2023 Milton Fisher Scholarships

Nine students receive awards for developing distinctive solutions to problems encountered in their schools, communities, families or the world.

New Haven, Conn. (Nov. 21, 2023) - The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, the region's largest grantmaker and charitable endowment, is pleased to announce nine winners of the 2023 Milton Fisher Scholarship for Innovation and Creativity. These students developed distinctive solutions to problems encountered in their schools, communities, families or the world. Six high school students also received honorable mention awards for their work.

While each application submitted for consideration highlighted a creative project, scholarships were awarded to the candidates who demonstrated significant innovation and whose projects have the greatest potential impact. The winners were recognized for projects involving the arts, science, technology and social action.

The Milton Fisher Scholarship for Innovation and Creativity was established in 2003 at The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven by the Reneé B. Fisher Foundation. The scholarship was created to reward and encourage innovative and creative problem-solving. High school seniors and college freshmen from Connecticut and the New York metropolitan area, or students who will be attending college in those areas, are eligible to apply.

Scholarship awards range from $1,000 - $5,000 and are renewable for up to four years.

The deadline for 2024 applications is May 15th. A complete of set of guidelines and a link to the online application is available here. For more information. Please email info@mfscholarship.org.

Milton Fisher was born and educated in New York City and was a Connecticut resident from 1960 until his death in 2001. He was an attorney and an investment banker who also taught a unique course for adults called "Applied Creativity" for over 25 years. His deep interest in the roots of creativity, and the many exercises he developed to help people become more innovative and creative in their lives, also led him to write the book "Intuition: How to Use it in Your Life," which has been translated into several languages. Fisher also served on the boards of several public companies and wrote two books about Wall Street.

The Milton Fisher Scholarship is one of dozens of scholarships administered through The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven. Thanks to the generosity of three generations of donors, The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven is composed of hundreds of individually named funds and distributes millions of dollars in grants annually to build a stronger Greater New Haven region. The Foundation’s 20-town service area includes: Ansonia, Bethany, Branford, Cheshire, Derby, East Haven, Guilford, Hamden, Madison, Milford, New Haven, North Branford, North Haven, Orange, Oxford, Seymour, Shelton, Wallingford, West Haven, Woodbridge. For more information about The Community Foundation, visit www.cfgnh.org, find us on Facebook at www.facebook.org/cfgnh or follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cfgnh


Scholarship Recipients

Mehar Bhasin
(The Hotchkiss School, Lakeville)

During her first day of computer science class in high school, Mehar was dismayed to see that most of her classmates were male and did not resemble her – a female of color. To help change this gender dynamic, Meher co-founded STEAM Bloom, a female, high school student-run global nonprofit organization promoting artificial intelligence (AI) education (especially its social impact applications) among diverse students (women, minorities, students from low-income background, and students from underrepresented geographies). Specifically, STEAM Bloom offers access to a variety of outreach events, webinars, and workshops for free, and creates awareness about short-term AI ethical issues and long-term AI alignment concerns. Mehar will major in computer science with a minor in math and theatre at Dartmouth College.

Arnav Grover
(Academy of Information Technology and Engineering, Stamford)

During the pandemic, there was a major transition to e-commerce and online shopping. Troubled by the fact that almost 95% of products shipped to retailers and consumers use a form of cardboard in packaging, and that nearly 850 million tons end up in the landfill despite recycling efforts, Arnav created CardBio, an environmentally friendly composite material manipulating the properties of cardboard and bamboo for commercial construction use. As an alternative to gypsum wallboard, CardBio offers a solution to consumers who would prefer to use sustainable, biodegradable, and recyclable materials without compromising on quality and strength. Arnav plans to attend Purdue University and major in computer science with a minor in mathematical economics.

Adrian Lazzi
(Polytechnic School, California)

Concerned by the high infection rate in hospitals due to non-compliant handwashing techniques, Adrian invented, designed, patented, and realized Puriphico, an electronic system that uses artificial intelligence which provides anonymous, unbiased, and objective information on handwashing compliance. By automatically detecting handwashing sessions and storing the data in a server-hosted database, hospitals can monitor compliance in different departments simultaneously. This data can be used to identify areas that need improvement and implement targeted initiatives to promote better hand hygiene. Puriphico was successfully piloted in a hospital in California and there are plans to deploy it in hospitals throughout Tanzania next year. Adrian plans to attend Columbia University and major in electrical engineering with a minor in computer science.

Mark Leschinsky
(Bergen County Academies, Hackensack, New Jersey)

For young filmmakers, showing your film at film festivals is a key step on the road to a successful career. Having entered many international film festivals himself, Mark knew that high submission fees made it difficult for many other young filmmakers around the world to have that experience. He decided to start a novel film festival specifically for young filmmakers, in which submission fees were non-existent and where marginalized voices would be prioritized. With the help of 300 worldwide volunteers to review the films, he launched the Student World Impact Film Festival. The 2023 virtual festival showcased more than 10,000 student films from 120 countries and was viewed online by more than 100,000 people. Mark is a junior at Bergen Academies.

Amanda Nepo
(Byram Hills High School, Armonk, NY)

The world of professional magicians is dominated by men. Amanda Nepo wants to change that. The innovative magic tricks she invents, designs, engineers, performs, and sells—and the creative process that she shares in her lectures and performances—are inspiring women to recognize their own creative potential and to see a place for themselves in this field. The youngest woman to “fool” famed magicians Penn & Teller, Nepo will pursue a degree in Arts, Technology, and the Business of Innovation at the Iovine and Young Academy at USC.

