During a 5th grade school assignment, George Mason University Bioengineering major Renae A. Bitor’s class picked what they saw themselves studying as college students. She said she chose bioengineering, without thinking twice.
It turns out her choice was a good one. Alongside fellow winner Sorie Koroma, Bitor achieved the Katona Scholarship for Excellence in Bioengineering.
This year, Koroma and Bitor captivated Dr. Peter Katona during the application process. Both were noted for their remarkable accomplishments, including managing and running events for the bioengineering department, and dedication. The choice was made to award two Katona scholarships this year, instead of one.
“What resonated most was demonstrated leadership in bioengineering,” says Katona. “Examples are active participation in the George Mason Student Chapter of the Biomedical Engineering Society, assisting fellow students in bioengineering courses and labs, and gaining useful engineering experience in summer internships.”
Koroma, a member of and events coordinator for the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES), is most interested in biomedical imaging and developing medical devices to help other people. He sees his scholarship win as helping to shape him into the engineer he wants to be.
“I was astonished when I was notified that I won. It felt like all the work I did has paid off,” says Koroma. “I am very appreciative of obtaining this.”
Bitor, also a BMES member, says she knew of the Katona scholarship since she was a freshman, when the then BMES president won. It inspired her.
“Winning the Katona scholarship was one of the goals I aspired to as a freshman,” says Bitor. “I feel it’s something I’ve been working up to for the past four years.”
She was thrilled to find out she won, but not extremely surprised. A little bit of good-natured pessimism helped quell some anxiety.
“I was saying to myself, if you win, fine, if not, fine,” says Bitor. “But I’m so happy I won!”
She says she’ll apply her scholarship winnings towards a master’s. Her advice to hopeful winners is to go for the internships, get to know the professors, maybe even join an extra -curricular activity or two to be well rounded.
And definitely don’t fall asleep in class, she says.
“You need a couple letters of recommendation from your professors, so you want to show your best self,” she says. “If you fall asleep in class, even if you get an A, the professors will notice.”
Koroma will also plan on using his scholarship winnings towards his education, and alleviate some of the financial stress of the semester.
“The main reason why I applied for this scholarship is because I've been actively putting myself forward in bioengineering opportunities since I started at Mason,” he says. “I decided that it would be best to take a chance after hearing about it over the years. I am grateful that I did.”
Koroma and Bitor will each receive $1,500 for their win.
The Katona Scholarship for Excellence in Bioengineering began in 2015, and is awarded to bioengineering seniors at George Mason who show excellence across their academic performance, leadership initiatives, and career aspirations that aim to support society at large. The award is named for Dr. Peter Katona, founder of the bioengineering program at Mason.