Two Seniors, 13 Alumni Win NSF Graduate Research Fellowships

By Maki Somosot '12

Sarah Chasins '12 of Clarkston, Mich., and Jennifer Crick '12 of Chesapeake City, Md., are each recipients of a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. The fellowship will provide them with three years of funding for a research-based master's or doctoral degree at their preferred institution. The award includes a stipend of $30,000 per year and a cost-of-education allowance of $12,000 for three years.

Sarah Chasins '12Chasins is an honors major in computer science, a course major in behavioral economics, and an honors minor in psychology. Her research focuses on compiler implementation and natural language processing, which figure prominently in her honors thesis and preparations. Last summer, she carried out research on programming languages and compiler design under Jonathan Aldrich at Carnegie-Mellon University. She has also researched smart phone ambient sensing with Christian Poellabauer at the University of Notre Dame. Currently, she is involved in constructing models that identify a song's emotional polarity through lyrical analysis with Associate Professor of Computer Science Richard Wicentowski.

Recently, Chasins was named a runner-pp for the 2012 Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Award by the Computing Research Association. Last year, she won first place in the undergraduate division of the SPLASH Conference's ACM Student Research Competition for her research. After Swarthmore, Chasins is planning to pursue graduate study in computational science and engineering at Carnegie-Mellon.

Jennifer Crick '12Crick, a McCabe Scholar, is an honors biology major and minor in political science. Her undergraduate thesis explored social communication among ring-tailed lemurs at the Berenty Reserve in Madagascar. She has also conducted research on food-sharing behavior in chimpanzees and population genetics of owl monkeys.

This fall, Crick will be a graduate student in the Department of Comparative Biology at the American Museum of Natural History. For her future dissertation project, Crick hopes to study lemur conservation by using data about habitat fragmentation, lemur mating behavior and population genetics to figure out conservation priorities in Madagascar.

The following alumni are also the recipients of the fellowship: 

Jacob Brunkard '08 is researching intercellular communication in plants through plasmodesmata, which are involved in sharing nutrients, metabolites, developmental signals, proteins, and RNA among plant cells, as well as facilitating the spread of plant viruses. He is studying how plants regulate transport across plasmodesmata using physiological, genetic and cell biology approaches. He is a second- year graduate student in the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology at University of California-Berkeley. 

Helen Chmura '09 is interested in studying how physiology impacts behavioral responses of animals to climate change. She hopes to study birds in particular. Upon graduating from Swarthmore, she investigated the global effects of climate change in mountain ranges and the changes in cultural and religious practices in mountain communities through her Watson Fellowship. She will enter as a graduate student in the Department of Animal Behavior at University of California-Davis in the fall.

James Crall '07 studies the ecomechanics and evolution of insect flight, as well as species interactions in insects. He is a Ph.D. student in the lab of Stacey Combes in the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology (OEB) at Harvard University.

Seth Donoughe '08 is also a graduate student in the OEB program at Harvard. His research at the Harvard Extavour Lab centers on early insect development. Prior to Harvard, he worked with Steve DiNardo at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine on the developmental genetics of the fruit fly.

Kelsey Hatzell '09 works on the thermo-electrochemistry modeling of lithium ion batteries and their optimal control in electric vehicle applications. She is currently pursuing an M.S. in Mechanical Engineering at Pennsylvania State University. 

Ben Schweinhart '09 is studying the topology of Grassmanian manifolds and is interested in applying topology to other sciences. He is currently researching the behavior of a certain protozoan by using persistent homology and is a graduate student in the Department of Mathematical Studies at Princeton University.

Samuel Socolar '11 is a graduate student in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University. His research interests include the ecological mechanisms behind species occurrence, persistence and distribution. He intends to apply his research to biodiversity conservation practice. 

Jennifer Trinh '11 studies condensed matter physics at University of California-Santa Cruz. Previously, she has researched organic photovoltaics and their applications for microelectromechanical devices. 

Jacob Wallace '05 is interested in the design and impact of market-based health policy reforms, provider financial incentives, consumer-targeted initiatives, and the industrial organization of medical and insurance markets. Last summer, he worked on a project that examined the impact of a large-scale Medicaid Pay-for-Performance initiative. He is currently studying health policy at Harvard University Medical School. 

William J. Welsh '08 is interested in the restructuring of public school education in the U.S. over the past two decades, particularly the rise of charter schools and private NGOs. He hopes to explore the future consequences of a social movement involving market-fundamentalist think tanks and parents in disadvantaged neighborhood. He is a graduate student in the Department of Sociology at University of California-Berkeley.

Maxwell Wilson '10, a graduate student in the Department of Molecular Biology at Princeton University, researches how spatial localization changes and possibly regulates metabolic networks. He uses synthetic biology and metabolite analysis via mass spectrometry to determine how changes in enzyme localization impact metabolic flux and metabolite concentrations in the living cell. 

Melinda Yang '10 studies human population genetics. She is particularly interested in using genetic variation within human populations to investigate the cultural and biological adaptations of humans to their environment over centuries. She is a graduate student at University of California-Berkeley.

David Zhi Hong Zee '07 is involved in renewable energy research. Under the guidance of Jeffrey Long, he is developing efficient catalysts deriving from cheap and earth-abundant elements that enable the evolution of hydrogen gas from water. He is currently a second-year graduate student in the Department of Chemistry at University of California-Berkeley.