Benz Prize

The Robert L. Benz and Marie Uberti-Benz Family Prize in Life Sciences & Management is a cash prize awarded each year to a graduating LSM senior who has distinguished him or herself through extraordinary academic achievement and entrepreneurship.

Recipients:

2018: Heba Arshad

Heba has had a transformative effect on the LSM program, having served as an informal advisor to students of all years, and more formally as President of the LSM Student Advisory Board, achieving a great deal through the key role she has played in organizing programming, student mentoring across years, and establishing productive dialogue concerning the LSM curriculum and other matters of central interest to students. But this is only a small part of the impact she has had at Penn, where she served as an active and innovative President of the Penn Neuroscience Society (she majored in Biological Basis of Behavior), and, perhaps most demandingly, as President of the Penn Undergraduate Biotech Society, where she helped start a conference on trends in biotech, and spearheaded efforts to provide not only information for students interested in biotech, but also recommendations for local biotech companies interested in entering the health market. Moreover, Heba has had an impact beyond Penn through her volunteer work and organization with Penn for Youth Debate, providing coaching and mentoring to young students from local schools. Heba’s achievements and her remarkable academic prowess were recognized through her winning the Wharton Dean’s Award for Excellence. Despite all the presentations she has done, Heba cites as most nerve-wracking the recitals she gave – she learned piano from scratch after arriving at Penn. Heba was a pioneer for LSM in doing a scientific research internship at Bristol-Myers Squibb, and she did her business internship at ClearView Health Partners. This fall she will begin full-time work in health care consulting with Boston Consulting Group.

2018: Thomas Buckingham

Thomas has been another great contributor to the LSM program, in part through his effective organizational and advocacy work as Vice President of the LSM Student Advisory Board, and also through his teamwork abilities and generous helpfulness to his classmates in the Capstone course. Thomas is interested in going to medical school, but more broadly he has considered carefully how he can effectively have a positive impact on the health care system. Accordingly, he has not only done scientific research both at the Penn Center for Cellular Immunotherapies (with Dr. Gregory Beatty), and as a Global Clinical Development and Medical Affairs Intern with the Cell and Gene Therapies Unit at Novartis Pharmaceutical Corporation, but he has also undertaken health economics and health policy-related research through the Wharton Social Impact Initiative, and as a Research Assistant for Professor Mark Pauly, former Faculty Co-Director of LSM and the Bendheim Professor of Health Care Management, working on a study on optimal co-insurance of genetic testing, among other things. In the College, Thomas majored in Biology (and minored in Chemistry), and for his Wharton degree his concentration was in Health Care Management and Policy. Beyond the classroom and beyond LSM, Thomas took on a variety of leadership roles, as a Board member with Penn Alternative Breaks (organizing numerous social-justice focused trips across the US, including one he led with Habitat for Humanity in South Carolina), and with Penn Science Across Ages, leading a group of teachers serving local 3rd grade students with an eye to encouraging their interest in science. Thomas has served his fellow students through his service with the Student Committee on Undergraduate Education, working on ways to improve the experience of first generation and low-income students. Thomas plans to pursue full-time research in health care policy after graduation.

2018: Daniel Lundgren

Daniel brought irrepressible energy and verve to the pursuit of science and to the development of life sciences innovations. Outside of Penn, he learned about drug development through an internship at GlaxSmithKline working with the Discovery Partnerships with Academia team, and then learned about the competitive landscape in the life sciences industry from an investor’s perspective as a Summer Biotech Analyst with Adage Capital. These experiences doubtless helped with his work as one of four undergraduate Engagement Managers with the Wharton Small Business Development Center, where he managed law, MBA and undergraduate students as they provided consulting services particularly for innovative tech companies. Daniel has published an article, as first author, through his work as a Research Assistant at the Medical School with Dr. Atul Kamath comparing different hospital systems, and another in the undergraduate biomedical journal Synapse, based on an interview with Dr. Henry Daniell on a plant-based drug delivery system which actually was the basis of the Capstone project on which Daniel’s team worked. Daniel had an impact on healthcare in a rather different way through serving as Undergraduate Representative on the Student Health Insurance Advisory Committee at Penn, helping to find a way to reduce premiums significantly. And Daniel, who brings to bear not only leadership qualities but also height, also co-founded and then served as President of Penn Men’s Club Basketball, raising sponsorship money and helping bring the team to the national championships. Note that Daniel was already a prizewinner earlier in his Penn Career, winning the Clarkston Scholarship for the most promising sophomore in Pennsylvania interested in the life sciences industry. For his work following graduation, Daniel has in mind both medical school and entrepreneurial endeavors.

