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Three Eberly graduate students honored with research and excellence awards

4 April 2024

There graduate students in the Eberly College of Science have been selected by the Graduate School to receive awards for their research and excellence. Marius Jürgensen and Divya Singh have been selected along with eleven other graduate students to receive the Alumni Association Dissertation Award. Additionally, Grace Buddle has been selected along with three other graduate students to receive the Professional Master’s Excellence Award. These awards are among some of the most prestigious awards given to graduate students at Penn State.

The Alumni Association Dissertation Award was made possible through a gift from the Penn State Alumni Association and provides funding and recognition to outstanding full-time doctor of philosophy students whose dissertations will have the greatest impact. These students have also demonstrated outstanding academic and personal potential in the areas of extracurricular and professional activities. The award, comprised of a certificate and a medal, is considered to be among the most prestigious available to Penn State graduate students and recognizes outstanding professional accomplishment and achievement in scholarly research in any of the disciplinary areas.

The Professional Master’s Excellence Award recognizes individual student excellence in a professional master’s degree program. These students demonstrate outstanding breadth of experience, performance, and professional projects or work.

Marius Jürgensen

Marius Jürgensen
Physics graduate student Marius Jügensen. Credit: Jillian Wesner

Marius Jürgensen is a physics graduate student in the lab of Mikael Rechtsman, professor of physics. In his research, Jürgensen uses both theoretical and experimental techniques to explore novel phenomena in materials that result from their topology, properties that cannot be changed by local deformations. In his work he has shown that transport in interacting topological Thouless pumps can be quantized in integers and fractions due to the formation of solitons, that emerge at high optical power when light prefers to stay together. Jürgensen has also led a project on scintillating materials, which absorb and convert radiation into light and may ultimately lead to new ways to reduce the exposure to harmful radiation in X-ray imaging and CT scans. In addition to his scientific work, Jürgensen has also served as a mentor to many graduate and post-doctoral scholars in his lab.

“Marius has excelled in analytical, numerical, and experimental work, and is truly ambitious and original in his approach to solving problems and pushing projects forward,” said Rechtsman in a nomination letter. “Marius has become a universally admired and appreciated leader in the group. He has helped me to foster an accepting group culture, training them well and making sure they feel valued and integrated into the group.”

Divya Singh

Divya Singh
Physics graduate student Divya Singh. Credit: Jillian Wesner

Singh is a physics graduate student in the lab of Chad Hanna, professor of physics and astronomy and astrophysics, and B.S. Sathyaprakash, Elsbach Professor of Physics and professor of astronomy and astrophysics. She studies how observations of gravitational waves—which are ripples in spacetime that were predicted over 100 years ago by Einstein—created by merging compact cosmic objects provide a unique way to detect dark matter—which cannot be electromagnetically observed. To conduct her work, Singh is heavily involved in the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO), where she has been a leading researcher on gravitational wave observations and inference. She has also conducted and contributed to work on gravitational wave searches for binary neutron stars and black holes.

“Divya has produced some of the most original work in dark matter particle inference that I have ever encountered,” said Hanna in a nomination letter. “Divya is internationally recognized for her work on gravitational wave observations and inference and is a phenomenal graduate student whose dissertation research has been at the forefront of a ground-breaking field.”

Grace Buddle

Grace Buddle
Master of biotechnology student Grace Buddle. Credit: Jillian Wesner

Buddle is a master of biotechnology student in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences. In her studies, Buddle has completed a 6-month full-time Capstone Research Project at the Merck Research Laboratory in the Sensory Biology and Neuropharmacology Group. At Merck she developed a method that allowed for 3D histology, improving her team’s ability to observe pathological structures in neurodegenerative diseases and assist in the development of treatments against Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s, and ALS.

“Grace is an exceptional student and a clear standout from the 25 current students in our graduate program,” said Natasha N. Tirko, director of the master of biotechnology program and associated teaching professor. “Grace has demonstrated academic success in biotechnology both before and during her time as a graduate student in the professional master’s program.”