Thirty-five graduating seniors were recognized recently for their outstanding thesis projects. They are recipients of the 2016 Firestone Medal for Excellence in Undergraduate Research, the Robert M. Golden Medal for Excellence in Humanities and Creative Arts; and the David M. Kennedy Honors Thesis Prize.

The prizewinners represent 24 academic departments and all three schools with undergraduate programs – the School of Humanities and Sciences, the School of Engineering, and the School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences. Several students also conducted research in conjunction with the Graduate School of Education and the School of Medicine.

award medals

Firestone and Golden Medals are awarded to the top 10 percent of undergraduate honors theses completed in a given year. (Image credit: Courtesy Undergraduate Advising and Research)

The projects conducted by the winners of this year’s Firestone and Golden medals and the Kennedy Prize represent the breadth of the undergraduate experience at Stanford. They included research on germ cells, federal farm animal policy, the tailoring industry in Naples, ethics and autonomous vehicles, and the writings of author Zadie Smith.

“When students enter Stanford as freshmen, they are told that creating new knowledge through research is a central part of the Stanford mission,” said Harry J. Elam, Jr., vice provost for undergraduate education, at the June awards ceremony. “The students we celebrate today have not simply participated, but embraced and relished that ideal.”

The Firestone and Golden medals are awarded to the top 10 percent of theses completed in a given year. The Firestone Medal recognizes theses written in the social sciences, natural sciences, and engineering and applied sciences. The Golden Medal similarly distinguishes theses in the humanities or creative projects in the fine arts. The medalists each received an engraved bronze medal, citation and a monetary award.

The Kennedy Prize is awarded annually to the single best thesis in each of the four divisions of humanities, social sciences, natural sciences and engineering. It was established in 2008 in recognition of history Professor David M. Kennedy’s long-standing mentoring of undergraduate writers and his retirement from active teaching. Recipients of this award have accomplished significantly advanced research in the field and have shown strong potential for publication in peer-reviewed scholarly works. Winners each received an engraved plaque and a monetary award, presented this year by Elizabeth Hadly, senior associate vice provost for undergraduate education and a professor of environmental biology.

The awardees, their thesis titles, honors program or department, and advisers are as follows:

The David M. Kennedy Honors Thesis Prizes

Humanities: Benjamin Diego, “Where the World Dwells: Architecture and ‘Architexture’ in Insular Gospel-Books, 600-900 CE,” English, advised by Elaine Treharne (English and German) and Fiona Griffiths (history).

Natural sciences: Brian Do, “7SK RNA Regulates Gene Expression by Scaffolding Multiple Protein Complexes,” biology, advised by Howard Chang (dermatology) and Or Gozani (biology).

Engineering and applied sciences: Catalin Voss, “Social Interaction Recognition in the Real World: Developing an At-Home Learning Aid for Treatment of Mental Disorders,” computer science, advised by Terry Winograd (computer science).

Social sciences: Renjie Wong, “Refashioning Napoletanità: Identity, Corporeality and Value Creation in the Neapolitan Bespoke Tailoring Industry,” anthropology, advised by Sylvia Yanagisako (anthropology) and Sharika Thiranagama (anthropology).

The Robert M. Golden Medal for Excellence in the Humanities and Creative Arts

Rory Houghton-Berry, “The Ideal Medieval State? Examining Norman England and Its Relations with the Papacy During the Investiture Controversy,” history, advised by Fiona Griffiths (history) and Laura Stokes (history).

Elizabeth Knarr, “Directing,” theater and performance studies, advised by Amy Freed (theater and performance studies).

Soo Ji Lee, “Photographing for Change: Reinterpreting Bob Fitch’s Photographs of the Civil Rights Movement and United Farm Workers Movement,” history, advised by Ana Raquel Minian (history) and James Campbell (history).

Tyler Lemon, “An Examination of the Distribution and Variation of Non-Coordinated Pronoun Case Forms in English,” linguistics, advised by Tom Wasow (linguistics).

Alexander Muscat, “Tous Dans La Même Direction (All in the Same Direction),” Arts Institute, advised by Sasha Leitman (Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics) and Alexander Key (comparative literature).

Ashley Ngu, “Coming Home,” art and art history, advised by Jonathan Calm (art and art history).

Claire Patterson, “A Stranger in a Stranger Land: Zadie Smith’s Mixed Race Nation,” American studies, advised by Allyson Hobbs (history) and Lauren Davenport (political science).

Christina Smith, “In decore suo: Bede and the Visual Arts at the Northumbrian Joint Monastery of Wearmouth-Jarrow,” classics, advised by Jennifer Trimble (classics) and George Brown (English).

