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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 week 9 of spring quarter. These communications come from the VPUE Medals email account.

Nominations for the 2024 competition closed on May 28, 2024. 

Departments and faculty are welcome to contact 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 2023 and Spring 2024 are eligible to be nominated for the 2024 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.

2024 Prize Winners Announced

David M. Kennedy Honors Thesis Prizes

Engineering and Applied Sciences: Melanie Rodríguez Pabón, Chemical Engineering. "Informing the scale-up of the electrochemical Cu-based CO2 reduction by understanding its performance in impure electrolytes and varying ambient temperatures." Mentored by Thomas F. Jaramillo

Arts & Humanities: Baird V. Johnson, History. "Perpetuating the Union: The Struggle for American Federalism." Mentored by Jonathan Gienapp and Josiah Ober

Natural Sciences: Leila DeSchepper, Human Biology. "Spatial profiling reveals marked transcriptomic changes and epithelial cell remodeling in pediatric ileal Crohn’s disease." Mentored by Michael R. Howitt

Social Sciences: Jessica Zhu, International Relations. "One Prosecutor's Promise: Putting Sexual and Gender-Based Crimes on Trial at the International Criminal Court." Mentored by David Cohen

Firestone Medals for Excellence in Undergraduate Research

Ahmad Allen, Psychology. "Now You See Me: Cortical Microstructural Tissue Development in Visual System During First Year of Infant Life." Mentored by Kalanit Grill-Spector

Brennan Bower, Economics. "The Role of Financial Participants in the Renewable Energy Transition." Mentored by Frank Wolak

Owen Brass, Mathematics. "Involutive Floer Theory and Surfaces in Smooth Four-Manifolds." Mentored by Ciprian Manolescu

Elijah Buenarte, Political Science. "Road to Liberation: Transportation, Racism, and the Paradox of Freedom in the United States." Mentored by Hakeem Jefferson

Suyoun Choi, Biology. "Investigating the effects of NRAS-G12D mutant gene dosage in the pathogenesis of acute myeloid leukemia using CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing in human HSPCs." Mentored by Ravindra Majeti

Juan Flores, Sociology. "Vetting Restorative Justice: Exploring Youth Perspectives, Interactions, and Processes in Alternative Diversion Court." Mentored by Forrest Stuart

Constantinos Gallis, Urban Studies. "Elastic Futures: Re-imagining the City’s Relationship with Nature in West Athens." Mentored by Anastasia-Erasmia Peponi and Dehan Glanz

Ana Geller, Human Biology. "Evaluating Age-Associated Changes: Unraveling the Role of TET1." Mentored by Nidhi Bhutani

Liza Goldberg, Center on Democracy, Development and Rule of Law. "The Psychology of Adolescent Poverty under Climate Change: Evidence from Bangladesh." Mentored by Stephen Luby and Erik Jensen

Sophia Haase Cox, Biology. "The Genetic Basis and Development of a Novel Tailspot Pattern in Xiphophorus variatus." Mentored by Molly Schumer

Harrison Konsker, Human Biology. "Developing a Novel CRISPR/Cas9-Based Gene Therapy for EGFR-Mutated (Exon 19) Lung Cancer." Mentored by Joseph Shrager

Michael Lee, Chemistry. "Characterization and mitigation of degradation in halide perovskite semiconductors for photovoltaic applications." Mentored by Hemamala Karunadasa

Ruoqi (Emily) Li, Biology. "Anterior paraventricular nucleus of the thalamus is a central hub for the downstream processing of socially transferred pain in the anterior cingulate cortex and the insular cortex." Mentored by Xiaoke Chen

Yuer Liu, Anthropology. "Denaturing Kinship: Gender, Science, and Politics in Urban China's Pet Ownership." Mentored by Matthew Kohrman and Duana Fullwiley

Sophia Longo, Human Biology. "Identification of non-coding genetic variants that disrupt genetic regulatory mechanisms of antigen presentation in cancers and autoimmune diseases." Mentored by Paul Khavari

