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Gerald and Sally DeNardo Senior Prize in Science Research 2013

Established in 2007 to complement the Gerald and Sally DeNardo Lectureship, this prize is given by the Dean to recognize outstanding science research accomplishment by a graduating senior who reflects the distinctive characteristics of a Jesuit education and is pursuing a career in the health sciences.

The 2013 DeNardo Senior Prize is awarded to Katherine Elizabeth Bercovitz. Katherine was nominated by Patti Simone, Professor in Psychology.

Katherine is senior psychobiology major headed to the Ph.D. Program in Cognitive Aging at Harvard University. With a cumulative GPA of 3.93, and 4.0 in her major, it is clear she is an outstanding student.

Her success in academics and scholarship at SCU is impressive. Katherine has extensive research experience. She began working in the “Learning and Memory Lab” with Dr. simone and Dr. Matt Bell during her sophomore year. Although one of the youngest in the group, she was determined to be a leader in the lab, and she spent considerable time during her sophomore year submitting research proposals to different agencies on campus. Notably, she was awarded the DeNardo Science Scholarship which gave her financial support ($11,000) for research during her Junior and Senior years.

In two years, Katherine presented her research findings at three undergraduate research conferences and three professional conferences, sending her to Berkeley, Burlingame, Moraga, San Diego and, this month, to San Francisco. Her initial findings from her first study were presented in a symposium session at the Western Psychological Association conference in 2012 with other students from our lab. The session was full and afterward several in attendance expressed surprise that she was only an undergraduate student. She has since conducted additional analyses on the data and recently presented a poster session at the Gerontological Society of American international convention in San Diego, California. She will present data from her second study at the Cognitive Neuroscience conference in San Francisco this spring. In addition to her ability to organize and present a scholarly talk about her research and to graphically represent her findings in a poster format, her writing is also quite advanced. She has a paper, of which she is first author, which will be submitted to Journals of Gerontology: Psychological Science shortly. Her second paper is in progress and will be submitted to a top-tier journal by the time she graduates.

In addition to being an outstanding student, researcher, peer advisor and person, Katherine further reflects the distinctive characteristics of a Jesuit education in her role as president of Alpha Sigma Nu, the honor society of Jesuit colleges and universities. As president, she has impacted others by attending the Triennial Conference in 2012 to discuss Jesuit education with students from across the country, and she has organized community service projects here at SCU to encourage student-faculty interaction. In addition to being helpful to SCU students both in the lab and as a peer advisor, she also took additional time to listen to the concerns of her 100+ older participants about memory, and she created for them a handout of tips to improve memory.

In her nomination, Dr. Simone noted: “I place Ms. Bercovitz in the top two of all the 200+ students I have mentored in research in my 20 years at Santa Clara. And in addition to my respect, the undergraduates working with her in the lab also respect her leadership and direction. She will be missed next year.”

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