time at American University since arriving on campus as a transfer student. She has cultivated impressive research, internship, and study abroad experiences throughout her undergraduate career.
Rachel found a home at AU’s Zebrafish, Ecotoxicology, Neuropharmacology, and Vision (ZENV) Lab, where she developed strong laboratory skills and conducted an independent research project on endocrine disrupting compounds. She also had the opportunity to intern in positions connected to public health and the practice of medicine locally, nationally, and internationally. During a semester abroad in Nairobi, Kenya, Rachel worked with a pediatric HIV clinic to investigate the main reasons behind a lack of adherence to antiretroviral medications.
She has volunteered extensively in the local community and published an article in the Undergraduate Journal of Service Learning & Community-Based Research focused on her experiences with DC Reads. On campus, Rachel has advanced the mission of AU’s chapter of United Against Inequities in Disease as its president and supported her fellow students while working as a tutor and teaching assistant.
Rachel expressed her gratitude for the faculty and administration at AU and said, “Notably, I am thankful to Dr. Connaughton, my research mentor, for supporting me throughout my research project. I am also thankful for all the professors in the Department of Health Studies and Department of Biology for their unwavering support and inspiration.”
Hometown: Wuxi, China
Major/College: Applied Mathematics and Computer Science, College of Arts & Sciences
Zhiqi Lu has pursued a double major in Applied Mathematics and Computer Science and is a member of the Upsilon Pi Epsilon Honor Society. He has demonstrated continuing success in research and programming on campus and beyond.
Zhiqi conducted an ambitious independent research project entitled “The Application Research of Quantum-behaved Particle Swarm Optimization in Multi-targets Tracking.” Other goals that he accomplished while at American University include producing a login system for the Quantitative Academic Support Lab and creating an internship website for the Computer Science Department.
Zhiqi’s work supported the development of a web app for the U.S. Department of Energy and he also made substantial contributions to the AU Thin Sat Project. Zhiqi has also served as a tutor and teaching assistant to help his fellow students.
Upon learning that he would receive this award, Zhiqi described it as “the best gift for my graduation” and a motivator to keep improving himself in the future. He shared his appreciation for faculty, family members, and friends who encouraged him along the way, especially Professors Kristof Aldenderfer, Mark Nelson and Michael Robinson.