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Dina Sharon '14

On March 26, Dina Sharon '14, who majored in chemistry at the University, and Colin Defant, a first-year Ph.D. student studying mathematics received the Hertz Graduate Fellowship Award. They were among the 10 Hertz fellows selected out of 700 applicants from across the United States. 

The Hertz Graduate Fellowship is a merit-based stipend awarded to students, and will ensure Sharon and Defant will be funded for five years of Ph.D. work. 

Both said they were very surprised and grateful to be among those chosen for the Fellowship. 

“The shock was very much there; it gave way to immense gratitude and excitement,” Sharon said. 

“It was great,“ said Defant. “I got the email while I was at my house, went downstairs to tell my parents and celebrated. It was very exciting.”

Sharon and Defant are both looking forward to their Ph.D. research in their respective fields. 

Sharon will be harnessing computational models to study enzymes and enzyme design, “an active area of research where we can build on what nature has for many years and make it better,” she explained. 

“The hope is to eventually create better pharmaceuticals through understanding enzymes' reactions and developing new enzymes," Sharon said.

Defant will begin by researching combinatorics and theoretical computer science, and wants to delve deeper into one of the two during his second year of research. 

Both encouraged undergraduates to begin their research early. 


 Colin Defant, a first-year Ph.D. student studying mathematics received the Hertz Graduate Fellowship Award


“Stick with a problem, make sure you can persevere with the problem given, or see if you can try to turn the problem into something that will work,” said Defant, who studied at the University of Florida before coming to the University. 

“Immediate advice is go for it; research puts you on the frontier from day one,“ Sharon explained. “My first research experience was at Princeton. Every day I was going after something that was not yet known.”

Sharon said she was glad to have been able to experience research opportunities in The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and her current place of work at D. E. Shaw Research.

Defant noted that he wishes to thank his professors and mentors: Miklos Bona, Krishnaswami Alladi, Peter Johnson, Padraic Bartlett, and Joseph Gallian. 

Sharon expressed enormous gratitude towards professors John Groves, Jeffrey Schwartz and Michael Kelly, as well as the entire chemistry faculty, which was very supportive of her application to both the Fulbright and Hertz fellowships. She is also grateful to her graduate student mentors.

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