Caro Aguilera Barraza

“Given Caro’s motivation with research and outreach excellence at Northeastern, I strongly believe that she makes significant advances in science and the world.”

-Leila Deravi, Assistant Professor, Chemistry and Chemical Biology

What are some of your hobbies and interests?

I love reading, I’m a big bookworm, and my current favorite book is called “The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea”. I have a big passion for drawing and painting—hence my love for cosmetic science—and love to visit art museums. I know the MFA by heart and can take you to any room, painting, or sculpture because I know that place like the back of my hand! I also enjoy knitting, watching anime, and hanging out with my friends!

What are some examples of your involvement in the Northeastern community and the community at large?

Throughout my time at Northeastern, I have been deeply involved in both the university community and the broader academic sphere. One significant aspect of my engagement has been my extensive involvement in the Biomaterials Design Group, where I have dedicated myself to advancing scientific knowledge and promoting sustainability. Within this group, I have conducted fascinating research on sustainable pigments and innovative ingredients for personal care products.

In addition to my research endeavors, I have also taken on leadership roles and actively engaged in mentoring activities that will help make a positive impact in the STEM community, hoping to get more young careerists involved in the industry. Starting as a research assistant, I have progressed to become an independent researcher and, ultimately, a mentor for fellow undergraduates. This journey reflects my commitment to personal growth and my dedication to supporting the academic and professional development of my peers. This is exemplified by my role as an undergraduate mentor, where I passionately strive to help others succeed and demonstrate my ability to inspire and guide them in their scientific pursuits.

Beyond Northeastern, I have extended my reach to the wider community through initiatives such as the Society of Cosmetic Chemists’ NextGen program, where I proudly serve as a member and volunteer, supporting young careerists in their pursuit of a career in the cosmetic science industry. The NextGen initiative focuses on educating, networking, and mentoring students and early careerists. My role has consisted of helping connect companies with young university students so that they might have more job, co-op and internship opportunities, as well as helping cosmetic science become more available to young people interested in the field. My passion and dedication to empowering others doesn’t stop there, I have also successfully spearheaded two NSF outreach programs, presented at Harvard and MIT at the Cambridge Science Festival, that promote STEM education so that young students, and people interested overall, are encouraged to join science and engineering.

Describe some of your achievements at Northeastern

During my time at Northeastern University, I have achieved significant milestones that reflect my dedication to academic excellence, leadership, and innovation. One notable accomplishment has been my pioneering research within the Biomaterials Design Group. Through extensive experimentation and collaboration, I have made substantial contributions to the field of sustainable pigments and novel ingredients for personal care products. These efforts have not only garnered recognition within Northeastern but have also been acknowledged on a broader scale, including prestigious awards and scholarships on the national level.

Furthermore, my commitment to innovation and problem-solving is exemplified by my role in developing a new serum delivery mechanism to mitigate single-use capsule waste in consumer goods. This innovative solution has led to patent-pending, and I’m currently finalizing this project to publish a paper on this innovation. My journey researching natural pigments, studying polymer chemistry, and applying it to cosmetic science and engineering have given me numerous awards for my outstanding contributions and discoveries such as winning multiple PEAK research awards and the Provost Research Award. Moreover, my recognitions have extended beyond Northeastern, as I have been awarded by the Society of Cosmetic Chemists the Madam CJ Walker Scholarship, a very competitive, prestigious, and international scholarship, given only to underrepresented minorities in STEM that have made significant contributions to cosmetic science and engineering. Similarly, I presented my research and discoveries in Los Angeles at the SCC’s 76th Annual Showcase. Notably, my research presentation not only received acclaim but also secured a 4th place prize in a competition with more than 20 posters competing against Ph.D. students from all over the country. Having secured both honors, the poster competition and scholarship, distinguished me as the sole recipient of two awards at the entire conference, whose accolades recognize only the brightest and most accomplished people in cosmetic science.

