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Virtual awards ceremony honors graduates, outstanding research accomplishments

May 14, 2020

For the first time, Arizona State University's Department of Physics hosted its annual Spring Awards and Recognition Ceremony as a virtual event, bringing together students, faculty, staff and alumni from various locations to celebrate the hard work and success of its members.

The live event was held Wednesday, May 6, using the Zoom platform.

The event featured a “virtual toast” to honor spring 2020 graduates, a celebration of the year’s accomplishments and the presentation of awards and scholarships to outstanding students, faculty and staff members.

“This event is a time of celebration for us, as we recognize the end of the academic year,” Department Chair Peter Bennett said in his opening address. “We collectively honor and thank those who have supported our students ... and today we want to recognize a few folks who truly stand out in this outstanding group of above-average people.”

The department awarded 11 named scholarships and fellowships made possible by generous donations from ASU physics alumni over the years, including Wally Stoelzel, Richard G. Stoner, John C. Wheatley, Vesto Melvin Sliphger, Arek Dieterle, William and Carol Motil, and the Molecular Imaging Corporation.

A special note of thanks was extended to longtime department supporter Don Seiwell and his sister, Dorothy Seiwell. Don Seiwell passed away earlier this year and established a legacy benefitting the department.

Wally Stoelzel, another longtime supporter of the department, also established a generous legacy this year and had a few words of encouragement and advice for students:

“Congratulations to those of you who are graduating,” he said. “To the rest of you, study diligently as you pursue your degree. Even in these difficult times, the study of physics opens up many opportunities that you may not now even be aware of.”

In total, 25 undergraduate and graduate students were recognized for their excellent work within the Department of Physics. Dakota King was selected as the Fall 2019 Dean’s Medalist and Holly Johnson was chosen as the Spring 2020 Dean’s Medalist.

“I want to thank everyone involved for this great honor,” said Rebecca Osar, recipient of the Department of Physics Scholarship. “It means a lot to me, being a first-generation college student. It is only due to the generosity of awards like this that I am able to attend college, strive for high goals and focus my time and attention on research.”

At the event, the department announced the recipients of four Outstanding Department Awards: Outstanding Teacher Robert Culbertson, Outstanding Graduate Assistant Andrew Svesko, Outstanding Undergraduate Student Lily Whitler and Outstanding Staff Member Morgan Texeira.

All members of the department are encouraged to submit nominations for these awards, and recipients are selected based upon these recommendations. Outstanding Department Awards honor individuals whose hard work and accomplishment have contributed to the department’s overall goals of excellence.

“Both of these outstanding students have been outstanding mentors for several years,” Associate Instructional Professional Anna Zaniewski said of Svesko and Whitler. “I’ve been so grateful that they have been a part of our Sundial community, helping other students who are up-and-coming to feel included, and feel supported and get excited about physics.”

The ceremony also recognized the winners of the Physics Undergraduate Research Symposium.

The symposium was hosted virtually on April 10, and showcased original student research on a wide variety of subjects. Judged by an all-alumna panel, students presented their work in both slide and video format, answering questions from an audience of judges, alumni, faculty, family and friends. Awards were made possible by alumni and donor support, including John and Richard Jacob and Stephanie Cope.

Both the awards ceremony and the research symposium featured recorded elements, available on the physics event site.

Full list of award and scholarship recipients

Department of Physics Scholarship: Rebecca Osar

Wally Stoelzel Physics Scholarship: Brian Clark

Wally Stoelzel Physics Fellowship: Tucker Manton

Richard G. Stoner Memorial Scholarship: Chase Hanson

John C. Wheatley Undergraduate Research Scholarship: Emily Luffey

Vesto Melvin Sliphger Foundation Scholarship: Christopher Ramirez

Molecular Imaging Corporation Endowment Scholarship: Tal Sneh

Molecular Imaging Corporation Endowment Fellowship: Brandon Thornton

Arek Dieterle Memorial Award: Alexandria Semien

William J and Carol M Motil Scholarship: Max Linnander

William J and Carol M Motil Fellowship: Elena Drobnyh

William J and Carol M Motil Scholarship for Experimental Research: Jack Kunkel

Department of Physics Award for Undergraduate Research: Ethan Duncan, Chase Hanson

Women in Physics Award for Undergraduate Research: Emily Luffey

John and Richard Jacob Award for Undergraduate Research: Sydney Olson

Society of Physics Students Scholarship: Dariannette Valentin, John Byrd, Brian Clark, Mia Nicoloacoudis

The College Dean’s Medalist for Physics, Fall 2019: Dakota King

The College Dean’s Medalist for Physics, Spring 2020: Holly Johnson

Goldwater Scholarship: Tal Sneh

Outstanding Undergraduate Award: Lily Whitler

Outstanding Graduate Assistant Award: Andrew Svesko

Outstanding Staff Award: Morgan Texeira

Outstanding Teacher Award: Robert Culbertson

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