2018: Bela Parekh

Bela’s interests and activities have been many and varied, but an interest in medicine, especially ophthalmology, has been a persistent theme. Her freshman summer, she worked for a health tech startup in New York, implementing a patient-focused iPad patient-education application in 30 ophthalmology offices and also assisting with content creation. For her required scientific internship she went, adventurously, to do clinical and health care delivery research with the Chief Medical Officer at Aravind Eye Care Systems in Tamil Nadu, India. Closer to home, she assisted with clinical trials at the Wills Eye Institute in Philadelphia. In her senior year, she conducted a different kind of research, analyzing the effect of CAR-T cell therapy on the permeability of the blood-brain barrier, and its implications for neurotoxicity. And in the spirit of LSM, she has taken an active interest in the implementation and commercialization of research, working for two years as a consultant and project leader on strategies for five different life sciences innovations at the Wharton Small Business Development Center. Elsewhere on campus, Bela, among other things, was an active member of the University Honor Council, promoting academic integrity, and participating in the Office of Student Affairs Leadership Retreat, and then beyond campus, she acted on her impulse toward community service through volunteering both with Penn Service Link (helping to connect underserved patients with public benefits and community resources) at Penn’s Family Care Center. Bela’s impressive academic credentials and her sterling record of leadership helped her win a Fulbright Award, which she declined, at this time, in order to pursue work with McKinsey before almost certainly entering medical school.

2017: Sumun Khetpal

Sumun explored the field of health care in an impressive variety of ways while at Penn: through both science and Wharton classes, through scientific research, as a Life Sciences Consultant through the Commercialization Acceleration Project, as a summer analyst with the BioAdvance venture fund, and as a volunteer at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, as well as at a local school and center for senior citizens. She has most clearly demonstrated her entrepreneurial acumen, and in so doing made an important contribution to patient well-being, through the startup company she co-founded (together with Christine Yang, among others; see below). This is Ride Health, a platform that partners with the leading existing ridesharing companies in order to make sure that patients who have transportation barriers to their care can make it to their appointments. Currently many patients miss appointments because they don't have access to a car, can’t afford public transport or can’t easily use it because of distance or a disability. This prevents patients from receiving appropriate and timely care, and causes problems for caregivers and health systems. As Chief of Medical Operations, Sumun has been an integral part of the team that built the product, secured funding, and finalized pilot contracts with health systems.  In recognition of their efforts, the Ride Share team has won the Penn Wharton Innovation Fund, and made the semi-finals of the President’s Innovation Prize and the Penn Wharton Entrepreneurship Startup Challenge. Individually, Sumun won the Wharton Dean's Award for Innovation. After graduation, Sumun will bring her compassion, intelligence, people skills, organizational ability, social-entrepreneurial know-how and boundless energy to Yale School of Medicine.

