New Phi Beta Kappa Scholars

New Phi Beta Kappa Scholars

Nine Mount Holyoke seniors were inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, the nation's oldest and largest academic honor society, at the Celebration of Student Achievement held February 9. Below are the citations that were read that day.

Viviane Callier '06
Three of Viviane Callier's English professors were reduced to adjectives when it came to describing her--"extraordinary," "astonishing," "splendid." A paper she wrote on John Donne is submitted for publication. Professor of politics Steven Ellenburg recalled the arguments of her papers in his class, her first year. "The world might be less grim today if V had continued in political theory," he mused. Viviane, however, is a biologist particularly drawn toward mathematical analyses. Her work on the quantification of shape in molluscan shells has been presented at national meetings. For her thesis, she is analyzing differences between sexes, sites, and growth stages in four close species of snails that she collected in Lake Tanganyika. Multivariate analyses, ecological strategies, and geometrical morphometrics are minutely examined, but the chapter about which she cares most is on role of metaphor in the exploration of biological form. Today is her graduate school interview at Princeton.

Sixuan Chen '06
Sixuan Chen is a double major in mathematics and economics. She is a Sarah Williston Scholar and Prize winner and a Datatel Scholar. Economics faculty, plainspoken folk, simply say, "Sixuan is very, very, very good." In mathematics, she has won every prize for outstanding work that the department offers. Sixuan has twice taken the William Lowell Putnam Competition, an annual college mathematics examination sponsored by the Mathematics Association of America, legendary for its fiendish difficulty. (The median score is zero.) In preparing for and taking the Putnam, Sixuan has shown she is not only a formidable problem solver, but also a gracious mentor to her fellow students. She is doing thesis work in game theory, an area of mathematics of great importance in economics. From economics faculty, I hear some talk of obsession with blackjack. Somewhat more seriously, one of this year's winners of the Nobel Prize in Economics is the mathematician R.J. Aumann, honored for his work in game theory. Sixuan has read some of Aumann's work and found a short, slick proof for a theorem that Aumann and his coauthor prove by a long, ugly, case-by-case argument. Sixuan is taking graduate finance at the University of Massachusetts this spring and will join JP Morgan after graduation.

Marjorie Hakala '06
Marjorie Hakala is an English major who refuses to follow academic trends. She isn't easy, one of her professors wrote--she disagrees, argues, and most annoyingly, turns out to be right. Her senior thesis examines the influence of fairy tales on the Victorian mind. While the nineteenth century saw the rise of the realistic novel, throughout the works of Dickens, Eliot, and Gaskell there is a lingering influence of the days when people still believed in fairies. Examining this influence tells us a lot not only about Victorian literature, but also about the way the ideas of a previous era persist in the popular mind. Marjorie is the embodiment of this crossing of centuries, a person who believes that the stories of the past and present are equally relevant, and an avid collector of paper (yes, paper) in a computer age, and someone who would seem equally at home on the faculty of a liberal arts college in either the twenty-first or the eighteenth century.

Rose Levine '06
Rose Levine weaves three worlds into one life. She is an artist with striking technical skills and the wit to reveal a living spark in a fallen maple leaf, or the carefully joined contents of a wastebasket. She has been the life force in advanced biology classes. For two years she has cotaught an experimental introductory biology class, in which she made water colors as important in lab as microscopes. She erases lines between drawing and measuring and between teaching and learning. And she is a social activist, who has tried to convince trustees and administrators that the college should make some socially responsible investments in the local community. Her role models in this seem to be Gandhi and Sisyphus. She has graduated, and after several months working on an organic farm in Tuscany, she will go on to her calling, which is to change lives through teaching.

