Seven undergraduates honored with 2012 Deans' Award for Academic Accomplishment

The students, who were honored at an awards ceremony earlier this spring, each received a copy of the citation read at the ceremony, a certificate signed by the deans of the schools of Earth Sciences, Engineering, and Humanities and Sciences, and a gift card.

Seven undergraduates recently received the 2012 Deans' Award for Academic Accomplishment, which honors extraordinary undergraduate students for "exceptional, tangible" intellectual achievements.

Tom Wasow, the Clarence Irving Lewis Professor in Philosophy and professor of linguistics, created the award in 1988 when he was serving 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," said Wasow, who is also the Bert and Candace Forbes University Fellow in Undergraduate Education. "We created this award to celebrate some of the exceptional scholarly achievements of our undergraduate students and to bring them campus-wide recognition."

Faculty and staff who work closely with undergraduates submit nominations for the awards. 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 students, who were honored at an awards ceremony earlier this spring, each received a copy of the citation read at the ceremony, a certificate signed by the three deans and a gift card. The 2012 Deans' Award recipients and descriptions of their work follow:

Jayne PattersonThomas Carney portrait

Thomas Carney, of Laguna Niguel, Calif., a senior majoring in materials science and engineering, has combined excellence in his academic coursework, a stellar research record and an astounding publication history.

Carney's professors state that his "talent and dedication in research is rare" and that, "while still an undergraduate, Tom has accomplished the sort of exciting work that often requires two to three years of dedicated work from an excellent PhD student."

Reflecting on Carney's work in the lab, his professors note his "amazing ability to look into a new area and to jump-start a new project" and his capacity to "not only grasp the technique within a short time, but also to develop it to the higher level."

From his first project synthesizing and characterizing indium tin oxide wires for flexible and bendable transparent coding electrodes, through his more recent work leading a project on synthesizing SnO2 nanofibers for high-energy density lithium-ion battery anodes, Carney has demonstrated incredible acumen in the lab. As a result, he is listed as a contributor to no fewer than five co-authored papers, the latest with him as first author.

Yi Cui, associate professor of materials science and engineering, has been working with Carney for two years and writes that he "combines the top GPA, exceptional creativity, super hard work and a high degree of maturity with a pleasant personality." Cui concludes, quite simply, that Carney "is the best undergraduate I have ever seen."

Jayne PattersonNatalie Cox portrait

Natalie Cox, of Gualala, Calif., a senior majoring in economics with a minor in mathematics, represents the successful amalgamation of academic excellence, rigorous scholarship and civic mindedness.

In her honors thesis, Cox examines the economics of the prevention of pertussis and how state mandates for vaccination have altered the epidemiology of the disease. Her work promises to be both academically insightful and policy relevant.

Cox has proven herself an indefatigable researcher and scholar, completing "an exhaustive search of state laws regarding pertussis vaccination" and tackling the National Immunization Survey in her efforts to understand the effects of vaccine coverage on American children from the late 1990s to today.

Cox's professors state that she possesses "a natural talent for thinking as an economist" and that she has "good sense for empirical econometrics, far beyond her age and experience." Jay Bhattacharya, associate professor of medicine (Center for Primary Care and Outcomes Research), recognizes Cox as "a fantastic student, among the best I have had the privilege to teach" and declares her "extremely well prepared, technically and temperamentally," for a successful career as an economist.

Jayne PattersonMikaela Kelly portrait

Mikaela Kelly, of Oakland, Calif., a senior majoring in human biology, is committed to making a difference in the lives of young people who are marginalized in our society.

She has worked with Arash Anoshiravani, instructor at the Stanford School of Medicine and medical director for Juvenile Custody Institutions at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, to develop a qualitative research project to provide a voice to detained youth through a research-driven approach to inform clinical, institutional and policy-based decisions directly affecting young women in the juvenile justice system.

"Their Voices: Understanding and Addressing the Primary Health Concerns of Adolescent Girls in the Santa Clara County Juvenile Detention Center" is the project Kelly successfully proposed to the Stanford and Santa Clara Valley Medical Center Institutional Review Boards despite the potential difficulties of working with an ethically "doubly vulnerable" population of underage prisoners. After completing her interviews and analyzing the data, Kelly presented her findings at the 2012 annual conference of the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine.

Anoshiravani describes Kelly as a "critical and creative thinker," a "respectful and caring communicator" and a "dedicated and effective change agent" with a "genuine interest in improving the lives and health of young people." Kelly's current work will inform the next step in her research agenda: to develop interventions that will make a real difference for young women in the Santa Clara County Juvenile Hall and beyond.

Jayne PattersonSeok Hyeong Lee portrait

Seok Hyeong Lee, of Seoul, Korea, a senior majoring in mathematics, has demonstrated exceptional, tangible accomplishments in national academic competitions, independent research and coursework.

