Davidson Fellows - Class of 2014

2014 Davidson Fellow Laureates
For more information about these Fellows Click Here

$50,000 Scholarship Recipients

  Ravi Jagadeesan
Naperville, IL
Category: Mathematics
Project Title: “A New Galois Invariant of Dessins d'Enfants”
  Sara Kornfeld Simpson
San Diego, CA
Category: Science
Project Title: “Neuronal Nonlinear Dynamics: From an Optical Illusion to Parkinson's Disease”
A central problem in number theory is to understand the symmetries of the solutions of polynomial equations with rational coefficients, the so-called absolute Galois group of the rationals. Ravi Jagadeesan sought to study these symmetries in two different ways, firstly by their action on objects called dessins d'enfants, and secondly by their embedding into the Grothendieck-Teichmüller group, and was able to prove that certain previously known invariants for the action of the symmetries are weak. Ravi’s work advances understanding of the mysterious relationship between different mathematical structures.   While neurons respond in complex ways to repetitive stimulation, their response can be modeled mathematically. Sara Kornfeld Simpson modeled a network of neurons’ nonlinear response to external stimulation through a set of equations that simulate a variety of neural activity. This interdisciplinary work promises insights into the complexities of cognitive function and dysfunction, extending our understanding of human perception of the world, and potentially leading to cures for neural pathologies such as Parkinson’s Disease.

  Ray Ushikubo
Riverside, CA
Category: Music
Project Title: “Circle of Life in Music”
  Alice Zhai
LaCanada, CA
Category: Science
Project Title: “Dependency of U.S. Hurricane Loss on Maximum Wind Speed and Storm Size”
Ray Ushikubo started the piano and the violin after watching a TV drama where the hero was a professional conductor, pianist and violinist. In his portfolio, “Circle of Life in Music,” he feels he is a small part of the circle and that his audience makes up the remaining arc. Ray believes music has the power to elevate education, provide encouragement and make the world a happier place.   Alice Zhai examined the dependence of hurricane economic loss on wind speed and size using 73 tropical cyclones that made landfall in the United States from 1988 through 2012. With a multi-variate least-squares regression, she constructed a hurricane loss model that uses wind speed and size as predictors, and discovered that storm size plays an important role in determining economic impact. Traditional hurricane economic loss models consider only wind speed. By including storm size, her model yields more accurate loss estimates, which would be useful to insurance companies and disaster planning.

2014 Davidson Fellows

$25,000 Scholarship Recipients

  Eric Chen
San Diego, CA
Category: Science
Project Title: “Computer-Aided Discovery of Novel Anti-Flu Drug Candidates to Fight Pandemics”
  Neil Davey
Gaithersburg, MD
Category: Science
Project Title: “Early Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment through the Detection of Circulating Tumor Cells using Drop-based Microfluidics”
Eric Chen combined computational modeling and simulation with biological and structural studies to speed the discovery of new flu medicine. Eric used quick virtual screens to reduce massive compound libraries followed by efficient assays for biological validation. With this approach, Eric was able to find several new influenza inhibitors to a number of flu targets, which show promise for development into real medicine or even a combination therapy, which could prevent viral resistance.   Neil Davey created a blood-testing device for the early diagnosis of cancers. His technique combines microfluidics technology and DNA amplification reactions for the quantitative detection and isolation of rare circulating tumor cells from the bloodstream. By isolating these cancer cells from the blood, characterization results could give insight into individualized treatment of cancers.

  Valerie Ding
Portland, OR
Category: Engineering
Project Title: “Novel Next-Generation Multijunction Quantum Dot Solar Panel Designs Using Monte Carlo-Based Modeling”
  Alexandra LaGrassa
Douglastown, NY
Category: Science
Project Title: “Using Ligands to Control the Growth of Cadmium Selenide Clusters”
Valerie Ding investigated interactions between quantum dots and photons in multijunction solar cells to identify fundamental limiting factors of solar cell efficiency. She utilized computational quantum physics, solar optics, and photon-electron interactions to design improved-efficiency solar-harnessing technology in the form of multijunction quantum dot solar cells. The developed techniques can be used to effectively, systematically, and rapidly improve the efficiencies of quantum dot solar cells.   Alexandra LaGrassa studied the growth of cadmium selenide quantized growth clusters, which are nanocrystals that emit a color of light that depends on their size. She analyzed the growth rate of clusters with different amounts and types of organic molecules attached the surface, and researched the interaction of these molecules with each other, and how they affect nanocrystal growth. Luminescent nanocrystals are used in biological labels, thin film solar cells, and solid-state lighting, which are important for research and energy efficiency.

