2024 Annual Initiation Ceremony

Michigan State University's Chapter 041 Annual Initiation and Awards Ceremony was held on Saturday, March 23, 2024. The event marked the Chapter's 97th year at MSU, and featured a reception, annual induction ceremony, presentation of several awards and distinctions, and talks by special guests. A total of 63 new members were initiated.

View 2024 Program

This year's invited speaker was:

Sheril KirshenbaumSheril Kirshenbaum, Academic Specialist, MSU AgBioResearch, and Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Community Sustainability, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at Michigan State University. Her doctoral research focuses on how senior congressional staffers in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives make decisions about science and policy. She holds master’s degrees in Marine Biology and Policy from the University of Maine and a bachelor’s degree in Biology and Classical Studies from Tufts University.

Sheril Kirshenbaum is an Emmy Award-winning scientist and author who works to enhance public understanding of science, and to improve communication between scientists, policymakers, and the public.Sheril hosts and writes the television series Serving Up Science, which is broadcast on PBS stations across the country. She is the author of:

  • Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future,with co-author Chris Mooney, published in 2010 by Basic Books;
  • The Science of Kissing: What Our Lips Are Telling Us, published in 2011 by Grand Central Publishing;
  • She has also published articles in scientific journals, including Science and Nature; and
  • Her work is featured in the anthology The Best American Science Writing 2010, published by HarperCollins.

Sheril co-founded the nonprofit organization Science Debate and served as its executive director from 2015-2022.

She has also previously served as:

  • director of the University of Texas at Austin Energy Poll;
  • a visiting scholar with The Pimm Group;
  • a fellow with the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, at the American Museum of Natural History;
  • a Howard Hughes Research Fellow; and
  • She also worked with the Webber Energy Group at the Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy and Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions.

Among her many prestigious recognitions, Sheril has been named:

  • a Presidential Leadership Scholar;
  • a Marshall Memorial Fellow;
  • a Sea Grant Knauss Fellow, throught the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration;
  • a Next Generation Fellow through the Robert Strauss Center for International Security and Law; and
  • MSU’s 2024 Graduate Student Award for Science Communication and Outreach

New Initiates

In accordance with national standards for membership in Phi Kappa Phi, student candidates must have completed 24 semester hours, or the equivalent, at Michigan State University. Students are selected from the upper 10% of the senior class; the upper 7.5% of students with junior standing upon completion of 72 hours; and graduate or professional students who rank in the upper 10% of all enrolled graduate students at Michigan State University.

In addition to students, the Chapter is permitted to elect annually a small number of outstanding faculty, professional staff, and alumni chosen on the basis of academic record, professional achievements, and service to higher education. These persons are nominated by chapter members and, as with the student candidates, are discussed and voted on by the members. The Chapter is also permitted to nominate persons for distinguished and honorary memberships. These prestigious distinctions require the review and approval of the Society's national Board of Directors.

View List of 2024 Student Initiates
View Gallery of 2024 New Initiates (Thumbnail images will open up into high resolution images for download)

2024 Phi Kappa Phi National Graduate Fellowship Nominee

Nikita NelEvery year, the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi awards fifty Fellowships of $8,500 each, six at $20,000 each, and two at $35,000 each to members entering the first year of graduate or professional study. Each Phi Kappa Phi chapter may select one candidate from among its local applicants to compete for the Society-wide awards.

Nikita Nel is a first-generation South African immigrant who plans to pursue a career in academic medicine, with the hope of improving national health outcomes for low-income, under-served communities.

Nikita is a fourth-year student MSU's Lyman Briggs College, majoring in biochemistry and molecular biology/biotechnology, with a minor in bioethics.

For the past four years, she has worked as a research assistant to Professor Sarah Comstock in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition studying the gastro-intestinal micro-biome of pregnant mothers and their infants. Nikita describes the goal of this research as trying "to uncover the effects of diet, lifestyle, and socioeconomic status on the gut health of pregnant women and children." She has presented her work at 11 research conferences, received multiple awards for her presentations, and is a co-author of several peer-reviewed scientific articles.

Active with the Honors College, Nikita has been the recipient of numerous scholarships which helped fund a study-abroad experience to Costa Rica in the summer of 2023 to learn about that country's universal healthcare system.

During her years at MSU, Nikita has also mentored over 35 fellow students as an Undergraduate Research Ambassador, and participated in organizing Michigan State University's annual Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum, which serves some 900 student researchers.

Nikita is a member of the MSU Homecoming Court and currently serves as president of MSU MEDLIFE. She also volunteers weekly with MSU Adaptive Sports Club, the Greater Lansing Food Bank, Sparrow Hospital, and many other organizations.

Since she began applying, Nikita has been accepted for admission to multiple medical schools, including the University of Virginia, the University of Cincinnati, and the University of Toledo.