2017: Christine Yang

Along with Sumun and other students, Christine was a co-founder of Ride Health, a software platform that allows healthcare systems to help patients who face transportation barriers to reach their healthcare appointments using existing on-demand ridesharing services. As Chief Financial Officer, Christine worked with venture capital firms and angel investors to raise capital. In addition to this, Christine has served as Co-President of the Wharton Undergraduate Healthcare Club, a club popular with LSM students and across Wharton and beyond, which among other holds an impressive annual Undergraduate Healthcare Conference at Penn featuring a number of distinguished guest speakers. Christine had previously served in this group as VP of Finance, Marketing Chair, and at-large Board member; capacities in which she has overseen financial operations and managed the budget, as well as corporate sponsorship. Christine has used her finance skills professionally with the Barclays healthcare investment banking group where she was a summer analyst in her senior year and will shortly  start full-time work after graduation. Christine first learned directly about the health care industry at Gilead Sciences, Inc., as  a Clinical Operations intern, working on tools for clinical trials and analyzing drug studies, among other things, and before that, as a summer associate with the consulting firm Precision Health Economics.

2017: Alex Saccone

In the LSM Capstone class, Alex has served as a major resource for his classmates—and also has shone as an outstanding presenter and team member in developing and explaining a business plan for a novel therapeutic platform. And indeed Alex’s record is an impressive one not only in scientific investigation, but also in service, and even in showmanship. Alex served as the President of the long-standing Penn Glee Club, having earlier served as Business Manager, not to mention drummer. This management role of a high-profile performing group involved being the primary representative for the Club in communications with University administration, and management of the  Board, as well as overseeing ambitious tours, fundraisers, and charity concerts. Alex shared his passion for music beyond Penn, too, as a Music Mentor for middle-school students here in Philadelphia, teaching them percussion. Alex’s bent for service led to his serving as an intern on a gubernatorial campaign back home in Rhode Island. The internships he has done reflect his passion for the life sciences industry: he used gene editing techniques to help with the early stages of drug discovery at Vertex Pharmaceuticals in Boston, and then he worked with a pharma client as a Summer Associate with the Boston Consulting Group, where he will return to work full-time after graduation.

2017: Shabnam Eghbali

Shabnam has an impressive record of service to go with her sterling academic record. In her first semester on campus, she volunteered with the West Philadelphia Tutoring Center, run through Civic House. That she stayed involved throughout her time at Penn is impressive in of itself, but not enough for Shabnam, who joined the Board in her second year, and then became Director of Operations the following year. In that role, she was part of a very small team that oversaw some 300 tutors, and with characteristic energy and ingenuity she developed a spreadsheet model to optimize the pairing process for both on- and off-campus tutoring. Throughout she participated in education-related discussions with her Board, learning about education-related issues in Philadelphia, and reflecting on her own identity. That is not all; Shabnam demonstrated her leadership skills in other venues—not least in her Capstone class, where she served as an indispensable resource for her fellow students. What’s more, she served as Innovation & Impact Chair of the large Wharton Undergraduate Healthcare Club, heading the coordination of a case competition, before overseeing programs to expand the reach of the program both on and beyond campus. She was, among other things, on the Student Advisory Board for the Department of Biology; a student consultant for various clients with the Penn Undergraduate Biotechnology Society; and Logistics Chair for the Wharton Women Dollar Diva Conference, which is a financial literacy conference for high school girls—a list that is indicative of both Shabnam’s outward-looking, service ethic, and also her astonishingly wide range of abilities. In that vein, Shabnam has also done research both on campus at the Abramson Cancer Center focusing on preclinical models of gastrointestinal malignancies, and also at the company Kite Pharma, in California, for a summer internship focusing on their innovative CAR-T cell therapy. And Shabnam has interacted directly with patients through her volunteering at the Penn Presbyterian Emergency Department. She plans at some point to go to medical school, but after graduation she will return to Centerview Partners, where she interned after junior year, to do healthcare investment banking. On graduation, Shabnam earned the Wharton Dean's Award for Excellence.

