The Oak and Ivy Award is given to the student in the graduating class who is outstanding in scholarship, contributions to community, and leadership. This year the award went to two students: Zhicheng (John) Fan and Lily Tobias.
John Fan is a double major in philosophy and mathematics who graduated with Highest Honors.
John has been praised for his generosity toward his peers, helping others achieve greater understanding and academic excellence as a mentor and Writing Associate. Within mathematics, he won the department’s Morris Monsky Prize and was a member of the Putnam Team, the most difficult and prestigious college-level mathematics competition in North America. John was a top student performer the years he participated and went on to help train future competitors.
John has been accepted into Harvard Law School, but is deferring for a year to study philosophy at Oxford University. Despite his demanding academic workload, John has served the campus and local community in multiple ways—as a Writing Associate, editor of the Daily Gazette, columnist for the Phoenix, Chester Fellow, and former co-President of Chester Youth Court.
Lili Tobias is pursuing a special major in music and linguistics.
Lili has been an integral member of the Chorus and Garnet Singers, was a volunteer with the Chester Children’s Chorus, performed regularly at Monday Parrish Parlors concerts, worked on a project to provide e-books for children in the deaf community, and was a member of the track team, earning medals at the Indoor Centennial Conference Championships.
She has been described as a constant support to her peers in their academic, musical and artistic endeavors, exemplified by the way she conducted her senior recital. Lili performed in Bond Hall, featuring conversation and an informal meal that modeled itself on 19th-century salon performances. During the evening she highlighted the work of her peers, demonstrating her passionate conviction that the primary purpose of music is to build community.
Rebecca is a major in English literature with minors in Latin and linguistics and is graduating with Highest Honors. She was awarded the Gil Rose Prize from classics, a prize given to a student who excels not only in ancient languages but also in the originality and caliber of their writing.
Within the English department she demonstrated a talent for reading literary texts in newly imaginative ways, to place her readings in the contexts of history, source study, and modern critical analytic al tools.
Rebecca is also deeply involved in music. She won the 2019 Concerto Competition, a rare accomplishment for a student singer, and performed Bizet’s Carmen with the College Orchestra earlier this spring. Rebecca has been praised for her beautiful voice and her informed and inspired musical interpretations.
Since arriving at Swarthmore, Bilige Yang has excelled in courses spanning all areas of engineering, including his chosen subfield of mechanical engineering. In the summer after his first year, Bilige developed a browser-based application implementing the finite element method to support the annual truss design lab for the engineering 6 class, which has since become the standard tool provided to E6 students. Bilige spent last summer at the University of California San Diego researching the emerging field of soft robotics, an experience which informed his collaborative senior project work designing, analyzing, and testing a mechanically-actuated soft gripper to improve robotic manipulation.
Throughout his time at the college, Bilige has served as an engineering peer instructor in four of the department’s six required core courses. He is the outgoing president of the Pennsylvania Kappa chapter of Tau Beta Pi, the engineering honors society, and a previous recipient of the John W. Perdue Memorial Prize. Bilige will begin a Ph.D. program in mechanical engineering and materials science at Yale University this fall.
An engineering major and astronomy minor, Greta Studier distinguished herself as a first-year student by tackling engineering courses often taken by older students, holding her own among juniors and seniors. Greta took leave from Swarthmore in spring 2018 to pursue an internship at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., where she developed simulated stellar navigation software to aid in testing new types of satellites. A follow-up summer project at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., aimed at designing a soil sample return tube for a Mars rover paved the groundwork for her senior project, which focused on designing and characterizing a storage rack to be mounted on the rover. Greta’s work could help enable the first-ever space mission to return samples to Earth from another planet.
After graduation, she will resume working at JPL while completing her master’s in aerospace and mechanical engineering at the University of Southern California.