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allison pease
Junior Allison Pease won the 2017 Hasselmo Prize for Academic Pursuit.

Geology, physics drive Hasselmo winner

Allison Pease ’18 is the winner of the Nils Hasselmo Award for Academic Pursuit for 2017. A geology and physics double major, Pease has plans to use her $5,000 prize money toward future research.

Pease “always knew” she wanted to go into geology. The summer before her first year at Augustana, she joined the geology department’s summer field trip in the Rocky Mountains, hiking in national parks and experiencing “geology in action.”

“When I was there I discovered that geology is something I am really passionate about. I learned a lot about earthquakes and other processes I thought would be really interesting to pursue further,” she said. By sophomore year, her “hardcore love of seismology” led to a directed study in seismology with her geology and physics professors.

Pease also knew early on that she would add study in physics. Now, at the end of her junior year, she is already closing in on her two majors.

But she didn’t know about the Hasselmo Prize until geology professor Dr. Strasser nominated her. “I think it’s pretty amazing,” she said. “I’ve gotten congratulations from multiple professors I’ve had in previous years.”

Pease is considering using the prize money for a geology field camp, for a more full experience in the fundamentals of field geology. She may apply the Hasselmo award to the REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) she’ll undertake this summer—her second significant undergraduate research experience.

“Last summer I had an REU at Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University in New York City, where we worked on calculating a sea level budget for rate and acceleration… how much sea level is changing along the east coast, and how fast it’s changing,” she said.

According to Dr. Strasser, Pease “excelled in that program, despite the fact that such programs target students who have already completed their junior year in college.”

This summer she is taking a different approach. “I’m going to work on a geochemical study at the Carnegie Institute in Washington, D.C., looking at different phase changes that occur in the mantel. So—slightly different,” she laughed.

After graduation, she plans on graduate school for her two main interests: geophysics and geochemistry. “I don’t know necessarily how I am going to apply the two,” Pease said. But she does know one thing: “I know I’m interested in both of them.”

What the Hasselmo Prize does for graduates

Hannah Johnson ’12 (first winner; communication studies, English, women’s and gender studies) is writing her dissertation for her Ph.D. in communication studies at the University of Iowa. She has been teaching undergraduate communication courses and recently won the Ballard Seashore fellowship.

“The Hasselmo Prize was instrumental in my applications to graduate school—I was able to present at two national conferences as a senior, and without the prize money, I never would have been able to travel to New Orleans and Philadelphia to present…. I credit my admission into graduate programs, especially directly into a Ph.D. program, to the Hasselmo Prize.”

Joseph Wood ’15 (economics, political science) is an economist at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Washington, D.C. He is planning on graduate studies in international affairs in the next couple of years.

“The Hasselmo award enabled me to further my studies of substate conflict by engaging in coursework on conflict resolution in Morocco. My studies there motivated me to use my Senior Inquiry to perform a comparative case study of Morocco and Algeria. The purpose of the project was to examine why, despite sharing many characteristics that would suggest the possibility of civil war onset, Algeria experienced a civil war and Morocco did not. Focusing on 1990–2000, I addressed the similarities between the countries in terms of conventional economic and demographic data gathered by governments and IGOs, while illustrating some of the predictive limitations of these sources.

“Upon graduation [from Augustana] I sought … more insight into the organizational and methodological processes by which official statistics are composed. Fortunately, that aim brought me to my current position with the Bureau of Labor Statistics.” 

Brandon Wills ’16 (biology, biochemistry) is in a Ph.D. program in biological sciences at Marquette University. He is conducting research on Huntingtin protein in the green algae Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, to better understand the molecules that elicit changes in flagella length associated with mutated versions of the protein.

“I believe that the research experience I was able to have as a result of the Hasselmo Prize made me a stronger candidate for this graduate program. Many of the lab skills I developed while performing research at Augustana have carried over to graduate school and as a result have made me a better scientist, overall.”

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