In addition to my research achievements, I have excelled academically, maintaining a stellar 3.91 GPA and consistently earning recognition for my scholastic endeavors. Being on the Dean’s list every semester since my freshman year, receiving the NU Award for high-level academic performance and leadership, and being nominated for esteemed awards such as the Condit Award and Hodgkinson Award highlight my dedication to academic excellence and leadership within the university community.

Moreover, my involvement in extracurricular activities, such as volunteering with the Society of Cosmetic Chemists’ NextGen program and spearheading NSF outreach initiatives, underscores my commitment to serving the community and promoting STEM education.

Of the above examples, which do you consider your most significant achievement and why?

I am deeply proud of every single one of my achievements, but if I had to pinpoint the most significant one to date, it would undoubtedly be the journey of seeing my research evolve into a patent-pending discovery. The reason for this is that this honor is not just about the awards or the recognition, but rather the countless hours of dedication spent, the failures that turned into lessons, and the relentless pursuit of innovation that went into this endeavor, as I was the sole researcher working on this project—besides my PI who guided me throughout this process.

Witnessing my endless curiosity and ideas materialize into something tangible, with the potential to make a real-world impact, fills me with an indescribable sense of accomplishment, joy and purpose. This is the culmination of my professional growth as an engineer and scientist throughout my undergraduate studies at Northeastern, and it’s a testament to my resilience and passion, so I am extremely proud of it. This achievement is more than just a milestone on my academic journey—it’s a symbol of perseverance, creativity, and the endless possibilities that come with daring to dream big and never giving up!

What honors or awards have you received during your time as a student?

I have been on the Dean’s list for every academic semester since my freshman year with a current GPA of 3.91. Furthermore, I’ve been awarded the “NU Award”, which recognizes upperclassmen who demonstrate high-level academic performance and leadership at the university level. I’ve also been nominated for prestigious awards such as the Hodgkinson Award, Condit Award by the chemical engineering awards selection committee. Moreover, for my outstanding scholastic accomplishments, I was invited to become a member of Tau Beta Pi, the largest and most prestigious engineering honor society. Additionally, I have been awarded one of their prestigious scholarships, the Tau Beta Pi Scholarship, that recognizes students that show promise of substantial achievement in the form of educational, research, professional activities that have prepared them for their career. My research has garnered multiple awards, including the PEAK Summit Award, the PEAK Ascent Award, and the Provost Research Award. Beyond Northeastern, I’ve received prestigious recognition like the Madam CJ Walker Scholarship from the Society of Cosmetic Chemists. Presenting my work at the SCC’s 76th Annual Showcase earned me a 4th place prize among PhD competitors nationwide. I have also received a patent pending for my discovery at the Biomaterials Lab.

Ren Birnholz

Ren Birnholz, who holds a 3.99 GPA and is in the Honors program, has a long list of accomplishments while they have been at Northeastern, and are a semi-finalist for the Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Fellowship in India for the 2023-24 cycle. Ren has a combined major in cultural anthropology and theater.

Ren is president of NU Sexual Health, Advocacy, Resources, and Education , student program manager of the LGBTQA+ Resource Center, member of the Anthropology Student Association, director and actor of Silver Masque, an RA in university housing, and a sexual health advocate of NU Mutual Aid. They have dedicated their time to the Northeastern and Boston communities in countless ways. For co-ops, Ren was an assistant teacher and substitute K–8 teacher at Brookline’s Runkle School, and served as a diversity officer at the Boston Public Schools headquarters. They also led religious school services for 20–60 elementary school students at Temple Israel of Natick.

At SHARE, Ren initiated and actualized a wellness vending machine with emergency contraceptives on Northeastern’s campus shortly after Roe v. Wade was overturned, established the Expand STI Testing Campaign through the Planned Parenthood Generation Action network, and founded and chaired Northeastern’s 2021 Wellness Week and Sexual Health Pop Up Coalition. Liza Weinstein, department chair of sociology and anthropology, says, “This remarkable leadership on reproductive justice, gender, and LGBTQA+ eventually led to Ren’s selection last fall as one of just 75 college students nationwide who was invited to Washington, D.C., to meet with Vice President Kamala Harris.” They participated in a round-table discussion that raised many critical issues, including the perspectives of non-binary and transgender people regarding abortion access and reproductive health.

