Engineering students among 2020 Award for Academic Distinction Winners

April 15, 2020

Abigail Beckerdite and Sharanya Kumar

Sharanya Kumar and Abigail Beckerdite

Abigail Beckerdite and Sharanya Kumar, both seniors in biological engineering, were presented with the University of Missouri’s Award for Academic Distinction on Wednesday, April 15.

The annual Award for Academic Distinction goes to the most promising undergraduates at Mizzou and recognizes their efforts to improve the intellectual and academic culture beyond the classroom. Nominated by faculty mentors, honorees are chosen by faculty from across campus. The award is the only university-wide award of its kind, and 15 Mizzou students were chosen to receive this honor.

“These students — and this award — embrace Mizzou’s core values of respect, responsibility, discovery and excellence,” says Jim Spain, vice provost of Undergraduate Studies, who supported Mizzou students in establishing the award in 2014. “It’s a great thrill to recognize these students and the significant achievements each of them has made. They continue the tradition that the Award for Academic Distinction was created to honor.”

In lieu of an in-person reception, recipients received a congratulatory message from Spain and a mailed certificate.

Abigail Beckerdite

Abby Beckerdite is from O’Fallon, Missouri and her hobbies include biking, running and golfing. In her time at MU, she studied nervous system injury recovery and network behavior in the lab of David Schulz, professor of biological sciences. For her work, Beckerdite earned the Honors Scholar designation and was funded by the Life Sciences Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program stipend. She also conducted research under Ellen Wan, assistant professor of biomedical, biological and chemical engineering, developing an affordable, environmentally friendly method to produce graphene. In addition to research, Beckerdite held an internship with Nanova, a surgical device manufacturer. During this internship, she was selected to help run the company booth at the Arab Health Conference in Dubai. An active member of the MU community, Beckerdite serves as secretary of the Alpha Epsilon Honors Fraternity for Bioengineers and has volunteered with Mizzou Alternative Breaks. This fall, she will attend dental school at the Southern Illinois University School of Dental Medicine.

Sharanya Kumar

Sharanya Kumar is from Chesterfield, Missouri, and is earning minors in music, leadership and public service, and biology in addition to her completing her major. She has enjoyed getting involved in various activities throughout her time at MU, from working in the laboratory of Heather Hunt, associate professor of biological engineering, to serving as treasurer for the Mizzou Asian American Association. She has led two Refugee and Immigration Service trips through Mizzou Alternative Breaks and plays viola in the University Philharmonic Orchestra. She is grateful for all of the opportunities she has had over the past four years to grow, gain new experiences, and learn how to better serve her community. After graduation, Kumar will be joining the Qualtrics team as a product specialist in Provo, Utah, as she continues exploring diverse interests.