Clark School Students Selected for Philip Merrill Scholarships

news story image

From left: 2023 Philip Merrill Scholarship recipients Najmah Abdur-Rahman, Thilini Amarasinghe, and Visesh Uppoor.

The University of Maryland (UMD) has announced the Philip Merrill Presidential Scholars for 2023-24, and three Maryland Engineering students are among the twenty who were selected.

Najmah Abdur-Rahman (mechanical engineering), Thilini Amarasinghe (civil and environmental engineeirng), and Visesh Uppoor (aerospace engineering) were selected for the scholarship program, which honors highly accomplished UMD seniors and the university faculty and K-12 teachers who have mentored them.

Najmah Abdur-Rahman,
Teacher Mentor: Tashia Tillett, Paint Branch High School, Burtonsville, MD
Faculty Mentor: Jungho Kim, Department of Mechanical Engineering

Najmah Abdur-Rahman

Najmah Abdur-Rahman, a dedicated mechanical engineering student, has acquired diverse experience across various sectors through internships in government research, academic research, construction management, and manufacturing. She has been active in the community through her roles as undergraduate teaching fellow in mechanical engineering, University of Maryland AmazonNext Scholar, and Nvolve Scholar, as well as through her participation in an enriching study abroad program at Oxford University for professional writing. Post graduation, Najmah envisions a career as a design engineer in the tech field, specializing in consumer electronics and robotics.

Najmah writes: "Ms. Tashia Tillet, my 7th grade engineering teacher, had a profound impact on my educational journey. My time spent in her class was one of the most enjoyable and memorable periods of my student life. She was committed to creating a fun and engaging classroom environment, filled with hands-on projects, which sparked my interest in engineering. She was also a strong advocate for girls in STEM, encouraging me to attend women-focused STEM events to broaden my exposure. Her dedication to empowering young women in STEM left a lasting impression on me and instilled determination to break barriers and contribute to the engineering industry as a female minority. Additionally, Professor Jungho Kim, my Electronics and Instrumentation professor, played a significant role in my growth as a student. I frequently sought his guidance during office hours, where he patiently helped me with challenging problems. Beyond the classroom, Professor Kim showed genuine care and interest in me as a person and not just a student. Despite the inherent difficulties of the course, his unwavering support and commitment to students cultivated a strong sense of resilience in me. His mentorship and dedication empowered me to overcome obstacles and strive for excellence."

Thilini Amarasinghe
Teacher Mentor: Vincent Muscato, Marriotts Ridge High School, Marriottsville, MD
Faculty Mentor: Peter Chang, Civil and Environmental Engineering

Thilini Amarasinghe

Thilini Amarasinghe is an active member of the UMD community, currently acting as the lead design project manager for the Steel Bridge Team, the structures subteam lead for the Engineers Without Borders Nakifuma, Uganda project, and the treasurer of the Chi Epsilon Civil Engineering Honors Society. She is also part of the Omicron Delta Kappa National Leadership Honor Society and the American Society of Civil Engineers, as well as a former member of the Mighty Sound of Maryland Marching Band. After graduating in the spring, Thilini plans to travel through Spain and Italy before working as a bridge design engineer at a consulting firm in Baltimore.

Thilini writes: "Mr. Vincent Muscato fueled my passion for engineering in high school and was one of the most influential factors in my decision to pursue engineering as a career. While taking Project Lead The Way (PLTW) classes under his instruction, I was inspired by Mr. Muscato’s fun and engaging teaching style that brought engineering concepts to life. He recognized my love for technical drawing and CAD, and he generously accelerated me through the four-year PLTW program after I started a year late. It was because of his encouragement and insistence that I decided to apply to college engineering programs. Upon arriving at UMD and immersing myself in the civil engineering department, Professor Peter Chang supported my budding passion and provided me with the tools necessary to succeed. I found myself going to his office multiple times a week to ask him design questions about club projects, and he was always more than willing to make himself available and point me in the right direction. His extensive knowledge on structures has been and continues to be one of my most valuable resources. I am extremely grateful to both of my mentors for their endless support throughout my career."

Visesh Uppoor
Teacher Mentor: Randine Levy, Roberto Clemente Middle School, Germantown, MD
Faculty Mentor: Kenneth Yu, Aerospace Engineering

Visesh Uppoor

Visesh Uppoor has demonstrated scholastic excellence through the aerospace engineering curricula, research in high-speed rotorcraft aeroelastic stability, and evident commitment to educational mentorship. He is a well-rounded person, having technical interests in aerospace engineering and extracurricular involvement in UMD’s skydiving and sailing clubs, and as an independent Indian classical musician. Post-graduation, Visesh will be attending graduate school pursuing a PhD in aerospace engineering.

Vitesh writes: "While many people have molded me into the person I am today, there are a handful of people who have had such a large impact on my development that I’ll never forget the time we spent together. Ms. Randine Levy, my middle school rock band teacher, is one of those people. As a mentor, and through her Clemente Music Rocks organization, she got me to break out of my shell from a small (literally), ‘barely-understanding-the-world-around-me’ 6th grader, to a (slightly) less small, confident, ‘if you make a mistake make it a big one’ 8th grader. This entire social, academic, and perspective transformation came about through her mentorship during my time in and after her middle school rock band program. At UMD, Professor Kenneth Yu has made a direct impact on my plans for the future and how I allocate my time and energy now. Coming into university from high school at a junior level, I didn’t have all my priorities straight for my future goals. Professor Yu’s insights have redirected my focus towards preparing for graduate school the correct way, and I’m grateful for his mentorship."

 About Philip Merrill

The late Philip Merrill, friend of the university and long-time Washington-area publisher, created the Philip Merrill Presidential Scholars Program in 2004 to build a community of scholars, faculty members, and K-12 teachers who recognize and celebrate the importance of teaching and mentoring the next generation. The program provides $1,500 scholarships, which are awarded in the K-12 teacher’s name to another student from that school district who will attend UMD in Fall 2021.

Published November 1, 2023