Carnegie Mellon University
April 27, 2021

Senior Grace Wolczanski Receives Carnegie Mellon Women’s Association Scholarship

By Emily Payne

Jocelyn Duffy
  • Associate Dean for Communications, MCS

Biological sciences major Grace Wolczanski received an early graduation gift from the Carnegie Mellon Women's Association (CMWA). She was honored, along with six of her peers from each of the university's colleges, at the CMWA’s Spring Awards Reception with a $2,000 scholarship.

“Grace embodies all that a student receiving this type of award should — she is a strong advocate for women in science, she empowers others to reach their fullest potential and she is passionate about Carnegie Mellon and the Mellon College of Science community,” said Associate Dean for Undergraduate Affairs Maggie Braun.

Since setting foot on campus in 2017, Wolczanski has made it her mission to seize every opportunity to grow personally and professionally — a mission she’s passed on to others as well. 

Wolczanski has impacted many young women with her leadership as president of CMU’s Delta Delta Delta sorority, even when she had to lead the chapter from afar during the COVID-19 pandemic. After transitioning to remote learning, Wolczanski focused on helping members grow and connect with each other over Zoom while supporting her fellow officers with their own virtual initiatives

One of the most meaningful moments from her presidency was emboldening her fellow sorority sister to be a successful leader of a student organization.

“She was worried about being able to lead and concerned about having to start off her position over Zoom,” Wolczanski recalled. The two had a thoughtful discussion about the difficulties of being a leader and how to take on those responsibilities.

“The discussion helped me realize that success as a leader isn't always measured by the number of new initiatives that you can start. Rather, it's about how you can help those around you and inspire them to grow. This is especially true for leaders of women,” said Wolczanski, noting the double standards women and women leaders often face. 

“My goal was to show my friends and sisters not only that women have the ability to be strong leaders but also that we belong in positions of leadership,” Wolczanski added.  

Wolczanski has worked hard to keep many others across the Carnegie Mellon community connected during the pandemic.

“It feels very humbling to know that the work I have done in my leadership roles has made an impact.”

Within the Department of Biological Sciences, she transitioned undergraduate networking events with faculty and staff to a remote format and initiated weekly “Friday Lunch” events where students meet up for an hour. These events regularly draw around a dozen students, offering them a space to build and maintain important social connections in a COVID-19 world.

And as a three-year Orientation Leader veteran, Wolczanski developed impactful experiences that helped new Tartans adapt to a very unusual first year of college during this year’s remote orientation.    

Wolczanski’s leadership extends even further through her research. She has participated in two Research Experience for Undergraduate programs at the University of Michigan and Rockefeller University, one of which led to co-authorship on a publication.

Since 2018, Wolczanski has been an integral member of Biological Sciences Department Head Veronica Hinman’s lab, working on tissue regeneration using molecular biology techniques in starfish. Currently, she is completing an honors thesis based on her research.

Hinman was impressed with Wolczanski’s work early on as well as her technical progression as an inquisitive and advanced researcher. “Grace perfected a protocol to live image regenerating starfish larvae and developed CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing protocols that helped the lab engineer changes to gene expression, which helped us explore the genes needed to re-specify cells during regeneration,” said Hinman.

“I am incredibly honored,” Wolczanski said of receiving the award. “It feels very humbling to know that the work I have done in my leadership roles has made an impact.”

This fall, Wolczanski will begin her doctoral studies in biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. After her studies, she plans to enter the biomedical research industry to develop novel therapeutics for cancer treatments.

The CMWA has been awarding scholarships to graduating students every year since 1964. The scholarships are funded by CMWA membership dues. CMWA membership is open to all women associated with the university.

Tris Jahanian is CMWA’s honorary president. Board members are President Jessica Shirley, Vice President of Membership Terri Deasy, Co-Vice President of Programs Emily Dennis, Co-Vice President of Programs and Marketing Elizabeth Donaldson, Treasurer Stefanie Santo and Past President Christa Cardone.