Three engineering students receive Deans' Awards for Academic Achievement

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The award recognizes extraordinary undergraduates for their intellectual accomplishments.

Three Stanford Engineering students were among nine winners of the 2015 Deans’ Award for Academic Achievement announced this week. The award is given to extraordinary undergraduates for their intellectual accomplishments. Nominations are submitted by faculty and staff members who work closely with undergraduates in their academic endeavors. 

The 2015 Deans’ Award recipients are:

Stanford student Rafael CosmanRafael Cosman, a senior completing his degree in computer science, was recognized for his extraordinary contributions to the Stanford community as a student, scholar and social entrepreneur.

Jody Maxmin, professor of art history and classics, and Cosman’s instructor for “Greek Art, In and Out of Contexts” stressed that what distinguishes Cosman is his conviction that “individual accomplishment is hollow if it fails to improve the lives of others.”

As co-founder of East Palo Alto-based StreetCode Academy, Cosman has extended his passion for computer science to students in East Palo Alto. StreetCode Academy, which provides instruction in coding, personal and professional development, and other essential technological skills, helps East Palo Alto youth to become full participants in the life and work of Silicon Valley. When he graduates in June, Cosman will devote himself to teaching and administering the academy.

StreetCode Academy is part of a broader program to showcase the creative and talented young people of East Palo Alto by the non-profit Live In Peace. 

“Rafi’s determination to transform the future of East Palo Alto’s children, and the destiny of East Palo Alto itself, will serve as a model for other cities and for idealists who wish to live their lives in accordance with their ideals," Maxmin wrote. 

Stanford student Julia TsaiStanford student Arjun KrishnaswamiArjun Krishnaswami, a junior pursuing a degree in civil and environmental engineering, and Julia Tsai, a junior majoring in earth systems, were recognized for their academic leadership and outstanding achievement in independent research.

Project collaborators, Krishnaswami and Tsai, were nominated by professors Peter Vitousek and Tadashi Fukami from the Department of Biology, who praised them for their leadership, enthusiasm and exceptional research during the Wrigley Field Program in Hawaii, which was “inspirational not just to other students, but to instructors” as well.

Toward the end of the field program, Krishnaswami and Tsai collaborated on an independent project to study the effect of forest fragmentation on the abundance and diversity of insects and microorganisms that are important to pollination of native trees. They synthesized many disparate pieces of evidence and produced a report that “almost seemed ready to submit as is for peer-reviewed publication.” The study produced several results that are new to science with implications for how insects and bacteria affect pollination. The research findings “far exceeded” the professors’ expectations “in terms of data quantity, creativity and rigor,” according to the award citation.

Stanford student Alexandra WelchAlexandra Welch, a junior completing her degree in engineering, was recognized for her extraordinary contributions to the Stanford community as both a student and researcher.

In his nomination of Welch, Yi Cui, associate professor of materials science and engineering wrote, “Alex has the stunningly high quality perfect for the Deans’ Award.”

Since joining Cui’s research group during her freshman year, Welch has been working on different methods to synthesize transparent metallic nanowires, playing an active role in developing these techniques as well as integrating the material into various functional devices.

Cui emphasized Welch’s incredible research productivity. This includes her recent co-authored publication in Nano Letters (2014) presenting her contribution to the fabrication of a new type of thermal textile with silver nanowires. This work made a significant impact and was highlighted by news media around the world.

Welch is also co-author of a paper titled “Electrolessly Deposited Electrospun Metal Nanowire Transparent Electrodes” in the Journal of the American Chemical Society (2014). In this work, she demonstrates development of a synthesis process and fabrication of transparent conducting electrodes. The resulting nanowire transparent electrodes can potentially replace expensive indium tin oxide for applications in touch screen, display and solar cells.

Stanford student Jake KohnJake Kohn, a junior in comparative literature, is a “highly motivated, powerfully creative and impressively talented undergraduate,” said Joshua Landy, professor of French and Italian.

Of the many “excellent papers” that Kohn has written, Landy noted that in his Proust seminar, Kohn “outdid even his own extraordinary achievements; his final paper, offering a way to take Proust’s narrator at face value when he steps outside of time, was of such originality and high quality that I suggested he try to get it published.”

Landy was similarly taken by Kohn’s summer project in which he “undertook two ‘pilgrimages,’ one along a traditionally sacred path (the Camino de Santiago) and one along a secular path (the similarly named Camino Real in Northern California), and wrote a lengthy piece of creative writing based on his experiences.” Landy noted, “He impressed me with his creativity, his thoughtful reflections on the project, his courage and his follow-through.”

Landy and Kohn engaged in an independent study of David Foster Wallace's long novel "Infinite Jest." Kohn wrote a creative piece for this study: “an absolutely brilliant pastiche of Wallace, complete with the highly erudite footnotes, the oscillation between abstract rumination and concrete detail, the post-ironism, the mixture of closure and open-endedness, the supple prose rhythms, and even the insightful focus on sports.” Landy called the work “an engrossing, touching and thought-provoking story” worthy of publication.