Mollie McDermott '06
While Mollie McDermott is a major in neuroscience, she is, at heart a Renaissance woman interested in subjects across the liberal arts. As a result, her projects in science courses involve such things as the effect of music on sympathetic arousal (Mozart and Metallica have roughly the same effect). An active participant in CAUSE and other charitable activities, Mollie's concern for the world outside of the academy is noteworthy. It is not at all surprising to those who know her that Mollie's career ambition is to become a doctor in an area poorly served by the medical community. On a personal level, Mollie is sharp-witted and thoughtful; her slightly skewed views on life are regularly displayed in a humor column in the Mount Holyoke News. She was also a cowriter of last year's Junior Show, but we decided not to hold that against her.

Preema R. Pais '06
Preema Pais is a major in physics and a minor in mathematics (one course shy of a second major). She is a Sarah Williston Scholar and a Datatel Scholar. Preema has won every prize the physics department offers, including the Rusk Prize for the most outstanding junior. She zipped through the Mount Holyoke physics curriculum and has been taking graduate courses at the University of Massachusetts, in particle physics and quantum mechanics last fall and advanced theoretical physics and statistical mechanics this spring. Last year she created a model for a novel type of laser and presented her work at the Annual Meeting of the Optical Society of America. Currently she is working on a senior thesis in experimental particle physics. Preema is also a fine writer(winning the Sibley Prize for composition) and plays on the varsity squash team. At this very moment she is at an advanced physics tutorial at UMass that she couldn't miss, and on the Five College bus she practices her Hindi.

Kathryn G. Rose '06
Kathryn Rose is another Renaissance woman, a double major in French and biochemistry. In the laboratory, Kathryn has worked for the last seven semesters (and parts of the summers) on the preparation of a class of materials originally made in 2001, and published to a favorable reception. However, the original method to make these things ("things" is the technical term) was very limited. Kathryn has improved this situation, via a route that is very unusual, in fact never seen before. Kathryn will be first author of the paper describing this work.

In French, Kathryn has received every prize the department offers. Her teachers say she is a reader of unusual sensitivity and insight and a writer of papers that are subtle, well-written, and well-argued. During her years at Mount Holyoke, her curiosity and passion for literature have pushed her to read a twentieth- or twenty-first-century French novel every week--beyond her course readings--and to write detailed, incisive responses to the works. She has also served as a writing mentor, and she has stretched the students she mentored, as well as her peer French majors, enormously. Her work on women and aging in the works of Colette, researched last August in Avignon and continued at Mount Holyoke, is described as stunning.

Colleen M. Swanson '06
Colleen Swanson is a major in mathematics and a minor in Russian language. She is a Sarah Williston Scholar and Prize winner and has won an Abby Howe Turner Award. In addition, Colleen has won every prize for outstanding work in mathematics that the department offers. Colleen spent the spring of 2005 in the Budapest Semesters in Mathematics, a very strong program for high-achieving American undergraduates, taught by Hungarian mathematicians--in English, fortunately. During the summer of 2005 she was a member of a National Science Foundation undergraduate research team at the State University of New York at Potsdam. On her return to Mount Holyoke, she began work on an honors thesis under the direction of Farshid Hajir at the University of Massachusetts. (Don O'Shea is her Mount Holyoke adviser.) She is using algebraic number theory to improve an error-correcting code constructed by a computer scientist at the University of Washington. She is applying to law school, but some of us continue to hope she'll find she can't do without mathematics in her life.

Kaitlyn Wild '06
In English seminars that range from Chaucer to Joyce, Kaitlyn Wild's contributions draw her fellow students into the discussion. Her strong opinions are always open to the ideas of others, for whom she conveys a genuine respect. Her close readings of difficult texts are described as strong and provocative. In her other major, Russian and Eurasian studies, she skates through cultural and political changes, and tracks the state of play from the rinkside vantage point of her junior year abroad. Here, her ability to play what she observes against the worldview of others is applied to something she came to love in Russia--ice hockey. Her honors thesis traces the changing role of hockey in Soviet and Russian culture and foreign affairs. Robin Goodfellow in one sphere, puck in another, Phi Beta Kappa is very pleased to recognize this version of an athletic scholarship.

Related Links: Student Achievement Celebrated