The top undergraduate honors theses are recognized annually:
The Firestone and Golden Medals are awarded to the top 10 percent of honors theses completed in a given year. The Firestone Medal for Excellence in Undergraduate Research recognizes theses written in the social sciences, natural sciences and engineering. The Golden Medal for Excellence in Humanities and Creative Arts similarly distinguishes theses in the humanities or creative projects in the fine arts. The medalists each receive an engraved bronze medal, citation and a monetary award.
The Kennedy Thesis Prize is awarded annually to the single best thesis in each of the four areas of humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and engineering and 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 mentoring of undergraduate writers. Winners each receive an engraved plaque and a monetary award.
2020-2021 Prize Winners Announced
David M. Kennedy Honors Thesis Prizes
Engineering and Applied Sciences: Jiarui Sun, Chemical Engineering. CD22 blockade is a target for reversing microglial lysosomal dysfunction in Niemann-Pick Disease Type C. Mentored by Tony Wyss-Coray and Monther Abu-Remaileh
Humanities: Marilyn Zhang, Ethics In Society. Affirmative Algorithms: Relational Equality as Fairness for Pretrial Risk Assessments. Mentored by Leif Wenar and Kathleen Creel
Natural Sciences: Jamie Leonard, Earth Systems. Long-Term Biodiversity Change in a Foundation Species Intertidal Community: Ecological Insights from Three Surveys Over Sixty Years. Mentored by Fiorenza Micheli and Rodolfo Dirzo
Social Sciences: Arjun Ramani, Economics. The Donut Effect: How work-from-home impacts migration patterns and real estate markets. Mentored by Nicholas Bloom and Pete Klenow
Firestone Medals for Excellence in Undergraduate Research
Melda Alaluf, Political Science. The “Politics” of Family Business: A Social Network Analysis of Turkey’s Koç Family & Their Political Connections. Mentored by Stephen Haber
Sofia Miranda Avila Jamesson, Symbolic Systems. Fallouts of Deportations in Texas: Analyzing the impact of large-scale workplace raids on academic performance. Mentored by Michelle Jackson and Beka Guluma
Audrey Bloom, Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law. How Doctors Influence the Price of Healthcare in the United States and Japan: The Critical Role of Interest Group Politics in America's Healthcare Cost Crisis. Mentored by Terry Moe
Nic Fishman, Sociology. Making (Global) Criminal Procedure: Empire, the End of Justice, and the Rise of Efficiency. Mentored by John Meyer
Matthew Hall, Chemistry. The 3’-5’ DEDDh RNA Exonuclease ISG20L2 is essential for maturation of the Telomerase RNA Component. Mentored by Steven Artandi
Jabari Hastings, Mathematics. Positive Correlation in Matroids. Mentored by Jan Vondrák
Elyssa Hofgard, Physics. Cuts Optimization and Machine Learning Models for Dark Photon Signal-Background Discrimination with the ATLAS Detector. Mentored by Lauren Tompkins and Ariel Schwartzman
Joy Hsu, Computer Science. Unsupervised Learning for Discovery in 2D & 3D Scenes: Towards Unbiased Understanding of Biomedical Images. Mentored by Serena Yeung and Wah Chiu
Rishabh Kapoor, Biology. Evaluating the Influence of the Nuclear: Cytoplasmic Ratio in the Maternal to Zygotic Transition in Xenopus Embryos. Mentored by Jan Skotheim and Or Gozani
Avi Kaye, Human Biology. Investigating the Role of Autophagy in Replication-Competent Hepatocytes. Mentored by Roeland Nusse
Nathalie Kiersznowski, Center for International Security and Cooperation. Fanning the Flames: The Impact of Targeted Sanctions on Foreign Militant Activity. Mentored by Jeremy Weinstein
Jamie Leonard, Earth Systems. Long-Term Biodiversity Change in a Foundation Species Intertidal Community: Ecological Insights from Three Surveys Over Sixty Years. Mentored by Fiorenza Micheli and Rodolfo Dirzo
Saket Myneni, Biology. Identifying the mechanism of aged oligodendrocyte progenitor cell rejuvenation by young cerebrospinal fluid. Mentored by Tony Wyss-Coray and Susan McConnell
Arjun Ramani, Economics. The Donut Effect: How work-from-home impacts migration patterns and real estate markets. Mentored by Nicholas Bloom and Pete Klenow
