Class of 2020 Students

Introducing the Fifth VIPER Class

Vignesh Bhethanabotla is from Tampa, Florida.  He graduated from the International Baccalaureate program at C. Leon King High School.  In high school, he worked at the University of South Florida on research in the area of photocatalysis. He is planning to major in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering in the School of Engineering and Applied Science, and will major in Physics in the School of Arts and Sciences.

Raj Bhuva is from Mumbai, India, and he graduated from Dhirubhai Ambani International School in 2016. Currently, he plans on majoring in Chemistry and Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. Raj's most rewarding research experience, to date, has been his study on ion-exchange resins used in wastewater treatment - a project that evoked his passion for sustainability. He is interested in dye-sensitized solar cells as well as fuel cells, and hopes to delve more deeply into one of these areas as part of his VIPER research. Raj also is passionate about acting and foreign affairs, and in his free time, likes to check out new web-series, as he hopes to act in one someday!

Julia Huiyuan Chen is from Shanghai, China, and graduated from Jianping High School in 2016. She has always been passionate about the application of renewable energy, and became interested in research when she completed solar energy projects under the instruction of researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. She plans to major in Chemistry in the School of Arts and Sciences, and Materials Science and Engineering in the School of Engineering and Applied Science. Julia is interested in the application of nanotechnology in energy storage and conversion efficiency, and hopes to promote the use of clean energy in daily life. In her free time, she enjoys dancing, cooking and traveling.

James Kwon is from Harrington Park, New Jersey, but has been living in Seoul, Korea the past two years. He graduated from Korea International School. He has a keen interest in sustainable development and clean energy after serving an internship at the Electronic Materials lab at Yonsei University. Additionally, he participated in research in a study of dielectric materials and nano particles in electrochemistry. James wishes to develop renewable energy sources that can be mass produced while lowering costs and increasing efficiency. VIPER is a good fit for him due to his interest in research and passion for saving the environment. In his free time, he can be found playing soccer, listening to music, or taking photos around campus.

Richard Ling is from Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania, and was born in Riverside, California. He is entering Penn in 2016 after graduating from Abington Heights High School. His prospective majors are Materials Science and Engineering and Earth and Environmental Science. An avid follower of Elon Musk, Richard believes that the future of sustainable energy must be accompanied by a smooth transition to more efficient and accessible materials. He joined VIPER due to its excellence in research, dense concentration of intellect, and ambitious individuals who all want to make the world a more sustainable environment. Outside of classes, Richard likes to swim, skateboard, play basketball and tennis, solve Rubiks cubes, and play a couple instruments.

Andrew Nyholm is from Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania, and graduated from Upper Moreland High School in 2016. Growing up surrounded by a nature preserve, he has always had a passion for the environment and sustainability. He became interested in energy research at the Pennsylvania Governor’s School for Engineering and Technology after the summer of his junior year. Andrew plans on studying Physics and Materials Science and Engineering. In his free time, he loves to get out and explore some of the natural areas around Philadelphia or read a book in his hammock.

Deborah Oh (not pictured) is from La Canada, California, where she graduated from La Canada High School. She plans to major in Electrical Engineering and Biology, under the VIPER program. Her experiences with environmental volunteering in high school first drew her to the idea of green energy, and she hopes to contribute to the future development of alternative energy sources. In her free time, Deborah enjoys listening to music, watching cat videos, and walking down Locust.

Damian Owerko was born in Warsaw, but moved to England for his final two years of high school. He graduated with the class of 2016 at Sevenoaks School. While he was always interested in alternate energy sources, his desire to do research was sparked after spending a summer with a graphene research group.

Now, he is working towards degrees in Physics and Systems Engineering, and plans to leverage the two to develop and implement new technologies. During his free time, he can be found on the ski slopes of Austria, riding the waves in Greece or working with Penn Electric Racing.