2016: Lucy Chen

Lucy has proven herself an exceptional student, researcher, and leader who has made great contributions to the LSM community in particular and the University in general. From the outset and throughout her time at Penn she has taken great interest in the physician-patient relationship, both as the subject of academic research, and as something she is committed to personally. In LSM, Lucy has served as a peer advisor every year she has been eligible, and been an active member of what started as the LSM Student Events Committee, and is now the LSM Student Advisory Board.  Without exception, she has been a terrific help to a great many of her peers, as well as the program leadership, communicating effectively and constructively and offering sage advice. Lucy’s research has been varied and interesting. She started in translational research at the end of freshman year, in the laboratory of Dr. John Maris at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, in the field of chemotherapeutics for neuroblastoma where whenever the opportunity arose she would go into the clinic to meet with patients, and staff.  What is especially noteworthy for someone so young is that she has given presentations of her research work to senior executives at Novartis, with whom Dr. Maris collaborates on the development of novel strategies for the treatment of neuroblastoma. In addition to translational research, Lucy has worked on an end-of-life decision project, concerned with the science of decision-making. As a consummate communicator, Lucy has shared her passion for research with others by serving as writer and editor for two University-wide publications, Penn Bioethics Journal (of which she was Managing Editor), and Synapse, a healthcare journal. Lucy plans to become an academic physician-investigator, working with patients directly, but focusing on research with the potential for influencing healthcare policy. Her next step on this path is the MD/PhD degree program Harvard Medical School she will be joining in the fall of this year.

2016: Vivek Nimgaonkar

Vivek in LSM is well known for always being willing to give advice to his fellow students even when he is very busy, which has been just about all the time, as indicated by his many and varied accomplishments. Vivek has been a standout leader who sustains and improves community wherever he applies his unique and impressive array of intellectual and interpersonal talents. Among other things, Vivek has led a student science journal (Penn Science), started a health policy group (“Wonk Tank,” a student-led group under the auspices of the Penn Wharton Public Policy Initiative), and helped found a pre-medical society (MedX) based on encouraging the kind of well-rounded approach to preparation for medical school that he has himself exemplified. And even beyond Penn Vivek has had a significant impact, through his voluntary work with local immigrant families, and two internships – one at Cambridge University in the UK where he studied drug discovery productivity on a summer Thouron Award, and another at the Aravind Hospital in Tamil Nadu, India where he conducted health services research. Vivek’s research, at Penn and beyond, has centered on analyzing quantitative data in a rigorous and skeptical—but still idealistic—manner, in a way that has allowed him to rewrite assumptions and narratives that have governed approaches to problems. After graduating, Vivek’s next step is to do research in the laboratory of Dr. Celeste Simon of Penn’s Abramson Family Cancer Research Institute before applying to medical school.

2015: Andrew Hong

Andy was cited by his classmates as being a particularly helpful resource to them during his senior year Capstone course—and indeed he’s been an energetic community-builder throughout his time in LSM. He’s proved himself an ambitious and very able student, and his curiosity and willingness to try new things have been valued attributes both outside and inside the classroom. Even before he came to LSM, Andy filed a patent for a device that warns blind users of overhanging obstacles for which he has raised funds for its development. At Penn, Andy has collaborated with graduate students in working with the Wharton Small Business Development Center in the Commercialization Acceleration Program, and done research with the Department of Bioinformatics at the University of Pennsylvania. Beyond Penn, while in LSM, Andy interned with Shire Pharmaceuticals Human Genetic Therapies, serving as a clinical trial coordinator, and then most recently as an Associate Consultant in the Life Sciences division of Simon-Kucher & Partners. After graduation, Andy will return to consulting as an Analyst with Huron Life Sciences.

