The LAS Outstanding Young Alumni Award is given to BS/MS alumni under the age of 40 or PhD alumni within 15 years of graduation who have demonstrated the values derived from a liberal arts and sciences education by outstanding achievement, or by significantly improving or enhancing the lives of others through outstanding leadership or service.
Britney P. Robbins
BA, '10, rhetoric/creative writing
Britney P. Robbins is the founder and CEO of The Gray Matter Experience, a non-profit that empowers Black high school students to learn about and practice entrepreneurship. She is also the manager of partnerships and community for CAST US, a multi-million-dollar venture capital fund that aims to support Black, Latinx, and women entrepreneurs in Chicagoʼs south and west side neighborhoods.
BS, '13, chemical engineering
Jacob Becraft is a synthetic biologist and the co-founder and CEO of the biopharmaceutical company Strand Therapeutics. Together with colleagues at MITʼs Synthetic Biology Center, he led the development of the worldʼs first synthetic biology programming language for mRNA. He is an author or inventor on numerous high-profile publications, patents and white papers, and he has been featured in journals such as Nature Chemical Biology and PNAS.
BS, ’09, molecular and cellular biology
As medical director of emergency medical services at OSF Heart of Mary Medical Center, Kurt Bloomstrand administers a physician level of care during medical emergencies before patients are taken to the hospital. He oversees operations at 65 agencies in seven different counties. He operates a physician response vehicle that operates as a typical ambulance but with tools and medicine that only physicians are certified to provide. Watch a video interview of Bloomstrand.
PhD, ’10, chemical engineering
Jerrod Henderson is a passionate educator who has committed himself to increasing the number of underrepresented students obtaining degrees and pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. While he was a lecturer at the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Illinois, he co-founded the St. Elmo Brady STEM Academy, an innovative afterschool program that introduces underrepresented fourth and fifth grade boys to hands-on, inquiry-based STEM activities, alongside their own fathers or other male mentors. Read more about Jerrod Henderson.
PhD, ’03, cellular and structural biology
Anne Carpenter works at the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, leading a research group that works on CellProfiler, which she developed. CellProfiler is the first open-source, high-throughput cell image analysis software, and it is being used to do breakthrough research on diseases ranging from leukemia and Ebola to cancer and tuberculosis. Biologists around the world use this software to measure more than 1,000 features of cells. Read more about Anne Carpenter.
Ifeoluwa (Luvvie) Ajayi
Ifeoluwa (Luvvie) Ajayi has emerged as a highly prominent pop culture commentator through her blog, Awesomely Luvvie, and her first book, "I'm Judging You: The Do-Better Manual." Ajayi has more than 10,000 visitors to her site on any given day, along with 180,000 likes on the Awesomely Luvvie Facebook page, 30,000 followers on Instagram, and 60,000 followers on Twitter. She co-founded The Red Pump Project with another Illinois alumna to increase HIV/AIDS awareness. Read more about Ifeoluwa (Luvvie) Ajayi.
Morgan McClain-McKinney Limo
BA, '09; MA, '11; political science
Morgan McClain-McKinney Limo serves as the program advisor for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), where she was awarded the USAID Meritorious Honor for Support to President Obama's Power Africa Initiative. Her savvy diplomatic skills and ability to cultivate relationships have made her a leader in working with entrepreneurs in the United States and Africa to increase opportunities for trade, investment, and creating market opportunities for the world's poorest populations. Read more about Morgan McClain-McKinney Limo.
BA, '01, history
Christina Brodbeck was one of the earliest team members of YouTube. She had graduated from Illinois with a bachelor's degree in history, specializing in Russian and Eastern European history. But she says the flexibility and freedom of an LAS degree, coupled with connections developed during her undergraduate years, changed her life completely.She now pursues her life's passion, which is designing and investing in startup companies in the San Francisco Bay area. Read more about Christina Brodbeck.
BA, '07, economics; BS, '07, engineering physics
Patrick Walsh discovered the need for improved lighting in developing countries while on a trip to India as a University of Illinois student. This trip inspired him to start Greenlight Planet, a company that sold a million solar lanterns in 2013 and has already topped that number in 2014. Solar lanterns replace the more dangerous and expensive kerosene lamps. Read more about Patrick Walsh.
Margaret E. Kosal
PhD, '01, chemistry
It didn't take long for Margaret E. Kosal to emerge as one of the nation's leading young experts on chemical and biological defense. She has even spoken to the chiefs of the New York City Fire Department on terrorism and has become an authority on how emerging technologies, such as nanotechnology, might be used for both terrorism and counterterrorism. Read more about Margaret Kosal.
BS, '94, biology
Scott Eggener has demonstrated a unique ability to combine competence with compassion. He has talents in many areas-from surgery and patient relations to cancer research and academic writing. He has taken these skills and resources to some of the neediest areas in the world, helping to organize four medical missions, with an eye on many more. Read more Scott Eggener.
AB, '97, political science; JD, '00, law
Chapin Rose was elected as the second-youngest member of the Illinois House of Representatives. Six years after graduating with a degree in political science from LAS and three years out of U of I College of Law, he began rewriting death penalty laws and helping rebuild the Republican Party of Illinois as a member of the Illinois House of Representatives. Read more about Chapin Rose.
Penny Panayiota Deligiannis
AB, '87, AM, '92, speech communication
Penny Panayiota Deligiannis began working in overseas missions by joining a Greek Orthodox Mission Teaching Team in her hometown. Since then, she has been director of Diaconia Agapes and Action By Churches Together, an ecumenical network affiliated with the World Council of Churches. Currently, Ms. Deligiannis oversees 87 people and a budget of $9 million while assisting refugees from NATO's air war in the Balkans and ethnic Albanian Kosovars fleeing into Albania. Read more Penny Deligiannis.
AB, '92, political science
Steven Kulm has a passion for politics that has already won him an elected township position and the gratitude of his community for such projects as the local social service fund he organized that aids youth, seniors, the disabled, and the economically disadvantaged. Read more about Steven Klum.