Health Sciences Services

January 30, 2024

2023-2024 Magnuson Scholar Winter Updates

On behalf of the University of Washington’s six Health Science Schools and the Magnuson Scholar Program, here are updates on our scholars since their announcement one year ago. The scholars were recognized in October of 2023 by their colleagues and the Magnuson Family. At the beginning of Winter Quarter all seven received a second payment totaling  their $32,000 scholarship. This Winter Update is their opportunity to convey how being recipients of this honor has helped them to pursue and achieve both their research and personal goals. 

We appreciate your support of these scholars and our efforts to fully recognize their achievements while acknowledging Warren G. Magnuson’s extraordinary public service career.

The 2023-2024 Magnuson Scholars are:

Alice Ko
School of Dentistry
Laurel Kelnhoefer-Millevolte
School of Medicine
Linda Yoo
School of Nursing
Jennifer Perkins
School of Nursing
Alexandra Wiley
School of Pharmacy
Joe Lim
School of Public Health
  Andrea Portillo
School of Social Work


Scholar Profiles

Alice Ko, School of Dentistry

I am honored to receive the prestigious title of Magnuson Scholar. This kind support from the generous contributions of the late Senator Magnuson and his family provide for the Scholars as we strive to understand disease and implement interventions.

Professionally, the scholarship allowed me to convene a supervisory committee and have my first formal thesis committee meeting. I am currently researching and determining the association between parenting styles and preventive dental therapies, like fluoride varnish. I plan to develop and propose my thesis in a few months.

Personally, this award has helped me focus on my family. I recently had a new addition. The scholarship created a lift of some of the financial burden off my shoulders, in order to focus on the joyous moments with my baby. This award has allowed for this to happen, and I am grateful to be able to enjoy this very important time.

In addition, I continue training through a pediatric dental specialty program. This will help me better understand the needs of the pediatric population and their families. Further, it allows me to ask more meaningful research questions.

The award has helped me get one step closer to my dream to become a balanced clinician, where I can contribute to science through research projects on meaningful questions as well as implement these interventions in the clinic.

Laurel Kelnhofer-Millevolte, School of Medicine

I would like to thank the Magnuson Family and friends for their work to fund this scholarship. I am honored to have been selected as the School of Medicine awardee. 

Since receiving the Magnuson Scholarship, I have begun my fourth year working on my thesis in the lab of Dr. Daphne Avgousti. My thesis project investigates how herpes viruses spread from cell to cell. More specifically, my primary focus is on cytomegalovirus (CMV).

CMV is a leading cause of both birth defects and certain complications following organ or bone marrow transplant. CMV infection is also highly associated with diabetes, especially in infants when CMV infection occurs in utero. Using RNA-sequencing, we have identified that a host histone variant significantly regulates the expression of many genes required by CMV to efficiently spread. These target genes are particularly interesting because they are not expressed in uninfected host cells. In fact, as the genes are induced by CMV infection, they become promising targets for future therapeutic interventions.

As a result of the Magnuson Scholarship, I have been able to begin experiments to validate the findings. I have also performed high resolution electron microscopy imaging to begin elucidating a mechanism behind this viral spread. The Magnuson Scholarship has allowed me the opportunity to really investigate this novel CMV biology, a project I am incredibly passionate about.  

Linda Yoo, School of Nursing

I am honored to have been selected as a 2023-2024 Magnuson Scholar. This support has been instrumental in shaping me into a nurse scientist. The legacy of Senator Magnuson, and the generosity of his family, has inspired me to continue pursuing my career goals to improve the lives of those with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) through research. This school year, I have been able to serve as a 2023 Crohn’s and Colitis Young Adults Network Fellow, All of Us Research Scholar, and head research assistant for the Gastrointestinal Health and Wellness Lab.

Through the support of the program, I am able to devote time to my dissertation project, focusing on the sleep-wake cycles of individuals with IBD. Currently I am collecting data from participants with IBD through the University of Washington Digestive Health Center. Additionally, I have built collaborations with others on new projects focusing on patient-centered research and patient advocacy. I have shared my work at Advances in Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (AIBD) conference. Finally, I will continue to share my work at The Western Institute of Nursing conference later this year. 

Outside of the classroom, I was able to attend Camp Oasis, a summer camp for children with IBD, as a volunteer nurse. At camp, children with IBD are able to enjoy interaction with kids without worrying or having to explain their disease to others. Camp Oasis reignited by passion for IBD research, and reminded me of the importance of finding new treatments and developing symptom management for those with IBD. I am grateful for the support of the Magnuson Scholarship Program as it has allowed me to not only continue my work in the classroom, but also expand my research interests and give back to the IBD community.

Jennifer Perkins, School of Nursing

I am honored to accept the 2023-2024 Warren G. Magnuson Scholarship. As a first-generation high school graduate, receiving this scholarship affirmed that I belong here, and that my research is valuable to people who care about the diabetes community. My long-term goal is to create transformative changes in diabetes care, promote health equity, and build cross-solidarity.

