by Greg St. Martin
Northeastern recognized the impressive achievements of students, faculty, and staff on Thursday at the university’s Academic Honors Convocation. The annual event honors a select few who channel their extraordinary talents and passion into transformative research and scholarship, exceptional teaching and mentoring, and innovation in higher education—on campus and across the globe.
President Joseph E. Aoun said that in establishing the awards ceremony three years ago, Northeastern started an important tradition that both celebrates its community’s achievements and emphasizes its members lifelong connections to the university.
“What we’re celebrating here today is the excellence and the permanence of our community,” Aoun told an audience of hundreds who gathered in the Curry Student Center Ballroom for the ceremony.
University Distinguished Professor is the highest honor Northeastern can bestow on a faculty member. This year, Northeastern honored three faculty with that distinction: Lisa Feldman Barrett, Phil Brown, and Andrei Zelevinksy, who was honored posthumously. Zelevinsky, a mathematics professor who has been dubbed “a towering figure in modern algebra and representation theory,” passed away earlier this month. His daughter, Katya, accepted the honor on his behalf.
“His vision and the impact he made on his field will endure, as will the university’s respect and gratitude for his scholarship, intelligence, and friendship,” Stephen W. Director, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, said of Zelevinksy.
Brown, appointed to Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Health Science, is an internationally known scholar. His interdisciplinary research in medical sociology addresses environmental justice and social movements, mental health, and the health consequences and social impacts of environmental hazards.
In her remarks at the Convocation, Barrett noted that she originally thought she wanted to go to medical school before a college psychology course altered her career path forever. She said the range of opportunities and experiences universities provide their students is unparalleled.
“Universities are places where people can discover their paths toward the future,” said Barrett, who was appointed Distinguished Professor of Psychology. “They changed lives, and in my case this is definitely so.”
At Northeastern, Barrett’s research focuses on emotion through the lens of psychology and neuroscience. Her lab, the Interdisciplinary Affective Science Institute, annually mentors more than 100 undergraduates whose work is a blend of experiential learning and scientific discovery. “It’s an exciting time to be in my field,” Barrett said. “Psychology is on the cusp of a scientific revolution, instigated by discoveries in neuroscience. Now that we can look into humans’ brains with unprecedented accuracy, we can overturn many of the mistaken assumptions that have been with us since of the time of Plato.”
Other faculty honored included world-renowned scientist Sangeev Mukerjee, whose research has been applied to developing improved materials for fuel-cell catalysts, and accounting professor Arnold Wright, a prolific scholar whose contributions in transforming the accounting, audit, and assurance fields are nationally recognized. Both earned Excellence in Research and Creative Activity Awards.
The ceremony’s undergraduate honorees boasted a range of impressive accomplishments across many disciplines, including neuroscience, global health, world diplomacy, and social entrepreneurship.
Julia Ebert, a third-year behavioral neuroscience major, is one of 300 students nationwide who has received the Barry W. Goldwater Scholarship, which honors students who demonstrate outstanding potential and intend to pursue a career in math, science, or engineering. Three students—seniors Lauren Byrnes and Hollis Thomann and 2012 graduate Lucas Schoeppner—earned Fulbright U.S. Student Awards, a prestigious national honor for students to study, conduct research, or teach abroad. All three will pursue their fellowships in Germany.
Northeastern also bestowed honors upon several accomplished student scholars. Seniors Brian Henske, Bich Ngoc (Jade) Hoang, and Fernando Quivira were recognized with Hodgkinson Awards, the university’s highest honors for graduating seniors. In addition, seniors Miguel de Corral and Caitlin Ferguson were honored with the designation as a Presidential Global Fellow.
Seven graduate students — including Catherine Matassa, a doctoral candidate in biology and Gregory Peim, a doctoral candidate in physics — also earned awards for their outstanding work in research, teaching, community service, and experiential learning.
The University Events Team and the Visitor Center Team were recognized with an Outstanding Teamwork Award and Innovation Team Award, respectively. David Winch, director of student support services in Enrollment Management and Student Affairs, was also recognized with the Outstanding Service Award.
The full list of the Northeastern community members recognized at the Academic Honors Convocation can be found here.
At the event, a moment of silence was observed for those affected by the Boston Marathon bombings earlier in the week. Aoun announced two of the three students injured in the attacks have left the hospital, and acknowledged the students, faculty, and staff who have been involved in the response and relief effort.
“Our community comes together when there is sorrow and tragedy, but it also comes to celebrate its great accomplishments,” Aoun said. “This community is strong because of each one of you—the faculty, the students, and the staff.”