2015: Tess Michaels

Tess has proved herself remarkable as a student and, already, as an entrepreneur—and she has not only started up a company (with social good in mind), but brought her sharp and original mind to bear on improving the LSM and the Penn experience for her fellow students. Her ideas to improve the educational experiences at Penn were recognized with the Wharton Dean's Award for Innovation. As a freshman she was elected as a VP of the Class of 2015, and she later served as the EVP of Wharton Finance Club, and the President of the Biotech Society. As the sole winner of the Clarkston Scholarship, she represented LSM and Penn in Pennsylvania BIO events and participated in research projects in various labs. As a sophomore she launched SOCEANA, a social good startup that brought together corporations, non-profits, philanthropists and volunteers to collaborate using “Philas,” a novel social currency. She was honored by the UN Foundation as a Global Woman Entrepreneur to Watch, as part of its Women’s Entrepreneurship Day celebration, and as a result of her appearance in D.C., she was invited by an Editor to write a column in Washington Post. Tess plans to do healthcare investment banking at Goldman Sachs, and subsequently major in healthcare strategy at Harvard Business School. Dr. Steven Nichtberger said of her: “Tess is truly a natural entrepreneur. She is an outstanding example of what is possible when you are passionate about an idea and willing to make a commitment of time and energy. Her ability to motivate companies, non-profits, philanthropists and others to collaborate around SOCEANA is a testament to her leadership and vision.”

2014: Nuvid Bhuiyan

Nuvid, who graduates with an impressive academic record, worked on the Penn synthetic biology research team that won a silver medal in the North American International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) Competition. She was also on the team that won 2nd place in the Wharton Business Plan Competition for a healthcare startup based on an idea for an online doctor's office to connect hospitals to underserved patient populations including those who live in rural areas and the elderly. In addition, Nuvid served as consultant for Penn's Commercialization Acceleration Program, as Program Manager of the Wharton Social Impact/Urban Nutrition Initiative, promoting health and nutrition in West Philadelphia communities, and as Editor-In-Chief of the undergraduate biomedical journal Synapse. Nuvid completed her science internship at Sanofi-Aventis in Paris, and her business internship in healthcare investment banking at Goldman Sachs, where she is returning after graduation.

2013: Dan Newman

Dan has indeed demonstrated extraordinary academic achievement in his Biology and Strategic Management degrees. His leadership qualities have made themselves felt not only through a standout performance with his team in the LSM Capstone course, but also in his serving as a leader with the student events committee here in LSM. Professionally, Dan interned in Clinical Project Management and Operations with Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, performing a variety of analyses of clinical trials and costs for various drugs. He interned too with the Joint BioEnergy Institute in California, where he worked in the lab optimizing a high-throughput plasmid cloning procedure and did other work related to the development of biofuels. His independent study research at HUP was in molecular oncology, centered on melanoma. Extra-curricularly, Dan also served as President the last two years for the Penn Ski and Snowboard Team, organizing weekly ski trips in season, and, of course, introducing innovations that improved the management of the organization. He's also used his talent as a presenter in the service of his school as a Wharton Ambassador.

2012: Stanley Lim

Though the program has very rigorous requirements, Stanley graduated early from LSM and submatriculated into the Master's in Biotechnology program at SEAS. While in LSM, he accumulated various experience in multiple areas of the healthcare industry. For his science internship at Vertex Pharmaceuticals, Stanley undertook protein crystallography for early drug discovery. Subsequently, Stanley worked at BioAdvance, a biotech VC, to screen start-ups and assist portfolio companies. He is currently engaged in a medical device start-up. Stanley has continued to mentor LSM's younger students, serving as a TA for the LSM Capstone and Proseminar courses.

2011: Meera Ragavan

A co-founder of Synapse, Penn’s first student-run health care publication, Meera also served as its Executive Vice-President and played a key role in getting corporate sponsorship and funding for Synapse’s early issues. She also is the co-author of two publications that came out the research she conducted with Dr. Evan Fieldston at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, examining issues in patient flow and hospital admissions patterns. In August 2012, Meera will be starting medical school at Stanford University.

2010: Andrew Ettenger

Upon graduating from LSM, Andrew co-founded SMA Partners, a company that, in response to new regulations in Chile to promote the growth of its biotechnology sector, aimed help startup ventures find funding and licensing opportunities in the U.S. Currently, while continuing to work with a Chilean company developing a new treament for metastatic melanoma, Andrew is a research assistant in the Human Embryonic Stem Cell Core at Children's Hospital of Boston and plans to pursue a PhD in the biological sciences.