He is the first Stanford undergraduate to have been recognized as a Putnam Fellow for his top performance in the Mathematical Association of America's William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition since the competition started in 1938. Not only did he win, he won three times: as a freshman, junior and senior.

Lee's accomplishments in research are similarly impressive. He has two original research papers under review in professional mathematical journals: one on the distribution of cyclic number fields of prime degree; the other on Mnev's universality theorem for schemes. In coursework, Lee has excelled in the graduate workload in mathematics. For example, he was an outstanding student in graduate courses in such widely different areas of mathematics as analysis, number theory and algebraic geometry in his sophomore year, on top of his undergraduate courses.

Ravi Vakil, professor of mathematics and the Robert K. Packard University Fellow in Undergraduate Education, describes Lee as "ridiculously good" and "clearly among the most promising young mathematicians Stanford has ever produced."

Jayne PattersonChen Lossos portrait

Chen Lossos, of Miami, a senior graduating with honors in biology and a minor in psychology, has specialized in cancer research.

Lossos garnered effusive endorsements from four professors across medicine, biology and art history, who consistently rated his work as graduate level while also remarking on his collegiality. Among many contributions and awards earned by Lossos, three stand out.

Lossos' thesis work and other research projects have focused on lymphoma, particularly on mutations in the immunoglobulin gene of follicular lymphoma cells. Working with Ash Alizadeh, assistant professor of medicine (oncology), and Ronald Levy, the Robert K. and Helen K. Summy Professor in the School of Medicine, Lossos has developed technologies to track such mutations, develop vaccine therapies customized for each individual patient and identify which patients were genetically likely to respond to the therapy, thereby contributing to several presentations and publishable papers.

Alizadeh relates how Lossos, "struck by the improbability of co-occurrence of two cancers in the same patient," independently reviewed 30 years of clinical cases to become the first author on a study connecting the occurrence of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and renal cell carcinoma.

Lossos' writing in both the sciences and humanities received special recognition from Michael Simon, professor of biology, and Jody Maxmin, associate professor of art and art history and of classics. Both used his papers as models for other students, calling them "daring … original … outstanding."

Jayne PattersonChase Richard portrait

Chase Richard, of Menlo Park, Calif., is a senior majoring in human biology whose ultimate goal is to be a physician scientist.

He has spent the past year and a half conducting highly sophisticated experiments in the cellular biology of cancers – both in vitro and in vivo – in the lab of Samuel Cheshier, assistant professor of neurosurgery.

Richard has been entrusted with accumulating all of the pre-clinical data regarding the efficacy of the lab's anti-brain-tumor treatment: a responsibility typically given only to postdoctoral fellows. Those who have worked with him say he has risen to the occasion and done a superb job in the lab.

While Richard has demonstrated an impressive sense of dedication to his scientific endeavors, he has also become a leader within the Stanford community. Last year, he had an idea to create a mentoring program in medicine for African American undergraduates. After speaking to his advisers and professors about the idea, Richard created the African American Mentorship Program.

The program recently celebrated its second annual dinner, where at least two dozen Stanford faculty and alumni physicians were paired with undergraduate students. As envisioned and created by Richard, the program will pay dividends to the Stanford community for years to come. It is through the conception and implementation of this mentoring program that he will leave his imprint at Stanford.

Jayne PattersonViria Vichit-Vadakan portrait

Viria Vichit-Vadakan, of Bangkok, Thailand, a senior majoring in urban studies, is recognized for her research-based effort to aid refugees living in the mountainous borderlands between Burma and her native Thailand. Her work prompted a change in Thai policies with the potential to improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.

Vichit-Vadakan received a Haas Center for Public Service fellowship for summer 2009. She and a research partner sought a better method for Burmese migrants in Thai cities to remit money to family members, typically executed through a middleman charging 10 to 20 percent commission. Vichit-Vadakan and her partner organized a meeting of officials from the Thailand Post and other government offices, as well as academics and representatives of nongovernmental organizations. The Thailand Post agreed to enact her proposal, making it easier for refugees to use its money transfer service, which charges only a 1 percent commission.

Vichit-Vadakan returned to Thailand on an Undergraduate Advising and Research Major Grant in summer 2011 and found that migrants continued to use the "middleman" system because trusted community leaders have not yet endorsed the new system.

In her senior capstone paper in urban studies, she argued that Thailand Post must work with trusted leaders in the migrant community to educate them about the new policies so that they can relay this information to fellow migrants. Vichit-Vadakan continues to combine scholarship with activism, promoting the policy changes to reach those who will benefit from them the most.

Michael Kahan, associate director of the Program on Urban Studies, wrote: "Viria has done more than any other student I have met to change the world. … I have no doubt that in years to come, the change … she has worked so hard for will make a real difference in many thousands of lives."