2016 Deans' Award Winners

Megan Alexander

Megan Alexander

Megan Alexander, a senior in Human Biology and a graduate student in Community Health and Prevention Research, exemplifies the principles of community-based research. Megan’s faculty describe her as a “genuine role model of academic excellence and community service”. They are impressed by “her intellect, her human kindness, and her passion for becoming a physician.”

Megan designed and implemented EmPower Me, a ground-breaking self-administered exercise program for frail elders. Over the last three years, including two full summers, Megan studied aging and identified the home-bound elderly who are served by Meals on Wheels as a group of people who could greatly benefit from incorporating more physical activity. Yet, those served by Meals on Wheels are a vulnerable and underserved population. Megan connected with The Health Trust, the local agency running Meals on Wheels. She established a relationship of trust with the drivers and social work interns who work with the elderly clients. She visited the clients to explain her program, and returned to collect data on how it was going—doing “painstaking, complicated, and tireless work”. This is community-based research at its best.

More importantly, however, EmPower Me will last beyond Megan’s time at Stanford. The Health Trust has institutionalized the program as a formal part of Meals on Wheels and received external grants to continue it. Social work interns are trained to teach EmPower Me as part of their work with Meals on Wheels clients. A class at San Jose State selected EmPower Me as a worthy project and built a website that guides home-bound adults in the exercise routine. Megan continues to assess and improve EmPower Me as part of her thesis for a masters in Community Health and Prevention Research. As she publishes her work in scholarly journals, the program may expand to other Meals on Wheels programs, potentially reaching 2.5 million people.

Kara Fong

Kara Fong

Kara Fong, a senior completing her degree in Chemical Engineering, is recognized for her outstanding contributions to the Stanford community in scholarship and research. 

Kara is a superb student with more A+’s than A’s in Stanford’s very demanding Chemical Engineering curriculum. Kara’s writing skills were recognized by Honorable Mention for the Stanford Boothe Prize for Excellence in Writing.  She has also assisted in teaching both “Introduction to Chemical Engineering” and “An Exploration of Art Materials:  the Intersection of Art and Science.”  She has also supported her peers’ academic achievement by tutoring chemistry through the office of the Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning, and by serving as advising co-chair for the Engineering Honor Society, Tau Beta Pi.

Kara’s research on sustainable energy technologies began in her freshman year and has already resulted in co-authorship on a paper in Advanced Energy Materials (2014). Her honors project is in the field of electrocatalysis, the study of materials that speed up reactions such as water-splitting.  Mentor Thomas Jaramillo observed that her project could be “game-changing” and that “Kara is a superstar among superstars.”  Kara has been recognized with two national science and engineering awards:  the Goldwater Scholarship in 2014, and a Churchill Scholarship to the University of Cambridge next year.

Her faculty have exceptionally high praise for Kara.  Curtis Frank notes “I rank her at the top of all Stanford undergraduates for whom I have written letters of recommendation.” Chaitan Khosla comments on her “commitment to teaching and learning.”  Lisa Hwang asserts “If I had to choose a single student to represent the school of engineering […], I would wholeheartedly choose Kara among all of the students that I have ever had the privilege to work with.”

For her outstanding achievements in scholarship and research, Kara Fong is awarded the Deans’ Award for Academic Achievement.

Ethan Katznelson

Ethan Katznelson

Ethan Katznelson, a Human Biology major, is recognized for his outstanding achievement as a student, researcher, and scholar. In his letter of nomination, Assistant Professor of Medicine-Infectious Diseases, Paul L. Bollyky describes Ethan as “a talented and meticulous experimentalist.” In Professor Bollyky’s lab Ethan has contributed to two projects related to microbial biofilms (layers of bacteria and polymers that colonize wounds and are responsible for most chronic infections). The first project resulted in identifying a role that certain bacteriophage—or viruses produced by bacteria—play in the structural assembly of microbial biofilms. A paper on the findings, with Ethan as a co-author, has been published in Cell Host & Microbe, a major journal in the field. 

In the second project, which identified how certain bacteriophage modulate host immune responses in ways that contribute to the propagation of chronic wound infections, “Ethan has made the striking finding that these bacteriophages are taken up by mammalian cells.”  Professor Bollyky with his team is currently following up on Ethan’s findings and believes that the resulting manuscript, on which Ethan will also be a co-author, will “establish new paradigms in our understanding of host/pathogen interactions.”