Trevor Pennypacker is from Holliston, Massachusetts and graduated from Holliston High School. He has always been interested in science and engineering and their potential to impact the environment, making VIPER a perfect match. Trevor is majoring in Physics and Electrical Engineering, and aims to contribute to the field of alternative energy. In his free time, he  enjoys golfing and playing the bari sax.


Alexander Proschel is from Pittsford, New York, and graduated from Pittsford Sutherland High School. He intends on studying Materials Science and Engineering and Physics. He worked at the Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE), a research facility focused on nuclear fusion, for two summers researching the qualities of isotopic exchange over a platinized molecular sieve. His time spent at LLE working and meeting faculty ultimately led to his interest in energy research. Alex aspires to come up with new materials and methods to help solve the ever growing energy crisis. When he is not busy with schoolwork, Alex is either playing on the Penn Ultimate Frisbee team, playing pick-up basketball at Pottruck or simply sleeping in his dorm.

Chris Stanczak is from Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania, and graduated from Upper Darby High School as part of the class of 2016. He always has been interested in engineering and the physical sciences, which led him to pursue dual degrees through VIPER.

Currently, he plans on majoring in Physics and Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics, and is excited to take part in energy research at Penn. In his free time, Chris plays the saxophone in a variety of music ensembles.


Swetha Subramaniam is from East Windsor, New Jersey, and graduated from Hightstown High School. She currently plans on majoring in Electrial Engineering and Chemistry, She was part of her school's environmental club and always has had an interest in alternative energy. Before her senior year, Swetha was introduced to research on graphene while interning at the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab, and she hopes to continue with this research at Penn through VIPER. In her free time, Swetha enjoys dancing with Penn Raas, playing Brawl and drawing.

Mavis Athene U Chen is from Macau SAR. She came to the U.S. as an exchange student since sophomore year, and graduated from Germantown Friends School in Philadelphia. She plans to major in Physics or Earth and Environmental Science, as well as Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. Mavis always has been passionate about sustainability and alternative energy resources, due to her witness of the vast development in Macau.  Her interest in research developed in high school, when she worked at an Ecology and Evolutionary Biology lab at Princeton University and a Chemical and Bioenvironmental lab at the University of Pennsylvania. Upon graduation, she plans to bring her experience and knowledge in energy research back to Macau in hopes of improving her hometown to a more sustainable city. She also enjoys learning new languages, dancing and exploring the city.

Dakota Wallach is from Medford, New Jersey. He graduated from Shawnee High School in 2016. He plans on studying Chemistry and Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. In the summer of his junior year in high school, Dakota worked at Penn in Dr. Jessica Anna's lab, where he engaged in ultrafast laser research. Dakota joined VIPER in the hopes of continuing to research laser spectroscopy or other emerging fields in energy research. In his spare time, Dakota likes to play pickup games of lacrosse and tennis, or jam out with his band on the bass guitar.


Zachary Whitlock is from Washington DC, and graduated from the Edmund Burke High School. He plans on majoring in Materials Science and Engineering and Physics. During high school, he worked at the Carnegie Institution for the Advancement of Science, assisting in the development of novel techniques to measure the heat capacity and dielectric constant of samples compressed in diamond anvil cells. Zachary was interested in joining the VIPER community because he believes that the most pressing engineering problem of our time is that of alternative energy solutions. He enjoys cycling, running, Mad Men, and exploring Philadelphia.

Luka Yancopoulos is from Yorktown Heights, New York. He entered VIPER with the intent to major in Bioengineering and Earth and Environmental Science. Luka always has been interested in the environment: his work with Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve Research in Belize after his sophomore year in high school taught him about the rapid environmental impacts that fossil fuel use has been having on marine populations and ocean water quality. This sparked his interest in renewable energy as a sustainable solution to the problems he learned about in Belize. He followed up by working with the Yang Research Group at Columbia University, devoting his hours to the research and development of electrochemical energy storage within Lithium Ion batteries. This led to his interest in biology and a desire to manipulate its properties to help solve environmental issues and energy concerns. In his free time, Luka enjoys skiing, hiking and exploring new places.