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  • Writer's pictureNicole A. Tetreault, PhD

Two Recent Alumnae Win The Second Annual Chang Career Exploration Prize

Preethi Periyakoil (BS ’18) [left] and Nicole Tetreault (PhD ’13)

Caltech has awarded the second annual Milton and Rosalind Chang Career Exploration Prize to one undergraduate alumna, Preethi Periyakoil (BS ’18, Computer Science) and one graduate alumna, Nicole Tetreault (PhD ’13, Biology). Periyakoil received the Chang Prize for her proposed project “University Support Text Line,” and Tetreault received the prize to work on her project “Beyond the Cell.”

The Chang Prize was established by Milton Chang (PhD ’69) — a Caltech Distinguished Alumnus and senior trustee — and his wife, Rosalind, to provide recent alumni with the freedom to explore careers outside of academia and build their skills as leaders and advocates. The Chang Prize awards up to $65,000 in funding to each recipient to support them and their work on a career exploration project.

Periyakoil earned her BS in Computer Science and was an Associate Software Engineer at Salesforce in San Francisco. She recently began as an MD/PhD student in the Tri-Institutional Program at Weill Cornell Medical College. However, it was her experience volunteering as a crisis counselor for the San Francisco Suicide Prevention hotline that inspired her project — to start a university text line to reduce college campus suicides and suicide attempts. Supported by Chang Prize funding, Periyakoil will explore launching a platform at Caltech and the University of California, Berkeley that will provide 24-hour immediate emotional support for those in need. Once the platform is live, she hopes to expand the program to other universities across the nation.

“College students are vulnerable to stresses that come from academic pressures, new living conditions, and interpersonal relationships,” Periyakoil says. “I propose to create a student support text line prototype that will enable college students to receive peer support and counseling in a safe, supportive, and secure online platform.”

Tetreault is a neuroscientist, researcher, author, meditation teacher, and national speaker. While Tetreault has experience using her skills in neuroscience, she is particularly excited to combine her passions to help people who are suffering. She plans to use the Chang Prize funding to develop an educational program to help incarcerated women who may be suffering from physical, mental, and emotional trauma.

“I am honored and full of gratitude to be a recipient of the Milton and Rosalind Chang Career Exploration Prize,” Tetreault says. “This opportunity provides imaginative freedom to create “Beyond the Cell,” a transformative program to rehabilitate incarcerated women through teaching guided meditation, neuroscience, literature, and expressive writing to cultivate positive neural, mental, and behavioral patterns for healing.”

About the Milton and Rosalind Chang Career Exploration Prize

The Milton and Rosalind Chang Career Exploration Prize is an annual award open to Caltech graduates who have received their BS, terminal masters, or PhD from Caltech within the past ten years (with a preference for those who graduated in the past five years). Caltech alumni who are interested in fearlessly exploring a new career are encouraged to apply. The new application cycle for the 2020 Chang Prize will open in the spring. Learn more at

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