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04/19/95

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Six undergraduates honored for academic achievement

STANFORD -- Six Stanford University undergraduates were honored with 1995 Deans' Awards for Academic Achievement at a ceremony held Tuesday, April 11, in the Mitchell Earth Sciences Building.

The recipients for 1995 were Timothy (T.J.) Carrothers, of Yardley, Penn., a co-terminal student in civil engineering (B.S.) and environmental engineering and science (M.S.); Joshua Knobe, of Lexington, Mass., a junior with an individually designed major incorporating philosophy, religious studies and ethics; Fred Mancoff, of Wilmette, Ill., a senior in physics; Keith Toh of Rome, Italy, a senior in electrical engineering; Jinoos Yazdany, of Torrance, Calif., a senior in human biology; and Dale Yeatts, of Santa Monica, Calif., a co-terminal student in anthropology (A.B.) and Latin American Studies (A.M.)

The award, now in its seventh year, is given to extraordinary undergraduates for intellectual accomplishments. Nominations are submitted by faculty and staff members, and winners are chosen by a committee established by the deans of the three schools that offer undergraduate degrees -- Earth Sciences, Engineering, and Humanities and Sciences.

The award was created in 1988 by Thomas Wasow, professor of linguistics, during his service as dean of undergraduate studies.

"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," Wasow said. "We created this award to celebrate some of the exceptional scholarly achievements of our undergraduate students."

Hosting the ceremony were James Gibbons, dean of the School of Engineering; Franklin Orr, dean of the School of Earth Sciences; and Ramón Saldívar, vice provost for undergraduate education and representative of John Shoven, dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences.

Each award winner received a copy of the citation read at the ceremony, a certificate and a specially selected book with a personalized bookplate.

  • According to Paul Roberts, professor of civil engineering, Carrothers "has accrued an outstanding academic record at Stanford, while pursuing undergraduate research opportunities. He prepared a very strong interdisciplinary (economics and engineering) undergraduate thesis -- original and compelling in its logic, a remarkable achievement for an undergraduate student."

Perry McCarty, professor of civil engineering, said Carrothers was "exceptionally resourceful, enthusiastic, independent and had great initiative in carrying out" an important study pursuing full-scale demonstration of a new process for biological degradation of trichloroethylene (TCE), a major contaminant in groundwater.

"TJ's research helped overcome the reluctance of regulatory agencies to allow use of these compounds," McCarty said.

  • According to Marleen Rozemond, assistant professor of philosophy, Knobe's striking intellectual contribution was his work for The Dualist, an undergraduate philosophy journal. While only a sophomore, he organized a funding and generated about 60 submissions from the United States and abroad. The first issue was printed last spring.

"Knobe is perhaps the most extraordinary student I have encountered in Stanford during the last 17 years," added Van Harvey, professor of religious studies. Hester Gelber, associate professor of religious studies, said Knobe "was knowledgeable about the works of philosophers in a way that allowed him to cite arguments and refer to texts from memory in the way I would expect from an advanced graduate student or colleague."

  • Charles Marcus, assistant professor of physics, called Mancoff "the best all-around undergraduate I have worked with at any stage of my career in physics. That statement was echoed by Mason Yearian, professor of physics, who said Mancoff was "one of the strongest, if not the strongest, experimental undergraduate students that we've had in the past decade."

Mancoff joined Marcus' research group to measure two- dimensional electron transport in a disordered magnetic medium. This project had no graduate students working on it and Mancoff was given full responsibility for developing the experiment. "As a result of this work, Fred was an invited speaker at the American Physical Society March meeting this year," Marcus said.

"Such an honor is impressive for postdocs and even faculty," Marcus said. "I know of no other undergraduate who has done this."

  • Toh, from Italy, impressed Connie Chang-Hasnain, assistant professor of electrical engineering, with his deep interest to learn. He joined her research group immediately after taking EE 111 and started to work on a wafer-scale automated reflectometry set-up with one of her doctoral students.

"I did not expect much, knowing that he was lacking some important background," Chang-Hasnain said. "To my surprise, he took all the responsibilities over from my graduate student and did an excellent job on building this equipment independently."

Chang-Hasnain was struck by Toh's devotion and independence. For example, the first step of building this equipment is to be able to cleave optical fibers well. He came up with his own technique, which become an asset to her group. This work led to Toh being the second author of two articles published in the IEEE Journal of Quantum Electronics and Photonics Technology Letters.

  • Yazdany was described by William Durham, professor of anthropology and director of the program in human biology, as "a student who loves the full process of learning; sets her own high standards, often surpassing what is asked or expected; then takes pleasure in sharing what she has mastered with others."

Yazdany "was a highly effective and enthusiastic participant in Stanford's Summer Honors College last September," noted Ellen Porzig, acting associate professor in human biology and biological sciences. "While her own honors research is in epidemiology and gerontology (on the benefits of exercise programs for elderly health care), she consistently asked thoughtful and supportive questions of the other human biology honors candidates, occasionally offering insightful suggestions for their research designs."

  • Yeatts received an Undergraduate Research Opportunities grant to examine prehistoric human skeletal material in the south sierra of Peru, carrying out the work in a masterful, scholarly document, said John Rick, associate professor of anthropology.

"This was undergraduate research at its best," Rick said. "Because of Dale's approach and seriousness, he was treated like an advanced graduate student, and given facilities and access to data that I never dreamed possible."

Yeatts will be presenting his work at the national meeting of the Society for American Archaeology in Minneapolis this May. "Dale's work is effectively independent -- he passed as a research vector through many colleagues' territories (with their blessings), blazing his own pathway to an outstanding final product," Rick said. "It is this independent, self-inspired trajectory through uncharted research space that so characterizes Dale's commitment to academics."

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