Seven Yalies to hone leadership skills as Knight-Hennessy Scholars

A Yale senior and six recent alumni will pursue graduate studies at Stanford University as part of the program, which helps develop future leaders.
Daviana Berkowitz-Sklar, Tilly Brooks, Gabe Malek, Qusay Omran, Henry Smith, Lina Volin, and Barkotel Zemenu

Top row, from left, Daviana Berkowitz-Sklar, Tilly Brooks, and Gabe Malek. Second row, Qusay Omran, Henry Smith, Lina Volin, and Barkotel Zemenu.

A Yale College senior and six Yale alumni are among 90 scholars from 30 countries to be named Knight-Hennessy Scholars at Stanford University. The scholars were selected for their independent thought, leadership, and civic-mindedness.

At Stanford, the cohort will pursue graduate degrees in 45 degree programs across all seven schools.

Knight-Hennessy Scholars is a multidisciplinary, multicultural graduate scholarship program that helps develop future leaders. The scholars receive up to three years of financial support to pursue graduate studies at Stanford while also engaging in experiences that prepare them to tackle global challenges.

The seven Yale affiliates named to the 2024 cohort of Knight-Hennessy scholars follows:

Daviana Berkowitz-Sklar ’23, who studied ecology and evolutionary biology as an undergraduate at Yale College, will pursue a Ph.D. in oceans at the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability. Raised in Costa Rica and California, Berkowitz-Sklar aspires to develop collaborative, science-based solutions to improve the health of ecosystems and the people who depend on them. She is interested in marine spatial ecology and socio-ecological systems and has conducted research in Costa Rican fishing communities with the DynaMAR Project at Stanford. She was awarded a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship as well as a Yale postgraduate fellowship to research whale migrations at OKEANOS-University of the Azores and a Rohr Reef Resilience Fellowship to study coral reef resilience at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. Berkowitz-Sklar is the co-founder and president of a nonprofit organization, Nature Now International, through which she leads programs to engage youth in community-based science and conservation, including hands-on work with wildlife, citizen science, and STEM education.

Tilly Brooks ’23, who was a linguistics major as a Yale College undergraduate, will concurrently pursue a Ph.D. in linguistics at Stanford School of Humanities and Sciences and a J.D. at Yale Law School. Brooks, who is from New Haven, studied Indo-European philology at Yale before discovering an interest in action-based research and the relationship between language and law. Focusing both on the effects of law and policy decisions on marginalized linguistic communities and the application of linguistic theories, research methods, and tools to interpretive legal processes, she researches what she calls “the law of language and the language of law.” In the long term, Brooks aims to draw communities of legal scholars, linguists, and legal practitioners together with the common goals of advancing linguistic justice in the practice of law, and refining the use of linguistic evidence and tools for law and policy purposes.

Gabe Malek ’20, who was a double major in American studies and anthropology at Yale, will pursue a J.D. at Stanford Law School. He aspires to leverage commercial law, financial regulation, and tax policy to accelerate the clean energy transition. Malek has served as chief of staff at Fervo Energy, a next-generation geothermal power developer, and deputy chief of staff to Mark Carney, co-chair of the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero and former governor of the Bank of England. He began his career at Environmental Defense Fund, where he helped formalize and scale the organization’s investor engagement strategy. At Yale, Malek received the Edward Sapir Prize for his research on international climate finance and the Institute for Social and Policy Studies Director’s Fellowship for his commitment to public service.

Qusay Omran ’21, who studied chemistry as an undergraduate at Yale College, will pursue an M.D. and Ph.D. in genetics at Stanford School of Medicine. He aspires to develop innovative therapies for cancers and immunologic disorders through research in chemical and synthetic biology. In college, he studied nucleic acid chemical biology at Yale and the National Cancer Institute, publishing his senior thesis on a novel self-splicing assay. Omran also led the Yale Review of International Studies, where he edited and published academic essays on global affairs solicited from around the world. Originally from Bahrain, Omran is a passionate advocate for displaced populations. He worked at Havenly, a nonprofit dedicated to breaking the cycle of poverty for refugee women. He earned a Dwight Hall Community Response Fellowship and the Berkeley College Fellows’ Prize for his contributions to the greater community.

Henry Smith ’22, who was a double major in mathematics and statistics at Yale, is pursuing a Ph.D. in statistics at Stanford School of Humanities and Sciences. Through his Ph.D., Smith, who is from Hanover, Pennsylvania, aims to improve statistical understanding of machine learning algorithms so they can be more confidently applied across various domains. After graduating from Yale, he spent a year conducting research at the University of Cambridge, where he and a team developed a novel machine learning algorithm to solve a challenging problem in multi-drone flight. At Yale, Smith served as a leader of the Yale Votes Coalition to strengthen university voting policy and managed data for numerous political campaigns. He also spent three years preparing taxes for low-income New Haven residents. At Yale, Smith received the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, an award for the best undergraduate thesis, and Yale’s Emerson Tuttle award for scholastic achievement.

Lina Volin ’19, who studied history at Yale, is pursuing a J.D. at Stanford Law School. Volin, who is from Hollywood, Florida, also holds a Master of Science degree in modern Middle Eastern studies from the University of Oxford. She aspires to advance access to health care and improve health outcomes through policymaking that centers equity and addresses intersecting social, economic, and legal issues. For three years, she served at the White House Gender Policy Council, most recently as director for health policy, where she worked on policy development and litigation response related to reproductive rights and helped to launch a new White House initiative aimed at closing critical research gaps in women’s health. Volin previously served as the council’s chief of staff and led efforts to advance pay equity and strengthen worker protections.

Barkotel Zemenu, an intensive physics major will graduate from Yale College this month, will pursue a Ph.D. in physics at Stanford School of Humanities and Sciences. Zemenu, who is from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, has conducted in research on three continents, including work that has spanned particle physics, quantum gravity, and observational astronomy. At Stanford, he plans to leverage this background to investigate fundamental questions in cosmology, with a focus on the elusive neutrinos and the hidden dark sector. As a Yale undergraduate, Zemenu was selected to join the 73rd Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting in Physics, named Top Oral Presenter at the annual international conference hosted by the American Physical Society, and awarded multiple national scholarships by the American Institute of Physics. At Yale, he enjoyed being a physics tutor and studying numerous foreign languages.

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