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Undergrads honored with Deans' Awards for Academic Achievement

STANFORD - The eight winners of 1994 Deans' Awards for Academic Achievement were announced at a reception Tuesday, April 5, at the Meyer-Buck Estate.

The award, now in its sixth year, is given to extraordinary undergraduates for intellectual accomplishments. Nominations are submitted by faculty and staff members who work closely with undergraduates.

The eight winners, all seniors, are David Andre, of Ames, Iowa; Kwame Anku, of Moreland Hills, Ohio; Mimi Kao, of West Covina, Calif.; Steven Lin, of Livingston, N.J.; Albert Liu, of Fullerton, Calif.; Gavin Polhemus, of Englewood, Colo.; Christopher Shaw, of Potomac, Md.; and Kira Weissman, of Palo Alto, Calif.

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

Selection of finalists is made by a committee established by the deans of the three schools that offer undergraduate degrees: Earth Sciences, Engineering, and Humanities and Sciences.

The Deans' Award was created in 1988 by Thomas Wasow, professor of philosophy and symbolic systems, during his service as dean of undergraduate studies.

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

Al Camarillo, associate dean of humanities and sciences, represented John Shoven, dean of humanities and sciences, at the reception. Gary Ernst, dean of earth sciences, served as master of ceremonies. James Plummer, associate dean of engineering, represented Dean of Engineering James Gibbons.

Psychology Professor Ellen Markman described Andre's paper in cognitive psychology as "one of the best papers any student has written for that class in the 18 or so years I've been teaching it."

He is currently working on two honors projects, one in symbolic systems and one in psychology.

For the project in psychology, Andre has proposed an alternative explanation for one of the most influential works in cognitive development.

Nils Nilsson, professor of computer science, said Andre is also pursuing a new technique in computer science pioneered by consulting professor John Koza for developing computer programs' genetic programming.

Harry Elam, associate professor of drama, said Anku is "one of the most impressive students that I have encountered during my four years' teaching at Stanford. This is the kind of student any professor would relish having in class."

Anku composed the music for a production Elam staged in the spring of 1992, The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World. That experience resulted in Anku being commissioned to write music for the inauguration later that year of President Gerhard Casper.

Anku's thesis, a video, examines events that transpired on campus after the acquittal of the Los Angeles police officers involved in the beating of Rodney King, to analyze issues of race and race relations.

Russell Fernald, professor of psychology and human biology, called Kao "quite simply the most thoughtful and original undergraduate among all the undergraduates who have done substantial work" in his laboratory.

Kao measures stress hormones in fish to research how social information in fish might be translated into cell-specific action.

She hypothesized that stress levels became elevated in a fish because it had witnessed another fish being caught; dominant males display low stress levels and non-dominant males show high stress levels.

This work frames important questions about the relationship between stress and reproduction; Fernald said it is an entirely new finding in fish, congruent with findings in mammals.

Ani Adhikari, assistant professor of statistics, wrote in her nomination letter that Lin really has been educated in three disciplines: mathematics, statistics and economics. Stanford does not offer an undergraduate statistics major, the only thing stopping him from a triple major.

Last year Lin was the only undergraduate in Statistics 218, stochastic processes, and was "at the top of the class," according to Joseph Romano, assistant professor of statistics.

This year, he is enrolled in the year-long theoretical sequence for first-year doctoral students.

"This is my eighth year at Stanford, and he is without a doubt the most deserving student that I have had the pleasure to teach," Romano said.

In nominating Liu, Ellen Porzig, acting assistant professor of human biology, wrote that his honors research on regulation of Agrin expression in neurons in vitro "was one of a handful of the most impressive undergraduate applications I have reviewed in my more than one decade of teaching here."

William Durham, professor of anthropology and chairman of the program in human biology, described Liu's academic achievements as "quite possibly the very best" he has known in 17 years with the program.

"Here is a student who grapples successfully with difficult coursework on both sides of the 'fuzzy-techie' divide, and shows us that one can strive for and achieve excellence in both places," Durham said.

Co-authoring a letter of support for Polhemus, Mason Yearian and Douglas Osheroff, professors of physics, wrote:

"Gavin is one of the very best undergraduate students of physics to come through Stanford in the past decade. Some of our faculty believe he has more promise than any of our students, graduate or undergraduate, in the last 10 years."

Physics Professor Leonard Susskind, Polhemus' honors thesis adviser, describes him as "absolutely off the scale" and "easily the most talented undergraduate in physics" he has ever seen at Stanford. Polhemus' thesis topic, "The Application of String Theory to the Quantum Mechanics of Black Holes," is "beyond the ability of most graduate students," Susskind said.

Shaw has devoted a major part of his efforts at Stanford over the last three years to the Stanford Solar Car Project, a student-run design project for national and international competition.

He has evolved into a leader of the group as well as being a key engineer on the mechanical subsystems.

William Reynolds, professor of mechanical engineering, who taught Shaw as a freshman, said that he was the "most outstanding student by a significant margin" in the ME 30 course, which is attended by many seniors and even a few graduate students.

"Shaw has continued to maintain his enthusiasm and achieved the same high level of excellence in so many other courses," said James Johnston, associate chairman of mechanical engineering.

She was nominated for the Deans' Award by chemistry Professor James Collman, who described her as "a brilliant undergraduate" for both her classroom and research performances.

In both Chemistry 32, "Frontiers of Chemistry," team-taught by Professors Richard Zare and Collman, and in Chemistry 171, "Thermodynamics," Weismann was the top student.

"These are considered to be the most difficult and competitive courses in the chemistry curriculum," Collman said.

In her research, conducted in Collman's laboratories, Weissman discovered an expanded porphyrin-like macrocycle that manifests a long wavelength spectral band, making this substance a candidate as an agent for photodynamic treatment of cancer.

She expects to submit this result for publication this quarter.



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