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FSU Honors graduates setting standard for excellence

When Florida State University’s largest ever graduating class crosses the stage during its commencement this weekend, it will be led by 80 outstanding undergraduate students who have met the challenge of redefining the frontiers of their chosen academic disciplines.

These students have gone far beyond the limited horizons of the classroom experience by completing an Honors Thesis, a work of substantial research or creative activity. When each of them crosses the stage, it will be announced that he or she is graduating "with Honors." But the importance of their work goes far beyond that announcement. Honors theses are substantial contributions to their field—approximately half are published in the same peer-reviewed journals in which their professors publish.

Even more importantly, FSU’s Honors graduates are the cutting edge of undergraduate excellence for the institution, setting the standard for the next generation of students.

The culture of undergraduate excellence is growing at Florida State. More Honors Theses were completed at FSU in 2005 (108) than ever before.

Among the students graduating "with Honors" this weekend are:

  • Mark Carpenter, a computer science major whose research on the efficiency of operating systems will improve computer performance.
  • Cara Castellana, an economics major and a recipient of the nationally prestigious 2005 Truman Scholarship.  Cara’s Honors Thesis work concerned the "Natural Resource Curse," the tendency of nations with rich natural resource bases to fall into poverty.
  • Kaileen Herring, a student in the department of Communication Disorders who looked at how oral contraceptive use affects a woman’s voice.
  • Katherine Hoops, a biological science major who studied shell disease in the Florida Spiny Lobster caused by the Erwinia bacteria.
  • Josh Mikel, a double major in theatre and creative writing whose play "Quentin G" was selected for the American College Theater Festival at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
  • Anlys Olivera, who majored in psychology and modeled the effect of amphetamine use by a pregnant woman on her late-term fetus by studying the drug’s effect on newborn rodents.

Castellana and Mikel are leading a delegation of 20 FSU undergraduates to the Atlantic Coast Conference Meeting of the Minds undergraduate research conference at Clemson University (April 23-25). Many other Honors graduates have already presented their work at professional meetings throughout the nation.

The impact that an undergraduate research experience can have on a student can be illustrated by Mark Wrighton, who came from Jacksonville to FSU in the 1960s to major in chemistry. He joined the research laboratory of Professor Jack Saltiel and completed an Honors Thesis in 1969. Wrighton describes his undergraduate research as a "life-changing experience" that propelled him toward a remarkable career as a scientist and academic leader. From FSU, he went to the California Institute of Technology, where he completed his Ph.D. in 1972. He then joined the faculty of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he earned 14 patents, published more than 300 articles and received an astonishing list of awards, including the MacArthur "genius" Fellowship in 1983. Wrighton was featured as one of the leading young scientists in the nation in several magazines, including U.S. News and World Report, Business Week and Esquire. Since 1995, he has served as chancellor of Washington University in St. Louis.