The Firestone Medal for Excellence in Undergraduate Research

Akosua Busia, “Statistical Learning for Examination of the Influence of Environmental Toxins on the Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorder,” mathematical and computational science, advised by Russ Altman (bioengineering, genetics and medicine).

Christina Chwyl, “Positive Beliefs About Self-Compassion Improve Wellbeing and Coping,” psychology, advised by Jamil Zaki (psychology).

Abby Fanlo, “A Ba’athist Insurgency? The Role of Saddam’s Elites in Iraq’s Civil Conflict,” Center for International Security and Cooperation, advised by Lisa Blaydes (international studies).

Kara Fong, “Improving Measurements of Intrinsic Activity for Hydrogen Evolution Electrocatalysts with Application to Transition Metal Phosphides,” chemical engineering, advised by Thomas Jaramillo (chemical engineering) and Jens Norskov (chemical engineering).

Bradley Thomas Hammoor, “In Vivo Human Skull-Brain Dynamics During Mild Sagittal Skull Acceleration,” bioengineering, advised by David Camarillo (bioengineering).

Vienna Harvey, “The Role of Ethics in the Design and Regulation of Autonomous Vehicles,” Science, Technology & Society, advised by Robert McGinn (management science and engineering).

Jordyn Irwin, “Understanding Emergency Department Patient Perceptions of the Social Determinants of Health Through the Stanford Help Desk,” human biology, advised by Jennifer Newberry (emergency medicine) and Donald Barr (general pediatrics).

David Kay, “Predicting the Farm Animal Welfare Policy Preferences of Federal Legislators,” political science, advised by Bruce Cain (political science).

Christie Nguyen, “Recurrent Point Mutations in the Kinetochore Gene KNSTRN in Cutaneous Squamous Cell Carcinoma,” biology, advised by Paul Khavari (dermatology) and Dominique Bergmann (biology).

Alyssa Noll, “Non-Cell Autonomous Effects in Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma,” biology, advised by Michelle Monje (neurology) and Sue McConnell (biology).

Gyujin Oh, “Brauer Obstructions of Finite Groups of Lie Type in View of the Local Langlands Correspondence,” mathematics, advised by Brian Conrad (mathematics).

Bhavenkumar Patel, “A Computational Pipeline to Uncover Genomic Regulatory Regions That Modulate the Wnt Signaling Pathway,” biology, advised by Rajat Rohatgi (biochemistry) and James Nelson (biology).

Natasha Patel, “The Promise of Community Colleges: An Analysis of President Obama’s Rhetorical Framing of Community Colleges,” education, advised by Mitchell Stevens (education).

Adrienne Pollack, “Impact of Groundwater Levels on Agricultural Practices in India,” Earth systems, advised by David Lobell (Earth system science) and Meha Jain (Earth system science).

Kunal Sangani, “A Model of Firm Formality and Tax Evasion,” economics, advised by Matthew Jackson (economics) and Michael Best (economics).

Emily Taing, “Syp, the Drosophila Homolog of Mammalian hnRNP Q, Functions in the Regulation of Meiotic Progression in Male Germ Cells,” human biology, advised by Margaret Fuller (developmental biology), Mary Kristy Red-Horse (biology) and Catherine Baker (developmental biology).

Violet Trachtenberg, “The Souls of White Teachers: Racial Consciousness Development of In-Service Teachers,” education, advised by Ramón Martínez (education).

Vehbi Deger Turan, “Augmenting Citizen Participation in Governance Through Natural Language Processing,” Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law (CDDRL), advised by Francis Fukuyama (CDDRL) and Justin Grimmer (political science).

Nicole Urman, “SUFU and SMO Mutations in Hedgehog Signaling Drive Resistance Pathways in Basal Cell Carcinoma,” biology, advised by Anthony Oro (dermatology) and Tim Stearns (biology).

Mark Walsh, “The Effect of Indian Community Health Workers: Multiple Tasks and Few Results,” economics, advised by Grant Miller (medicine).

Clara Warden, “Attention and Dopamine: The Moderating Effect of Baseline Working Memory on Distractibility in Parkinson’s Disease,” psychology, advised by Kathleen Poston (neurology and neurological sciences) and Russell Poldrack (psychology).

Jacob Winnikoff, “Extrinsic Stabilizers of Proteins: Their Roles in Acclimatizing to Fluctuating Temperatures in the Rocky Intertidal Environment,” biology, advised by George Somero (biology) and Craig Heller (biology).

Christine Yeh, “The Biomolecular Landscape of Obesity-Mediated Type II Diabetes: An Integrative Multi-Omics Study,” biology, advised by Michael Snydner (genetics), Michael Simon (biology) and Sharon Pitter (radiology).