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Nine undergraduates receive Deans' Award for Academic Accomplishment

Nine undergraduates recently received the 2010 Deans' Award for Academic Accomplishment, which honors students for exceptional, tangible accomplishments in independent research, national academic competitions, a presentation or publication for a regional or national audience, and superior performance in the creative arts.

Tom Wasow, a professor of philosophy and of linguistics, created the award in 1988, when he was serving as dean of undergraduate studies. "We created this award to celebrate some of the exceptional scholarly achievements of our undergraduates and to bring them campus-wide recognition," he said.

Faculty and staff members who work closely with undergraduates submit nominations. A committee established by the deans of the three schools that offer undergraduate degrees – Earth Sciences, Engineering, and Humanities and Sciences – select the winners.

The nine 2010 Deans' Award recipients and descriptions of their work follow:

Photos by Jayne PattersonAnya Bershad

Anya Bershad

Anya Bershad, of Santa Fe, N.M., is honored for her honors thesis in comparative literature, titled "Trainable Judgment: Montaigne, Kafka and the Honing of a Faculty," which was nominated for a Golden Medal for Excellence in Humanities Research in 2009. Joshua Landy, associate professor of French and Italian, describes Bershad's arguments as "brilliant," "original" and "bold," and her thesis as "that rare thing: a genuine work of original scholarship which manages, at the same time, to be a contribution to the way in which we think about our life."

Bershad has the distinction of having written a second thesis in biochemistry/biophysics, titled "Differential responses to TGF-beta signaling in aging hematopoietic stem cells," sponsored by developmental biology Professor Irving Weissman, who is also the Virginia & D. K. Ludwig Professor for Clinical Investigation in Cancer Research. Bershad also has published an article in the Journal of Theoretical Biology.

Bershad has been active in community work at Stanford, co-founding and serving as director of the Stanford Education for Parolees program, an effort to help convicted criminals think differently about their lives through exposure to classic writings.


Morgan Freret

Morgan Freret

Morgan Freret, of Los Altos, Calif., was awarded her bachelor's degree in biology with honors and distinction in January 2010. She is honored for her achievements in biological research, which have been described by her faculty as "nothing less than phenomenal" in the area of stem cell research. Working closely with Philip Beachy, professor of developmental biology, and Paul Fisher, professor of neurology, Freret characterized the spatial and temporal distribution of immunophenotypic stem and precursor cells in the human postnatal brainstem, and discovered a new precursor cell in the postnatal ventral pons.

Fisher notes that Freret's work has been in the "vanguard for what will be groundbreaking research in a deadly childhood brain cancer." Fisher writes that "Morgan's work could help provide a basis for novel therapeutic approaches to this deadly cancer, for which no effective treatment currently exists." Freret will present her work at the next meeting of the International Society for Stem Cell Research.

Freret is a dedicated volunteer, currently managing the Pacific Free Clinic; she also serves as chair of the Women's Free Clinic, which she founded.


Patrick Gallagher

Patrick Gallagher

Patrick Gallagher, of San Jose, Calif., is a senior completing a degree in physics and is honored for his extraordinary academic achievements in physics research.

David Goldhaber-Gordon, associate professor of physics, describes Gallagher as "a rare young scientist who will make a major impact on his field and who is already functioning at the level of a strong third-year graduate student."

Gallagher has mastered techniques of nanofabrication, precision electrical measurement and cryogenics while developing a sophisticated understanding of electrons in semiconductor nanostructures. He is cited for producing results and insights that his mentors are sure will make a big impact in graphene electronics.

Goldhaber-Gordon writes that it is "remarkable that an undergraduate has made a major contribution to the field." Gallagher's paper has been accepted to the international journal Physical Review B as an "Editor's Choice"; only 5 percent of articles are so designated.

With a major grant from Undergraduate Advising and Research, Gallagher worked with a postdoctoral student on other types of atomically thin layered material; the work resulted in a prestigious Keck Foundation grant and an article in Nano Letters, a publication of the American Chemical Society that reports on fundamental research in all branches of the theory and practice of nanoscience and nanotechnology.


Maria Gudmundsdottir

Maria Gudmundsdottir

Maria Gudmundsdottir, of Palo Alto, is a senior pursuing honors in both geological and environmental sciences, and German studies.

She is recognized for her "uncanny intuition, impressive critical skills and unparalleled motivation to explore topics in depth out of her own personal curiosity." According to her faculty nominators, her "true abilities and impacts are much deeper than even her transcript suggests – it is her academic performance, drive and passion for intellectual study, and, additionally, her incredible aptitude for both languages and music" that distinguish her from her peers.

Her academic accomplishments include the American Geophysical Union "Outstanding Student Paper Award" in 2008, more commonly awarded to graduate students as a culmination of a doctoral thesis. She has extensive research experience in both her fields and was awarded a major grant by Undergraduate Advising and Research for her study of topography and tectonics in the Santa Cruz Mountains, the basis of her honors thesis.

An accomplished musician and member of the Stanford University Orchestra, she is a native speaker of Icelandic and English, fluent in German, and proficient in French, Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, and has just begun her study of Hindi.


Theresa 'Terri' Hoberg

Theresa 'Terri' Hoberg

Theresa "Terri" Hoberg, of Santa Rosa, Calif., is a senior completing her degree in mechanical engineering and is honored for her extraordinary achievements in mechanical engineering research.

