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Golden, Firestone, and Kennedy Thesis Awards

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The top undergraduate honors theses are recognized annually

The Firestone and Golden Medals are awarded to the top 10 percent of honors theses completed each year. The Firestone Medal for Excellence in Undergraduate Research recognizes theses written in the social sciences, natural sciences and engineering. The Robert M. Golden Medal for Excellence in the Humanities and Creative Arts similarly distinguishes theses in the humanities or creative projects in the arts. The awardees each received an engraved bronze medal and a monetary award.

The David M. Kennedy Prize is awarded annually to the single best thesis in each of four academic areas: humanities, social sciences, natural sciences and engineering & applied sciences. Recipients of this award have accomplished exceptionally advanced research in the field and have shown strong potential for publication in peer-reviewed scholarly works. The prize was established in 2008 in recognition of history professor David M. Kennedy’s long-standing mentoring of undergraduate writers. Winners each received an engraved plaque and a monetary award.

The projects conducted by the winners capture the breadth of the undergraduate experience at Stanford and span diverse academic areas, from the sciences to the arts.

The Nomination Process

All nominations for Golden, Firestone, and Kennedy thesis awards must be made by the department or honors program, so individual faculty who wish to nominate students should contact the honors program to learn more about their specific process. An official announcement with detailed nomination instructions will be sent in early March, and nominations are due to VPUE in late May. These communications come from the VPUE Medals email account.

Nominations for the 2022 competition closed on May 29, 2023. 

Departments and faculty are welcome to contact vpue-medals@stanford.edu at any point with questions about the nomination and award process. The basic criteria are that the thesis should stand out as exceptional in five areas: originality, rigorous deployment of research method, value of research to the field, quality of argument, and quality of presentation according to standards of the field. All students who submit their final honors thesis between Summer 2022 and Spring 2023 are eligible to be nominated for the 2023 competition by their department or honors program, regardless of their official date of graduation.

Students with questions should contact their honors program, as each program sets their own process for how to determine the top theses in that department. Deadlines and eligibility will vary by department.

Medals Luncheon

The Golden, Firestone, and Kennedy awards are presented at the annual Undergraduate Medals Celebration, held midday on the Saturday of Commencement Weekend. The luncheon offers an opportunity for families and thesis advisors to meet and mingle as their student is honored.

2022-2023 Prize Winners Announced

David M. Kennedy Honors Thesis Prizes

Engineering and Applied Sciences: Jason Khoi Phong, Materials Science and Engineering. "Sequence-Dependent Self-Assembly of Supramolecular Nanofibers in Periodic Dynamic Block Copolymers." Mentored by Zhenan Bao

Arts & Humanities: Ashwin Pillai, Ethics In Society. "Standing Against Injustice: An Expanded Vision of Standing Doctrine for Public Law Litigation." Mentored by Wendy Salkin

Natural Sciences: Gautam Manohar, Mathematics. "Improved decay and mass inflation for the spherically symmetric Einstein--Maxwell--scalar field system." Mentored by Jonathan Luk

Social Sciences: Tiffany Liu, Symbolic Systems. "Unequal Provision of Educational Accommodations: Impacts of a Nationwide SAT Policy Change on Receipt of Accommodations." Mentored by Michelle Jackson

Firestone Medals for Excellence in Undergraduate Research

Grace Alchemy, Biology. "Mechanisms of Ferroptosis Evasion Promoted by Extracellular Metabolites." Mentored by Scott Dixon

Joshua Elbridge Chan, Human Biology. “A Novel, Cytotoxic Immune Cell Population and Potential Shared Antigen Reactivity in Inflammatory Bowel Disease.” Mentored by Mark Davis, Jonathan Pritchard, and Calvin Kuo

Ailsa Rachel Craven, Biology. “Specific extrusion of Enterovirus-A71-infected cells from human colonoids and consequences for viral spread.” Mentored by Karla Kirkegaard

Nicolas Alejandro Garcia, Economics. “The Effect of COVID-19 on Human Capital in a Team Setting: Evidence from the VA.” Mentored by Mark Duggan and Ciaran Phibbs

Molly Glickman, Earth Systems. “Integrating human dimensions into fisheries management: A case study of whale entanglement in California’s Dungeness crab fishery.” Mentored by Larry Crowder and Michelle María Early Capistrán

Bryan Dev Gopal, Computer Science. “3KG v2: Universal Electrocardiogram Representations for Label-Efficient Phenotype Discovery.” Mentored by Chris Piech and Andrew Ng

Tara Hein, Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law. “Seeing Like a Citizen: Fragmented Citizenship in Santiago de Chile.” Mentored by Jeremy Weinstein and Beatriz Magaloni

