Three Stanford graduate students have been named as 2014 Hertz Fellows, an award that grants recipients a stipend and full tuition support for up to five years of graduate study in the applied physical, biological and engineering sciences.
According to Katherine Young, chief operations officer of the Hertz Foundation, the three students—William Allen, a first-year doctoral student in neuroscience; Emily Davis, a first-year doctoral student in physics; and Emma Pierson ’13 M.S. ’13, a computer science researcher—beat out close to 800 applicants to receive the fellowship, which was awarded to a total of 15 students.
In addition to supporting recipients financially, the Foundation also aims to build a network amongst selected students.
“We have an orientation where we bring in all 15 students and introduce them to other fellows from other schools,” Young said. “This creates relationships across disciplines and even across generations, because fellows from past years come back as well.”
The Daily sat down with Allen, Davis and Pierson to discuss their research, educational plans and thoughts on being awarded the fellowship.
Allen did research as an undergraduate at UCSF, studying gene regulation during neural development in mice and using DNA sequence technology to figure out how genes turn on and off. Specifically, he focused on how long-lasting changes to DNA make a cell turn into a more specialized cell.
Allen, who subsequently pursued a master’s degree at University of Cambridge as a Churchill Scholar, praised the freedom that the fellowship’s funding will give him.
“Usually for Ph.D.’s, you’re funded for the first year and then the second and third year you’re funded by your department…but with Hertz, at no point the person you’re working for has to be paying for you or have influence over what you research,” Allen said.
Currently a student in the physics department, Davis is building a new atomic physics experiment in an effort to develop a new generation of precision sensors, and expressed interest in working on precision measurement and quantum metrology in particular. Davis has also worked on finding different applications for the development of new instrumentation and measurement tools for a wide variety of fields.
Davis also acknowledged the lessened constraints on research due to the fellowship.
“In general, [the fellowship] gives you more flexibility, lets you explore new areas and increases your influence in the fields you’re working in,” Davis said.
After her undergraduate experience at Stanford, Pierson worked as a statistician at 23andMe and Coursera. A Rhodes Scholar and recipient of the Deans’ Award, Pierson worked on using statistics to solve problems in a variety of fields including astrology, psychology and biocomputation.
Contact Catherine Zaw at czaw13 ‘at’ stanford ‘dot’ edu.