She joined the laboratory of mechanical engineering Professor John Eaton during her sophomore year, and by her junior year, she was working independently on examining how an electronics cooling system performed as it was scaled down to successively smaller sizes.

As part of her research, Hoberg designed a hybrid sterolithography/computer-numerically-controlled machining method to build the smallest scale test article. The final test model was completely successful, a tribute to both her capabilities and her persistence. Her work on this project resulted in a first-authored paper to the International Journal of Heat and Fluid Flow, one of the top two journals in the field of heat transfer.

Eaton writes that "Terri's stature in our group has grown so that she is now treated like a PhD student," and notes that Hoberg, who has established her own areas of expertise in the lab, gives as much help to the PhD students as she receives.


Nicholas 'Nicko' Josten

Nicholas 'Nicko' Josten

Nicholas "Nicko" Josten, of Idaho Falls, Idaho, is a senior completing a degree in human biology, with honors, who is recognized for his brilliant research in neurobiology.

Josten's research is conducted in the laboratory of Ben A. Barres, a professor of neurobiology, developmental biology, and neurology and neurological science, where he is focused on the development of synaptic specificity in the mammalian visual system. Barres writes that Josten is "not only brilliant and motivated but he also has an extremely rare talent for identifying critical, uncharted questions in developmental neurobiology and for designing and carrying out experiments to evaluate those questions." He is the first author on a review due for publication in Current Topics in Developmental Biology, an exceedingly rare honor for an undergraduate student.

Josten made a major discovery in identifying a gene called placental cadherin that is expressed by a specific class of luminance-detecting cells in the retina. This discovery of a novel neural circuit in the mammalian visual system is described by Barres as "a truly exceptional discovery for someone at any stage of their career," and Josten will also be first author of an article describing the results. He earned a grant from Undergraduate Advising and Research for his study of the role of the cell adhesion molecule Neph2 in the developing mouse retina in 2009.


Thomas 'Tommy' Tobin

Thomas 'Tommy' Tobin

Thomas "Tommy" Tobin, of Myrtle Beach, S.C., a senior majoring in history and in international relations, is honored for his extraordinary academic accomplishments in research in multiple disciplines.

One investigation, for which Tobin is lead author, documents the often-hidden connections between the American presidency and tobacco, and its influence on shaping policy initiatives. He also authored an article describing a model for writing centers in secondary schools which is about to be published in The Clearing House: A Journal of Educational Strategies, Issues and Ideas.

Another of Tobin's research projects analyzes previously unreleased documents regarding the medical history of the late U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson. According to nominator Albert Bandura, professor emeritus of psychology, this work has been described as a "new revelation … a seminal contribution to the field" by Tobin's advisers, history Professor Emeritus David Kennedy of Stanford and historian Robert Dallek of Bing Stanford in Washington.

Bandura lauded Tobin as one of the most exceptional students with whom he has worked in his 57 years at Stanford. He cites Tobin's passion for research as embedded in "exceptional talent, intrinsic motivation, extraordinary resourcefulness and self-reliant dedication."


Anand Venkatkrishnan

Anand Venkatkrishnan

Anand Venkatkrishnan, of Sunnyvale, Calif., is a senior in classics, with equal focus in both Greek and Latin. He is honored for his extraordinary intellectual dedication to mastering the languages, literatures and philosophical principles of the Western and Eastern worlds, with a commitment to actualizing their most profound and universal ideals.

He has mastered Greek, Latin, Tamil, Hindi, Sanskrit and Spanish, and has begun study in German and Farsi. In 2009, the Department of Classics awarded him the Junior Prize in appreciation of his excellence in ancient Indo-European languages.

His professors describe his academic work as "dazzling" and marked by "his consuming passion for the text"; he is "always prepared absolutely, faultlessly," and "a joy to behold" in the classroom.

Venkatkrishnan has put equal energy into understanding the array of spiritual traditions presenting themselves on the Stanford campus. He co-created, and is president of, Stanford Faiths Act in Togetherness and Hope (FAITH). Rabbi Patricia Karlin-Neumann, senior associate dean for religious life, writes: "The university hopes that individual students develop intellectual lives through which the understanding in a particular field is advanced and as a result the world is improved. In the careful, calm scholarship, convictions and activism of Anand Venkatkrishnan, these hopes are achieved."


Jee Soo Yoo

Jee Soo Yoo

Jee Soo Yoo, of Seoul, Korea, is a junior in materials science and engineering who is honored for her exceptional research ability in the area of nanostructured materials.

Since the summer of 2008, she has worked closely with Yi Cui, assistant professor of materials science and engineering, studying nanostructured materials for energy storage. Yoo has been an important designer and contributor to the effort to answer the key question as to whether there is nanopore formation in silicon nanowires.

Together with her collaborators, Yoo found that nanopores can be created inside nanowires and their size can be controlled from 1 to 100 nanometers by the frequency of lithium ion insertion/extraction. Her work utilizing these nanoporous nanowires to fabricate high-energy and high-power supercapacitors has been accepted for publication in the prestigious journal Nano Letters, and Yoo has co-authored a second article, currently under review by a leading international chemistry journal.

Cui notes that it is rare to find a junior with the exceptional skills, work ethic and superior ability in designing experiments, analyzing data, and generating and testing hypotheses, and predicts that Yoo will be a leader in her chosen field.

Each award winner received a copy of the citation read at the ceremony, a certificate signed by the three deans and a gift card.

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story had an incorrect photo of Jee Soo Yoo.