According to Jolien Sweere, Ethan’s direct supervisor in the lab, Ethan “never loses sight of the bigger picture and broader implications of his research to his passion of improving human health.” In addition to his exceptional research achievements, Ethan has a record of academic excellence, with a cumulative GPA of 4.031 at Stanford. He plans to attend medical school and become an oncologist.

Justine Moore

Justine Moore

Justine Moore, who has recently completed her degree in Economics with Honors, is recognized for her extraordinary contributions to the Stanford community. In his nomination letter, Professor John Shoven from the Department of Economics praises Justine for her outstanding success in the classroom and in research. However, Professor Shoven continues, “this nomination is for the opportunities she has created for other students by creating Cardinal Ventures and by improving ASSU’s financial function”, two accomplishments that are “completely out of the ordinary.”

Justine co-founded (with her twin sister, Olivia) Cardinal Ventures, a startup incubator for Stanford student entrepreneurs. She was involved in all aspects of this enterprise, including curriculum design, fundraising, participant selection, and scheduling. The program took place in fall 2015 with 12 companies chosen to participate out of more than 60 applicant companies. The program finale, or its “pitch day”, attracted more than 200 people and was covered by national media. The judges were established venture capitalists, and several of the student companies got seed round or angel funding.

In addition, Justine has led the effort to restructure the investment process for the $18 million endowment of the ASSU (Stanford’s student association). This involved working with the Stanford Management Company and the University Budget Office. It involved reassessing the endowment payout policy and reorganizing the money management function. When added to her work with the Stanford Economics Association, the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, the Department of Economics, and the Stanford Daily, Professor Shoven concludes, Justine “has contributed more to her fellow students than anyone in my long, long history at Stanford.” For her outstanding achievements in scholarship and service, Justine Moore is awarded the Deans’ Award for Academic Achievement.

Andrey Sushko

Andrey SushkoAndrey Sushko, a senior completing his degree in Mathematics as well as Physics with Honors, is recognized for his outstanding contributions to the Stanford community as an academic scholar and independent researcher. In his nomination of Andrey, Professor of Physics David Goldhaber-Gordon writes that, “Andrey Sushko is innovative about building things at a level I’ve seen in an undergrad only once before.”

As a student in Physics 108, the department’s capstone project lab course, Andrey demonstrated his “formidable skills, analytical and hands-on.” When confronted with the problem of how to wind coils of wire to induce and detect magnetic field, Andrey came up with the idea to program the write head and spindle from an old inkjet printer to wind the appropriate number of turns with the desired pitch. “For this and more, Andrey earned a rare A+, and that as the only sophomore among mostly Physics seniors,” recalls Goldhaber-Gordon.

As a researcher in Professor Goldhaber-Gordon’s lab, Andrey has been studying the graphene-boron nitride moire superlattice, made famous by the recent discovery of “Hofstadter butterfly” physics. “He’s worked through classic monographs for inspiration about questions to ask, has found interesting surprises in the data, has done all the analysis independently and convincingly, and is writing a senior thesis which will also be a high-profile first-author paper,” explains Goldhaber-Gordon.

Andrey’s extracurricular accomplishments on and off campus are equally impressive. As chief designer for the Stanford Student Space Initiative’s high altitude balloons group, he guided his team through three complete redesigns to produce a latex balloon that helped the vehicle fly ten times longer than typical flights. During two summers spent working at SpaceX, Andrey took charge of every aspect of a new system for tracking a rocket’s location, a feat which Goldhaber-Gordon describes as “mindboggling!”

Alexander Torres

Alex Torres

Alex Torres is an English major who represents the successful amalgamation of academic excellence, rigorous scholarship, and civic mindedness.

Alex is a stellar scholar already publishing original scholarship in his field of American literature. His paper on the “photographic poetics” of Walt Whitman is forthcoming in the Stanford Undergraduate Research Journal. Alex has discovered a connection between Emily Dickinson and the poet William Blake that has not been remarked in Dickinson scholarship and that goes some way toward explaining some of her brilliant eccentricities.

