Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy

To ignite and nurture creative, ethical, scientific minds that advance the human condition.

IMSA Alumni: Compelled to Improve Lives

Aside from being extremely talented and accomplished in fields such as science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) and the humanities, IMSA alumni seem to have one other thing in common:  the ability to seek out and/or create opportunities to improve people’s lives.

Young Alumni Impact Global Citizens

In a note to IMSA President Dr. Glenn "Max" McGee, IMSA alumna Gokila Pillai ’08, then a freshman biology major at Northwestern University, said her 100 Projects for Peace proposal was a worthwhile cause to take on because “it’s exciting to be doing something that seems important and relevant to the world that is not related to my courses.”

Global humanitarian Janessa (Stream) Graves '99 worked with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control in Kisumu, Kenya to evaluate hygiene and sanitation curricula for primary schools.
Caterpillar Senior Engineer Nathan Fogg '92 served as the IMSA Robotics team mentor and worked with students on a weekly basis during the build season prior to competition.

Written jointly by Pillai and Cristina Thomas ’07, the proposal-titled Project Female and addressing anemia in India-was chosen as one of the winning projects and resulted in a $10,000 grant.  Both IMSA alumni are deeply committed to female health, adolescent education and social justice.  Thomas, also a biology major at Northwestern, worked in a women’s health laboratory and founded a group that delivers resources to an orphanage for handicapped children in Kerala, India.

Their award-winning project will provide school workshops, iron supplementation and an annual “Health and Nutrition Week” for 200 female students at St. George Lower Primary School in the Kottayam District of Kerala, India.  Eventually, their proposal hopes to reach 60,000 residents by partnering with local community agencies.  

Pillai said she credits IMSA for instilling in her a sense of “social responsibility.”

“It was during my time at IMSA that I really began to think about the idea of social responsibility, especially in clubs such as LORAX and with teachers or staff,” Pillai said.  “Working with the (IMSA) administration and faculty as well as my fellow peers, I realized exactly how much power an individual, even a student, with a simple idea and some initiative can have,”  she said  “I felt empowered and enabled to affect change and that mentality graduated with me.”  

According to the Web site, the objective of the Davis Projects for Peace is to "encourage and support today’s motivated youth to create and try out their own ideas for building peace."

Another global humanitarian, Janessa (Stream) Graves ’99, received the prestigious Gilbert S.Omenn Award for Academic Excellence, one of the highest graduate awards given from the School of Public Health and Community Medicine at the University of Washington in Seattle. The award recognizes both exemplary academic achievement and significant contributions to public health.  Janessa received her Master of Public Health degree and is now in a doctoral program to pursue studies in Environmental Health. She recently received a grant from the American Public Health Association and Colgate-Palmolive to conduct research on hygiene and hand-washing in western Kenya. This past summer, she worked with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control in Kisumu, Kenya to evaluate hygiene and sanitation curricula for primary schools.  

Carrie (Giordano) Eklund ’99 and her husband Scott are serving as Peace Corps Volunteers in Jamaica, working with the Jamaican Ministry of Health to improve water and sanitation in the Western Region.  

Many IMSA alumni also have served the world as Fulbright Scholars or Fulbright English Teaching Assistants (ETAs).  Akta Jantrania ’05 serves as an ETA in Korea where she teaches English to secondary school students. She looked forward to the experience for several reasons. “I look forward to a challenging and rewarding experience not only teaching English conversation in a Korean school, but also learning about Korean culture,” Jantrania said.  “Though I have never traveled to East Asia, I have taken classes and conducted research on the economy, politics, and culture of the region. Thus, this is the perfect opportunity for me to deepen my understanding of Korea through a first-hand experience while fostering empathy between the Korean and American cultures.”

Jantrania said she is thankful for her IMSA education and the doors it has opened for her.

“Dr. (Robert) Kiely's International Relations class encouraged me to pursue an International Relations major at Claremont McKenna College [in addition to a Philosophy, Politics, and Economics major] and to look for opportunities to expand my education beyond the water's edge,” she said. “My experience with a mentorship at the Children and Family Justice Center (at Northwestern University Law School) also initiated my interest in the field of law,” she added.

Alumni Innovators Drive Technological and Scientific Breakthroughs and More

Although they have not yet reached the age of 40, IMSA’s alumni have already created trailblazing technology, made discoveries that have changed the social landscape of our world and opened the doors to progress and hope for generations to come.  

