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Students receive George Mitchell Awards for Academic Excellence

AUSTIN, Texas—The winners of the Fifth Annual University Co-op / George H. Mitchell Awards for Academic Excellence were announced Sunday (April 25) at the Four Seasons Hotel in Austin.

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AUSTIN, Texas—The winners of the Fifth Annual University Co-op / George H. Mitchell Awards for Academic Excellence were announced Sunday (April 25) at the Four Seasons Hotel in Austin. These awards celebrate and reward undergraduate and graduate students who have demonstrated unparalleled dedication and achievement in their fields of study. Dr. Michael Granof, chairperson of the University Co-operative Society, hosted the event.

The $20,000 grand prize winner of the Undergraduate Student Awards for Academic Excellence was Brian E. Hardin, Electrical Engineering senior at the College of Engineering. He was nominated by Dr. Anthony Ambler for creating a sophisticated computer program, which generates unusual shapes for solar cells and maximizes their ability to collect light on a smaller space. Brian’s project, “Non-tracking Solar Concentrator Model,” has long-range implications for the viability of solar power. A patent for his ideas has been filed by Oxford University.

Three other undergraduate students won the second prize and received $5,000 each: Corinna A. Kester, Chemical Engineering and Plan II senior; Geeti S. Mahajan, Asian Studies and Plan II senior; and Ashley H. Ray, English Honors senior.

The five winners of the $2,000 awards were Andrea M. Choquette, Business Honors, Marketing and Plan II senior; Maribelisa Gillespie, Anthropology junior; Charles A. Thomas, Humanities, German and Psychology senior; Sarah E. Tierney, Computer Science, Government and Plan II senior; and Amy L. Zolkoski, Choral Studies senior.

“The Mitchell Awards clearly place The University of Texas at Austin in the national forefront when it comes to rewarding high achieving, creative undergraduate students, and make undergraduate students’ outstanding contributions to their fields more visible on our own campus” said Dr. Sheldon Ekland-Olson, executive vice president and provost at the university.

Dr. Victoria E. Rodríguez, vice provost and dean of graduate studies, presented the University Co-op / George H. Mitchell Awards for Excellence in Graduate Research.

Julie George, Ph.D. student in the Department of Government, won the $5,000 grand prize with her project titled “Whither secession: Explaining federal bargaining and secessionist conflict among ethnic regions in Russia and Georgia.”

The other five winners of the Awards for Excellence in Graduate Research were Susan Kung, Department of Linguistics; Rahul Malhotra, Department of Physics; Heather Mathews, Department of Art History; Joyce Parga, Department of Anthropology; and Weijia Xu, Department of Computer Sciences. They received $3,000 each.

“There were over 170 nominees for these awards from all across campus, and so you can imagine how difficult it was for the selection committee to choose just six winners—and then to have to choose only one as the grand prize winner. The work of these six students is representative of the incredible range of research being conducted at the university and in the Graduate School,” said Rodríguez. “These graduate students embody the aspirations we have for tomorrow, and their research will ultimately affect the world we live in. The Co-op / Mitchell Awards recognize the hard work and creativity of our best and brightest graduate students.”

The Mitchell Award is named for George H. Mitchell, president and CEO of the University Co-op and is a token of his dedication to serve The University of Texas at Austin in the best possible way.

About University Co-operative Society

The University Co-op is a not-for-profit corporation owned by the students, faculty and staff of The University of Texas at Austin. In 2004 the University Co-op has already committed to provide the university with more than $3 million in gifts and rebates.

For more information contact: Marjorie Jones, 512-322-7024.