Benjamin Persily
(King School, Stamford)

After viewing a Zoom lecture on stem cells, which included the topics of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) and gene editing, Benjamin became interested in using gene editing in iPSCs to correct congenital conditions, particularly cystic fibrosis. With the help of his mentor, Benjamin worked to induce and correct the Cystic Fibrosis Transmembrane Conductance Regulator (CFTR) F508del mutation which had not yet been studied in iPSCs using prime editing. Gene editing represents part of the future of medicine with its capacity to correct mutations in patients before and after they are born. Similarly, stem cells are the basis for regenerative medicine and hold the potential to treat cancers and/or damaged tissues. Thus, by combining and optimizing gene editing and stem cells in these novel ways, Benjamin’s work can contribute to the future of medicine and aid countless cystic fibrosis patients. Benjamin plans to attend the University of Pennsylvania and major in biology and economics.

Samyak Shrimali
(Jesuit High School, Oregon)

The near-death of his mother from a dangerous bloodline hospital acquired infection (HAI) inspired Samyak to develop an automated artificial intelligence and sensor-based multi-modular system for hand-motion imaging to judge effective and proper hand hygiene to prevent these types of infections. Samyak continues to enhance his system to incorporate machine learning for the early diagnosis of HAIs. He also started a nonprofit initiative, Sanjeevani, which emphasizes the importance of following proper hand hygiene and provides free STEM workshops to students around the world. Samyak plans to pursue a degree in computer science.

Johanna Stefanakis
(The Bronx High School of Science, New York)

Leading experts have warned that antibiotic-resistant infections may cause the deaths of 10 million people annually by 2050. Concerned by this potential health crisis, Johanna conducted an innovative genetic analysis that highlighted significant genes which increase bacterial resistance to antibiotics. As a result, she developed a novel methodology to create new means of fighting antibiotic resistance by targeting bacterial pathways that influence biofilm formation. The framework of Johanna’s research will allow for additional studies to be conducted by other researchers, and the results can be used to shift the focus onto the creation of antibiofilm agents to work towards a solution to this looming crisis. Johanna plans to major in molecular biology and minor in English.

Ashvin Trehan
(Metuchen High School, Metuchen, NJ)

When Ashvin learned of his sister’s clinical depression during the pandemic, he was troubled by the outdated or inapplicable information on his school’s website about where she could seek help. He taught himself enough AI to create Myndful, a chatbot and software platform that provides teens across the US with guides to accessible mental health resources suited to their particular needs based on descriptions of their problems. The site is used an average of 3,200 times a week. He has also created custom sites for five area schools. Ashvin will study Computer Science and Psychology at Yale.

2023 Honorable Mentions

Hasseb Chaundry
(Amity Regional High School, Woodbridge)

Despite significant advances in medical research and technology such as MRI scans, genetic tests, and ICD codes, the early detection and diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) remains challenging. To address this, Hasseb developed a natural language processing (NLP) based machine language to identify and predict AD using doctors’ clinical notes. Though clinical notes are a valuable source of information, they are often overlooked as they are usually unstructured. By using NLP techniques, Hasseb was able to overcome this challenge and develop a model that was able to extract meaningful insights from unstructured clinical notes and accurately predict the presence of AD. A rising senior, Hasseb intends to major in pre-medicine or biomedical science.

El Glassman
(Newtown High School, Sandy Hook)

Realizing the negative impact that remote learning had on elementary school students acquiring foundational writing skills, El created a pen pal system between high school seniors and elementary children that helped to build language, handwriting, and grammatical skills while also fostering friendships. These students exchanged letters throughout the year and even met to solidify their bond. Through 200 letters written by 40 students, El provided a creative solution that promoted both learning and social skills that were lacking during virtual learning throughout the pandemic. El plans to pursue a degree in film and television production with a focus on screenwriting.

Diana Isidoro
(Common Ground, New Haven)

When schools started to reopen after closing during the pandemic, Diana realized that many of her peers had mental health challenges and weren't ready to come back in person. To support her peers, Diana created Peace Corners in her high school - corners for students who need to recollect themselves and relax when having a hard day mentally or emotionally. Peace Corners feature well-stocked bookshelves, a comfy chair, coloring books and fidget toys. Diana plans on studying botany.

Hannah Mukhtar
(Accel Middle College, California)

Hannah’s experience suffering an eating disorder in middle school inspired her to create Nutra, a gamified nutrition app for teens that focuses on the importance of nutrition to change the toxicity of calorie-counting. Nutra gives the user the ability to log each of their meals and features a creature that the user can customize based on based on type, fur color, eye color, and accessories. The nutritional value of the user’s meals directly affects the creature’s health and if certain nutrients are lacking, the creature will show the effects of that lacking nutrient. This has the effect of allowing users to see what they are doing to their own bodies, only faster and more directly. The release date for the app is late 2024 or 2025. Hannah is a rising senior and intends to major in economics with a minor in computer science.

Adeethyia Shankar
(Brookfield High School, Brookfield)

Even with significant developments in analyzing disease via the gut microbiome, including colorectal cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, type 2 diabetes, and hypertension, there is still a lack of research on how much of a role the gut microbiome truly plays. Adeethyia's desire to help fill this void led her to create a framework that allows researchers to discover novel correlations and causations between the gut microbiome and human health. Utilizing this research, future investigations can begin to uncover determining factors of the gut microbiome, enabling a deeper causal understanding of diseases and their correlation to the human microbiome. Eventually, the framework can lead to discoveries of how the gut microbiome causes diseases and mitigate these diseases with healthier guts. Adeethyia will major in computational neuroscience at Brown University.

Patricia Smith
(New Haven, home schooled)

Recognizing both the seriousness of food insecurity for many New Haven families, and the fact that local farmers and grocery stores discard a lot of produce and food due to surface imperfections, Patricia organized a Healthy Food Access Program that enables more of this produce and food to reach people who need it.

Matthew Higbee
Director of Communications
The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven