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Special Awards

Oak and Ivy Award | Lang Award | McCabe Engineering Award

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: Erin Chen and Ann Sinclair.

Erin Chen shakes President Smith's hand at commencement Erin Chen '23 shakes President Smith's hand at commencement

Erin Chen is a double major in engineering and chemistry. Within the Chemistry Department, Erin received two outstanding awards: the American Chemical Society Undergraduate Award in Physical Chemistry in 2023 and the ACS Undergraduate Award in Analytical Chemistry in 2022. Erin is praised for her ability to pursue meaningful research projects, even during the challenges presented by COVID, and has co-authored three papers in peer-reviewed journals. She is currently drafting a paper on which she will be first author.  

Known for her community building, generosity and thoughtfulness, Erin has worked as a lab assistant, alchemist, and a tutor for chemistry and engineering. She has volunteered with Dare2Soar, assisting K-12 students in Chester with their homework in math, science, English, reading, and providing general educational enrichment. Erin has also participated in many student-originated projects such as the April Fool’s prank and the Crum Regatta, in addition to the local chapter of the Society of Women Engineers. She is also a talented graphic designer.

The next step in Erin’s career is working as an engineering physicist I at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, a high energy physics facility that explores particle physics and conducts accelerator research.

Ann Sinclair receives award from President Smith Ann Sinclair '23 receives award from President Smith

Ann Sinclair is an environmental studies and astronomy double major. Faculty from across disciplines have praised her for being a deeply curious thinker, an accomplished researcher, and a community builder.  Ann has combined versatility across disciplines along with a commitment to the common good. One noteworthy example is an interdisciplinary field guide she created for her Ecofeminisim(s) course entitled, “The Trail of Ableism: A Field Guide to Understanding Ableism in Natural Space.” The guide challenged mainstream assumptions about who belongs in outdoor, wilderness spaces. A conservation organization has drawn on the recommendations from the trail guide to re-design the organization’s messaging about the role of conservation in preserving wild lands and providing greater access to all to enjoy natural spaces.

Ann is working with public data from NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite to find and characterize young binary stars as a way to test models of star formation.  Ann is the lead author on a paper presenting this work, which will be submitted to a refereed journal this summer.  She has served as a peer academic mentor for several courses.  Ann has also been very involved in SwatVotes, organizing and enabling student voter registration and voting on Election Day, and advocating for more flexible campus policies to broaden student voting. She has also been a dedicated member of the Wind Ensemble.  

Ann’s interdisciplinary work and deep engagement with social issues will continue after graduation as she enters a Ph.D. program at Northwestern in earth and planetary sciences to work on issues of climate change. 

The Lang Award is given to “a graduating senior in recognition of outstanding academic accomplishment.”  This year the award was given to Jay Leeds.

Jay Leeds on stage at commencement Jay Leeds '23 on stage at commencement

Jay Leeds is a double major in economics and mathematics who recently earned Highest Honors. He is noted for being an exceptional student and scholar who has excelled across disciplines and a consummate professional.

Jay placed 38th in the 2022 William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition – a competition for undergraduate college students in the United States and Canada. All of the top 100 scorers were from large research universities — except for Jay.

Jay recently attained the title of Legendary Grandmaster on Codeforces, the largest platform for competitive programming competitions. He is only the fifth programmer in the United States with this title (out of over 2,700 U.S. competitors). Jay has been a competitive programmer for five years and is also on Swarthmore's International Collegiate Programming Competition team.  

Jay is known for offering constructive feedback and suggestions to his peers. He has served as a teaching and research assistant in economics, a grader and clinician in mathematics, and helped develop and run a directed reading course in competitive programming in computer science.

The McCabe Engineering Award, presented each year to the "outstanding engineering student of the graduating class," was awarded to Amra Rey Mendoza

Amra Rey Mendoza on stage at commencement Amra Rey Mendoza '23 on stage at commencement

Having demonstrated excellence in all subfields of engineering offered at Swarthmore, Rey has gravitated most strongly towards biomedical engineering, an area in which he has completed several notable projects.

In Summer 2021, Rey conducted research with Professor Maggie Delano and several other students that led to the peer-reviewed article “Evaluating Research Grade Bioimpedance Hardware Using Textile Electrodes for Long-Term Fluid Status Monitoring,” published in the journal Frontiers in Electronics. The next summer, Rey’s work with Professor Vidya Ganapati and other students led to a workshop paper at NeurIPS 2022 entitled “A Self-Supervised Approach to Reconstruction in Sparse X-Ray Computed Tomography,” on which Rey was lead author. For their senior design project “Ankle Exoskeleton to Prevent Older Adult Falls,” advised by Professor Joe Towles, Rey and his partner began development of an assistive device that would reduce walking instability in older adults with drop-foot syndrome, focusing on a proof-of-concept mechanical chassis to reduce lateral instability and to increase dorsi-flexion about the ankle.

After Swarthmore, Rey will pursue a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering at the University of Arizona in the areas of neuroengineering and biomechanics. Rey is specifically interested in developing neuroprosthetic devices that use the body’s own sensorimotor system for control with application to addressing human movement abnormalities. Rey’s interest in biomechanics goes beyond the classroom and lab. In his spare time, he enjoys weight lifting, soccer, martial arts, and parkour.