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Scholarship Recipients 2007

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In fulfillment of its mission to encourage scholarship and research, the Phi Beta Kappa Northern California Association is honoring the following ten outstanding Phi Beta Kappa graduate students with $5000 scholarship awards to assist them in completing their educational objectives:


Tasha Fairfield (UC Berkeley; political science)

graduated from Harvard with a degree in physics. She went to Stanford to study high-energy physics but decided she wanted to do less theoretical work, so she changed focus and got an M.A. degree in Latin American studies. Her dissertation project focuses on the political and economic problems of taxation in Latin America (specifically in the ABCs--Argentina, Bolivia, and Chile).

From her recommendations come these comments: Tasha is an intellectual powerhouse who has identified a research topic that is particularly critical and woefully understudied. The stakes are enormous.


Ryan Gold (UC Davis; geology)

graduated from Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington. Even early in his studies, he "played a central role in helping craft an NSF proposal strong enough to be successful in its first submission." For his dissertation he'll be measuring the slip rate at which the most important fault system in the interior of the India-Asia collision zone has moved over the past 10,000 years. Different measures have come up with wildly varying answers.

From his recommendations come these comments: Ryan has a rare talent for doing really great science. He is able to combine knowledge from various subdisciplines to make new discoveries. And he's an excellent teacher.


Natasha Hausmann (UC Berkeley; integrative biology and ecology)

was elected to PBK at Wellesley. She has conducted studies in Arctic Alaska and, closer to home, at Point Reyes. Her dissertation focuses on how invasive grasses have altered the soil fungal communities in California and aims to identify the factors that affect diversity so that we can better manage our grasslands.

From her recommendations come these comments: Natasha is highly motivated, creative, a skilled experimentalist, an articulate speaker, and an accomplished writer. Her students praise her intelligence, attention to details, and sensitivity to individual needs.


Sarah Little (UCSF; medicine)

was a Harvard economics major. At UCSF she is studying the intersection of economics and clinical medicine--"cost-effectiveness research." She has done much work in ob/gyn and hopes to become an academic perinatologist with a research focus on the economic issues concerning high-risk obstetrical care.

From her recommendations come these comments: Sarah is the single best medical student I have ever worked with at Harvard or UCSF. Without hyperbole, she has been the most productive medical student or resident I have ever mentored. She is also humble.


Glen Michael (UCSF; medicine) Norall Family Scholarship

comes to California from the University of Virginia. He has worked as an EMT with the Department of Homeland Security and the Primal Quest Expedition-length Adventure Race in the Sierra Nevada. His focus is on finding--and creating--opportunities to unite academic inquiry with community service. In Virginia, he helped to establish a local free clinic for the underserved, and at UCSF he helped create fitKids, a local organization devoted to providing outdoor excursions for at-risk youth.

From his recommendations come these comments: Glen has great professionalism and empathy and is truly exceptional at the bedside. During a leave of absence [to care for a terminally ill family member] he also spent time tutoring disadvantaged high school students, took up carpentry, and constructed a small cabin.


Robert Pringle (Stanford; biological sciences), Elizabeth B. Reed Scholarship

was elected to PBK at the University of Pennsylvania, then took a few years off to earn two MSc degrees (with distinction) from Oxford. As he noted in his application, "My career is dedicated to the following proposition: academic theory has an essential role to play in mediating conflict and engineering harmony between nature and society, but those solutions must marry sound, generalized science with place-based socio-cultural understanding. This is a philosophy that demands to be taken out of abstraction and applied." With these principles in mind, Rob will continue to work on implementing the kinds of changes necessary to improve the efficacy and equity of biological conservation.

From his recommendations come these comments: Rob was flat out the best undergraduate "volunteer" that I have had from any U.S. university working with my 25-year-old biodiversity project. He has a wonderful breadth of interest and ability and a dazzling list of accomplishments (including co-captaining the Penn tennis team and holding it together when the coach resigned).

Rob sent thie thank you note...

For current info about Rob, please see


Shumin Tan (Stanford: microbiology and immunology)

came to the United States from Singapore and did her undergraduate work at Washington University, St. Louis. She is using live-cell, time-lapse imaging to focus on H. pylori, which colonizes the stomachs of more than half of all humans worldwide. Chronic infection by H. pylori is a major cause of gastric and duodenal ulcer disease and an early risk factor for gastric cancer.

From her recommendations come these comments: Shumin has exceptional talent and productivity, tremendous dedication and discipline. Her work is original and innovative, and she has all the makings of a great researcher and teacher.


Heather Swanson (UC Santa Cruz; cultural anthropology)

did her undergraduate work at Princeton. Even then she was working on the salmon-human relationship and developed a comprehensive science education program for preK-12 students in northwest Oregon and southwest Washington (her home grounds). For her dissertation she will go farther afield in her examination of the salmon-human-environment interaction, comparing and contrasting salmon management practices in northern Japan and the U.S. Pacific Northwest, looking at the social ecologies within which management decisions are made.

From her recommendations come these comments: Heather is dedicated, original, and inventive, brilliant and knowledgeable. She is an unusually talented scholar who writes with clarity, precision, and grace.


Christopher Weinberger (UC Berkeley; English and Japanese)

was elected to PBK at Williams College. He is the only student ever permitted to work on two simultaneous Ph.D.s in the humanities at UC Berkeley. In 2005 he was awarded the Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor award and currently holds the record for the highest student evaluations ever in the English department. He hopes to pioneer a comparative history of literary theory in the United States and Japan.

From his recommendations come these comments: Chris's presentations and seminar papers have ranged from merely very smart to truly brilliant. He is a sophisticated conceptual thinker, and he truly believes that teaching literature and culture can have humane, ethical consequences, and can make us better human beings.


Janet Yang (UCSF; biochemistry and biophysics)

did her undergraduate work at Yale. Currently she is using the tools of enzymology and quantitative analyses to understand chromatin remodeling. Through her use of analogy and metaphor she communicates her findings to an audience not experienced in reading scientific findings. Through UCSF's Science and Health Education partnership she works with teachers to introduce kindergarteners to the wonders of science.

From her recommendations come these comments: Janet is a brilliant woman, likely to have a huge impact on scientific research and education. In less than two years in this lab, she has provided the first mechanistic explanation for a process that has been a mystery for ten years.