Four seniors awarded Gates Cambridge Scholarships

Princeton University seniors Jane Abbottsmith, Daniel Barson, Daniel Strassfeld and Victoria Tobolsky have been awarded Gates Cambridge Scholarships, which give outstanding students from outside the United Kingdom the opportunity to pursue postgraduate study at the University of Cambridge. 

In addition, this year's recipients include Princeton alumna Rachel Bolton, who earned a bachelor's degree in English in 2010. 

The award recipients are among 90 winners of the Gates Cambridge Scholarships from around the world.

Abbottsmith, who is from Cincinnati, is majoring in religion and earning a certificate in values and public life. At Cambridge she will study for a master's degree in theology and religious studies. Eventually she hopes to pursue a Ph.D. in ethics and enter academia with a focus on connecting theology and social entrepreneurship.

Abbottsmith received Princeton's Haarlow Prize in Humanistic Studies her freshman year and the Shapiro Prize for Academic Excellence her sophomore year. She studied Spanish language and art history in Madrid the summer after her freshman year, and theology at the University of Oxford in the spring of her junior year. 

In her senior thesis, Abbottsmith is investigating the relationship between love of God and love of neighbor in Augustine's homilies on the First Epistle of John in the New Testament. 

Abbottsmith has participated in a variety of extracurricular activities while at Princeton. She leads a service project called Knitters in Action that makes baby blankets for homeless mothers in Trenton, N.J. She is a member of the Behrman Undergraduate Society of Fellows and of the Human Values Forum. She serves as an academic peer adviser at Whitman College and also rides on Princeton's equestrian team. 

Barson, who is from Cross River, N.Y., is majoring in molecular biology and earning certificates in quantitative and computational neuroscience and global health and health policy. At Cambridge he plans to pursue a master's in clinical neurosciences. He then hopes to enroll in an MD/Ph.D. program in the United States, eventually pursuing a career in academic medicine, researching and applying treatments to promote central nervous system regeneration after injury and disease.

Barson received a Nancy J. Newman, MD '78 and Valerie Biousse, MD Senior Thesis Research Fund for Neuroscience award. He is working in the lab of David Tank, the Henry L. Hillman Professor in Molecular Biology and professor of molecular biology and the Princeton Neuroscience Institute. The research seeks to better understand cell responses by tracing the chemical trail from neuron clusters to a single neuron using a combination of the rabies virus and high-sensitivity imaging.

Throughout his undergraduate years, Barson has served on the Princeton First Aid and Rescue Squad. He also participated extensively with the Outdoor Action program as a trip leader, CPR instructor and coordinator of the HEART Wilderness First Aid Program. He has served as an academic peer adviser with Forbes College and has been active with the ski and snowboard team. 

Strassfeld, who is from Shaker Heights, Ohio, is majoring in chemistry. At Cambridge he will study for a master's degree in the history, philosophy and sociology of science, technology and medicine program. Eventually he would like to complete a Ph.D. in chemistry and become a professor.

He received a Shapiro Prize for Academic Excellence for his freshman year. He spent more than a year pursuing research in the lab of Joshua Rabinowitz, professor of chemistry and the Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics, studying the metabolic response of E.coli to a high-salt and mineral treatment.

He currently is working in the lab of Erik Sorensen, the Arthur Allen Patchett Professor in Organic Chemistry, on a total synthesis of the natural product ineariifolianone, an organic compound typically used by plants and insects as a defense or as a pheromone. 

Strassfeld has tutored organic chemistry since his sophomore year and is involved in peer mentoring with the Princeton University Chemical Society. He is a member of Terrace Club. 

Tobolsky, who is from Philadelphia, is majoring in anthropology. At Cambridge she will study for a master's degree in human evolutionary studies. Afterward, she hopes to examine how human evolution resulted in human pathology and to work as a physician researcher in pediatric orthopedics. 

As a Princeton student, she spent the summer after sophomore year in France as part of anthropology professor Alan Mann's course "Modern Human Origins," which includes excavation at a site once frequented by Neandertals. The following summer she returned to the dig before going to Israel on another archaeological dig for senior thesis research. 

For her thesis, Tobolsky is examining the musculoskeletal evolution of the human hand and its associated power and precision grips, how that relates to the evolution of complex tool use, and how in turn that relates to the evolution of human cognition.

Tobolsky's extracurricular activities include being sustainability chair of Cloister Inn, a member of the Community Service Committee of the Undergraduate Student Government, a Healthy Minds peer adviser, a member of the Alcohol Coalition Committee, an academic peer adviser and a member of the Princeton Opera Company.