Stanford student Christopher KremerChristopher Kremer, a geological and environmental sciences major, was described as the successful amalgamation of academic excellence, rigorous scholarship and civic mindedness.

Kremer's senior thesis concerns the genesis of base-metal mineralization in eastern Iceland. He conducted field research in this remote region under adverse weather conditions during his sophomore year. His teachers say the quality of his research involving field observations, petrologic/petrographic analysis, fluid inclusion heating/freezing experiments, oxygen-hydrogen-sulfur stable isotope analysis, electron microprobe chemical analyses and zircon geochronology equals that of master's students. He presented findings at the American Geophysical Union Meeting in San Francisco in December 2014 and will submit them for publication in the journal Economic Geology.

In addition to his research, Kremer is completing a minor in history and has maintained a 4.0 throughout his four years. Kremer is a DJ for a music show, Plumbotectonics, on KZSU Stanford 90.1 FM and has begun classes and background research for his co-terminal MS on sedimentology of petroleum reservoirs in Austria.

Stanford student Luke LorentzenLuke Lorentzen, a senior completing his degree in film and media studies, was recognized for his extraordinary and wide-ranging excellence in the humanities as a scholar and filmmaker.

Jamie Meltzer, associate professor of art and art history and director of the MFA Program in Documentary Film, described Lorentzen as “a student that a professor delights in having” and “an exciting young artist and scholar.”

Meltzer, currently advising Lorentzen in the Interdisciplinary Honors in the Arts program, described Lorentzen’s film "Santa Cruz Del Islote" as, “the most accomplished film I have ever seen by an undergraduate student.” The film has been recognized with many festival screenings and awards, including best Bay Area short film at the San Francisco International Film Festival, a President’s Award at the prestigious Full Frame Documentary Film Festival and a nomination for Best Short Documentary at the Cinema Eye Honors.

Jody Maxmin, associate professor of art history and classics, recalled Lorentzen's critique of the work of Gisela Richter, a venerable scholar of Greek sculpture and painting, as “forcefully argued, backed up by an ambitious array of evidence – ancient and modern – and culminated in a powerful conclusion, fueled by his personal artistic passions and convictions. His maturity was apparent in his ability to see ancient art in the light of later art, to perceive recurrent patterns in the history of art and to argue his case with tact and respect for the scholars whose approach he found wanting. To have written such a paper in the autumn of his freshman year was a significant achievement.”

Stanford student Katherine MurphyKatherine Murphy, a senior completing her bachelor’s degree in chemistry with honors, was recognized for her contributions to the Stanford community as a student, scholar, teacher, peer-advisor and researcher. 

Lynette Cegelski, assistant professor of chemistry, wrote, “Katie is one of the most talented, productive, passionate and delightful undergraduate students I have met at Stanford.” She combines “her knowledge and talents in chemistry, and quantitative reasoning and problem solving with her love of plant biology and biochemistry. ... She is the total package.”

Reflecting on Murphy's work as teaching assistant for the Leland Scholars Program, Jennifer Schwartz-Poehlmann, a lecturer in chemistry, wrote, “Her passion and enthusiasm for research and science truly inspired and excited these students. … By the end of the three weeks, they had affectionately nicknamed her the ‘Corn Goddess,’ based on her current research project.”

Virginia Walbot, professor of biology and Murphy's principal research mentor, called her “the best Stanford undergrad to do research in my lab in 33 years,” further noting how she “combines excellence in research, in the classroom, in teaching and in service.” ”

Stanford student Sarah SadlierSarah Sadlier, a junior majoring in American studies, history, Iberian and Latin American cultures, was described as the successful combination of academic excellence, rigorous scholarship and civic mindedness.

As a research intern with the Chinese Railroad Workers of North America Project, Sadlier shaped the project’s research agenda by uncovering Central Pacific payroll records, mining census records in fresh ways and writing superb annotations that are models of excellence.

Sadlier has published articles on colonial history in national publications, in national undergraduate research journals at the University of Michigan; Cornell University; the University of California, Berkeley; the University of Pennsylvania; and Stanford. At Stanford, as editor of Herodotus (Stanford’s History Journal) and Leland Quarterly and as section editor of Stanford Political Journal, Stanford Journal of International Relations and Stanford Education Research Journal, she has fostered high-quality research and writing among her peers.

A proud member of Stanford’s Native American  community, Sadlier is the contesting chair of Stanford Powwow's publicity committee.

The Deans’ Award was created in 1988 by Tom Wasow when he was dean of undergraduate studies. Wasow is now a professor of linguistics and philosophy. In reflecting on the motivation for establishing the Deans’ Awards, Wasow explained, “Students receive recognition at Stanford for so many of their accomplishments in areas such as athletics and service. But, except for commencement awards, most academic achievements are a private matter. We created this award to celebrate some of the exceptional scholarly achievements of our undergraduate students and to bring them campus-wide recognition.”

Last modified Fri, 8 May, 2015 at 10:58