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Northeastern celebrates scholarly excellence

Northeastern on Wednesday afternoon celebrated the outstanding scholarly accomplishments of students, faculty, and staff at the university’s fourth annual Academic Honors Convocation.

This 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.

In his remarks, President Joseph E. Aoun noted that the annual event allows the Northeastern community to see the university at its best by showcasing the remarkable work being done by its members.

“We are here to celebrate the achievements of our community,” Aoun told hundreds of students, faculty, and staff who had gathered in the Curry Student Center Ballroom.

The full list of the Northeastern community members recognized at the Academic Honors Convocation can be found here.

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Two former Northeastern presidents, John A. Curry and Richard M. Freeland, received Presidential Medallions—the university’s top honor. Aoun thanked both Curry and Freeland for not only making Northeastern better, but for also creating more opportunities for today’s students, faculty, and staff.

Curry, who served as president from 1989 to 1996, was the first Northeastern alumnus to go on to lead the university. “Thank you very much for this honor you bestow on me today by my alma mater,” Curry said. “It means so much to me.”

Freeland, who served as president from 1996 to 2006, said when he saw an advertisement for the position 18 years ago, he called it the best job in American higher education.

“When I met with the search committee, I said this is the only job I really truly want,” Freeland said of the presidency. “And after I got the job I told the faculty that it was a dream come true.”

Eight faculty members received the University Distinguished Professor honor, the highest honor Northeastern can bestow on a faculty member. The recipients were Nadine Aubry, dean of the College of Engineering; Arun Bansil, professor of physics; Albert-László Barabási, Distinguished Professor of Physics and the inau­gural Robert Gray Dodge Pro­fessor of Net­work Sci­ence; Ahmed Busnaina, professor of engineering; Arthur Coury, professor of chemical engineering; Stephen W. Director, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs; Terry Fulmer, dean of the Bouvé College of Health Sciences; and Vinod Sahney, professor of mechanical and industrial engineering.

“These faculty members have achieved international recognition and distinction for contributions to education, artistic creativity and expression, and research that is transformative in their fields,” said Wendy Parmet, associate dean for academic affairs and the George J. and Kathleen Waters Matthews Distinguished University Professor of Law.

After he received the University Distinguished Professor medal, Barabási celebrated by taking an onstage selfie with Aoun.

Other faculty members who were honored included Laura Lewis, a chemical engineering professor whose research on alternative energy technologies continues to push the boundaries of identifying and harnessing alternative energy from natural sources. She received the Excellence in Research and Creative Activity Award.

Tova Olson Sanders, a faculty member in the Graduate Education programs of the College of Professional Studies, and Dennis Shaughnessy, executive professor of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, both received Excellence in Teaching Awards.

Dagmar Sternad, who directs the Action Lab at Northeastern and is an internationally known authority in the field of experimental and computational motor neuroscience, was recognized as the recipient of the 50th annual Robert D. Klein University Lecturer Award, given to a tenure or tenure-track faculty member who has contributed with distinction to their field of study.

Just as impressive as the faculty accomplishments were those of the undergraduate honorees, whose achievements spanned many disciplines, including engineering, political science, and health services.

“Our undergraduate students are accomplished entrepreneurs, they are innovative, they are confident, they are global, and they are highly engaged,” Director said.

Three Northeastern students—Theo Bowe, S’16, Tushar Swamy, E’15, and Greg Allan, E’16—are among the 283 sophomores and juniors nationwide who received the Barry W. Goldwater Scholarship, which honors students who demonstrate outstanding potential and intend to pursue a career in math, science, or engineering.

Stanislas Phanord, SSH’14, was twice recognized for earning a Fulbright Scholarship and Rangel Graduate Fellowship. The Fulbright Scholarship is a merit-​​based award that provides funds for U.S. citizens to study, conduct research, or teach internationally. The Rangel Graduate Fellowship is given to 20 individuals to support them through two years of graduate study, internships and professional development activities, and entry into the Foreign Service.

Northeastern also presented honors to several accomplished student scholars. Seniors Brooke Gasson, SSH’14, James Maniscalco, S’14, and Matthew Schmidt, BHS’14, received Hodgkinson Awards, one of the university’s highest honors for graduating seniors. Meanwhile, Erin Cooney, BHS’14, and Zuren Tai Zhang, E’14, were honored with the designation of Presidential Global Fellow, given on the basis of students’ academic standing, leadership qualities, and understanding of the importance of the global experience to their education, personal development, and career goals.

Seven graduate students also earned awards for their outstanding work in research, teaching, community service, and experiential learning. Among them were Sujeet Akula, a doctoral candidate in physics who is recognized as one of the 50 most promising young researchers in theoretical elementary particle physics, and Ziyao Zhou, a doctoral candidate in electrical and computer engineering who has published more than 20 papers in respected journals.

The Empower Campaign Team received the Outstanding Teamwork Award, while Linda J. Allen, university registrar, Leroy S. Jackson, Jr., a scholarship academic adviser, and Maureen L. Timmons, the director of dining services, were given the Outstanding Service Award.

Watch the 2014 Academic Honors Convocation: