STEM Forward Awards Five, $2,500 Scholarships to Students Pursuing STEM Careers

STEM Forward is proud to present five, $2,500 scholarships to the following students for the 2018-2019 academic year: Jessica Thayer, Marquette University; Brendan Pettis, Milwaukee Area Technical College; Katie Merriman, Milwaukee School of Engineering; Anthany Mayer, UW-Milwaukee; and Gene Lee, UW-Madison.


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Jessica Thayer
School: Marquette University
Year: Senior
Major: Master’s of Science in Mechanical Engineering through the accelerated BS/MS program

Jessica is fascinated and inspired by all research about human gait in the prosthetics field that is happening at Marquette University. She hopes to improve the gait models we currently have.

“Even though walking is one of the most common things that human beings do every day, we still do not have a good understanding of the dynamics behind it,” she said. “It is a natural part of development to learn how to walk, but the understanding of gait is limited.

Jessica is a senior, and plans to pursue a Master’s of Science in Mechanical Engineering through the accelerated BS/MS program at Marquette. Eventually, she plans to land a career in the prosthetics field.

“Lack of understanding of human gait is detrimental to the development of gait-related treatments and devices,” she said. “A truly predictive model would enable virtual testing of lower limb prostheses and could eliminate some of the typical trial and error approach used to develop prostheses.”

Brendan Pettis
School: Milwaukee Area Technical College
Year: Sophomore
Major: IT Web and Software Development / Computer Science


Brendan’s goal is to be a lifelong learner. 

“Technology advances rapidly,” he said. “In order to stay relevant in this industry, a wise instructor in my program taught me that a commitment to lifelong learning is essential.”

He plans to become a Software Engineer for a large, technology company, and tackle world class problems with the brightest minds in the industry.

“I want to be a part of something bigger than myself and help solve the problems that revolutionize the industry,” he said. “For that very reason, I strive for excellence in and outside the classroom each day.”

From now until 2023, Brendan plans to accomplish the following:

  • Graduate from the IT Web and Software Developer program at MATC spring 2019.

  • Obtain a BS in Computer Science from Western Governor’s University by 2021.

  • Obtain a MS in Computer Science focused on Artificial Intelligence by 2023 (University TBD)

    In addition to being a student at MATC, Brendan juggles beyond full-time employment and parenthood.

“I don’t give up, and I don’t make excuses,” he said. “In order to accomplish my goals, I have to do more than just graduate from MATC, I have to excel in every way.”

Katie Merriman
School: MSOE
Year: Sophomore
Major: Electrical Engineering


Two years ago, Katie took a leap of faith. She enrolled at MSOE as a BioMedical Engineer. 

“I wish someone would have told me years ago how much I would love engineering because it has taken me entirely by surprise,” she said. Although I suspect that if someone had told me, I wouldn’t have believed them."

Two years ago, Katie was trying desperately to make a living in the theater while financially supporting her parents, as she’s been since graduating with a Fine Arts degree at the start of the recession. 

“I was achieving a moderate amount of success and helping my family dig their way out of the massive debt that accrued over the prior decade,” she said. “I was reasonable proud of what I had accomplished. But other than small moments of exhilaration as an audience would cheer or another credit card got paid off, I was increasingly unhappy. I felt out of place in my own life.”

She’s not quite sure where the idea to be an engineer came from. She didn’t know anyone in engineering and didn’t have experience in any STEM field.

“I just knew from high school that I would be good at it,” she said. “Now, a year later, it’s the best decision I ever made.”

There are days that are exhausting, frustrating or disappointing, but Katie has never once wanted to quit, and is inspired by the challenge. 

“Not only am I succeeding at all my classes, but it turns out, that I love my Electrical Engineering classes so much that I’m currently taking to my advisors about switching to EE as a major,” she said. 

As an Electrical Engineer, Katie plans to be involved with the BioMedical Engineering world.

“There are projects in development right now researching ways to bypass paralysis, to more effectively integrate prosthetics, and to improve diagnostics through better neural signal processing, AI guided diagnostics, and wearable, ingestible and implantable devices,” she said. “All of these have an Electrical Engineering component — as well as some of the same creativity that initially brought me to the Fine Arts — and all of them have the potential to change many, many lives for the better. They feel like puzzles just waiting to be solved and I can’t wait to get started.”

Anthany Mayer
School: UW-Milwaukee
Year: Senior
Major: Civil Engineering


Anthany’s dream is to earn his Master’s Degree in Structural Engineering, and start his own business, specializing in the construction of residential and commercial buildings. 

“After graduation, I plan on working as a structural engineer or a construction manager in my hometown of Milwaukee,” he said. “Currently, I’m working on my short-term goals of maintaining a solid GPA, graduating May 2019, and working as a construction management intern this summer.”

As a senior at UW-Milwaukee, Anthany is proud that he’s been able to maintain a high GPA to apply to graduate school, and has been searching for an internship in construction management. He plans to either pursue a career in construction management or structural engineering.

“UWM has helped me to achieve both professional and personal goals through the advising staff, career fairs, ABET accredited program and panther catholic,” he said.

Besides professional goals, Anthany also has personal goals that include being a positive role model for his six siblings and learning more about religion. He’s involved in Panther Catholic at UWM, and studies the scripture in his spare time.

“Outside of my college career, I am a very family-oriented brother with six younger siblings,” he said. “With me being the oldest, I’ve always been a natural leader and it is very important to me to ensure that I’m a positive role model they can learn from. They continue to keep me motivated throughout my studies.”


Gene Lee
School: UW-Madison
Year: Freshman
Major: Chemical Engineering and Computer Science

Gene Lee was one of more than 50 highly qualified high school seniors residing in southeastern Wisconsin who applied for our high school scholarship this year to pursue a STEM degree. Gene will attend the University of Wisconsin-Madison this fall, and plans to double major in chemical engineering and computer science.

“From an early age, I was drawn to the vast, enigmatic world of science,” she said. “In high school, I explored this insatiable curiosity by taking all the AP STEM classes offered.”

Her favorite course is chemistry.

“There is something truly fascinating about quantifying particles invisible to the eye that drive our world,” she said.

Gene looks forward to exploring different aspects of chemical engineering and computer science in college. She also has a strong interest in energy sustainability and developing alternative energy sources.

“I believe that a STEM career, combined with my relentless passion and focus, will be my gateway to improving our world,” she said. As a chemical engineer, I will strive to develop new technologies that advance the quality of our lives, while also protecting the environment.”

These five outstanding students will be honored during STEM Forward’s 13th Annual Golf Outing Scholarship & Program Fundraiser at Morningstar Golfers Club on Aug. 16, 2018.

For more information about STEM Forward’s Golf Outing Scholarship & Program Fundraiser, visit