Currently, I am in my third year of doctoral studies at the UW School of Nursing. My work includes two publications and a presentation for the Western Institute of Nursing conference. The scholarship has alleviated financial concerns and enabled me to focus on my goals.

Recently, we formalized a distinguished dissertation committee, including two additional Magnuson scholars! Dr. O’Connor, my committee chair, has provided invaluable support, while Dr. Boutain’s passion for teaching students has enhanced my understanding of qualitative research. All my committee members and the Magnuson Scholarship have empowered me to investigate insulin rationing in the U.S.

As the new chapter leader of Washington #insulin4all, I am collaborating with people in the diabetes community to bring increased access to emergency insulin in our state. Please join us in telling your senators and representatives why emergency insulin access is necessary. Additionally, I am collaborating with students at UW in Pathways for All Huskies (PAH). This student-led project promotes locating, identifying, and mapping accessible routes on the UW Seattle campus in a fun, artistic, and interactive way.

Thank you for believing in people with diabetes and the value they bring to research. If anyone would like to connect with me to discuss PAH, diabetes research, policy, or advocacy, I would love to talk or explore possible collaborations.

Alex Wiley, School of Pharmacy

I am extremely honored to be selected to represent Senator Warren G. Magnuson’s legacy as one of the 2023–2024 Magnuson Scholars. Being recognized as a recipient of this prestigious award has been a highlight of my academic achievements and serves as a daily inspiration that drives me to improve both professionally and personally. The generous support granted by this scholarship has alleviated the financial burden of living in Seattle and pursuing higher education, allowing me to focus on the completion of my dissertation.

Currently, I am in the fifth and final year of my PhD studies in the Department of Medicinal Chemistry. I look forward to defending my thesis this summer. Throughout my time at UW, and with the support of the Magnuson Scholarship, I have attended two conferences, formed many different collaborations, and encouraged younger students to pursue their passions in science. My work contributions from the last five years will help develop a more comprehensive understanding of the molecular mechanisms that play a role in the development of both diabetes and heart failure. Further, they will elucidate a new druggable receptor to combat these closely related diseases. I have found this to be my true passion, which aligns closely with my professional goal; to one day lead a team in translational medicine, advancing both diabetic and cardiovascular disease therapies.

As my work has the potential to aid in the future treatment of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, I will use this experience to springboard and launch my future career. Following the completion of my defense, I look forward to pursuing my dream of improving the lives of others through contributions to research that translate to more effective therapies for diabetic heart failure. I am so very grateful to the Magnuson family for their support. After the completion of my time at UW, I look forward to continuing to uphold everything Senator Magnuson stood for.

Joe Lim, School of Public Health

I am grateful for the efforts and changes made by the Magnuson Family and friends to further our understanding in the health sciences fields. Knowing the late senator’s meaningful contributions, it is a great honor to be part of the 2023-2024 Magnuson Scholarship.

Currently in my fourth year of my PhD, I am interested in the regulation and alteration of metabolic processes. How we can intake a complex molecule in various forms, which then can undergo a delicate combination of breakdown and synthesis, is an example. These intricate processes can at times be disturbed by environmental factors and exposures which may burden our health.

My focus is to determine whether exposures to flame retardants during critical developmental time windows worsen the metabolic phenotype in the liver, and how the interactions across various liver cell populations are altered. I hope that the findings will help understand the molecular changes in complex metabolic diseases, such as diabetes, and promote strategies to correct for the metabolic alterations by environmental factors.

In addition to being able to utilize new resources, the Magnuson Scholarship enabled me to dedicate my time and effort to my research. I recently passed my general exam and progressed to PhD candidacy. My work was submitted for publication, and is being revised after peer review. I presented in our regional toxicology meeting, and won one of the graduate student presentation awards. I will also attend workshops and conferences to develop collaborations and gain additional skillsets. I look forward to the remainder of my graduate school journey and would like to thank the Magnuson Family for allowing me to contribute to Senator Magnuson’s legacy.

Andrea Portillo, School of Social Work

I am extremely grateful to have been selected as a Magnuson Scholar. It is an honor to receive support for my research and professional development during the last year of my doctoral education.

As a bilingual, bicultural immigrant clinician, I have first-hand experience both personally and professionally about the need for culturally-centered care and its impact on physical and emotional health outcomes. Thanks to the Magnuson Family Scholarship I was able to engage intentionally with Central American immigrant community members to complete data collection for my dissertation. This was especially important because the work that I do centers around community, culture, interpersonal relationships and health among targeted immigrant communities. Additionally, I was able to submit a paper for publication in an open-access journal. The paper centered on the importance of social connections and depression outcomes among immigrants from Latin America.

Thanks to the support from the Magnuson family, I will be able to defend my dissertation this Spring of 2024. I strongly believe that the work I have been fortunate to complete will help shape health research agenda within targeted intersectional Communities of Color that centers on strength, resilience and resistance. I remain grateful to the Magnuson Family for providing this support as it allows me to continue working towards completion of my doctoral education.