A Bounty of National Awards
February 05, 2009
Last spring, several Lewis & Clark undergraduates made a dramatic display of their academic fitness, winning a Truman Scholarship, three Goldwater Scholarships, and six Fulbright grants to further their education and research.
Truman Scholarships are awarded annually to undergraduate juniors who are committed to making a difference through public service. The scholarship provides up to $30,000 in financial support for graduate study and leadership training in preparation for a career in government, nonprofit and advocacy sectors, education, or other public service fields.
Ben Brysacz CAS ‘09 is a senior political science major who wants to pursue a career in public policy and eventually politics. “I want to make a difference, and I feel the political arena is the most effective place to do that,” says Brysacz.
A native of Tucson, Arizona, Brysacz first became engaged in politics in high school. “I had a favorite teacher who had a passionate way of looking at politics and fighting for the rights of disadvantaged people,” he says. “Before taking his class, I had never looked at politics from a scientific perspective to really think about the way things work. I also volunteered for the local Democratic Party, and my interest just blossomed from there.”
To build a foundation for a political career, Brysacz plans to attend graduate school on the East Coast. But most of all, he wants to effect positive change for the future: “Real leadership involves getting people to believe in change, to value it, and pass on that understanding to their children. That’s what I’d like to be a part of.”
Barry M. Goldwater Scholarships are awarded annually to undergraduate students who have done excellent academic research in mathematics, science, or engineering, and intend to pursue a career in these fields. Lewis & Clark was one of only four liberal arts institutions in the country that had three students earn the $7,500 scholarship last spring.
Allison Akagi CAS ‘09, a chemistry major, conducts research examining the use of an organometallic complex in the degradation of a phosphate neurotoxin. “As a result of this work, I hope to find a safer destruction method for chemical warfare agents,” says Akagi. “I chose this field because I enjoy organometallic chemistry, and my research topic addresses a current societal problem.”
After graduating, Akagi hopes to join Teach for America and teach high school chemistry to students in low-income communities. “Our country needs more scientists, and a strong science community can only be achieved by first having a strong science education in high school,” she says.
After teaching, Akagi plans to work toward a Ph.D. in chemistry.
Claire Fassio CAS ‘09 is a biochemistry and molecular biology major. Working in the lab of Deborah Lycan, professor of biology, she studies ribosomes, the molecular machines in cells that are responsible for protein synthesis. Specifically, she is interested in understanding ribosome assembly, which occurs in the cell nucleus, and the processes involved in exporting ribosomes from the nucleus to the cytoplasm, where protein synthesis takes place. “I enjoy studying basic cell functions, like ribosome biogenesis, because these processes are essential for the viability of a wide range of organisms,” she says.
Fassio is interested in the process of gene expression and would like to better understand why certain genes are expressed at specific times in an organism’s development. After graduation, she plans to pursue a Ph.D. in molecular biology. She hopes to teach and do research at the university level.
Conor Jacobs CAS ‘09 is a biochemistry major with an abiding interest in neuroscience. At Lewis & Clark, he has become involved in a collaborative research project with Janis Lochner, Pamplin Professor of Science, and Bethe Scalettar, professor of physics. Their research is aimed at defining how memory formation occurs.
“We use cultured rat hippocampal neurons, or brain cells, isolated from the hippocampus of a rat and grown in vitro to study a class of proteins called neuromodulators,” says Jacobs. “These proteins are involved in a cellular process that underlies long-term memory formation.”
While he has not decided on a graduate school yet, Jacobs is interested in pursuing a Ph.D. in neuroscience.
Funded by the U.S. Department of State, the Fulbright Program awards grants to students and professionals for the opportunity to do graduate study, research, or teach at the elementary to the university level in countries all around the world. With its six winners, Lewis & Clark ranks among the top 20 undergraduate colleges in the country in the production of Fulbrights for 2008-09.
Ian Hooper B.A. ‘08, who graduated with a double major in international affairs and German studies, received a teaching assistantship and will be teaching English in Germany next year. “As a German tutor for Lewis & Clark and as a member of the International Affairs Symposium Steering Committee, I’m used to working with peers and facilitating the exchange of knowledge and ideas,” says Hooper. He will use his knowledge of German and American politics to supplement his teaching of American culture and English to German students.
While studying abroad last year, Hooper worked in the German parliament with a renewable energies politician. “A new passion of mine is international environmental policy and sustainable development,” he says. “I would like to make an impact on environmental policy in the United States.”
Katie Loebner B.A. ‘08 graduated with a communication major and was awarded a teaching assistantship in Indonesia, where she will teach at the high school level. “I have worked in English as a second language classrooms, art programs, outdoor education camps, and after-school women’s empowerment groups through Girls Inc.,” says Loebner, “and while my new position is sure to have unique challenges, my experiences working with youth have provided me with lots of tools and skills to draw on.”
Matthew Nelson B.A. ‘08, who graduated with a major in foreign languages, received a teaching assistantship in Novosibirsk, Russia. There he will work at the Academy for Government Affairs, teaching English language classes, designing curricula, and undertaking independent research on the role of public education in promoting and preserving minority languages in Russia. “I think that, more than anything, my foreign languages major at Lewis & Clark has prepared me for this work by familiarizing me with the language acquisition process and acquainting me with successful approaches to teaching a foreign language,” says Nelson.
Nelson later hopes to teach in a public school, where he plans to explore how language intersects with society and culture.
Brandon Nichter B.A. ‘08 received a research fellowship that will take him to Santiago, Chile, where he will study adolescent smoking and engage in community- and school-based projects to curb smoking among Chilean youth. “As a psychology major, I have been fascinated by courses that involve aspects of child development, substance abuse, and risk factors that lead to addiction,” says Nichter. “My hope is that I will be able to apply concepts I’ve learned at Lewis & Clark about social cognition formation, psychopathology, and psychological risk factors to glean insight on why teens begin to smoke so early in Chile, and why the majority continue to smoke their entire lives.”
Upon completion of his research, Nichter plans to pursue graduate work in clinical psychology. He aspires to become a clinical therapist at a children’s hospital.
Kate Phillips B.A. ‘08 won a teaching assistantship outside of Bangkok, Thailand, where she will teach conversational English to middle school and high school students. “I think that my sociology/anthropology major has strengthened and developed my abilities to work with people and issues all over the world,” says Phillips. “Also, participating in community service projects at Lewis & Clark–and in the greater Portland area–has given me the opportunity to put my social awareness and drive into action. This experience will be a great and valuable tool in my work with students and communities in Thailand.”
Phillips hopes to continue building culture-spanning bridges after she returns home by teaching in elementary or middle school.
Katherine Spingarn B.A. ‘08 graduated with a double major in history and German studies and has received a teaching assistantship that will take her to Saxony, Germany. She will teach English and American culture to middle school and high school students. “My own experiences learning about Germany–at Lewis & Clark and in the college’s Munich program–made clear the importance of highlighting different experiences and backgrounds,” says Spingarn. “I want to do my best to facilitate a dialogue about the United States and provide my students with diverse examples of American life.”
Spingarn plans to attend graduate school and later develop curricula based on German-language historical materials in archives, museums, or libraries.