Four doctoral students who received the Porter Ogden Jacobus Fellowship will be honored as part of next Saturday’s Alumni Day ceremonies. The awards fund the students’ final year of graduate study but were not formally announced until Friday.
The four 2011 recipients were graduate students Giada Damen in art and archaeology, Marcus Hultmark in mechanical and aerospace engineering, Noam Lupu in politics and Silviu Pufu ’07 in physics.
Damen, who earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in her native country, Italy, became interested in Mediterranean antique trade after visiting Crete for 10 days as part of a seminar taught by her advisor, Patricia Brown.
She was interested enough to write her dissertation was on the 15th- and 16th-century trade of antiquities throughout the Mediterranean, studying the progression of Greek and Ottoman artifacts to Western Europe and how these imports ushered in the Renaissance shift of attitudes toward classical art.
Damen’s approach to cross-regional comparison allowed her to place artwork in historical and geographical context. “I look at the objects but also at the people who crafted them,” Damen said of her methods of study.
Between her master’s and doctoral work, Damen worked as a curator at Christie’s, an auction house in Milan. She then moved to the United States to curate an exhibition for The Frick Collection of bronze sculptures by 16th-century Italian artist Antonio Susini.
With no set plans for next year, Damen anticipates staying in the United States with her American husband and taking a postdoctoral position.
Hultmark first came to the University as a visiting student working on a thesis project for his master’s degree in thermodynamics and fluid dynamics from Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden.
His dissertation examined the air travel effects of a measurement aerospace engineers call the Reynolds number — the ratio of inertial forces to viscous forces — in the atmosphere. Hultmark explained that these effects have always been very difficult to study because of resolution issues.
“This sensor is finally working now and it allows us to study much higher Reynolds numbers than what was possible before,” Hultmark noted. Hultmark’s research involved developing state-of-the-art nanoscale velocity probes that allowed him to measure turbulence at a higher Reynolds number than previously studied in a laboratory.
Hultmark’s research contradicted the physics community’s existing belief that turbulence results against a solid surface depended on the flow condition of the air, citing variations in turbulence observed with older equipment.
Hultmark’s advisor, Alexander Smits, explained that Hultmark’s research showed that “when you take very accurate measurements, you don’t see those variations at all.” He said that Hultmark and other researchers are unsure at the present time whether those variations were due to previous measurements not being accurate enough or were due to some other phenomenon.
“If Marcus is right, it would actually make turbulence simpler,” Smits said, adding that his discovery had “thrown the community into a curve.”
“I hope to make an important contribution to the basic understanding of turbulence and to the design of energy-efficient vehicles and improved climate- and weather-prediction methods,” Hultmark said in a University press release.
Hultmark is interviewing for faculty positions at several institutions.
Lupu, who frequently visits relatives in Argentina and Chile, became interested in the breakdown of Latin American political parties when he witnessed the breakdown of the Argentine radical party in the early 2000s.
In his research, he discovered that the fate of the radical party was part of a regional phenomenon of party “brand dilution” beginning in 1990. He described brand dilution as a process by which parties become ideologically ambiguous, as “it becomes very hard for people to distinguish between the major parties. They start to look very similar, and people’s attachment to these parties starts to erode.”
Lupu completed his bachelor’s study in political science and history at Columbia University and his master’s study in social science at the University of Chicago. His work builds on American political theories about voter behavior and social identities.
“The idea is [to use] the Latin American cases to build upon the American theory in a broader context,” he explained. He added that his hope is “to contribute theoretically not just to how we understand what happened in Argentina and what happened in Latin America, but also more broadly, how do we think about party identities and how voters arrive at party identities.”
Unsure of where he will be continuing his study, Lupu said he is considering a few postdoctoral fellowship offers and a tenure-track assistant professor position but declined to state the institutions that had made these offers.
Pufu, who studied applied and computational mathematics as an undergraduate at the University, began studying string theory in his junior year with Steven Gubser GS ’98, who has advised Pufu’s junior paper, senior thesis and doctoral thesis.
Pufu’s doctoral thesis uses abstract ideas from string theory to explain the superconductivity of heavy ion collisions. “He’s trying to take the abstract idea from string theory and use them to draw simulations with mainstream theoretical physics,” Gubser explained.
He added that Pufu is now working with professor Igor Klebanov GS ’86 on the mathematical structure of string theory. “This is something that’s pretty amazing about Silviu: He’s done work that is both more the applied side among string theorists as well some impressive formal mathematical work,” Gubser said.
“The main reason why I like it is that it combines so many types of physics together,” Pufu said, adding that he enjoys the mathematics involved.
He will begin a three-year postdoctoral Pappalardo fellowship at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the coming year. He said he plans to continue working in academia.
The Jacobus award is presented annually to graduate students whose work represents the highest scholarly excellence of student research at the University.
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