Paul Hanakata ’14 was named a finalist for the American Physical Society’s prestigious Leroy Apker Award, the highest prize offered in the United States for an undergraduate thesis in physics. He will compete to win the award this month.
The Apker Award was created to recognize outstanding achievements in physics by undergraduate students, and thereby provide encouragement to young physicists who have demonstrated great potential for future scientific accomplishment.
At Wesleyan, Hanakata received high honors for his Wesleyan thesis titled, “Cooperative Dynamics in Supported Polymer Films,” under his advisor, Francis Starr, professor of physics and director of the College of Integrative Sciences.
In recognition of his exceptional research accomplishments, Hanakata was awarded the Bertman Prize, the Wesleyan Physics Department’s highest recognition of an undergraduate student who displays a superior combination of outstanding scholarship, original research, and colleagueship. His entire four years at Wesleyan were fully supported by a Freeman Scholarship, given to the most outstanding students from East Asia.
“Paul has always been immensely generous with his own time, having served as a TA for numerous courses, and routinely helped his peers solve their own course and research problems,” Starr said. “On top of his many academic activities, he still found time to aid the rebuilding efforts in New Orleans after the Hurricane Katrina disaster. I am amazed at both his scientific talent and his dedication to helping others.”
Hanakata is currently a graduate student at Boston University.
As a result of his research on polymer films, Hanakata is the author of three published research papers, including one in the prestigious Nature family of journals. He has also submitted two other papers for publication, based on his thesis work at Wesleyan.
In addition, Hanakata has presented his findings at several major research meetings, including the national American Physical Society meeting.
“Wesleyan has an amazing string of having two winners and two finalists for this award in recent years,” Starr said. “The Apker Prize is based on a national competition, in which we compete in the category of Ph.D. granting institutions, and are thus competing directly with universities such as Harvard, Princeton and Yale. In these past six years, Wesleyan is leading the nation, outdoing all our larger brethren research universities.”