Four Valedictorians and Six Salutatorians Are Named

Nicholas Norwitz ’18 will deliver the valedictory address at commencement.

They’re at the top of the class. Four valedictorians and six salutatorians have been named by the College this year. 

"Every one of these stellar students has obviously excelled in coursework, but also more broadly in their curiosity and engagement with the world and its wonders," says Dean of the College Rebecca Biron. "We are so proud of them."

Valedictorians, who earned a perfect 4.0 grade point average, are Hae Lin Cho ’17, Katherine Clayton ’18, Nicholas Norwitz ’18, and Jean Zhou ’18. They will lead their class to the Green and be recognized from the podium for academic excellence. Norwitz was chosen by a selection committee representing the deans of the faculty and the dean of the College to deliver the valedictory address to the graduates. 

Salutatorians, earning no less than a 3.99 grade point average, are Julie Becher ’18, Caterina Florissi ’18, Arielle Isaacson ’18, Kevin Kang ’18, Hung Duy Nguyen ’18, and Jonathan Rost ’18.

Valedictorians
 

Hae Lin Cho ’17 

Hometown: Redwood City, Calif. 

Major: Biology

Post-graduate plans: Currently holding a two-year fellowship in bioethics at the National Institutes of Health, and applying to medical schools

“I always suggest to incoming students interested in health that they check out a Dartmouth club called GlobeMed. I was recruited into it even before I got here, and learned so much about global health from every perspective and field—geography, life sciences, humanities, social sciences—and it gave me the opportunity to lead a trip to Thailand. GlobeMed pairs universities with nonprofit organizations. Our partner in Thailand works with migrants and displaced persons from Burma, torn by one of the longest-standing conflicts in the world. I also got involved in research early at Dartmouth, at the Geisel School of Medicine, working with pancreatic and ovarian cancer cell lines. I spent the majority of my time in Mary Jo Turk’s lab at Geisel, and that’s where I got involved in immuno-oncology, which is the field I hope to go into. I always knew I loved science, but I don’t think I knew how complicated and involved the sciences could be, and all the career paths that were open to me, until I came to Dartmouth.” 


Katherine Clayton ’18 

Hometown: Sleepy Hollow, N.Y.

Major: Government and French

Post-graduate plans: ITU World Triathlon Championships in Australia in September, then a one-year research fellowship working in the government department at Dartmouth, followed by a PhD program in political science at Stanford University

“The faculty at Dartmouth are simply outstanding. Almost every day, I’m blown away by how accessible, supportive, and interesting they are. Their desire to work on advanced research with undergraduates is one of the main reasons Dartmouth has been such a special place for me. In just four years, I have been lucky enough to work closely with professors on large-scale projects about campus diversity (with Yusaku Horiuchi and John Carey), fake news (with Brendan Nyhan), early hominin fossils (with Jerry DeSilva and Nate Dominy), immigration (with Yusaku Horiuchi and Jeremy Ferwerda), and French gastronomy (with Faith Beasley), to name just a few. All of these mentors understand that we undergrads have a different set of demands on our time than their faculty collaborators—and they have been flexible and genuinely supportive of all of my interests, including travel and triathlon. These special relationships convinced me that I want to pursue a PhD and become a professor of political science so I can forge the same types of bonds with students.”


Nicholas Norwitz ’18

Hometown: Newton, Mass.

Major: Biology

Post-graduate plans: Pursue a PhD at the University of Oxford’s department of physiology, anatomy, and genetics before attending Harvard Medical School 

“In high school I was a distance runner and enjoyed physical challenges, but my running career ended with injuries. So I came to Dartmouth primed to take on new challenges. Every freshman class was completely different from anything I had taken before, and I continued to do pretty well and build my confidence. Every experience in life is an opportunity to learn. You climb up to a platform and walk along till you get to the next obstacle. When opportunities present themselves, I try to take what I can out of them. When I was 12, I said I wanted to be a doctor—both my parents are physicians—but then, sort of analogous to the scientific method, I tested that hypothesis as I took college courses. When I had my own health issues, I saw medicine from a patient’s perspective, and that really convinced me to be to be a physician. I also enjoy research. I want to help patients directly at the bedside, but also advance knowledge to help a broader scope of people. At Oxford, my project will involve the effects of endurance exercise on cognition. At Harvard, I am considering studying sports endocrinology. I did martial arts for 12 years and have a black belt in Kenpo karate. I’ve done skydiving, cage diving with great white sharks, and climbed waterfalls in the Amazon rainforest.” 


