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Outstanding Undergraduate Researchers Honored

Fletcher Awards recognize exceptional work supported by research grants

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November 15, 2012 | by Wendy Leopold
Northwestern officials, the winning students and their faculty advisers gather for the inaugural Fletcher Undergraduate Research Grant Awards.

EVANSTON, Ill. --- At a luncheon at the James L. Allen Center Nov. 13, the Office of Undergraduate Research honored the inaugural winners of a new award for excellence in undergraduate research.

Their wide-ranging independent research looked at mathematical principles, the situations of long-term refugees in Ethiopia, German philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein and the effects of changing climate conditions on coral reefs.

Funded by the Fletcher Family Foundation, the $250 Fletcher Undergraduate Research Grant Awards were presented to four Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences undergraduates for research they did this past summer with support from Northwestern Undergraduate Research Grants (URG). Their faculty advisers also received $250 awards in recognition of their work with the students.

As President Morton Schapiro handed out the awards, Provost Daniel Linzer called them and the Undergraduate Research Grant (URG) Program “a sweet spot for Northwestern that helps accomplish so much of what we want to do.” A priority of Northwestern’s strategic plan, “undergraduate research makes real what students learn in the classroom, provides for great interaction between faculty and students and gives students a sense of what they want to do after graduation,” he added

The inaugural winners:

• Emily DuBois, a senior in environmental sciences with a minor in global health, worked with Luisa Marcelino, research assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering in the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science. Her experiment, “Use of Novel Optical Technology, Genetic Analysis and Physiological Data to Investigate the Effect of Light and Temperature Stress on Coral Bleaching,” was designed to shed light on the effect of future climate conditions on coral reefs.

• Daniel Olson, a junior majoring in philosophy and German, worked with Axel Mueller, senior lecturer in philosophy. Olson’s project attempted to identify the most basic disagreements between 20th century philosophers Ludwig Wittgenstein and Alan Badiou in an attempt to clarify a more general division in philosophy. Olson currently is studying in Germany.

• Chelsea Glenn, a senior in economics and international studies, worked with Jeff Rice, Weinberg College adviser and senior lecturer in history. In Ethiopia, she researched economic coping strategies of refugees at two long-term refugee camps. For her comparative study of Eritrean and Somali camps, she also interviewed humanitarian workers at their Addis Ababa headquarters, field offices and the camps.

• Ewain Gwynne, a Weinberg senior majoring in mathematics and Mathematical Methods in the Social Sciences (MMSS), worked with Elton Hsu, professor of mathematics. For his project, “A New Proof of the Logarithmic Sobolev Inequality for Gaussian Measure,” Gwynne not only digested a large amount of existing literature on a problem but also went beyond what is known and created new mathematics.

URG faculty advisors were asked to nominate students for the new Fletcher Awards who they felt not only had conducted exceptional research but also submitted exceptional final reports about the work their grants supported.

The URG Review Committee selected the Fletcher Award winners. Chaired by Karl Rosengren, professor of psychology, the committee consists of 23 faculty members from across the University that each year selects URG recipients. Of more than 250 applications submitted in academic year 2011-12, the committee awarded 129 grants amounting to just under half a million dollars.

The awards are funded through an endowed gift from the Fletcher Family Fund. “They honor the best of the best and represent a significant addition to the roster of awards given at Northwestern,” said Office of Undergraduate Research director Peter Civetta.