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Wednesday, Oct. 01, 2014
Sachs Stouffer

Kaitlin Stouffer

Sachs Tams

Stephanie Tam

Photos by Denise Applewhite

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Two seniors named Sachs Scholars

Two seniors with track records of achievement in academics and research have been named recipients of the Daniel M. Sachs Class of 1960 Graduating Scholarship, one of the highest awards given to Princeton undergraduates.

Kaitlin Stouffer, a computer science major, will work for a year in South Africa as a Sachs Global Scholar, contributing to research on drug-resistant tuberculosis by using her computer science skills to develop new ways to analyze genetic data.

Stephanie Tam, an English major, will spend two years pursuing postgraduate degrees in postcolonial and world literatures and evidence-based social intervention as a Sachs Scholar at Worcester College, the University of Oxford.

The Sachs Scholarship is intended to enlarge each recipient's experience of the world by providing the opportunity to study, work or travel abroad after graduation. While most Sachs Scholars have studied at Worcester, others have chosen programs or projects elsewhere. Stouffer's selection as the first Sachs Global Scholar continues that tradition while marking an elevated commitment to fund a Global Scholar each year alongside a Sachs Scholar at Worcester, said David Loevner, chair of the advisers to the scholarship.

Classmates and friends established the scholarship in memory of Daniel Sachs, who starred in football and lacrosse at Princeton before attending Worcester College as a Rhodes Scholar. He died of cancer at age 28 in 1967. The award is given to seniors who best exemplify Sachs' character, intelligence and commitment, and whose scholarship is most likely to benefit the public.

Stouffer, of Potomac, Md., will work at the K-RITH Institute in the South African coastal city Durban, building a computerized prediction mechanism that will use machine-learning algorithms and other tools to help determine which medications a strain of tuberculosis is resistant to based on its genetic makeup. The goal is to allow for tuberculosis patients to be treated more effectively at an earlier point in the disease. That could slow the spread of drug-resistant tuberculosis, which is most prevalent in the developing world.

Stouffer, who is planning a career as a physician-scientist, wants to extend her work beyond the lab, too.

"I also hope to immerse myself in the local culture and engage with the patients at the nearby King George V Hospital — particularly those who are suffering from the cases of TB I'm hoping to help prevent," Stouffer said. "Though technology has done wonders for our current society, it's often easy to lose touch with the individuals one is trying to help with his or her research, and so in an effort to maintain that 'human face' of research, I plan to shadow the doctors on their ward rounds and volunteer as much as possible at that local hospital."

In addition, Stouffer plans to work with the Umkhumbane Schools Project to promote the study of science, technology, engineering and math among young women in KwaZulu-Natal province.

"Ultimately, I hope to help people achieve their dreams, whether that means helping them to overcome an illness, or acting as an adviser and mentor to help them discover their own interests and ambitions," Stouffer said.

The Sachs program offers Stouffer the opportunity both to prepare for her future and to make significant contributions to research now, said Margaret Martonosi, Princeton's Hugh Trumbull Adams '35 Professor of Computer Science and Stouffer's thesis adviser.

"Kaitlin's long-term career goal is to fuse medical science with computer science, and the collaboration with K-RITH will offer a very real opportunity to apply such approaches to a problem of pressing importance," Martonosi said. "At a broad perspective, the Sachs program is giving her the opportunity to immerse herself in a 'new place' both geographically, South Africa, and intellectually, the intersection of public health and computer science."

Stouffer is a member of the Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society, the Tau Beta Pi Honor Society and received the Shapiro Prize for Academic Excellence for her freshman and sophomore years. She has held internships at Google and Microsoft, and was awarded the Accenture Prize in Computer Science. She has also done research at the Princeton Neuroscience Institute and Oxford.

Tam, of New York, said she was attracted to the Sachs Scholarship by the way "its holistic vision of academic excellence, leadership and public service" fits with her goals of a career as an English scholar and social activist.

As she pursues a postgraduate degree in postcolonial and world literatures at Worcester, she will become part of a large community of scholars concerned with postcolonial and world literatures. In addition, she will have access to British accounts of colonialism and missionary work at the National Archives, as well as the Oriental Manuscripts and Rare Books special collection at Oxford.

Tam's study of evidence-based social intervention will help her reach her goal of enhancing the limited research currently available on sex trafficking with humanistic sensitivity and scientific methodology.

"I strive to empower women and give voice to marginalized populations through my own research, creative work and leadership commitments," Tam said in her application. "My ultimate vision as a writer and an academic is to foster the kind of dialogue, empathy and action that develops our global community."

Anne Cheng, a professor of English and African American studies who has known Tam since she was a sophomore, said Tam is an "amazing young scholar."

"Her thinking is always nuanced and her writing powerful," said Cheng, who is also Tam's thesis adviser. "Her brilliant junior paper on the relationship between fantasy and postcolonial politics received the first A-plus I have given at Princeton. Working with Stephanie has renewed my own commitment to undergraduate teaching."

Tam has been awarded the George B. Wood Legacy Junior Prize, the Shapiro Prize for Academic Excellence, the Class of 1870 Junior English Prize, the Emily Ebert Junior Prize and the Class of 1870 Sophomore English Prize. This summer, Tam participated in the Princeton/Bread Loaf Fellowship, a research training and advising initiative at the Bread Loaf School of English at Oxford.

Outside the classroom, Tam has served as editor in chief of the Nassau Literary Review, an adviser for Princeton Against Sex Trafficking, a fellow of the Behrman Undergraduate Society of Fellows, a student representative of the English department's student advisory council, a peer adviser in Mathey College, a board member of the Writers Studio, and an outreach team member and mentor in Princeton Faith and Action.

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