UW News

January 14, 2010

Student medalists demonstrate academic excellence, varied interests

News and Information

The Office of the President recently announced the freshman, sophomore and junior medalists for 2008-9, awards that are based on a student’s overall academic record and not merely the grade point average.

Keiko Weir, the Freshman Medalist, is a graduate of Todd Beamer High School in Federal Way, where she received the Outstanding Female Student and Leadership Awards. A native of Auburn, she plans on double majoring in economics and neurobiology and eventually pursuing an M.D./Ph.D., so that she can become a physician who specializes in working with children.

Weir has worked as a researcher at Seattle Children’s Hospital in the neurosurgery department. She credits her research mentor, Dr. Samuel Browd, with inspiring her to pursue the joint degree graduate program. Outside of school she is a volunteer at the Japanese Community and Cultural Center of Washington. “I really enjoying volunteering at the cultural center,” she says, “because I am able to help organize community events and share my Japanese culture.”

Among the UW faculty who have had the greatest impact on her is Matthew Conroy, who taught her honors calculus. She says his class “was one of the most difficult and rewarding classes” that she has taken thus far.

Mark Bun, the Sophomore Medalist, began his UW career in the Early Entrance Program’s Transition School. He says the teachers there “taught me how to think, read and write critically and I’m really indebted to them for teaching me the most important analytical skills that I’ll need for the rest of my life.” Bun has received a Bordeaux Scholarship through the Honors Program, a Mary Gates Research Scholarship and an NSF Research Training Grant through the Mathematics Department. He is a double major in math and computer science, and is planning to attend graduate school in economics, where he will be able to integrate his math and computer science background and “put them to practical societal use.” His longer term ambition is to be an economics professor or quantitative analyst.

His favorite experience at the UW thus far has been doing research in the math department. “It’s been a wonderful experience to work with really knowledgeable faculty and assistants and to have access to the University’s libraries and resources,” he says. Bun describes his research mentor and honors calculus professor, Jim Morrow, as “a real inspiration. His passion for math is infectious and helped me learn a lot more rapidly than I thought possible.”

William Johnson, a computer science major, is the Junior Medalist. A graduate of Inglemoor Senior High School, he is a Washington Scholar, a Robert C. Byrd Scholar, and a National Merit Finalist/Corporate Scholar. He was a Mary Gates Honors Scholar in his freshman and sophomore years. Outside of the classroom his interests include Christianity, math, physics, hiking, classical music and juggling. One of his favorite UW experiences was going to the country of Georgia on an Exploration Seminar.

His favorite teachers thus far have included Professor James Morrow in mathematics; Dave Bacon, research professor of computer science & engineering, who has been both a teacher and research mentor; and Richard Ladner, professor of computer science & engineering, who served as a research mentor for Johnson for all of 2009.

Johnson placed sixth in the William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition in 2008, an annual college math contest administered by the Mathematical Association of America. He was also a member of a three-person team that placed highly in the Pacific Northwest region Association for Computing Machinery’s International Programming Contest.