IMSA alumni are behind the development of Netscape, PayPal, YouTube and Yelp, Inc., breakthrough innovative technology applications that people around the world use every day in their professional and personal lives.  In addition, other alumni have made scientific discoveries or created technologies that have made significant contributions to those fields.  These alumni include:

Internationally acclaimed Astronomer Dr. Scott Gaudi ’91, who received worldwide media attention for leading a team of 69 international astronomers in discovering a solar system similar to our own.  He also was awarded the Helen B. Warner Prize for “significant contribution to observational or theoretical astronomy” by the American Astronomical Society.

Rob McCool’ 91, who deserves much of the credit for the initial growth of the World Wide Web and also for the infrastructure that drives most of the world’s Internet Web servers.  McCool, along with his twin brother and fellow IMSA graduate Mike McCool ’91, served on the team at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign that created Mosaic, the Internet Browser used to start Netscape.  

Dr. Mia Markey ’94, who is recognized as one of the world’s leaders of the young generation of biomedical computing.  Her research contributions focus on computer-based clinical decision making and support.  Her mission of designing cost-effective, computational medical decision aids will help physicians better diagnose, treat and manage cancer.  

Yu Pan ’95, who was one of the six founding team members of PayPal, an eBay company that has revolutionized the way people do business on the Internet.  Pan implemented PayPal’s first flagship product that allows secure storage and transmission of funds.  In addition, he developed Web technologies that enabled PayPal to dominate auction payments on eBay. Pan also was the first employee at YouTube, where he worked in engineering and product development with Steven Chen '96.

Russel Simmons ’95, co-founder and chief technology officer of Yelp Inc.(www.yelp.com), the growing online community enabling people to write and share reviews of local businesses with others.  Prior to Yelp, Simmons was one of the six founding members of PayPal, an eBay company.

Steven Chen ’96, who is co-founder and chief technology officer of YouTube.com, the online video sharing Web site which has revolutionized the creation and sharing of videos across the globe.  Founded in February of 2005, YouTube instantly became a viral video phenomenon and according to the YouTube website, today “people are watching hundreds of millions of videos a day” and “uploading hundreds of thousands of videos daily” at a rate of ten hours of video every minute.

Alumni Making a Difference in Illinois

IMSA alumni also give back and contribute in numerous ways as members of the State of Illinois’ workforce.  

The following are just a few examples of IMSA alumni living and working in Illinois:

John Hoesley ’89 is the Treasurer for the IMSA Fund Board of Directors and a Partner at Prism Capital Corporation in Chicago. 

Erin Roche ’89 is the Second Vice Chairman for the IMSA Board of Trustees and Principal of Prescott Magnet Cluster School in Chicago.  

Sendhil Revuluri ’90 is the senior instructional specialist for secondary mathematics in the Chicago Public Schools. In this role, he works with colleagues in mathematics and across disciplines to manage the implementation of curriculum, teacher supports, and assessments in more than 40 high schools, as well as influencing other aspects of mathematics teaching and learning in the district.

Dr. Andrew Hocker ’91 is a scientist working on the International Linear Collider, the next big project for Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab).

Dr. Tuwanda Williamson ’91 helps the state’s urban residents by working as a physician in inner-city Chicago at a local health center.

Julia Stamburger ’92 is the co-founder and president of her Chicago-based company, GoPicnic, Inc. (www.GoPicnic.com) which supplies boxed meals that don’t require refrigeration to United Airlines on select flights.  Her company has been featured in Crain’s Chicago Business and received a grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity’s Innovate Illinois program.   

Amanda Leonard Shanbaum '96 is a forensic scientist with the Drug Chemistry Division of the Illinois State Police where she tests for the presence of controlled substances in evidence brought to the lab by police and presents the results to the court system.  She also police at crime sites to determine which items are of evidentiary value. 

IMSA alumni also give back to the IMSA community in numerous ways, including serving on the IMSA Board of Trustees and IMSA Fund Board of Directors, teaching Intersession, mentoring students in the new Alumni Sibling program, and sharing career advice during the evening College, Career, Choices forums.  

In addition, alumni have also come back to work with IMSA students involved in our TALENT program and Robotics club.  Nathan Fogg ’92, a senior engineer with Caterpillar in Aurora, served as the Robotics team mentor and worked with the team on a weekly basis during the build season prior to competition, and also attended many planning and organizing sessions.  He also completed the welding of the wheel boxes for this year’s robot.

Other alumni involved in the TALENT program included John Hoesley '89, David Joerg '89, Julia Stamberger '92, Sachin Agarwal '98 and Dan Moorehead '05.

Alumni involvement with IMSA has continued to grow over the years, and with that the IMSA community, including its students and staff, have gained an education that is truly priceless.