Jean Zhou ’18 

Hometown: Medfield, Mass.

Major: Computer Science

Post-graduate plans: Take a break for a year for travel and family time and then pursue a career in technology

“Coming to Dartmouth, I knew I enjoyed problem solving and wanted to enter a quantitative field, so I majored in computer science and minored in statistics. I worked on a variety of projects, from data analytics to software development. At the same time, I’ve valued the opportunity at Dartmouth to explore other subjects, especially Chinese, which I decided to minor in after attending a language study-abroad trip in Beijing, China. I enjoy academic challenges and I’m proud of my accomplishments, but the way I grew the most at Dartmouth was by developing as a person and becoming more confident than I had been before. When I think about college, I remember not just the classrooms and the projects, but the relationships I’ve made and the wide range of experiences I’ve had. I found close friends through my sorority, Kappa Delta, which provided a community and a support system I could always turn to. I also met amazing people on my study-abroad trip, which helped me realize I’d like to see more of the world. I intend to pursue a career in technology, but first I’d like to figure out how I want my career to fit into the rest of my life. I’m most grateful for the lasting relationships and fond memories that helped me grow into who I am today.”

 

Salutatorians 
 


Julie Becher ’18

Hometown: East Kingston, N.H.

Major: Biological Chemistry

Post-graduate plans: Teaching science fellow for chemistry at Dartmouth, then applying to an MD/PhD program

“When I got here I had no idea what I wanted to major in, so freshman year I just took intro to everything, and explored a lot. In the Women in Science Project, I got matched with a great research mentor, Susan Taylor, at the Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL). Four years of work at CRREL evolved into my senior thesis, about the degradation products of explosives. When things explode partially, they scatter chunks, and we know that the chunks change color, can dissolve and be turned into new products. So we want to know what we are making so as not to contaminate the environment. My thesis examines the effect of sunlight on these remnants. In my science courses I liked studying proteins, so that’s where biochemistry came in. I also love to teach. I have been a peer tutor and a teaching assistant. I like being able to find new ways to view and present material to help students can understand it better. My two favorite clubs at Dartmouth were Students Fighting Hunger and the Haven After-School Program, which helps local children.”


Caterina Florissi ’18 

Hometown: Briarcliff Manor, N.Y.

Major: Neuroscience

Post-graduate Plans: Work for two years at DQ&A, allied with a California-based organization called Close Concerns, whose mission is to gather and share research about diabetes 

“I got interested in neuroscience when I started taking education courses, which at Dartmouth are integrated with a neuroscience approach. I like understanding how the brain works because I think that can explain a lot of our behavior. The exciting thing about neuroscience is that it’s a developing field, and in my classes I was learning the latest research and updates. I enjoy being part of something that is actively evolving. Off campus, I loved the language study program that took me to Rome, where I was exposed to a new culture—things are done so differently there. On campus, I got involved in global health programs, including the Dartmouth Coalition for Global Health. That’s one reason I am going to be working with a group improving outcomes for patients with diabetes. It’s an important public health issue. After that two-year position, I will decide whether to go to medical school or graduate school.”


Arielle Isaacson ’18 

Hometown: Lexington, Mass.

