TEMPE, AZ – The Intercollegiate Tennis Association (“ITA”) is pleased to announce the four finalists for the 2023 ITA Sally Ride STEM Award sponsored by Tam O’Shaughnessy.
This year’s finalists include Anjali Devireddy (Johns Hopkins), McKenzie Ferrari (UMass Dartmouth), Hannah Johnston (WashU) and Sarah Pertsemlidis (MIT).
The ITA Sally Ride STEM Award, funded by Tam O’Shaughnessy, was created to honor a student athlete who demonstrates drive, dedication and perseverance in tennis training and competition, STEM studies and long-term goals.
“I am incredibly excited about the quality, character and interest of the four finalists for the 2023 ITA Sally Ride STEM Award.” said Tam O’Shaughnessy. “Sally would be thrilled if one of these exceptional sports scientists, who loves tennis and science as much as she does, would be supported in her dreams.”
Created in 2022, the inaugural winner of the ITA Sally Ride STEM Award is Anna Tifrea of the California Institute of Technology. Tifrea continues her academic studies at the University of California, San Diego, earning a joint PhD in medicine and biophysics.
“College tennis develops champion human beings on and off the court,” said ITA CEO Dr. Timothy Russell. “Our association serves and advances our sport in the world of higher education and returns the leaders of tomorrow. The ITA awards program is one of the most extensive in university athletics, and our endowed named awards honor “the best of the best.” I am incredibly grateful to Tam O’Shaughnessy for her leadership and celebration of the Sally Ride spirit, and share Tam’s enthusiasm for this year’s award finalists.”
The recipient of the award will receive a grant of eight thousand dollars ($8,000) to pursue their dreams. The prize money given to the student-athlete can be used in any way (e.g. tuition, books, rent, etc.)
In addition, the ITA will also donate $2,000 ($2,000) to the institution’s women’s tennis program where the award winner graduated.
Anjali Devireddy | Johns Hopkins University | NCAA Division III
Tennis was introduced to Anjali and her brother at a young age as a way to bond. Anjali and her siblings had no knowledge of junior tournaments or college athletics, and they spent countless evenings on the court together, honing their skills one shot at a time. Meanwhile, off the pitch, Anjali and her siblings watched as their grandfather battled Parkinson’s disease. The experience of her grandfather’s struggle with Parkinson’s disease inspired Anjali to study neuroscience when it came time to enroll in college. With her desire to compete and her passion for neuroscience, Johns Hopkins University was a perfect fit for her interests. At Hopkins, Anjali not only received an unparalleled STEM education, but also had the opportunity to make an impact in Baltimore’s underprivileged community. Using the knowledge gained during her studies at Johns Hopkins, Anjali created a poster that was approved by the American Epilepsy Association for its 2021 annual meeting. Taking a heavy course load and doing this research allowed her to graduate a year early with a bachelor’s degree in neuroscience with honors. Anjali plans to attend John P. and Kathrine G. McGovern School of Medicine at UTHealth, through which she hopes to provide healthcare to disadvantaged communities.
McKenzie Ferrari | UMass Dartmouth | NCAA Division III
While McKenzie Ferrari has always been interested in science, tennis really sparked her interest in physics. Tennis was a great example of how a better understanding of physics improves a player’s game; this is essential for adapting to different court surfaces and understanding opponent return rotation. At UMass Dartmouth, McKenzie decided to study physics to better understand the basic laws and theories that govern not only the tennis court, but also the universe. In addition to studying physics, Mckenzie also spent time doing research in astrophysics. McKenzie’s research expertise spans the fields of stellar and transient astrophysics, illuminating the properties of the celestial bodies we use as cosmic distance indicators. In addition, McKenzie is active in organizing outreach activities at her university through STEM events such as a hovercraft project with a local high school and the annual STEM4Girls program. McKenzie will now be doing her PhD. in astrophysics from the University of Chicago, studying the physics of galaxies and their interactions while preparing for a career in academia and science communication.
Hannah Johnston | Washington University in St. Louis Louis | NCAA Division III
From the age of eleven, Hannah Johnson was completely engrossed in tennis, spending dozens of hours a week training, playing tournaments most weekends, and leading her team to two state high school championships. As with tennis, Hannah was interested in STEM from an early age, staying up late in high school classes to learn more from her teacher and further explore the concepts learned in the labs. Here, she began asking questions about the world around her, something she continues in college and plans to do throughout her life. In her senior biology classes at WashU, Hannah was able to narrow down her true passion. Hannah has found that she loves learning about immunology where she can study the human immune system and apply science to help people with diseases. During the summer research program at MD Anderson, Hannah found a way to combine her love of tennis and research. There, she helped create a breast cancer intervention program that includes exercise and dietary changes, and over the next few years, she published two papers on exercise-based preventive screenings. In July this year, Hannah plans to go to medical school, where she will continue her studies.
Sarah Pertsemlidis | MYTH | NCAA Division III
In Sarah Pertsemlidis’s early years, tennis was a source of stress and frustration as tournaments were pressured, matches were lonely and losing was always disappointing. However, no matter how frustrating tennis was for her, she quickly realized how much she loved the game. Tennis made Sarah resilient, teaching her how to have fun even when things weren’t going her way, and helped her see everything as an opportunity to learn, an opportunity to improve. After spending several summers in a cancer biology lab studying the extensive STEM program, Sarah chose to attend MIT where her passion for STEM and tennis could continue to grow. Sarah entered MIT as a bioengineering major because of her love of biology and her belief in a more systematic approach to research. Growing up, Sarah always felt like tennis and school were two separate entities, but at MIT she found people who were so supportive and collaborative that she was able to connect these communities and be fully herself in many spaces. In her undergraduate studies, Sarah realized that the issue she cared most about was improving research and healthcare for women, which made it her dream to use synthetic biology to better understand reproductive systems. After graduating, Sarah will continue her studies at Duke University where she will pursue a PhD in Biomedical Engineering at Pranam Chatterjee’s laboratory.
ABOUT IT: The Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) is the governing body and association of college tennis coaches, both an advocate and authority for the sport and its members. Consisting of 1,260 colleges and universities, 20,000 student-athletes, 1,700 college programs, 3,000 coaches, and 1,350 student-athlete officials. Follow the 2023 spring college tennis season on the site website and ITA’s social channels on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, FacebookAND Youtube.