Commencement ceremony at UMass Amherst

Two CNS Undergraduates To Be Honored as 21st Century Leaders At Commencement 2023

Ashley Yen Eng and Joash Elijah Audrey Gabriel will be awarded on May 26th

May 22, 2023

The University of Massachusetts Amherst will honor the exemplary achievements, initiative and leadership of some of its most talented and accomplished undergraduates and graduate students during Commencement 2023 on Friday, May 26 at McGuirk Alumni Stadium.

This year’s 10 undergraduate recipients of the 21st Century Leaders Award were chosen in recognition of their strong academic records and exemplary achievements. They also further distinguished themselves through intellectual accomplishments and will be recognized for the prestige and honor they bring to the University of Massachusetts Amherst, both as undergraduates and as alumni joining the larger community.

The two graduating seniors from the College of Natural Sciences who will each receive a $1,000 21st Century Leaders Award from the UMass Amherst Alumni Association are:

Ashley Yen Eng, of Brookline, a Commonwealth Honors College (CHC) student and microbiology major, thrived at UMass Amherst in an intensive research environment and demonstrated that being a scientist can coincide with meaningful advocacy.

In the lab of professor Kristen DeAngelis, Eng found her niche in microbial ecology, examining how climate change impacts soil microbes. She presented this work at national conferences and was selected for a prestigious Goldwater Scholarship in 2022. She worked as a teaching assistant and learned bioinformatics skills, which enabled her to help design a new introductory bioinformatics course for the Department of Microbiology and participate in a competitive National Science Foundation-funded research and training program.

Eng is deeply involved in Brookline’s Asian and Asian American community. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she developed a middle school curriculum to address the rise in anti-Asian racism. She then cofounded a campaign advocating for charter change in the town. She was elected to the Brookline Town Meeting in May 2022 as an equity-based candidate.

After Commencement, Eng will work as a research associate in an infectious disease lab at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. She hopes to obtain a Ph.D. in microbiology or bioinformatics and will continue her activism for equity in science.

Joash Elijah Audrey Gabriel, a CHC student, was born in the Philippines and grew up in Peabody. She has earned dual degrees in microbiology and public health and completed a certificate in the iCons (Integrated Concentration in STEM) program, all while balancing three on-campus jobs.

At UMass Amherst, Gabriel demonstrated a combination of academic excellence, unstoppable drive and a deep sense of social justice. A strong advocate for the rights of survivors of sexual violence on campus, her collaboration with fellow student leaders and administrators was instrumental in the ratification and implementation of a campus Survivor’s Bill of Rights. She continued her efforts to create a safer and more just campus as the Student Government Association’s first secretary of health and wellbeing.

In addition, Gabriel surmounted considerable bureaucratic hurdles to help found the Filipino Student Association, a cultural organization created to promote Filipino culture and heritage which now boasts more than 200 members.

Concurrent with her campus advocacy, she completed independent research through the iCons program. Her cutting-edge investigation into quantified PFAS chemical contaminants in breast milk will have public health ramifications.

After Commencement, Gabriel will take a gap year to return to the Philippines, work in healthcare, and apply to medical school. She would like to practice in medically underserved communities and eventually open a reproductive health clinic.

For more information on UMass Amherst Commencement 2023,

To see more awardees


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