  Ritesh Ragavender
Kendall Park, NJ
Category: Mathematics
Project Title: “Odd Dunkl Operators and nilHecke Algebras”
  Kenneth Shinozuka
New York, NY
Category: Technology
Project Title: “Wearable Sensors: A Novel Healthcare Solution for the Aging Society”
Representation theory is the backbone of many mathematical ideas. Within representation theory, Dunkl operations involve rates of change and certain reflections naturally associated to the symmetry of space. In his project, Ritesh Ragavender studied new Dunkl-type operators better adapted to a noncommutative space, connecting them to other fundamental operators that arise in Lie theory and statistical mechanics. The diverse nature of representation theory ensures that algebraic structures can translate into a better working knowledge of topics such as particle physics and transistor creation.   There are 5.2 million Alzheimer’s patients in the U.S., 65% of whom wander. Kenneth Shinozuka invented a low-cost wearable sensor for real-time, reliable detection of patients’ wanderings out of bed. He developed and integrated an ultra-thin film sensor, a wearable low-energy wireless circuit, and Smartphone app. The technology platform developed in this research opens a new avenue of healthcare possibilities to address the significant healthcare burdens faced by our increasingly aging society.

  Elana Simon
New York, NY
Category: Science
Project Title: “New Diagnostics and Therapeutics for a Pediatric Liver Cancer: Transcriptome and Whole Genome Sequencing Reveals Oncogenes and Novel Chimeric Protein Kinase in Ten out of Ten Patients”
  Emily Wang
Palo Alto, CA
Category: Science
Project Title: “Illuminating Disease Pathways: Developing Bright Fluorescent Proteins to Improve FRET Biosensing”
Four years after Elana Simon was diagnosed with a rare pediatric liver cancer called fibrolamellar hepatocellular carcinoma, she sequenced its genome. She used tumor, adjacent healthy liver, and metastases to sequence 100% of the DNA, as opposed to the 1% usually examined. She analyzed the sequences, seeking mutations in the DNA and RNA that might be turning the cells cancerous, and discovered common mutations, including one that seems to cause fibrolamellar. These findings can lead to a diagnostic test and new directions for treatments.   Emily Wang created a biological tool to visualize diseases at the molecular level. She developed Clover3, a bright green fluorescent protein, and mRuby3, a bright red fluorescent protein. Clover3-mRuby3 can be used to image neurons to investigate Alzheimer’s disease, detect and track cancer growth, and monitor the activities of diseases in cells. Clover3-mRuby3 may be used to visualize biological events with greater clarity, which may advance understanding of illnesses to create new therapies and medicine.

$10,000 Scholarship Recipients

  Sofia Bramante
Fairfield, CT
Category: Engineering
Project Title: “Fabrication of a Flexible, Tunable Color Changing Skin using Magnetically Responsive Fe3O4 Photonic Crystal Structures”
  Isabel DeBre
Los Angeles, CA
Category: Outside the Box
Project Title: “The Problem of Representation: Refugee Trauma in Postcolonial African Fiction”
Sofia Bramante investigated the self-assembly of glass-coated Fe3O4 colloidal nanocrystal clusters (CNCs) in alcohols, which produced bright intensity visible colors with five times less magnetic field. The glass-coated CNCs were integrated into a polymer matrix to produce a flexible and tunable color changing camouflage thin film, or skin, which is applicable as a stealth coating for military vehicles, or it can be used to provide color changing capability for consumer products.   Isabel DeBre examined postcolonial novels of the African Diaspora. Fusing literary theory with psychological studies, her project defines the stylistic and thematic techniques that writers employ in their exploration of the refugee experience. To narrate the unnarratable, these “refugee trauma writers” depart from conventional literary structures and simulate the symptoms of the traumatic consciousness, making empathetic witnesses out of readers and cohesion out of fragmentation.

  Smriti Kanangat
Hinsdale, IL
Category: Science
Project Title: “Detection of Soluble Human Histocompatibility Antigens (HLA) in Circulation-Potential Biomarkers for Early Detection of Non-Small Cell Lung Carcinoma (NSCLC)”
  Tuong-Phi Le
Houston, TX
Category: Literature
Project Title: “Shadow and Song: Revitalizing the Expatriate Vietnamese Identity Through Mythological Media”
Smriti Kanangat studied biomarkers, Human Leukocyte Antigens (HLA), believed to be involved in the development of lung cancer. In a two-phase study, she examined the behavior of five HLA antigens in both human adenocarcinoma cell lines and lung cancer patient serum. Both phases showed a significant increase in HLA expression in the more invasive and advanced progression of lung cancer. These results could lead to a less invasive and less expensive way of diagnosing lung cancer through a relatively simple blood test without the adverse side effects of CT scan.   Tuong-Phi Le’s project documents the experience of being a daughter of a recent diaspora, and a member of a worldwide expatriate community. The works make use of flashback, frame story, poetry, and other manifestations of memory in order to examine cultural history, identity, and the reclamation of an uprooted culture using its founding mythology. This is the first of what she hopes will be many attempts to provide a counter-narrative accessible to people seeking to balance disparate identities.


Kevin Lee
Irvine, CA
Category: Mathematics
Project Title: "Strongly Coupled Electromechanical Modeling of the Heart in Moving Domains Using the Phase-Field Method"


Michael Parsons
Long Hill, NJ
Category: Music
Project Title: "Composition as Architecture"

Cardiac arrhythmias are the leading cause of death in the industrialized world, but their mechanisms are poorly understood. Mathematical models of the heart have been unable to efficiently incorporate the heart's beating motion. Kevin Lee created a model of a beating heart by using fluid mechanics to derive equations that naturally handle the changing shape of the heart. His model is easy to implement and more efficient than existing methods enabling insights on the mechanisms of fatal heart conditions and improvements in their treatment and prevention.