Dean Weinstein spent a month with Ren in India last summer at Asholka University. “Ren became involved in LGBTQA+ student groups on campus and developed a rich collaborative research project on gender identity and presentation of self in public space,” she says. “They demonstrated a deep level of comfort, despite this being their first time in India.”

Assistant Professor of Theatre Arts Dani Snyder-Young says Ren was her research assistant who examined the digital performance landscape in the pandemic summer of 2020. She says, “Ren is an authentic and confident leader who goes out of their way to find opportunities to support and contribute to their communities.”

Ren says their most significant achievement was transforming NU SHARE into an activist powerhouse that led them to represent Northeastern at the Reproductive Rights Roundtable with Vice President Harris.

After graduation, Ren plans to pursue a doctoral degree in sex education with an emphasis on supporting LGBTQ+ and BIPOC students.

Ren is an authentic and confident leader who goes out of their way to find opportunities to support and contribute to their communities.”

Dani Snyder-Young, Assistant Professor of Theatre Art

Khailah Griffin, DMSB’22

Khailah Griffin, the 2022 Wendy Breen Kline Award nominee in the D’Amore-McKim School of Business, grew up in a military family and lived in 10 different countries. This incredible experience gave her a global perspective and strong cultural competencies. It also taught her the importance of embracing diversity, which has influenced the way she lives her life.

A born leader, advocate for social justice, and a creative entrepreneur, Khailah is someone you want on your court. She is a candidate for a B.S. in business administration, pre-medical track. She was one of the original members of the business school’s Building Belonging Fellowship program and participated in “Amplifying Black Voices: The Black Student Experience in D’Amore-McKim,” focused on cultivating a more inclusive community. As a fellow, she also worked with an external DEI consultant who led a five-part “Building Inclusive Communities Series” for more than 30 students.

Khailah participates in D’Amore-McKim’s Liberty Mutual partnership, where she develops programming, mentorship, and community-building activities for students with underrepresented and marginalized identities. She also is a peer mentor. Moreover, she co-founded NU’s Black Athlete Caucus—a hub for social, racial, and political awareness resources.

In addition to her numerous contributions to the D’Amore-McKim and Northeastern communities, Khailah is the founder of the nonprofit UnorthoDOCx, a virtual network of non-traditional pre-medical students that provides free resources for its members and cultivates a well-prepared community of future healthcare professionals. Her work with UnorthoDOCx earned her an innovator award from NU’s Women Who Empower inclusion and entrepreneurship initiative.

“Khailah is an accomplished student athlete and a selfless, compassionate, inclusive leader who has a passion for making the world a better place,” says Mary Kane, Assistant Dean for Employer and External Engagement, Senior Co-op Coordinator. Khailah balances working as a patient care technician/unit coordinator in the Medical Surgical Unit at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center with being a Division 1 varsity track and field athlete. However, she says her greatest achievement is “being able to connect with so many students, faculty and staff in a variety of different areas to create positive and long-lasting change at Northeastern and beyond. Whether it was through volunteerism, athletics, academics, etc., I can leave fully knowing that I made a difference.”  

An avid world traveler, Khailah plans to take a gap year and explore the world while conducting clinical research with a team of physicians. Her subsequent journey will be down the path of medical school applications.

Wendy Breen Kline Award AWARD RECIPIENT

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Khailah is an accomplished student athlete and a selfless, compassionate, inclusive leader who has a passion for making the world a better place,”

Mary Kane, Assistant Dean for Employer and External Engagement, Senior Co-op Coordinator.

Lily Harris

The five core values of nursing are human dignity, integrity, autonomy, altruism and social justice. Lily Harris, a senior in the five-year baccalaureate nursing program at Bouvé College of Health Sciences, takes them to heart—and she isn’t even a nurse yet.

