First cohort of Hill-Lopes Scholars graduates

Alpha cohort graduates pursue advanced degrees, careers in STEM

By Rebecca Kirkman, Henry Basta & Ron Santana on May 18, 2022

The first Hill-Lopes Scholars graduate this spring, three academic years since the program launched in fall 2019.

“The future seems limitless,” says Stephanie Prem ’22, a computer and information science major and music performance minor in the program’s inaugural alpha cohort. “Hill-Lopes has shown me my potential and that anything is open to me.”

Prem is one of seven students from the cohort who will graduate this spring. Representing majors in chemistry, biology and computer science, as well as wide-ranging minors from music performance and women’s and gender studies to molecular biology, biochemistry and bioinformatics (MB3), the scholars graduate with plans to pursue advanced degrees and careers in STEM.

Designed to support women in STEM, the Hill-Lopes Scholars Program offers coursework, research experiences, seminars and one-to-one mentorship. The program was established in the Jess & Mildred Fisher College of Science & Mathematics through a generous gift from Barbara Hill and Ancelmo Lopes

The program has welcomed renowned speakers, including advocate for women of color in STEM Malika Grayson, Yale astrophysicist Meg Urry and the first female NSF director, Rita Colwell. Scholars engaged in Women in STEM Wednesday Career Chats with representatives from a wide variety of organizations, from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to NASA’s Goddard Flight Center. They also participated in a leadership workshop with TU Leader-in-Residence Maj. Gen. Linda Singh, a discussion of impostor syndrome with Valerie Young and a personal mission statement workshop with Kate Watson.

Through these experiences, scholars learn about the many career paths available in STEM. The conversations provide endless inspiration for cell and molecular biology major and MB3 minor Alexandria Jupinka ’22. 

“Through the program, I’m able to hear from these speakers about their experiences as well as the struggles or their barriers and hurdles that they’ve dealt with,” she says. “It has shown me that I could do anything—there are so many possibilities.”

Being a Hill-Lopes scholar “completely changed my college experience,” Jupinka says. “I've been to countless conferences and talks and seminars where I've learned things that have helped me not only inside of the classroom but also outside of it.”

Over three years, the alpha cohort has grown close.

Prem recalls the program’s first meeting in Smith Hall. “We were all standing outside in the hallway waiting to go in. Anyone walking by could see how nervous we were,” she recalls with a laugh. “From that moment on, we became so close.”

The cohort model, as well as the entire program, creates a strong sense of community for scholars. 

“It’s so nice to know that I have a community who understands exactly what I’m going through,” says Prem, who will begin a career in software engineering with an internship at MindGrub this summer. “They know the struggles of being a woman in STEM.”  

As she celebrates at Commencement, Jupinka wants to send a big “thank you” to her peers, professors and the donors who made the Hill-Lopes Scholars Program a reality.

“The amount of dedication the faculty members have put into the program is astonishing,” says Jupinka, who will return to TU this fall to begin a master’s in biology in the Bridges to the Doctorate program. “And the donors did this out of their own curiosity and grace, and, because of that, I was able to have this completely different college experience. They will never understand how much it’s meant to me.”

Applications for the Hill-Lopes Scholars Program’s delta cohort are due June 1. Interested students may contact with questions.