Students honored at Opening Exercises
Princeton NJ -- The accomplishments of Princeton's students were celebrated with the awarding of four undergraduate prizes and the recognition of two graduate fellowship winners at Opening Exercises Sept. 9.
Freshmen First Honor Prize
The Freshman First Honor Prize is awarded each year to a sophomore in recognition of exceptional achievement during the freshman year. This year, the prize was shared by André Kurs and Ruth Tennen.
Tennen, valedictorian of her graduating class at Canton High School in Collinsville, Conn., is an A.B. candidate with interests in biology, chemistry, science writing and the history of science. Her first scholarly article, on bacterial spores, was published last year in the Journal of Applied Microbiology. Outside the classroom, she plays the clarinet in the Princeton University Wind Ensemble.
Next month, Kurs and Tennen will receive the Shapiro Prize for Academic Excellence.
George Wood Legacy Sophomore Prize
Costin Bontas of Bucharest, Romania, received this year's George Wood Legacy Sophomore Prize, given to a member of the junior class in recognition of exceptional academic achievement during the sophomore year.
The valedictorian of his graduating class, Bontas won the silver medal at the International Physics Olympiad in 1999. An A.B. candidate, he is concentrating in the Department of Physics and pursuing certificates in finance and in Spanish language and culture. He is interested in the emerging field of econophysics and has served as a research assistant to faculty members in both physics and economics.
Bontas also has received the President's Award for Academic Achievement, the Shapiro Prize for Academic Excellence and the Eugene Taylor Prize in Physics. He serves as a resident computer consultant and has participated in the International Students' Association, Chicano Caucus, Princeton Shotokan Club, Princeton Aikido Club and Princeton Soccer Club. This year, he will serve as a minority affairs adviser in Mathey College.
George Wood Legacy Junior Prize
This year's George Wood Legacy Junior Prize went to Abbie Liel, a graduate of the Catlin Gabel School in Portland, Ore. The award is presented to a member of the senior class in recognition of exceptional academic achievement during the junior year.
A B.S.E. candidate, Liel is concentrating in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and pursuing a certificate in the Woodrow Wilson School. The winner last year of the George Wood Legacy Sophomore Prize, she has twice received the President's Award for Academic Achievement and has been awarded a scholarship by the New Jersey Professional Engineers in Construction. Her senior thesis will focus on the Columbia River and the Bonneville Dam, with particular attention to the structure and operation of the dam as it relates to power production and the needs of salmon.
A bassoonist in the Princeton University Orchestra, Liel also serves as vice president of Tau Beta Pi engineering honor society, as treasurer of the Princeton chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers and as a peer adviser to freshmen in the School of Engineering.
Class of 1939 Princeton Scholar Award
The Class of 1939 Princeton Scholar Award is given to the undergraduate who, at the end of the junior year, has achieved the highest academic standing for all preceding work at the University. This year, the prize was shared by Lillian Pierce and Scott Vafai.
Home schooled in Fallbrook, Calif., Pierce is an A.B. candidate, concentrating in the Department of Mathematics. Her senior thesis will focus on a topic in analysis. The winner of the Freshman First Honor Prize, she was twice a recipient of the President's Award for Academic Achievement. This past year, she was awarded a Barry Goldwater Scholarship, was named to the USA Today All-USA College Academic Team and was selected as one of Glamour Magazine's Top 10 College Women for 2001.
An accomplished violinist, Pierce serves as co-concertmaster and co-president of the Princeton University Orchestra. She is a member of the Princeton String Quartet and a founding member of the Nassau String Quartet.
A resident of Edison, N.J., Vafai is a graduate of Rutgers Preparatory School in Somerset. He is an A.B. candidate concentrating in the Department of Molecular Biology. His senior thesis is on the reversible methylation of an enzyme called protein phosphatase 2A. He has presented his work at several academic conferences and has co-written an article recently published in the European Molecular Biology Organizational Journal.
Vafai was twice a recipient of the President's Award for Academic Achievement. He also has earned a New Jersey State Commission on Cancer Research Summer Fellowship, a Beckman Scholarship and a Barry Goldwater Scholarship. He is a volunteer at Princeton Medical Center, the project coordinator for the Student Volunteers' Council Princeton Medical Center Project and a board member of the Community-Based Learning Initiative.
The Graduate School annually awards honorific fellowships to more than a dozen research doctoral degree candidates in the last year of their enrollment. On the basis of departmental nominations, a faculty committee recommends individuals who have demonstrated excellence in their scholarship and give promise of exceptionally distinguished careers. Two were recognized at Opening Exercises.
Emile Praun, a fifth-year doctoral candidate in computer
science, will hold a Wallace Memorial Fellowship in
Engineering. He began his undergraduate studies at the
Politechnica University of Bucharest (Romania) in computer
science, then transferred to the California Institute of
Technology where he graduated with a B.S. in computer
science in 1997. In his Princeton dissertation, he is
investigating methods for representing and automatically
creating visual detail over three-dimensional surfaces.