With a 3.9 GPA, Lily is expected to graduate Summa Cum Laude. She has an impressive list of accolades including Presidential Ambassador and 2019 Huntington 100 recipient. Before coming to Boston, Lily studied at University College in Dublin as part of the NUin program. After her experience abroad, she became an NUin Ambassador, encouraging accepted students and their families to choose Northeastern.

Lily has been involved with the Northeastern University Student Nurses’ Association (NUSNA). She volunteers each year at the Boston Marathon wheelchair sweep team. In 2018, she received the NUSNA Most Involved Member Award. She’s served as vice president of alumni relations and organization president, mentoring fellow students and supporting the department. As lead ambassador for Bouvé College of Health Sciences, she trains other ambassadors, prepares events, and engages with prospective students.

In 2019, Lily organized and participated in the Global Medical Brigade’s work in Panama, where she helped distribute supplies and provided basic medical support. She joined Northeastern’s community service fraternity, Alpha Phi Omega, during its first year as an official chapter. Additionally, she mentored high school students while volunteering at the Harvard MEDScience Program.

Lily’s co-op experience is equally impressive. She was a full-time patient care technician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and worked at Shriners Hospital for Children on the Inpatient Acute Burn Unit. She’s still employed at Boston Children’s Hospital on an orthopedic/general surgery unit, where she completed her second co-op.

“I believe my greatest achievement is being involved in so many different areas within the Northeastern community and engaging with a wide variety of people,” Lily says. As for the future, she says, “I have found my passion for pediatric surgical nursing. Someday I hope to pursue a career as a travel nurse.” She would also like to pursue a master’s in nursing education and become a nurse practitioner.

According to Dean Carmen Sceppa, “she is always grateful for the opportunity to serve, support and lead. We are confident Lily’s future includes her continued enthusiastic and professional representation of Northeastern and all it has to offer to our many constituents.”


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She is always grateful for the opportunity to serve, support, and lead. We are confident Lily’s future includes her continued enthusiastic and professional representation of Northeastern and all it has to offer to our many constituents.

Dean Carmen Sceppa, Bouvé college of health sciences

April 1, 2021

Zipporah Osei

During her freshman year, Zipporah Osei took a journalism class—Washington Beat: The First 100 Days—that set the tone for the reporter she hopes to be one day. When she enrolled in the class, she was doubtful of her preparedness. However, by listening to guest speakers and receiving encouragement to do reporting that was out of her comfort zone, Zipporah says, “I learned that I had the skills and the motivation to be a real reporter.” Now Zipporah, a first-generation college student, is preparing to graduate with a BA in Journalism and move to New York City to begin a one-year, highly competitive fellowship at ProPublica, the country’s premier investigative news site.

The road to graduation has been filled with distinctions and achievements—and also challenges. Being a first-generation college student has impacted every step of her academic career. She didn’t have the benefit of navigating higher education with advice from her family. Yet, she used the rigor and empathy she developed during her studies to help others. Her legacy at Northeastern is likely to be a volunteer newsletter she initiated to help other first-gen students get through the culture shock, offering candid advice articles, humor and links to resources. To date, 300 students have signed up for the newsletter—including some at other universities.

Zipporah has spent her time at Northeastern doing what she loves: writing and reporting on issues that can make a difference to people and the community. As an intern for the Boston Globe, Zipporah investigated the secret court system in Boston. As an intern for Chalkbeat NY, her reporting about the mismanagement of the free summer meals program for kids led to a reexamination of the program. She interned for the Chronicle of Higher Education and won the D.W. Miller Award for stories she wrote—all stories that she pitched and developed.

Zipporah also served on the Dean’s Student Advisory Board, the e-board of the Huntington News as managing editor and opinions editor, and regularly sits on panels for prospective students and underclassmen.

Jonathan Kaufman, Director of the School of Journalism, calls Zipporah “a first-rate journalist” who is “giving back in ways that help other students, prospective students and the university as a whole.”

March 25, 2020

wendy breen kline
award recipient

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