2019 Outstanding Students

    Date Posted: 
    Tuesday, April 30, 2019

    Each spring, the College of Optical Sciences recognizes incredible students, as nominated by professors and selected by a faculty committee. We would like to congratulate Adriana Stohn (Outstanding Senior), Page King (Outstanding TA), Sam Nerenberg (Outstanding Graduate Student) as the 2018-2019 Outstanding Students of the Year. All three were publicly recognized during the Ice Cream Social even on April 30, and awarded plaques by Professor and Associate Dean for Academic Programs, R. John Koshel.

    Outstanding Graduate Student

    The Outstanding Graduate Student award was given to Sam Nerenberg (nominated by Brian Anderson). Professor Anderson had to say of Sam:

    Sam Nerenberg was the 2018-2019 Outstanding Graduate Student receipient, nominated by Professor Brian Anderson.

    Optical Sciences Ph.D. student Sam Nerenberg is a rarity in our college: he is an alumnus of our undergraduate program who switched to optical physics research upon joining our graduate program.  By the end of his first year as a PhD student, he had completed our core courses in quantum mechanics and optical physics and had joined my group.  Sam’s Ph.D. research involves a topic of fundamental importance in physics: development of methods to better understanding fluid turbulence.  Sam is undertaking this challenge by studying fluid flow in the coldest substances in the known universe: atomic-gas Bose-Einstein condensates, in which fluid dynamics closely follow the predictions of quantum mechanics.  The technical requirements of these experiments are extremely challenging.  Sam has been doing a fantastic job of single-handedly running a complex experimental apparatus and is zeroing in on demonstrating new methods for measuring the flows of the quantum fluid.    His optical engineering courses have made him uniquely qualified for his project, and he has incorporated optics concepts into his project in novel ways that may lead to breakthrough methods for studying quantum fluids. 

    Sam is a rarity in other ways as well.   His interests and his motivation to learn extend across a wide range of science fields, topics, techniques, methods, theories, and to areas far outside of science such as music and art.  He demonstrates a breadth and depth of understanding of optics, physics, and math topics and incorporates them into his academic and research experiences.  His natural ability to synthesize various concepts is the mark of an unusually creative scientist.  He is also an effective teacher and mentor.  Overall, Sam is self-motivated, driven, dedicated, friendly, outgoing, and energetic.  He is an exceptional team member and one of the most outstanding graduate students I have known.  It is a professional and personal joy to know Sam well and to work closely with him. 

    Outstanding Undergraduate Student

    The Outstanding Undergraduate Student award was given to Senior student Adriana Stohn (nominated by John Koshel, Jim Schwiegerling, and John Greivenkamp). Adriana was recognized for the following characteristics: 

    Outstanding Undergraduate Student award goes to Adriana Stohn for 2018-2019.

    She has a passion for STEM, especially as it pertains to the field of imaging and computers.

    She is an active researcher, having worked in Prof. Russell Chipman’s group working on the development of next generation sunglasses and the programming IR cameras for a future NASA mission.  This work has led to a number of papers, including one in a refereed journal.

    She never rests – she has furthered her understanding of the field by summer internships at Sandia National Laboratories and within industry.

    Her passions are leading her to the Ph.D. program at Duke University to further her studies in the area of state-of-the-art imaging technology.  She has also been recognized by Duke University as one of their top recruits.

    Academically, she is one of the top seniors.

    She is leading outreach efforts in teaching computers to girls and women through the university’s chapter of Girls Who Code.  She selflessly devotes her time as the program coordinator and lead facilitator for this effort.  The mission of Girls Who Code is to empower middle and high school girls by teaching them coding skills.  In fact she taught herself a lot of the coding techniques through her research and internships

    Outstanding Teaching Assistant

    The Outstanding Teaching Assistant award was given to Page King (nominated by John Koshel and Stanley Pau). Page was recognized for the following characteristics:

    Page King receives the 2018-2019 Outstanding Teaching Assistant award from John Koshel

    It would not have been possible to have done this class in this transition year without a strong, organized, and gregarious TA such as Page. 

    She “held court” during office hours with many students.  In fact a professor not associated with the course stated that he was impressed and that she exhibited what we would like to see in all our TAs.

    In the course evaluations, the students commented about Page -  “Best TA ever,” “Always available, knowledgeable, and nice,” “really patient and cares,” “Page is perfect in every way,” and “She was very good at explaining concepts.”

    She kept the instructors informed about when the students were having difficulties, graded promptly, and handled posting of solutions and assignment grades, held extensive office hours, and provided examples, and led recitation sections.

    Both instructors indicated that she was the best TA ever for the two classes, OPTI 280 and OPTI 406.