Saturday, May 10, 2008
Mellon College of Science Students Earn Education and Research Awards
The Mellon College of Science’s (MCS) awards for education and research were presented during the college’s Annual Faculty Meeting on May 5. Winners included Robert Aguirre, Haifeng Gao and Mariela Zeledón.
The Guy C. Berry Graduate Research Award, which recognizes excellence in research by MCS graduate students, was presented to Haifeng Gao. A Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Chemistry, Gao has already made extensive contributions to the field of star and brush polymer synthesis; he has co-authored more than 20 papers in peer-reviewed journals, including the Journal of the American Chemical Society and Macromolecules, two premiere journals. Gao invented a new method for synthesizing miktoarm star copolymers and successfully synthesized various other kinds of polymers with well-defined architecture and chain-end functionality. “His achievements were the first reports in this area and significantly expand the synthetic methodology on polymer synthesis,” said J.C. Warner Professor Krzysztof Matyjaszewski, Gao’s research adviser. Gao is also a recent recipient of the 2007 Chinese Government Award for Outstanding Self-Financed Students Abroad.
Robert Aguirre, a graduate student in mathematical sciences, received the Hugh D. Young Graduate Teaching Award, which recognizes effective teaching by graduate students. Aguirre has been a teaching assistant for several courses, including summer classes for the Center for Nonlinear Analysis’s Summer Institute. Aguirre’s former students applauded him for being patient, personable and supportive and for his willingness to go out of his way to help them and their classmates. “He truly invests himself in his students and the material. His love for the subject matter, and math as a whole, was inspiring,” wrote one student. Another student commented: “He was very good at getting students involved in the recitation…He really encouraged us to ask questions and he made it very difficult for students to avoid participation in class…I have never been in a recitation that was as well run as or as interactive.”
Mariela Zeledón received the Dr. J. Paul Fugassi and Linda E. Monteverde Award, which is presented to a graduating female senior with the greatest academic achievement and professional promise. Zeledón, a Science and Humanities Scholar and a senior biological sciences major with a minor in religious studies, began doing research early in her education. Focusing on her interest in genetics and molecular biology, she has conducted research analyzing the PBN1 gene in Saccharomyces cerevisiae under the guidance of Elizabeth Jones, the Dr. Frederick A. Schwertz Distinguished Professor of Life Sciences and head of the department of biological sciences. She has also conducted research on the genetics of alcoholism and bipolar disorder at the Center for Cellular & Molecular Biology research at the Universidad de Costa Rica. Zeledón was recently invited to join Sigma Xi, a national scientific research society, and she was selected to receive a prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. “There is no doubt that Mariela is a gifted experimentalist with a bright future in science,” wrote Assistant Dean Amy Burkert. Zeledón plans to continue her research in the field of genetics in graduate school at Johns Hopkins next year.
Graduate students Kevin Bandura and Wei He were also recognized for receiving the Astrid and Bruce McWilliams Graduate Fellowship.