Princeton gives highest awards to top students


Alumni Day activities on Feb. 26 also included the presentation of the University's James Madison Medal to Nathan Myhrvold (above), former chief technology officer at Microsoft, and the Woodrow Wilson Award to Thomas Kean (below), chair of the 9/11 Commission. Stories about Myhrvold's and Kean's morning speeches are available online.


Below left: At a luncheon in Jadwin Gymnasium, President Shirley M. Tilghman (from left) congratulated Pyne Prize winner Amy Saltzman and Jacobus Fellowship recipients Paul Copp, Holly Sanders, Lior Silberman and Scott Shell.     Photos: Denise Applewhite

Princeton University recognized the winners of the highest honors it awards to students at Alumni Day ceremonies Saturday, Feb. 26.

Senior Amy Saltzman received the University's Moses Taylor Pyne Honor Prize, and graduate students Paul Copp, Holly Sanders, Scott Shell and Lior Silberman were honored as co-winners of the Porter Ogden Jacobus Fellowship.

The Pyne Honor Prize, the highest general distinction conferred on an undergraduate, is awarded to the senior who has most clearly manifested excellent scholarship, strength of character and effective leadership. The Jacobus Fellowship, which supports the final year of graduate study, is awarded to students whose work has displayed the highest scholarly excellence.

Pyne Prize

Saltzman, who is from Gates Mills, Ohio, is concentrating in anthropology and also has done a significant amount of work in molecular biology. As she has put it: "Although I have wanted to be a doctor from a very young age, anthropology has challenged me to look at my goal in a new way. ... Looking forward, I aspire to combine the practice of medicine with ethnographic fieldwork and teaching in social medicine, each enriched by anthropological understanding."

Saltzman has assisted in research in the genetics department at Case Western Reserve University, at Athersys Inc., a biopharmaceutical company in Cleveland, in the social medicine department at Harvard University, and in the molecular biology and anthropology departments at Princeton. Anthropology professor João Biehl has compared her "intellectual excitement, social-mindedness, and all-too-rare capacity to integrate theory and observation" to that of the young Margaret Mead.

Like that famous anthropologist, Saltzman has traveled to Melanesia to do fieldwork. She spent last summer in Fiji, where she conducted research for her senior thesis on the postnatal experience, including postpartum depression, of ethnic Fijian women against a backdrop of rapid social and economic change. She has been a key organizer behind the University's Undergraduate Research Symposium and its Bioethics Forum.

Student award winners

Also active in extracurricular activities, Saltzman has participated in the Undergraduate Student Government since her sophomore year, first as a U-councilor, then as academics chair and currently as U-Council chair. She played an instrumental role in reinvigorating the University's preceptorial system, helping to craft a guide for students, preceptors and course heads called "Inspired Conversations: The Princeton Precept." She also served as a wilderness leader for Outdoor Action, a pre-orientation program for freshmen.

A graduate of the Hathaway Brown School, Saltzman is the daughter of Mark and Shelly Saltzman of Gates Mills, Ohio.

In recognizing her at the Alumni Day ceremony, Princeton President Shirley M. Tilghman predicted that Saltzman's "blend of passion and compassion will carry [her] far and, in the process, humanize and elevate any field in which she works."

Jacobus Fellowships

Copp is a doctoral student in the Department of Religion. He earned his bachelor's degree in English from the University of Connecticut-Storrs and his master's degree in Chinese from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. He has spent nearly five years in Taiwan.

His dissertation research focuses on the imagination and makings of Buddhist spells in late medieval China, demonstrating the central place these spells held in Chinese Buddhist traditions. Professor Jacqueline Stone has described Copp as "a fine scholar and an astute, subtle thinker, with outstanding analytical skills."

Sanders is a doctoral student in the Department of History. She earned her bachelor's degree in Asian studies from the University of Texas-Austin and her master's degree in Japanese studies from Osaka University in Japan. In the words of professor Hendrik Hartog, she "has that rare justified confidence in her judgment that is ... the common mark of all the really great historians I have known."

Her dissertation research examines the impact of U.S. military policy and social and legal change on the Japanese sex industry after World War II. Her choice of subject reflects her deep-seated interest in the status of women, as well as the insights she has gathered as a counselor to victims of domestic violence in Mercer County.

Shell is a doctoral student in the Department of Chemical Engineering. He earned his bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from Carnegie Mellon University. His research uses theory and computer simulation to model how liquids become glasses and to understand protein design -- work that could have significant implications for emergent nanotechnologies.

Professor Pablo Debenedetti, who is his adviser along with professor Athanassios Panagiotopoulos, said that Shell's "originality, creativity and maturity as a scientist are extraordinary," and he groups Scott with the exceptional individuals who "can completely transform an entire field thanks to the power of their intellect." Shell also shares his scientific skills with local youngsters through the University's Scholars in the Schools Program.

Silberman, a doctoral student in the Department of Mathematics, holds his undergraduate degree from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Known for his impressive ability to assimilate a wide range of data and apply it to intractable problems, he has developed what professor Peter Sarnak calls a "spectacular thesis."

Silberman's research, which combines his lifelong interest in mathematics and physics, applies intuition from mathematical physics and techniques from geometry and dynamics to problems in analytic number theory.