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Northeastern celebrates several College of Science faculty and students for scholarly achievements

by Greg St. Martin

North­eastern rec­og­nized the impres­sive achieve­ments of stu­dents, fac­ulty, and staff on Thursday at the university’s Aca­d­emic Honors Con­vo­ca­tion. The annual event honors a select few who channel their extra­or­di­nary tal­ents and pas­sion into trans­for­ma­tive research and schol­ar­ship, excep­tional teaching and men­toring, and inno­va­tion in higher education—on campus and across the globe.

Pres­i­dent Joseph E. Aoun said that in estab­lishing the awards cer­e­mony three years ago, North­eastern started an impor­tant tra­di­tion that both cel­e­brates its community’s achieve­ments and empha­sizes its mem­bers life­long con­nec­tions to the university.

“What we’re cel­e­brating here today is the excel­lence and the per­ma­nence of our com­mu­nity,” Aoun told an audi­ence of hun­dreds who gath­ered in the Curry Stu­dent Center Ball­room for the ceremony.

Uni­ver­sity Dis­tin­guished Pro­fessor is the highest honor North­eastern can bestow on a fac­ulty member. This year, North­eastern hon­ored three fac­ulty with that dis­tinc­tion: Lisa Feldman Bar­rett, Phil Brown, and Andrei Zelevinksy, who was hon­ored posthu­mously. Zelevinsky, a math­e­matics pro­fessor who has been dubbed “a tow­ering figure in modern algebra and rep­re­sen­ta­tion theory,” passed away ear­lier this month. His daughter, Katya, accepted the honor on his behalf.

“His vision and the impact he made on his field will endure, as will the university’s respect and grat­i­tude for his schol­ar­ship, intel­li­gence, and friend­ship,” Stephen W. Director, provost and senior vice pres­i­dent for aca­d­emic affairs, said of Zelevinksy.

Brown, appointed to Dis­tin­guished Pro­fessor of Soci­ology and Health Sci­ence, is an inter­na­tion­ally known scholar. His inter­dis­ci­pli­nary research in med­ical soci­ology addresses envi­ron­mental jus­tice and social move­ments, mental health, and the health con­se­quences and social impacts of envi­ron­mental hazards.

In her remarks at the Con­vo­ca­tion, Bar­rett noted that she orig­i­nally thought she wanted to go to med­ical school before a col­lege psy­chology course altered her career path for­ever. She said the range of oppor­tu­ni­ties and expe­ri­ences uni­ver­si­ties pro­vide their stu­dents is unparalleled.

“Uni­ver­si­ties are places where people can dis­cover their paths toward the future,” said Bar­rett, who was appointed Dis­tin­guished Pro­fessor of Psy­chology. “They changed lives, and in my case this is def­i­nitely so.”

At North­eastern, Barrett’s research focuses on emo­tion through the lens of psy­chology and neu­ro­science. Her lab, the Inter­dis­ci­pli­nary Affec­tive Sci­ence Insti­tute, annu­ally men­tors more than 100 under­grad­u­ates whose work is a blend of expe­ri­en­tial learning and sci­en­tific dis­covery. “It’s an exciting time to be in my field,” Bar­rett said. “Psy­chology is on the cusp of a sci­en­tific rev­o­lu­tion, insti­gated by dis­cov­eries in neu­ro­science. Now that we can look into humans’ brains with unprece­dented accu­racy, we can over­turn many of the mis­taken assump­tions that have been with us since of the time of Plato.”

Other fac­ulty hon­ored included world-​​renowned sci­en­tist Sangeev Muk­erjee, whose research has been applied to devel­oping improved mate­rials for fuel-​​cell cat­a­lysts, and accounting pro­fessor Arnold Wright, a pro­lific scholar whose con­tri­bu­tions in trans­forming the accounting, audit, and assur­ance fields are nation­ally rec­og­nized. Both earned Excel­lence in Research and Cre­ative Activity Awards.

The ceremony’s under­grad­uate hon­orees boasted a range of impres­sive accom­plish­ments across many dis­ci­plines, including neu­ro­science, global health, world diplo­macy, and social entrepreneurship.

Julia Ebert, a third-​​year behav­ioral neu­ro­science major, is one of 300 stu­dents nation­wide who has received the Barry W. Gold­water Schol­ar­ship, which honors stu­dents who demon­strate out­standing poten­tial and intend to pursue a career in math, sci­ence, or engi­neering. Three stu­dents—seniors Lauren Byrnes and Hollis Thomann and 2012 grad­uate Lucas Schoeppner—earned Ful­bright U.S. Stu­dent Awards, a pres­ti­gious national honor for stu­dents to study, con­duct research, or teach abroad. All three will pursue their fel­low­ships in Germany.

North­eastern also bestowed honors upon sev­eral accom­plished stu­dent scholars. Seniors Brian Henske, Bich Ngoc (Jade) Hoang, and Fer­nando Quivira were rec­og­nized with Hodgkinson Awards, the university’s highest honors for grad­u­ating seniors. In addi­tion, seniors Miguel de Corral and Caitlin Fer­guson were hon­ored with the des­ig­na­tion as a Pres­i­den­tial Global Fellow.

Seven grad­uate stu­dents — including Catherine Matassa, a doctoral candidate in biology and Gregory Peim, a doctoral candidate in physics — also earned awards for their out­standing work in research, teaching, com­mu­nity ser­vice, and expe­ri­en­tial learning.

The Uni­ver­sity Events Team and the Vis­itor Center Team were rec­og­nized with an Out­standing Team­work Award and Inno­va­tion Team Award, respec­tively. David Winch, director of stu­dent sup­port ser­vices in Enroll­ment Man­age­ment and Stu­dent Affairs, was also rec­og­nized with the Out­standing Ser­vice Award.

The full list of the North­eastern com­mu­nity mem­bers rec­og­nized at the Aca­d­emic Honors Con­vo­ca­tion can be found here.

At the event, a moment of silence was observed for those affected by the Boston Marathon bomb­ings ear­lier in the week. Aoun announced two of the three stu­dents injured in the attacks have left the hos­pital, and acknowl­edged the stu­dents, fac­ulty, and staff who have been involved in the response and relief effort.

“Our com­mu­nity comes together when there is sorrow and tragedy, but it also comes to cel­e­brate its great accom­plish­ments,” Aoun said. “This com­mu­nity is strong because of each one of you—the fac­ulty, the stu­dents, and the staff.”

Originally published in news@Northeastern on April 22, 2013.

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