16 UTA scholars receive McNair federal research award

Department of Education-funded grant prepares students for careers in scientific research

Thursday, Feb 08, 2024 • Katherine Egan Bennett :

Picture of McNair Scholars
Some of the McNair Scholars standing with Ronald McNair's brother Carl in October 2023

A competitive U.S. Department of Education program that prepares undergraduate students interested in careers in academic research has selected 16 undergraduate students from The University of Texas at Arlington to join.

The McNair Scholars Program was named for physicist and astronaut Ronald E. McNair, the second Black astronaut in U.S. history and one of several crew members killed when the space shuttle Challenger exploded on Jan. 28, 1986. The program assists qualified first-generation college students and/or members of historically underrepresented groups in pursuing doctoral degrees. It is part of the federal TRIO program that has helped nearly 900,000 students pursue their dreams of advanced education.

“The McNair Scholars Program has been proven to be a great way for undergraduate students considering a career in academia to get a taste of how scientific research is conducted and see first-hand the real-world impacts that can come from it,” said Kayunta Johnson-Winters, interim dean of undergraduate research at UTA and associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry.

McNair’s brother Carl, founder of the McNair Scholars Program, recently visited UTA to speak to students and encourage them to apply.

“He advised our students to seize opportunities like this award, as they won’t win opportunities if they don’t apply,” Johnson-Winters said.

As part of the program, the 16 students will receive a stipend of $4,000 each and participate in a summer research internship on UTA’s Arlington campus under the mentorship of a faculty member. Students will receive academic counseling, free travel to McNair research conferences, mentoring help from UTA faculty, graduate school application advice and fee waivers for various additional educational applications.

Scholars also benefit from close working relationships with both the UTA faculty advising the McNair Scholars and the high-achieving McNair alumni network around the world.

The McNair Scholars from UTA are:

  • Ahmed Alumary, a biomedical engineering major from Dallas who attended Juan Seguin High School in Arlington.
  • Brenda Muhonja Amata, a senior biomedical engineering major who was born in Nairobi, Kenya. She graduated from MacArthur High School in Irving and now lives in Frisco.
  • Natalia Bawuah, a senior public health major who was born in Ghana before coming to the United States. She graduated from West Mesquite High School in Mesquite.
  • Aaliyah Devore, a junior public health major from Houston who attended Kipp Houston High School.
  • Gobellan Rodriguez Florencio, a junior psychology major who attended North Garland High School in Garland.
  • Matthew Gonzales, an accounting/information systems major from North Richland Hills who attended Richland High School.
  • Carolyn Hart, a junior psychology major from Mansfield who attended Lake Ridge High School.
  • Hannah Huggans, a junior biomedical engineering major from Mesquite who attended Canterbury Episcopal School/Kingdom Collegiate Academy.
  • Connor Jackson, a sophomore physics major who attended Fond du Lac High School in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.
  • Armeen Nasir, a junior microbiology major from Fort Worth who attended Fossil Ridge High School.
  • Ken Perry, a junior biology/exercise science major and a graduate of Arlington High School in Arlington.
  • Isabella Posca, a senior art/psychology major who attended Quartz Hill High School in Antelope Valley, California, for the first half of her high school career before her family moved to Hallsville in East Texas. She graduated from Hallsville High School.
  • Cecilia Romero, a junior software engineering major from Haltom City who attended Haltom High School.
  • Daisy Troche, a management marketing major.
  • Tyler Trujillo, a sophomore mathematics major who attended North Crowley High School in Fort Worth.
  • Zearlee "Zea" Wallace, a senior university studies major from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, who attended Capitol High School.


The UTA College of Science, a Carnegie R1 research institution, is preparing the next generation of leaders in science through innovative education and hands-on research and offers programs in Biology, Chemistry & Biochemistry, Data Science, Earth & Environmental Sciences, Health Professions, Mathematics, Physics and Psychology. To support educational and research efforts visit the giving page, or if you're a prospective student interested in beginning your #MaverickScience journey visit our future students page.