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Clare Boothe Luce Engineering Scholars Program Selects Inaugural Class

Victoria Margenat, Kennedy Cornish, and Kendall Fragetta

In 2019, the Henry Luce Foundation’s Clare Boothe Luce (CBL) Program awarded Villanova University $236,635 in support of 18 undergraduate research awards in the College of Engineering. Launching this spring, the Clare Boothe Luce Engineering Scholars Program (CBL-ESP) has selected its inaugural class: Kennedy Cornish ’24 CpE, Kendall Fragetta ’24 ME and Victoria Margenat ’24 ME. Through CBL-ESP, these scholars will be provided with three distinctive research experiences through their junior years, along with intentional mentorship from College faculty, alumnae and graduate students. The goal is to build a pipeline of qualified candidates for engineering PhD programs, leading to research-oriented professions, both inside and outside academia.

CBL-ESP research opportunities will be administered through Villanova’s esteemed Center for Research and Fellowships (CRF). Its existing programs—the Villanova Match Research Program for First Year Students (Match), Villanova Undergraduate Research Fellowship Program (VURF) and STEM/NSF Bootcamp—will be leveraged to create a comprehensive experience for Luce Research Scholars. Through Match, participants will spend 10 weeks as research assistants to faculty mentors during the spring semester of their freshman year.

The 2020-21 class of scholars will work with faculty on the following projects:

  • Kennedy Cornish with Dr. Xun Jiao, assistant professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, on a brain-inspired artificial intelligence demonstration project
  • Kendall Fragetta with Dr. Garrett Clayton, associate professor of Mechanical Engineering, on a humanitarian robot for the removal of explosive ordinance in Cambodia
  • Victoria Margenat with Dr. Aaron Wemhoff, associate professor of Mechanical Engineering, on analyzing carbon taxation strategies with a specific focus on reducing the environmental footprint of data centers.

The students have expressed a variety of motivations for applying to the CBL-ESP program. Victoria is excited to explore what is already her strong interest in engineering’s impact on environmental sustainability. Kennedy shared her passion for “research that betters the world” and, as a young woman, she also appreciates the opportunity to “advance my curiosity and education in a male dominated field.” Kendall is looking forward to expanding her knowledge and skills, seeing classroom topics applied to real life problems, and discovering her area of professional interest.

Following their Match experiences, during the summer after their sophomore year and continuing into their junior year, participants will undertake an independent research project with their faculty mentor through VURF and VURF Extension. Finally, an NSF/STEM Bootcamp will help Luce Research Scholars secure an external academic fellowship or research-oriented internship for the summer between the junior and senior years.

First- and second-year undergraduates interested in the Clare Boothe Luce Engineering Scholars Program should visit the College website or contact program director Dr. Seri Park for more information.