Gabriella Lundy, Education. "“Build The New Nation That Is In Your Hands”: Young Colombians’ Narratives Of Citizenship After Armed Conflict." Mentored by Ari Kelman and Chiqui Ramirez

Claire Luo, Economoics. "Anti-Collusion Provision for Uniform-Price Auctions." Mentored by Paul Milgrom

Frederick Nitta, Electrical Engineering. "Performance Limits of Transition Metal Dichalcogenide Solar Cells under Various Lighting Conditions." Mentored by Krishna Saraswat and Eric Pop

Benjamin Przybocki, Mathematics. "Theoretical Aspects of Satisfiability Modulo Theories." Mentored by Clark Barrett

Gabriel Seir, Bioengineering. "Development of anti-CXCR4 Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-Cells for the Treatment of Pediatric Acute Myeloid Leukemia." Mentored by Agnieszka Czechowicz and Rogelio Hernandez-Lopez

Arman Sharma, Bioengineering. "Engineering a Novel CRISPR-X Modality with Expanded Targeting Ability and its Application to Variant-Effect Mapping for Inherited Cardiovascular Disease." Mentored by Euan Ashley and Russ Altman

Cole Simmons, Symbolic Systems. "Babbage in Babylon: Pioneering Deep Learning Approaches to Sumerian Cuneiform." Mentored by Daniel Jurafsky and Ian Morris

Moritz Stephan, Computer Science. "RLVF: Learning from Verbal Feedback without Overgeneralization." Mentored by Chelsea Finn

Tirth Surti, Physics. "The Core Kinematics and Binary Black Hole Mass of 4C+37.11." Mentored by Roger Romani

Neelay Trivedi, Center for International Security and Cooperation. "The Effect Of Entity List Placement On The Financial Performance Of Publicly Traded Chinese Firms." Mentored by Scott Rozelle and Glenn Tiffert

Xiaomian Yang, Materials Science & Engineering. "Scaling of Tracer Diffusivity in Dynamic Polymer Networks." Mentored by Jian Qin and William Chueh

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

Jayda Alvarez, Theater & Performance Studies. "Yakuman Chance." Mentored by Young Jean Lee

Isabella Andaya, Stanford Arts Institute. "Dahil Sa'yo." Mentored by Adam Tobin

Keona Blanks, Stanford Arts Institute. "GOBI DUST: A Geomorphology of Belonging." Mentored by Sara Michas-Martin

Marlane Bosler, American Studies. "Reifying Injustice: Race, Gender, and Sexual Violence in Supreme Court Confirmation Hearings." Mentored by Michele Elam

Becca De Los Santos, Division of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages. "“Poor Souls” and “Dangerous Vagabonds”: the Enslaved Pursuit of Liberation in Post-Abolition Senegal, 1848–1865." Mentored by Fatoumata Seck

Zackery Edwards, East Asian Languages and Cultures. "“Shikee ni Tuyumariru (RESONATES TO THE WORLD)”: Unleashing Okinawan Language in Popular Online Spaces." Mentored by Yoshiko Matsumoto and Miyako Inoue

Tianyu Fang, Science, Technology, & Society. "Cybernetic Reformers: Young Intellectuals and Rural Research in Post-Mao China." Mentored by Fred Turner

Julia Feinberg, English. "Dryden's Civic Muse and Poetic Constitution: A Treatise on the Political Poetics of the Reigning Public Poet." Mentored by Blair Hoxby

Lydia Goedert, Music. "Snowflower." Mentored by François Rose

Charu Jain, Art & Art History. "Self-Portraiture for the Self Conscious." Mentored by Jonathan Calm

Malavika Kannan, Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. "Rooted in the Soil: Environmental Visions in Dalit Women’s Autobiographies." Mentored by Partha Pratim Shil

Mahina Kaomea, Comparative Studies in Race & Ethnicity. "Weaving Fine Baskets of Resistance: A Genealogy of Native Student Activism at Stanford University." Mentored by David Palumbo-Liu

Cameron Lange, Ethics in Society. "Generation without Representation: Youth Suffrage in Theory and Practice." Mentored by Emilee Chapman

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