Two Eberly undergraduates who are double majoring have been selected to represent the colleges of the liberal arts and engineering, respectively. Kelly Abello, a Schreyer Scholar who will graduate with degrees in Spanish and science, will represent the College of Liberal Arts. Harshin Hiten Shah, who will graduate with degrees in computer science and mathematics, will represent the College of Engineering. They join Piper Jones, who will graduate from the B.S./M.B.A. program with a degree in science and minors in biology and in French and francophone studies and will represent the Eberly College of Science.
During her time at Penn State, Abello was a member of the Presidential Leadership Academy and received many awards, honors and scholarships. She was also a two-time captain of the women’s soccer team. Among her awards, she received the Most Valuable Offensive Player of the Year at Penn State Award and the Big Ten Outstanding Sportsmanship Award, as well as the Evan Pugh Scholar Junior and Senior Awards.
“I was very humbled [to be selected] just because I met so many incredible people in both the College of the Liberal Arts and Eberly College of Science,” Abello said. “I know so many incredible people and fellow students at Penn State, so I was just honored to be selected. I am just so excited.”
A native of Batavia, Illinois, Abello will begin her professional soccer career with the Orlando Pride this spring. She also plans to attend medical school to become an orthopedic surgeon.
“That has always been my dream to go to medical school and become a doctor. I am going to play [soccer] professionally for a while and then I can always go back to school,” Abello said. “When I hang up the boots, I am going back to medical school and pursuing a career in medicine, which I am also super excited about. I have these two passions.”
Outside of the classroom and the soccer field, Abello works as an undergraduate research assistant in the Pritchard Biomedical Engineering Lab, where she focused on cancer cell research. During her time in the lab, she was part of two projects — one studying kinases, proteins that are known to be involved in various cancers, and the other completing a meta-analysis of tyrosine kinase inhibitors, a type of targeted therapy that identifies and attacks specific types of cancer cells.
“Being part of the lab has been definitely one of the most challenging experiences. I’ve been working under a Ph.D. student, Scott Leighow. He’s incredible and so knowledgeable,” she said. “The lab has definitely blown my mind, and the research has definitely been a challenge but also so rewarding to learn so much. That has been my most rewarding experience academically at Penn State.”
Abello also emphasized how her Liberal Arts coursework has been influential in preparing her for the next chapter of her career. As a Spanish major, Abello said her education helped her improve her fluency and understanding of the culture in multiple Spanish-speaking countries. She said she feels like her Liberal Arts education will be applicable to whatever she ends up doing in the future.
“It will impact and tangibly help me in the real world to be able to communicate with Spanish speakers and be able to travel to Spanish-speaking countries,” she said. “I definitely picture myself living in a Spanish-speaking country to play soccer and one day I want to go to medical school. That was one of the reasons I majored in Spanish, to be able to communicate with Spanish speakers because even here in the United States we have so many.”
Her best memories at Penn State revolve around soccer and the final hours of THON 2020. She is part of the Student-Athlete Advisory Board THON Committee. With them, she danced in THON 2020.
“In the final hours of THON, when you’re exhausted and it has been a long 46 hours, you realize what you did it all for,” she said. “It kind of just gave me this spirit of what Penn State is and what Penn State students can do. Just a lot of Penn State pride at that moment.”
Her said other best memories involve winning Big Ten titles with the women’s soccer team. To her, they have been particularly important this past spring. The women’s soccer team usually doesn’t play in the spring, but since the fall 2020 season was canceled, they had an unusual spring season.
“It was a weird season, we had a lot of injuries, stuff was canceled because of COVID, and we had to adjust,” Abello said. “We ended up winning the conference title in the spring, and it was incredible to see the perseverance of my team and how we handled adversities.”
To her, the decision to choose Penn State in the first place was fundamental to achieving her goals. As a student with an abnormal schedule due to being a student-athlete, she said her coaches have really been supportive of her.
“Choosing to be on the soccer team, my coaching staff, and even applying to Schreyer has really encouraged and empowered me to pursue whatever I want,” she said. “Everything has been met with incredible professors and an incredible environment, especially in Liberal Arts. I had so many amazing teachers that have encouraged me along the way and taught me so much.”
Her biggest piece of advice she gave to students is to "do whatever you want," she said. While it is important to not spread yourself too thin, Abello said that every student can do anything they set their minds to.
“You can truly do it all. Do not listen to anyone who says you can’t, and just go after the things you want as early on as you can,” she said. “I didn’t really start getting involved until later on in my college career, so I think it’s important right when you get here to take advantage of all the resources that Penn State has to offer, because the four years go by fast.”
Harshin Hiten Shah
In his last year as an undergraduate student, Shah conducted research with E. Christopher Byrne, associate professor of mathematics in the Eberly College of Science, who studies mathematical modeling, optimization and game theory.
“I felt honored to have been selected and proud of my academic achievements,” Shah said.
Shah received the President Walker Award in 2018. This award is presented annually to undergraduate degree candidates and degree-seeking provisional students who earned a 4.0 cumulative grade-point average based on at least 12 graded Penn State credits completed during their first semester. He maintained his record of academic achievement and will graduate with a 4.0 GPA.
Speaking to his time at Penn State, Shah said it bolstered his personal growth.
“The environment at Penn State has been very conducive to my intellectual and personal progress,” he said. “My passion for learning, research and fitness has developed because of Penn State.”
Shah, the son of Jayshree Shah and Hiten Shah, is from Mumbai, India. He attended Jai Hind College before continuing his studies at Penn State. Following graduation, Shah plans to attend graduate school.