Five students honored with Brandeis Achievement Awards

Fiona Aguilar, Ariana Boltax, Daniel Boyle, Rebecca DeHovitz and Sara Shahanaghi named 2012 recipients

Fiona Aguilar, Ariana Boltax, Daniel Boyle, Rebecca DeHovitz and Sara Shahanaghi have been named the 2012 recipients of the Brandeis Achievement Awards.

The Brandeis Achievement Award, developed by the Office of Students and Enrollment, in conjunction with the Student Union and the Office of the Dean of Arts and Sciences, was first awarded in the 2004-05 academic year to recognize currently enrolled sophomores who have distinguished themselves by their outstanding scholarship and academic achievements at Brandeis. Sixty-nine awards have been made to date, and this year we are awarding five more scholarships, each worth $5,000 per semester. To qualify for consideration, applicants must be sophomores with at least a 3.50 GPA who are not already receiving other merit awards. 

Fiona Aguilar is pursuing a B.S. in biology and a minor in environmental studies. She has worked in the Haber lab on DNA repair pathway research since the fall of 2011, and also as a summer research assistant focusing on chromosomal translocations in the Children’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School lab of Brandeis alum Frederick Alt. Aguilar has also served as Treasurer and Campus Outreach coordinator for Students for Environmental Action, and is a member of both the Hooked on Tap and Salseros dance clubs. She will be performing in this weekend’s Culture X performance. In his recommendation letter, Professor James Haber writes about how Aguilar has picked up laboratory techniques with a speed he normally attributes to graduate students, and calls her one of the most impressive students who has worked in his lab in 38 years of teaching. 

Ariana Boltax is pursuing B.S. degrees in both biology and chemistry while minoring in Health: Science, Society and Policy. She has served as a peer teaching assistant for the organic chemistry lab course, and is conducting research on the cognitive abilities of African Grey Parrots in the Pepperberg lab. She has been a Relay for Life publicity co-chair and team captain, and is an orientation leader, a member of the Women’ Ultimate Frisbee team and a Community Connections member of the Waltham Group. In her BAA application essay, she writes: “Science...has encouraged me to ask questions, and my research experiences have taught me how to ask them. I have grown to respect the search for the question more than the answer itself, which drives my curiosity and determination.”

Daniel Boyle is pursuing B.S. degrees in biochemistry and neuroscience, while minoring in classical studies. Boyle has worked as a laboratory technician in Professor Susan Lovett’s lab since his first semester at Brandeis, most recently on a project to purify the replication initiator protein, DnaA, from bacteria. He has been awarded a Division of Science Summer Fellowship and was recently named a Schiff Undergraduate Fellow, working with his mentor, Professor Lovett, on the design of “A Project Lab Module” related to DnaA research. Boyle is also a volunteer patient liaison in the Emergency Department of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, a member of the Brandeis Labor Coalition and active in intramural soccer, football and dodgeball. This past fall, his University Writing Seminar essay was published in the Brandeis 2011 Write Now! magazine. Professor Lovett states in her recommendation letter that Daniel is one of the two most ambitious and brightest undergraduates to join her lab, among the 50 or so that she has trained in the last 20 years.

Rebecca DeHovitz is an Hispanic studies major with strong interests in education and Judaic studies. An ESL tutor with the Language and Cultural Enrichment program of the Waltham Group, she is also a member of Project Nur, a group which has raised funds for Pakistan Flood Relief, and of the Brandeis Interfaith Group and the Brandeis Reform Chavurah. DeHovitz was one of a few first year students in Jonathan Sarna’s spring 2011 “American Judaism” course. Professor Sarna was so impressed by her final paper on the history of American Jews’ interest in genealogy that he asked her permission to place it in the American Jewish Archives. At his recommendation she revised it for publication in Avotaynu, the primary journal of Jewish genealogists. In her application essay, she writes that “My professors have encouraged me to turn my thoughts into actions and to have an impact outside of the Brandeis community. As a result of these classes, I no longer view my understanding of a concept to be complete until I have found a way to put it into practice outside of the classroom.”

Sara Shahanaghi is double majoring in economics and mathematics while minoring in computer science. She has been a peer teaching assistant for Professor Mike Coiner’s “Global Economics” course and a research assistant for former Dean Adam Jaffe, who will serve as her mentor for her Schiff Undergraduate Fellowship on the topic of “Education Economics: Links Between Current Literature and Policy Questions.” Shahanaghi is also a columnist for The Justice and managing editor for the Brandeis Economics and Finance Review. Last summer she interned at United for a Fair Economy.  A violinist in the Brandeis Chamber String Orchestra, she is also a metadata and collections assistant for LTS, a volunteer high school mathematics tutor in the Waltham Group tutoring program, and the student chair of the Academic Services Advisory Committee. Jaffe calls her one of the most promising students he has encountered in all his time at Brandeis, and notes that he will no longer be surprised when she does the kind of work he typically looks to Ph.D. students to do.

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