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The Winners Are...

The Winners Are...

Every spring, the College of Natural Sciences celebrates its most outstanding graduating students by recognizing them as Dean’s Honored Graduates. It's the highest honor awarded to graduating seniors in the college.

The accomplishments described in the following short profiles, of two of the 19 of this year's class of Dean's Honored Graduates, are both extraordinary and, for this particular crew of students, impressively typical.

For profiles of the rest of the group, visit the Dean's Honored Graduates page on the college website.

Jay Jinsing Falk



Jay Jinsing Falk


Jay Jinsing Falk is a Dean’s Honored Graduate in the Department of Biology.  He was awarded a Phi Beta Kappa’s Award of Distinction in 2010 and has received many prestigious scholarships in the course of his time at UT. These include the Ari Yehiel Blattstein Endowed Presidential Scholarship and the Coupler Endowed Presidential Scholarship.  Last year he was given a full scholarship to attend and present his independent research at the Evolution 2009 Conference. In his time at UT, Jay has been involved in the production of four scholarly articles, the last three of which are due for publication in the near future.

Jay has found a deep passion for entomology through his work with his mentor Deepa Agashe in the lab of Dr. Daniel Bolnick.

“With Deepa,” Jay says, “I’ve had the privilege to be a part of scientific research in which the main tools are flour and plastic spoons.”  In spite of the lack of heavy equipment, Jay describes how rewarding it is “to witness the beauty of the data that emerges from these simple tools when coupled with rigorous experimentation and analysis.” Jay’s unfeigned excitement about his work in the lab and his appreciation for the beauty of inquiry make him a wonderful scientist.

His work in Dr. Bolnick’s lab has revolved around the examination of mate choice in flour beetles.  Several years ago Jay’s team segregated some of these beetles and forced them to live in corn flour, as opposed to wheat flour.  Over the course of several generations of beetles, those living in corn have developed adaptations to their new environment.  Jay is now studying, as he says, “Whether these ‘wheat’ and ‘corn’ beetles like mating with each other or not.”

He says the other major influences on his life at UT have been the close-knit student community he found while living in the Royal Co-op—which taught him to cook vegan food for a household of seventeen—and the constant support of his family.  This summer he will attend Notre Dame University to work as a student technician with Jessica Hellmann.  They will study the effects of climate change on interbreeding between two species of swallowtail butterflies.  After that point, Jay is keeping his options open.  He says he will apply to graduate school as soon as he knows which field he likes best.  For the moment, he is looking for jobs and raising a pair of baby praying mantises. Jay chose The Ants by Bert Holldobler and E.O. Wilson, House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski and The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks.

Lucia Simonelli




Lucia Simonelli

Dean’s Honored Graduate Lucia Simonelli will be graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics. Lucia has also received the Chair’s Honored Graduate award in the Mathematics Department and is the Vice President of the Undergraduate Mathematics Club.  Her deep commitment to preserving the world we live in has also made her the Director of the Campus Environmental Center. In the summer of 2009, Lucia was accepted into the Princeton Program for Mathematics Undergraduates, the most competitive program of its kind.

Lucia has repeatedly astonished her professors with her enthusiasm and ability.  Each professor quoted in her recommendation for the Dean’s Honored Graduate award expressed delighted amazement at her advanced scholarly level.  Dr. William Beckner, the Chair of the Mathematics Department, wrote, “I have taught the graduate prelim class in Real Analysis on multiple occasions, but only three times has the top student in the class been an undergraduate.”  Lucia was one of those three and the first in over fifteen years. Another professor wrote that even in graduate classes “she is the best…student in the class.”  In her time at UT Lucia took four graduate courses in mathematics, three of which were advanced graduate courses.

Lucia has taken her drive and enthusiasm outside of the classroom in an effort to preserve our world. Lucia’s work has resulted in clear improvements in UT’s sustainability. As a freshman she co-authored legislation calling for a university-wide sustainability policy and task force.  As a sophomore, she drew up a draft of the ideal policy and presented it to President Powers.  Last year, thanks to her persistence, the President’s Sustainability Task Force was formed, and in the past year they have adopted a revised version of Lucia’s policy.  Although she has excelled at mathematics and taken classes in a variety of fields, Lucia feels her biggest accomplishment at UT was her role last year as Director of the Campus Environmental Center.

Lucia also worked for the Environmental Science Institute under a grant from the State Energy Conservation Office.  In the course of this work she authored the Sustainability Policy and Audit Form. Her final audit report, which compiled the data she had collected about UT’s sustainability over the course of one full academic year, will help to extend the practice of accountability to offices all over campus.

After she graduates from UT, Lucia will go on to pursue a Ph.D. in Mathematics at the University of Maryland. Lucia selected Partial Differential Equations by Lawrence C. Evans.

FRI Awarded $1.6 Million by Howard Hughes Medical ...
Insight: May 2010

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Tuesday, 21 November 2017

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