STEM Scholarships Bring Students One Step Closer to Tackling Real-World Problems

From eating dinner in the dark to feeling the helplessness of a cancer diagnosis, Sayed Shah and Hannah Mei are both motivated by the powerful potential that careers in STEM can have on people’s lives.

As Sayed watched the water flow down the slope through his makeshift electric motor, he held his breath and hoped that the lights would turn on. The sun had set in Swat, Pakistan and darkness was creeping over his town, which recently lost access to reliable electricity. 13-year-old Sayed had spent weeks designing and building a water-powered generator that would provide enough electricity for his family to eat dinner in the light. Thankfully, Sayed’s physics lessons paid off. His generator worked.

Sayed recalls that day fondly as his first glimpse into a future of tackling real-world problems with the lessons he was learning in school.

Stem Scholarship Teaser

“Life can be hard, but sometimes hardship gives you the solutions,” Sayed wrote in his scholarship application essay. “I had failures that encouraged me to continue onward. Ever since, I see myself in a field filled with technology where I can be doing research to invent something new.”

Sayed will attend University of Massachusetts, Amherst, this fall, where he plans to study computer engineering. As one of our Science Leaders Scholarship recipients this year, all of Sayed’s educational financial needs will be covered by Vertex. Both students who received this year’s scholarship are first-generation immigrants and college students who have witnessed firsthand the powerful impact that careers in STEM can have on people’s lives.

The second scholarship recipient is Hannah Mei, whose interest in pharmacology was spurred by a personal connection to cancer. After her parents told her there was no way to save her grandfather who had been diagnosed with a brain tumor, Hannah realized she never wanted others to experience the same hopelessness she felt. By studying biochemistry at UMass Amherst, Hannah plans to channel her love of science into developing lifesaving medicines to help people with cancer and other diseases.

"These scholarships are about our ability to help change the lives of young people through opportunity to higher education," said Jeff Leiden, our CEO. "Students like Sayed and Hannah are the future leaders of innovation in science and medicine, and we're delighted to help provide the opportunities they need to develop their talent and succeed in a STEM career."

“Sayed and Hannah have demonstrated great initiative and determination in the face of extraordinary personal challenges, and I’m proud to welcome them to the University of Massachusetts,” said UMass President Marty Meehan. “UMass is committed to giving hardworking students access to a transformative education and preparing them to thrive in the Commonwealth’s innovation economy.”

“I thank Vertex for recognizing the strong talent within the Boston Public Schools,” said Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh. “These students are dedicated and eager to learn the skills that will make them successful in our current and future economy.”

To learn more about our commitment to help students like Hannah and Sayed receive the hands-on learning and mentorship needed to succeed in STEM careers, visit our STEM Education page.

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