Four Scholar Alumni honored by Alumni Association
Four Schreyer Honors College Scholar alumni were among 11 Penn State alumni recognized over the weekend as recipients of the 2012 Alumni Achievement Award.
The Scholar alumni honored were Heather D. Agnew '03 Sci, Danielle S. Bassett '04 Sci, Sean A. Misko '04 Lib, and Daniel W. Veltri '07 Bus.
The Alumni Achievement Award, presented by the Penn State Alumni Association, recognizes Penn State graduates, ages 35 or younger, who have achieved extraordinary professional success. Academic colleges nominate accomplished alumni for this award.
"It is exciting to see Scholar alumni realize great success so early in their careers," said Dr. Christian M. M. Brady, dean of the Schreyer Honors College. "Their contributions to their professions and to society make each of these individuals most worthy of this recognition. Knowing that there is still much they may achieve in the years ahead offers much promise for the future."
The award recipients were recognized at a formal ceremony and dinner Friday evening (March 30, 2012) hosted by Penn State President Dr. Rodney A. Erickson. Prior to the award ceremony, a number of this year's honorees visited classes and met with students to discuss their careers and experiences.
This year's Scholar alumni Alumni Achievement Award recipients included:
- Heather D. Agnew '03 Sci is a principal research investigator at Integrated Diagnostics, a biotechnology startup company founded in 2009. She leads an aggressive program to develop protein-catalyzed capture agents (PCCs), which show promise for broad use in diagnostics and therapeutics. She also holds an adjunct appointment in the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.
Agnew's current research focuses on PCCs, which are selected for specific binding to biomarkers for detection of cancer and other diseases. PCCs are designed to "click" onto the targeted protein in a synthetic and highly scalable process directed by the actual site targeted.
At Penn State, Agnew completed a dual major in chemistry and biochemistry and molecular biology. In 2005, she received a master's degree in chemistry as a Gates Scholar at the University of Cambridge, and in 2010, Agnew received her doctorate from California Institute of Technology, where she focused on research in biological chemistry. She was recognized in 2010 with the $30,000 Lemelson-MIT Caltech Student Prize for her role in developing a technique to create inexpensive, yet highly reliable and stable, biochemical compounds with the potential to replace antibodies used in many standard medical diagnostic tests. While at Caltech, Agnew received awards and fellowships from the National Honor Society for Women in Chemistry (Iota Sigma Pi), P.E.O., and the National Science Foundation.
Since 2005, Agnew has taken part in Caltech's Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURF) program, which introduces undergraduate students to research. She has presented research at national meetings throughout the country and has published scholarly articles in the Journal of the American Chemical Society and Analytical Chemistry.
Agnew is a life member of the Penn State Alumni Association and lives in Los Angeles.
- Danielle S. Bassett '04 Sci is a Sage Junior Research Fellow in the University of California, Santa Barbara's (UCSB) departments of physics and psychological and brain sciences. Bassett's research places her at the forefront of the new and rapidly expanding field of network science, where she is currently concentrating on neuroscience and social and information systems to help better understand human behavior.
Named a Sage Junior Research Fellow in the fall of 2011, Bassett had previously served as a post-doctoral research associate for the department of physics and the Institute for Collaborative Biotechnologies at UCSB. A noted researcher, Bassett has authored 31 publications and is a sought-after lecturer, speaking at universities and conferences including Yale University, Cornell University, and the University of Glasgow. Bassett recently served on the Winston Churchill Scholarship screening committee, is an Adopt-a-Physicist volunteer, and is affiliated with the American Physical Society, Organization for Human Brain Mapping, and Society for Neuroscience.
Bassett received her doctoral degree in physics in 2009 and a certificate in postgraduate studies in 2005 from The University of Cambridge. Bassett's postgraduate studies were funded by the prestigious Winston Churchill Scholarship and the National Institutes of Health-University of Cambridge Health Sciences Scholarship.
While an undergraduate at Penn State, Bassett received accolades that included The Paul Axt Prize in the Schreyer Honors College, Most Achieving Undergraduate Woman of the Year, an Academic Achievement Award from the Eberly College of Science, and the Academic Achievement Award in Physics.
Bassett and her husband, Lee '04, who also graduated from the Schreyer Honors College and the Eberly College of Science, are life members of the Penn State Alumni Association. They live with their son, J. Silas, in Goleta, Calif.
- Sean A. Misko '04 Lib is a special adviser to the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan (SRAP) at the U.S. Department of State, part of the team implementing a "diplomatic surge" to facilitate a political settlement of the Afghanistan war. He is responsible for shaping U.S. efforts to support Afghan reconciliation and coordinating negotiation of a strategic partnership to guide U.S.-Afghan relations following the withdrawal of combat forces.
Prior to joining the SRAP office in early 2009, as a special assistant and policy advisor to diplomat Richard C. Holbrooke, Misko was part of a civilian-military team dispatched to Afghanistan by Gen. David Petraeus to evaluate the deteriorating security situation. The assessment Misko co-authored informed the incoming Obama administration's policy review.
Misko previously served as a special assistant to the deputy associate director of the Office of Management and Budget's National Security Division (2008), Presidential Management Fellow in the U.S. State Department's Office of Iranian Affairs (2006–08), and as a Roberts Intelligence Fellow and political analyst at the CIA (2005–06). Misko also consulted for the New York City Police Department's Counterterrorism Division, co-authoring a report on the evolution of al-Qaeda.
A recipient of the State Department's Superior Honor Award and the CIA's Distinguished Service Award, Misko was selected as a 2011 Manfred Wörner Fellow by the German Marshall Fund. Misko earned a master's degree in public policy from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government in 2006.
At Penn State, Misko was a Schreyer Honors Scholar and played trumpet in the Blue Band. He is an active volunteer with the Department of Political Science, participating in an annual career program for undergraduates. Misko is a life member of the Penn State Alumni Association and lives in Arlington, Va.
- Daniel W. Veltri '07 Bus is the co-founder and chief operating officer of Weebly, a San Francisco-based Internet company that has as its core product an intuitive drag-and-drop website creation service.
With Weebly, non-technical people can easily build their own website, blog, or online store. Since its founding in 2006, the company has grown to more than 10 million users and powers more than two percent of all websites on the Internet. Within any given month, approximately 10 percent of the U.S. population visits a website created using the Weebly interface.
In addition to its general website building service, Weebly also offers a special version of Weebly for education, which helps teachers and students build free websites for classes or projects. The educational community has embraced Weebly with adoption at more than 10,000 schools and universities worldwide.
The Weebly service is currently available in eight languages and its Facebook page has 58,000 fans from around the world. The company is backed by a number of prominent angel investors as well as Sequioa Capital, a leading venture capital firm.
Weebly's roots are firmly planted at Penn State. Veltri met Weebly co-founder David Rusenko when they were both freshmen in the Schreyer Honors College. Both students were passionate about business and startups. A capstone course in the College of Information Sciences and Technology encouraged them to pursue the creation of what became the Weebly website and company.
Weebly was named one of Time's "50 Best Web Sites" of 2007 and has been featured in Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, Inc. magazine, and Entrepreneur magazine, as well as on NBC and the BBC.
Veltri lives in San Francisco.