Om Jahagirdar, Biomedical Computation. “Genome-Wide Identification of Genetic-Cultural Coevolution in Humans.” Mentored by Hunter Fraser and Russ Altman

Jennifer Neda John, Human Biology. ““Who Knows What is the Truth”: Exploring Abortion Misinformation Among Young Adults.” Mentored by Lee Sanders and Paul Blumenthal

Nicole Columbaro Johnson, Psychology. “First Friends in College Predict Changes in Well-Being.” Mentored by Jamil Zaki

Wenqi Li, Mathematics. “Fusion Rings over Drinfeld Doubles.” Mentored by Daniel Bump

Divya Nagaraj, Computer Science. “A Novel Evaluation of Transformers for Clinical Summarization.” Mentored by Olivier Gevaert and Christopher Potts

Claudia Nmai, Sociology. “A Privileged Positioning: The Role of Class and Ethnic Identity in Shaping Police Talk Strategies Among Black Immigrant and Black American Parents.” Mentored by Matthew Clair.

Erica May Naa Okaikor Okine, Science, Technology & Society. “Demanding Beauty: A Critical Analysis of Quality of Life for Women with Facial Disfigurement.” Mentored by Tanya Luhrmann.

Rachelle Rodriguez, International Relations. “Contagion or Coincidence? Pacific Island Independence Movements Under the British Empire.” Mentored by Robert Rakove

Nicholas Rouillard, Human Biology. “Bariatric Surgery Outcomes Among Patients With NAFLD-related Liver Cirrhosis: A Retrospective Cohort of Patients From California's HCAI Database.” Mentored by Mindie Nguyen and Julie Parsonnet

Coco Kiara Brisa Sanabria, Bioengineering. “A Syringe Tumbler for Ink Resuspension (STIR).” Mentored by Mark Skylar Scott and Drew Endy

Tia Sewell, Center for International Security and Cooperation. “The War Within: Perceived Legitimacy and Psychological Trauma Among Post-9/11 Veterans.” Mentored by Dean Winslow

Lexi Straube, Human Biology. “From Catastrophe to Opportunity: Transforming Mindsets to Improve Mental Health & Immunity.” Mentored by Alia Crum, Jesse Barrera, and Annette Salmeen

Alan Tong, Chemistry. “An Investigation into the Antimicrobial and Peptidoglycan-Binding Properties of Vancomycin-Arginine Conjugates.” Mentored by Lynette Cegelski

Cameron Wagner, Physics. “Creating Custom Optical Potentials with Spatial Light Modulators.” Mentored by Monika Schleier-Smith

William Wang, Biology. “Identification of DNA Termini in Sequencing Data through Combined Analysis of End Capture and Local Strand Bias.” Mentored by Andrew Fire

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

Tamilore Awosile, Arts Institute. "Black Atlantic." Mentored by Chris Chafe and Liz Maelane

Tyra Huyana Blackwater, Art & Art History. “nizhónígo nihaa ’ádahałyą́ - they are taking good care of us.” Mentored by Terry Berlier

Stephanie Castaneda Perez, History. “Assembling the Transnational Economy: Female Labor and the Clothing Trade in Neoliberal Mexico.” Mentored by Pedro A. Regalado

Poojit Hegde, Center for Comparative Studies in Race & Ethnicity. “Unity and Struggle Beyond Borders: An Examination of Anti-Hindutva Activism in the United States.” Mentored by Parthapratim Shil.

Kieran “Kiki” Hood, Theater & Performance Studies. “Beyond Meaning: Performativity of Scenic Design in Snow in Midsummer.” Mentored by Nina Ball

Laura Lin, Philosophy. “Henry James: The Perils of Understanding.” Mentored by Lanier Anderson and Antonia Peacocke

Johnny Rabe, Music. “My Last Five Years.” Mentored by Kathryne Jennings

Tom Worth, Art History. “Inhabiting Color: Liturgy and the Palette of Simon Hantaï.” Mentored by Emanuele Lugli

Camellia Ye, English. “The Organic Body Against the Coming of the Machine: Poetics of Digestion in Paradise Lost.” Mentored by Blakey Vermeule and Blair Hoxby

Amir Zur, Linguistics. “Causal Abstraction for Interpretable, Debiased, and Accessible Language Models.” Mentored by Christopher Potts

Past recipients: Golden, Firestone, and Kennedy Thesis Awards

More Questions?

If you have questions about the Golden, Firestone, and Kennedy Awards or the Medals Luncheon that are not answered here, please email vpue-medals@stanford.edu.