Major: Anthropology modified with Global Health

Post-graduate plans: Lombard Fellowship in Botswana through the John Sloan Dickey Center for International Understanding, doing HIV-related research 

“I’ve always wanted a career in pediatric medicine and global health, but one of the things that appealed to me about Dartmouth was that I had the room to explore other interests and not pigeonhole myself too early on. That being said, I started the pre-med track right away. Then I discovered anthropology by taking global health classes. I went on a 10-week anthropology foreign study program to New Zealand, where the focus was on colonial legacies. I had just spent a term working for Partners in Health with the Navajo Nation, so it was really cool to go from that to studying Maori history and colonialism in New Zealand, and piece all that together in an academic setting abroad with a Dartmouth professor and a small group of students. I’m on the triathlon team, and that’s been one of the best parts of my Dartmouth experience. It created a tight-knit community. Triathlon gave me a way to be mentored by seniors and by coaches, helped me build a relationship with the community, explore the area, and keep a lot of balance in my life.”  


Kevin Kang ’18 

Hometown: Erie, Pa. 

Major: Biomedical Engineering

Post-graduate plans: Enroll in the Geisel School of Medicine in fall 2018

“Even before starting college, I knew I wanted to go into medicine. What excited me was the chance to gain a better understanding of how my passions for technology and medicine could be integrated in a career. Being admitted to the Geisel School of Medicine early, through the Biomedical Engineering Early Assurance Program, has been challenging, but the time doing research into cancer therapy at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center has offered an invaluable real-world perspective on the world of biomedicine. Receiving the 2017 Goldwater Scholarship also helped solidify my decision to become a research physician. I plan to pursue some type of surgical specialty, which would allow me to incorporate medical device design into my medical practice. Extracurricular opportunities have also shaped my education. I was editor-in-chief of the Dartmouth Undergraduate Journal of Science and, all four years, a tutor for the Tutor Clearinghouse in math, engineering, biology, chemistry, and physics. I also helped lead Dartmouth’s Pre-Health Society and the Nathan Smith Society, which serves students in health professions. Leadership and teaching skills are important to a medical career, and I am fortunate to have had those opportunities both inside and outside the classroom.” 


Hung Duy Nguyen ’18 

Hometown: Hanoi, Vietnam

Major: Economics

Post-graduate plans: Join Credit-Suisse in Singapore as an investment banking analyst

“I was sure of being an economics major when I got here, but Dartmouth motivates you to step outside your academic comfort zone. Being from Vietnam, where the economy has experienced far-reaching globalization in the last decades, I was eager to develop a global focus in an American college. From German theater to Southeast Asian environmental politics, I ended up in classes that four years ago I never once imagined I would take. Within my major, the opportunities that Dartmouth offers have been incredible, especially outside the classroom. Since sophomore year, I’ve been working with Professor Nina Pavcnik on research projects that investigate the impact of international trade and foreign investment on low-income labor markets (like Vietnam), and last winter I traveled to Poland with Economics 70, where our group spoke to local academics, employers and policymakers to understand the interplay between labor, demographics, and migration in a transitional economy. When I look back on my time at the College, it is this kind of experiential, hands-on learning that stands out the most, and it helps that Dartmouth professors are always so willing to be your guides, your mentors, and even your friends on that journey of learning.”


Jonathan Rost ’18

Hometown: Narragansett, R.I. 

Major: Neuroscience

Post-graduate Plans: Work at Close Concerns in California, doing surveys and other research about diabetes 

“I like neuroscience because it bridges biology and chemistry. The brain is a frontier, one of the last things we know about, but knowledge about it is accelerating really fast. My last class was in systems neuroscience, which is trying to figure out how all the parts of the brain work. It’s cool to get to that higher level—bridging the nitty-gritty details on the biological side with the overarching concepts of how function emerges from structure. At Dartmouth, I became a really avid runner, and that’s how I met a lot of my close friends freshman year. Running is how I experience the surrounding area, and how I reduce stress. I ran the Boston Marathon this past spring, which felt like a huge accomplishment. I also enjoy mentoring incoming students, as a trip leader, and on lodge crew. When you’re addressing their concerns about Dartmouth and being there for them, you reflect on your own experience. It helps you step back. I spent four terms as an organic chemistry teaching assistant. In the lab, sophomore pre-meds are really stressed, so I try to help them out and say, “Hey, it’s going to be OK.”    

 

Charlotte Albright can be reached at [email protected]