Juniors Liana van Woesik and Lila Xenakis are recipients of the 2023-24 Dr. Kerry Bruce Clark Endowed Scholarships in Marine Biology.
A junior majoring in marine biology with a double minor in communications and sustainability, van Woesik (pictured on the left, above) said she is “honored and humbled” to be selected for the merit-based scholarship. “I hold the distinguished list of past recipients of this award in high regard, and it is with great gratitude and respect that I am able to join their ranks to continue the marine-science legacy of Dr. Kerry Bruce Clark.”
The letter to van Woesik announcing she was selected notes that the selection committee “was impressed by your strong academic record, involvement in research in the Indian River Lagoon and tropical western Pacific Ocean, extensive participation in organizations on and off campus, and vision for your further education and your career.”
Xenakis, a junior majoring in marine biology, is “honored” to be selected for the scholarship, she said. “Throughout my entire academic career thus far, I have worked hard to get where I am today. Receiving this award has allowed me to be proud of what I’ve accomplished so far and excited for the rest of my career.”
In her award letter, Xenakis (pictured on the right, above) was told the selection committee “was impressed by your strong academic record, involvement in research in the laboratory of Dr. (Toby) Daly-Engel, performance in Dr. (Richard) Aronson’s class on invertebrate zoology, participation in organizations on and off campus, and vision for your further education and your career.”
Clark, for whom the award is named, was a member of the Florida Tech biological sciences faculty from 1971 until his death in 1999. A full professor, he was named a 1996 Fellow by the American Association for the Advancement of Science in honor of his work documenting rare species of sea slugs. His research on mollusks, marine ecology, physiological ecology and biodiversity was widely published in scientific journals.
Both recipients of this year’s scholarships plan to pursue doctoral degrees and then use their passion and education to make a difference.
“I’ve found a passion for working with elasmobranchs (sharks, skates, and rays) and other marine megafauna specifically in conservation genetics,” Xenakis said. “After completing a Ph.D. program, my goal is to continue my research studying conservation genetics of elasmobranchs in an academic setting in my own lab while providing the same opportunities I’ve been granted at Florida Tech to other passionate students.”
“My plan for the future is to earn a master’s degree and Ph.D. to acquire the skills needed to achieve my goal of having a positive impact on the marine environment and helping humanity care for, and preserve, the biodiversity of our planet for future generations,” van Woesik said.
Outside of the classroom, Xenakis has been part of the Shark Conservation Lab directed by Toby Daly-Engel and has participated in shark-related field work on both large and small boats. She is member of the Society for Women in Marine Science at Florida Tech and the American Elasmobranch Society.
Van Woesik is involved in several on-campus clubs and extra-curricular activities, including three national honors societies: she is a member and student vice president leader of the Honor Society Phi Kappa Phi and a member of the National Honor Society Phi Eta Sigma and the Biological Honors Society Tri Beta. She is also an involved member of the Florida Tech Swim Club, where she has served as president for the past two years, and is an American Academy of Underwater Sciences scientific SCUBA diver.
How did these two students get to where they are? No surprises: hard work, dedication, focus.
“A mindset of determination and dedication, consistently working hard every day towards achieving my goals, and possessing a strong passion for what I do are all key to my success at Florida Tech,” van Woesik said.
Xenakis said, “Time management and focus have helped me throughout my entire academic career. Participating in multiple different extracurriculars in grade school helped me develop time management skills. Recognizing that everything is a stepping stone has helped me stay focused on my goal of becoming a marine biologist.”