2006 University Co-op / George H. Mitchell Undergraduate Awards For Academic Excellence


Recipient of $20,000 Award:

William Seth Howes
Senior, Germanic Studies and Plan II

William, a national merit and Dedman'scholar, was nominated by Professor Kit Belgum, Germanic Studies, for his work in the field of contemporary cultural studies, entitled “Negativ-Dekadent: the cultures of Punk in Halle/Saale, 1978-1989.” William's combination of oral and archival history allowed him to make a very interesting argument about punk music as protest in the former German Democratic Republic. After studying the history of punk in Western Europe and the history and theories of counter-culture through readings in these areas, William traveled to Germany and interviewed professors and punk musicians and worked in the archives of the German Democratic Republic's Secret State Security (Stasi). Back in Austin, he transcribed hours of taped interviews and interpreted the Stasi files to which he had been given access. The result is a highly readable, beautifully organized and argued, richly textured, effective, and sophisticated work of original scholarship. That the research was conducted in a second language is all the more to his credit.


Recipients of $5,000 Awards:

Brandy Zrubek
Senior, double major in Neuroscience & Plan II, Deans Scholar Honors Program in CNS

Brandy was nominated by Professor Art Woods in Integrative Biology for her spectacular work on the relationships between insect physiology and pressing agricultural and ecological issues. Her research involves measuring metabolic rates of very small insects, including insect eggs, for which she has developed simpler, more rapid methods for data analysis. The committee was “taken by the quality of her work, her research productivity, and most importantly by that spark of independence and innovation” that they saw in her research. Her work has been published in the Journal of Experimental Biology, the premier international journal for comparative physiology. Indeed, Brandy will have three published papers when she graduates this August-a remarkable feat for an undergraduate student! Brandy plans to pursue an MD/PhD program and has her eye eventually on the Nobel Prize.

Dustin Wills
Senior, English & Theatre and Dance

Dustin, described by his nominators Professors Susan Zeder and Stacy Wolf in the Dept of Theatre and Dance as “a young man of enormous intellectual and aesthetic gifts,” was nominated for his production of Ophelia, which Dustin conceived, wrote, directed, and designed. Research for the play involved the history of Shakespearian England, past productions of Hamlet, critical text analysis, and theoretical considerations of the characters and their psychologies. His five versions of Ophelia combine Shakespeare's text with other plays, feminist theory, music, dance, and contemporary, colloquial language and create a complex aural and visual image of this woefully underwritten character. The committee commented, “His work is beautifully executed and strongly theorized. He directs, writes, designs-and does it all with exceptional skill.”

Tatiana Neumann
Senior, Economics, Government and Plan II

Tatiana's work, “Mexico's Democratization and its Effects on Foreign Policy,” was nominated by Professor Kurt Weyland of the Government department. Members of the committee found her work to be an ambitious project involving primary field research in Mexico, Cuba, Venezuela, and China, as well as an extensive analysis of a range of documents. Her thesis constitutes an original, graduate-level contribution to a major debate in International Relations today, whether the goals and interests of countries are fixed or whether they are more fluid and can be shaped by new ideas and principles. Taitana's travels to China on a Maymester, her work as an intern in the Mexican Embassy, and her research in Cuba speak to the varied background that prepared her for writing a truly outstanding thesis. Titiana, an international student, takes pride in being a UT student and in finishing her three majors in four years.


Recipients of $2,000 Awards:

Divyanshu Vats
Senior, double major in Electrical and Computer Engineering & Mathematics

Professor Brian L. Evans in Electrical and Computer Engineering nominated Divyanshu for his work in perceptual image hashing entitled, “Image Authentication under Geometric Attacks via Structure Matching.” The committee found his research both technically and creatively sophisticated and impressive. “Divyanshu has taken work in this area in a new direction and at a very high level working largely independently.” He developed the theory, algorithms, and the desktop simulation. His paper on Image Authentication was accepted by the peer-reviewed IEEE International Conference on Multimedia & Expo in Amsterdam.

Kerem Sanga
Senior, double major in Radio-TV-Film & Mathematics

Professor Alex Smith, Creative Director of the UT Film Institute, nominated Kerem for “Third Story Window,” an “honest” feature-length screenplay about complex teenagers with an unpredictable dialogue and story that the committee found just excellent. Smith describes Kerem as “a rare writer bursting with positive energy” and the committee described his work as “innovative and creative.” UT's Burnt Orange Productions recently selected “Third Story Window” for a professional reading.

Yican (Peter) Jian
Senior, Biomedical Engineering

Yicun was nominated by Professor Nicholas Peppas in Biomedical Engineering for his extensive contributions to a book chapter entitled, “Temperature-Sensitive Polymer-Gold Nanocomposites as Intelligent Therapeutic Systems,” which recently appeared in Advances in Bionanotechnology. The committee praised Yicun's extensive productive research record at UT Austin and Rice University and his keen intellectual progression. Through his advanced level of understanding in polymer science and nanotechnology, Yicun has pioneered research on the development of novel nanoparticulate systems of thermally-responsive polymers for external triggering of drug delivery and is the co-author of two publications in progress in addition to this award-winning chapter.

Phillip Hill
Senior, double major in Music (with concentration in sound recording/audio technology) & Plan II

Phillip was nominated by Professor Mark Sarisky in the School of Music for his work as an audio engineer and producer for “Demystifying Studies Magic: A Case Study in the Record-making Process-Phil's Crew CD.” Phillip's creative recording work is of major label quality and his work as a producer has resulted in this world-class recording entitled Phil's Crew. The committee commented, “This guy is an undergrad? He's a recording pro who can write. The thesis is great as a how-to-understand guide.” Phillip's writing on the recording process is graduate level work and even of the caliber of seasoned veterans in the music industry. The recording itself is beautiful.

Andrew Bowles
Senior, Studio Art

Andrew was nominated by Professor Margo Sawyer of Art and Art History for his sculpture and installation art pieces: Natural Selections (found objects and welded steel); Conservation (found objects); Collective Seat (cast beeswax-intended to raise issues of social vs. individual architecture); the Revivalist (a portable lectern for itinerant speakers); and Communion (still from performance video). The committee found his work to be “a strong blend of visual power and provocative images characterized by great attention to texture, scale, and site. The fact that he created socially conscious art was icing on the cake.” Andrew has managed to lend both visual and tactile dimensions to his art, which functions as a link between our personal relations in the domestic sphere and ideas about politics, religion, and society in the public sector. Andrew has published his work in both UT's Analecta Journal and the Cincinnati Gallery of Conceptual Art.


Back to Top