His devotion to the Harlem Renaissance poet Jean Toomer motivated him to curate an exhibit at the Cantor Arts Center, titled “Modern Times: Stieglitz, O’Keefe, Toomer,” which was featured in The San Francisco Chronicle with an interview with him as curator. It was also selected as one of the “Bay Area Arts and Entertainment Picks” in 2015. He won the Cantor Scholar Award as well as a summer Cantor undergraduate fellowship and a winter Cantor travel grant. He has also been awarded a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship and, for research on the poet Alan Ginsberg, a Chappell Lougee Scholarship. He has won a travel grant to attend the American Literature Association’s Symposium on Frontiers and Borders in American Literature and present his paper, Music, Transnational Identity, and the Self in the Early Poetry of Américo Paredes, to the scholarly community.

He has a 4.0 GPA and is currently at work on an honors thesis, for which he has just received a major grant. Alex caught the attention of faculty early on as the self-motivated student who came to discuss ideas, not pragmatics, and who superseded course requirements by pursuing a research agenda on slavery in John Milton’s Paradise Lost. Alex Torres has just been awarded the Beinecke Scholarship; his faculty expect that he will continue his significant research in the Humanities.

Lina Vadlamani

Lina Vadlamani

Lina Vadlamani, a senior completing her degree in Human Biology and a graduate student in Community Health and Prevention research, is recognized for her extraordinary contributions to the Stanford community as both a student and researcher.

In his letter of nomination, Bing Professor in Human Biology and Anthropology William Durham writes, “Not only is Lina a top-of-the class scholar, but her accomplishments in leadership have been a game changer among health-related student groups at Stanford.”

Her dedication to student health initiatives is reflected in the deep impact that she has made on two on-campus groups. The first is SHIFT, “Stanford Health and Innovations in Future Technology,” where she was a founding member. The second initiative is HOPES, “Huntington’s Outreach Project for Education at Stanford,” to which Lina has brought “innovation and inspiration,” and where she launched several new initiatives including a campus-wide conference on Huntington’s disease and a now widely circulated HOPES Newsletter for which she has written several articles. Professor Durham describes Lina as “amazing” and “the kind of student who excels at just about everything she puts her heart into, including years as Bridge to Care Coordinator at the Pacific Free Clinic.”

As Professor Durham notes, Lina “combines academic accomplishment with an almost endless energy and insight for giving back in meaningful ways. Her achievements are widely felt on and off campus.” For her outstanding achievements as a student as well as her contributions to student health initiatives at Stanford, Lina Vadlamani is awarded the Deans’ Award for Academic Achievement.

Lauren Wedekind

Lauren Wedekind

Lauren Wedekind, a senior completing her Bachelor’s degree in Human Biology, is recognized for her extraordinary contributions to the Stanford community. In an assignment for Professor Eunice Rodriguez’s course on Migration and Health, Lauren described herself as a person who “studies Human Biology and Education, and shares her passions for health and justice with others through teaching, research, and advocacy.” She states that she “intends to continue these pursuits while training in public health and medicine to serve marginalized populations.” Professor Rodriguez notes that this ambitious list “is in fact a modest description of all that Lauren has been involved with during her studies at Stanford.”

While an undergraduate, Lauren has co-taught three student-initiated courses, including a HumBio-supported course (The Right to Health). She has been a TA for a class on Global Public Health. She is coauthor on several publications (from issues on gestational diabetes, to social determinants of health, and health in conflict situations), and will be the first-author on a paper about telemedicine with Professor Kristin Sainani. She has presented at or helped run panels at national and international conferences including the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, and conferences sponsored by UCSF, USAID, Youth+Tech+Health, Stanford, and the Clinton Global Initiative University. Currently, she is a finalist for a Fulbright Fellowship to study Diabetes and Tuberculosis in the UK and Lesotho.

In reflecting on Lauren’s breathtaking accomplishments, Dr. Katherine Preston notes that she “stands out among other energetic students because her achievements have actually matched the quick pace of her ambitions.” Lauren has also emerged as “an admirable leader among her peers” and demonstrates a sincere and laudable commitment to fighting for “health as a human right” both locally and globally. Dr. Ronald Garcia places her among the best undergraduates he’s worked with and believes that her extraordinary achievements will continue into her career. He states that she is “destined to be a health profession leader” just as she has been a leader here.

For these, and her many other accomplishments, the department of Human Biology wishes to honor Lauren Wedekind.