Julia Rathmann-Bloch, Human Biology. How The Angular Gyrus Updates and Integrates New Knowledge. Mentored by Anthony Wagner and David Lyons
Marisol Rodriguez, Urban Studies. Empire, the End of Justice, and the Rise of Efficiency. Mentored by Asad Asad
Chloe Sorensen, Psychology. News Media Reporting on Suicide: An Examination of Affect and Adherence to Safe Standards. Mentored by Jeanne Tsai
Jiarui Sun, Chemical Engineering. CD22 blockade is a target for reversing microglial lysosomal dysfunction in Niemann-Pick Disease Type C. Mentored by Tony Wyss-Coray and Monther Abu-Remaileh
Alexa Thomson, Education. Every Student Succeeds Act (2015): Exposing Racialized Disparities at the Intradistrict Level in Florida Schools. Mentored by Thomas Dee
Catherine Wang, Biology. Cell Surface Sialylation Modulates Neuronal Excitability and Network Integration. Mentored by Carolyn Bertozzi and Xiaoke Chen
Beatriz Yankelevich, Engineering Physics. Refraction of Dirac Fermions across Molecular Graphene Junctions. Mentored by Hari Manoharan and Jennifer Dionne
Robert M. Golden Medals for Excellence in the Humanities and Creative Arts
Caroline Baker, English. "Milk in a Male Tiger”: Sarah Siddons, Sarah Bernhardt, and Julie Taymor as Studies of Cross-Gender Casting in Shakespeare. Mentored by Blair Hoxby
Charlie O'Donohue, Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity. Gender Liberation Demands Collective Liberation: a body of lived scholarship uplifting decolonization, reparations, and sovereignty work. Mentored by Samer Al-Saber and Asad Asad
Esther Abisola Omole, Honors in the Arts. Each Beloved Birth. Mentored by Jessi Piggott and Umniya Najaer
Hannah Scott, Science, Technology, and Society. "Light and Sound, Not Song and Dance": Cybernetic Subjectivity in the Environmental Art of the Pulsa Group, 1966-1973. Mentored by Fred Turner and Kyoko Sato
Jamie Seney, Art Practice. Repo/Possession. Mentored by Terry Berlier
Peter Thomas, History. Aristotelianism and English Political Thought. Mentored by David Como and Laura Stokes
AnQi Yu, Art and Art History. Unsettled Wests: The Cinema of Kelly Reichardt. Mentored by Karla Oeler and Pavle Levi
Marilyn Zhang, Ethics In Society. Affirmative Algorithms: Relational Equality as Fairness for Pretrial Risk Assessments. Mentored by Leif Wenar and Kathleen Creel
Yulou Zhou, Linguistics. Proto-Bizic: A Study of Tujia Historical Phonology. Mentored by Paul Kiparsky and Dominic Yu
Past recipients of these thesis prizes: 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1997. (The Kennedy Prize was first presented in 2008.)
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 major department or the honors program. An official announcement with detailed nomination instructions will be sent in late April, and nominations are usually due to VPUE in late May. These communications come from the VPUE Medals email account.
The 2021 deadline for all nominations and supporting documents was originally June 2, 2021, but we are extending the deadline for all materials to June 9.
Departments and faculty are very welcome to contact firstname.lastname@example.org 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 2020 and Spring 2021 are eligible to be nominated by the 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.
The Golden, Firestone, and Kennedy awards are usually presented at the annual Undergraduate Medals Ceremony, held midday on the Saturday of Commencement Weekend. The Medals Ceremony offers a place for families and thesis advisors to meet and mingle as their student is honored.
Due to COVID-19 health concerns, we have not held a physical cermony to celebrate winners.
If you have questions about the Golden, Firestone, and Kennedy Awards or the Medals Ceremony that are not answered here, please email email@example.com.
The Award for Excellence in Honors Thesis Presentation
The Award for Excellence in Honors Thesis Presentation is granted by departments and programs to students whose honors presentation exemplifies the highest standards. It is coordinated by the Oral Communication Program and is separate from the thesis medals process. For more information, please contact Doree Allen, Ph.D., Oral Communication Program Director, firstname.lastname@example.org, (650) 725-4149.