Five Yale Students Win Distinguished National Awards

Yale College junior Aaron Tang was a recipient of a prestigious Truman Scholarship, and all four of the Yale College applicants for the 2004 Goldwater Prize for science, mathematics and engineering received that award. They are juniors Melody Tung Chan, Courtney Elizabeth Stritar and Vanessa Claire Wood and sophomore Swati Devandra Deshmukh.

Tang, from Painesville, Ohio, was one of 77 students nationwide to win the coveted Truman Scholarship. A political science major, he has “a passion” for educational policy. He plans on using his Truman Scholarship to pursue a joint degree in law, with a focus on dispute resolution, and education, concentrating on issues of policy. With four fellow Yale students, Tang founded a non-profit organization called Our Education ( Based on the belief that students themselves have to play a critical role in improving the nation’s schools, the project seeks to build a national social movement of high school and college students to fight for excellent schools for every American child. Our Education has established chapters in several other colleges and will hold its first annual conference next year, with an expected attendance of 200 college and high school students.

“Aside from education, my interests in political science are related primarily to American government, on subjects like social welfare, democracy and inequality, our criminal justice system, as well as our legal system,” Tang commented.

The Truman Scholarship Foundation was established by Congress in 1975 as the federal memorial to the nation’s 33rd President. It is awarded to students in their junior year of college on the basis of leadership potential, intellectual ability and likelihood of “making a difference.” The award provides $26,000-of which $2,000 is for the senior year and $24,000 for graduate study-as well as training and internship opportunities in federal government. In addition to demonstrated leadership potential and communication skills, recipients must be U.S. citizens, be in the top quarter of their class and be committed to careers in government or the not-for-profit sector.

An outstanding student majoring in computer science and math, Goldwater Prize winner Chan, from Scarsdale, New York, is a virtuoso musician. Indeed, she recently performed at Carnegie Hall, playing a solo part in the Vivaldi Concerto for Four Violins along with her former teacher from Juilliard, Itzhak Perlman. A member of Phi Beta Kappa, Chan recently received an award from Yale for being the junior majoring in the sciences or engineering with the highest grades. She hopes to pursue a career teaching and doing research in mathematics, and also wants to stay involved in chamber music.

Deshmukh, who is from East Lyme, Connecticut, is a molecular biochemistry and biophysics major, with a deep interest in Type II diabetes. The Goldwater heads the list of honors Deshmukh has received for her scholarship: previously she won the Discover Carb Tribute award, the NEST/MIT award, a Yale Club of New York City award, an American Chemical Society award and the Boehringer-Ingleheim award. She was also named a Coca-cola Scholar, Pfizer Scholar and Governor’s Scholar. Deshmukh plans to become an endocrinologist and will do research on the possible relationship between the high prevalence of Type II diabetes in South Asia and among South Asian immigrants and genetics, lifestyle and diet.

Chemistry major Stritar, from Stonington, Connecticut, is a champion athlete and an accomplished student with original scientific research to her credit. In high school, Stritar distinguished herself in field hockey, basketball and lacrosse, and during the summers she did heptathlon for USA Track and Field, medaling at the Junior Olympic nationals for three years. A pre-med student, she has won several fellowships for research in chemistry, including the Yale Fleischer Fellowship and a coveted National Beckman Scholar fellowship. As a Beckman Scholar, Stritar has funding for 18 months to do original research, and she will present her research at the Beckman Conference in Irvine, California, this summer. Stritar tutors organic chemistry at Yale and this year she co-founded an organization of Yale undergraduates to work with Connecticut Hospice. She volunteers weekly at the Branford Hospice. A member of Phi Beta Kappa, she plans to pursue a medical career in research.

Wood, from Naugatuck, Connecticut, majors in applied physics and intends to become a researcher at a university or federal lab after completing graduate work in physics. This summer she will travel to Lyons, France, on a Science, Technology, and Research Scholars fellowship to work with collaborators at the Laboratoire de SpectromŽtrie Ionique et MolŽculaire. Wood plays the cello and participates in chamber music groups at Yale. Along with her studies in physics, Wood serves as student intern and translator at the Jerome N. Frank Legal Services at Yale Law School, where she helps refugees seeking political asylum.

The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program was established by Congress in 1986 to honor Senator Barry M. Goldwater. The purpose of the Foundation is to provide a continuing source of highly qualified scientists, mathematicians and engineers by awarding scholarships to college students who intend to pursue careers in these fields.

The 310 Goldwater Scholars, of whom161 are men and 149 women were selected on the basis of academic merit from a field of 1,113 mathematics, science and engineering students who were nominated by the faculties of colleges and universities nationwide. The one- and two-year scholarships cover the cost of tuition, fees, books and room and board up to a maximum of $7,500 per year.

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