Michael Parsons explored the process of creating organic and internally logical music through five compositions in different styles and genres in his portfolio. Through this, he hopes to show the importance of development and inevitability in music, and ultimately use these tools to find his own artistic voice. Through a combination of carefully thought-out writing and following his instincts, he hopes to inspire and engage audiences with his music.


Josh Wolf
Elk River, MN
Category: Science
Project Title: Shocking Lipid Production: "Oil extraction by Novel Electrical Stimulation of Botryococcus braunii"


Romi  Yount
San Francisco, CA
Category: Music
Project Title: Music without Borders: Transcending Cultural and Temporal Boundaries through Guzheng Performance

Modeled after the electrical activity of neurons, Josh Wolf’s project utilizes a pulsating low voltage, low amperage electrical source applied to an aqueous culture of the algae Botryococcus braunii to induce exoctyosis of lipid vesicles. Excreted lipid bodies are then removed and converted into glycerin and a hydrocarbon similar to biodiesel. This process yields a high efficiency extraction method of oil from the algae that makes algae biodiesel production an economic viability.


Romi Yount’s portfolio consists of performances on the guzheng, an instrument also known as the Chinese zither. The portfolio includes musical pieces composed throughout China’s history, from the Warring States period to the 21st century, in addition to an improvisation. Through her work, Romi hopes to help preserve sounds whose origins lie deep in the past and far away from the Western music world.

2014 Davidson Fellows Honorable Mentions


Miss Shiloh Curtis
Sunnyvale, CA
Enabling Situational Awareness:  A Hat-Based Hands-Free Haptic Navigational Aid for the Visually Impaired

Miss Maya Varma
Cupertino, CA
Arduino-Based Foot Neuropathy Analyzer


Miss Jennifer Frantz
Hudson, OH

Miss Dominque Nikolaidis
West Bloomfield, MI
Human Identity in a Postmodern World


Mr. Jeffrey Cai
Basking Ridge, NJ
Orbits Of A Fixed-Point Subgroup Of The Symplectic Group On Partial Flag Varieties Of Type A

Miss Sahana Vasudevan
Palo Alto, CA
Minimizing the Number of Carries in the Set of Coset Representatives of a Normal Subgroup

Outside the Box

Mr. Elijah Armstrong
Fairfax, CA
The Rule-Dependence Model of the Flynn Effect


Miss Gabrielle Donnelly
St. James, NY
Vulnerability of Desmodus rotundus (vampire bats) Populations to Individual Removals: Demography Consequences of Sampling Bat Populations

Mr. Andrew Jin
San Jose, CA
Breast Cancer Prognosis Through Gene Expression Profiling and Tumor Morphology

Mr. Ji-Sung Kim
Hackensack, NJ
Multidisciplinary Investigation Of Novel Estrogenic Regulation Of Breast Cancer Cell Metabolism Via Acetylation Of HIF-1a & Relevant Therapeutic/Prognostic Applications

     __   Science (cont.) 

Mr. Joshua Meier
Teaneck, NJ
Control of Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell Aging by Modulation of Mitochondrial DNA Deletions

Mr. Isfar Munir
Tracy, CA
The Relationship Between Air Properties And The Path Behavior Of Electric Arcs

Mr. Richik Neogi
Portland, OR
PNA for Use in Small-Molecule Libraries Derived by Combinatorial Solid-Phase Synthesis: Reaction Optimization

Mr. Ganesh Ravichandran
Westbury, NY
Close Companions to Kepler Objects of Interest: Results from a Large Adaptive Optics Survey

Mr. Suproteem Sarkar
Wayne, PA
Feedback-Mediated Cancer Therapy: A Nanoreporter Approach


Mr. Ryan Chung
Terre Haute, IN
MobileSoundDiscoveryApp: Mobile Audio Medical Devices and Quantitative-Qualitative Audio  Analysis Applications and Designs Using an Autonomous Audio Knowledge Engine

Mr. Owen Kelly
Port Orange, FL
Procedural Generation of Earth-Like Planets

Mr. Ivan Paskov
Scarsdale, NY
Predicting Cancer Drug Response Using Nuclear Norm Multi-Task Learning

Miss Gili Rusack
Loundonville, NY
Come Code with Codester: An Educational App that Teaches Computer Science

Mr. Ewin Tang
Arlington, TX
Optical Imaging Probe For Real-Time Detection Of Infection


2014 Davidson Fellows Press Kit
Video - 2014 Davidson Fellows Reception (YouTube)
National News Release 

Davidson Fellows' Positive Contributions to Society

For more information, visit the Fellows Press Room.

Latest News

PREVIOUS - 2013 Davidson Fellows

Back to Davidson Fellows Home

Email this Page Email this Page