2012-13 Notebaert Fellows

Anna de Bakker, Medieval Studies

Anna de Bakker, Medieval Studies

Undergraduate Institution:
Harvard University (History, 2010)
Graduate Degree:
Yale Divinity School/Institute of Sacred Music (M.A. 2012)

Anna de Bakker came to Notre Dame via Harvard and Yale because of her interests in the interdisciplinary study of history, theology, and music of the medieval world, particularly that of medieval Holland. With outstanding musical talent — she sings in several choirs and plays the piano and cello — she has command of several languages as well: Dutch, French, German, and Latin, and one to two years’ experience with Spanish, Czech, Attic Greek, and Biblical Hebrew.

At Notre Dame, Anna will work with Profs. Margot Fassler and Alexander Blachly.

In addition to the generous Notebaert Fellowship, Anna says: “Ultimately, what influenced my decision to come to Notre Dame was the interdisciplinary nature of the Medieval Institute and its strength in a variety of areas. I felt that I would have both the support and the resources here to really grow as a scholar.”

Emily Kirkegaard, Medieval Studies

Emily Kirkegaard, Medieval Studies

Undergraduate Institution:
Princeton University (Classics, 2012)

The author of an award-winning senior thesis at Princeton, Emily Kirkegaard is a truly interdisciplinary student, with interests spanning history, theology, and archeology. She has superb language skills: Latin, ancient Greek, and French.

Emily traces her passion for medieval history to the gift of a translation of Beowulf on her eleventh birthday: “As I learned how the legends on Anglo-Saxon coins revealed the shifting claims to kingship in England, or how the linguistic evidence of place-names suggested lingering traces of paganism, I fell in love with the interdisciplinary nature of medieval history.”

At Notre Dame, Emily will study late antique and early medieval history under the direction of Prof. Thomas Noble.

“I was initially attracted to Notre Dame,” she says, “by the outstanding reputation of the Medieval Institute. Upon visiting, I was deeply impressed by the strong sense of community at Notre Dame and by the Medieval Institute’s promotion of interdisciplinary studies, closely matching my own hopes to combine textual and material sources.”

Leandro Lichtenfelz, Mathematics

Leandro Lichtenfelz, Mathematics

Undergraduate Institution:
Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, Brazil (Mathematics, 2009)
Graduate Degree:
University of São Paulo, Brazil (M.S., 2011)

Interested in differential geometry and its connections with functional analysis and mathematical physics, Leandro Lichtenfelz won a bronze medal in Brazil’s Mathematics Olympiads as an undergraduate and then a silver medal in the International Olympiads.

Leandro explains his research interests as follows: “It was first observed by the mathematician Vladimir Arnold in 1966 that certain types of differential equations occurring in nature (e.g. those arising in fluid dynamics, the Navier-Stokes equation being the most well-known) can be analyzed using geometric methods. Since then, there has been an increasing interest in carrying on this line of research. At Notre Dame, I intend to study the geometry of diffeomorphism groups and the possible applications to hydrodynamics.”

Leandro will work with Profs. Gerard Misiolek, Frederico Xavier, and Karsten Grove.

Joshua Noble, Theology

Joshua Noble, Theology

Undergraduate Institution:
Thomas Aquinas College, Santa Paula, California (Liberal Arts, 2010)
Graduate Degree:
Master of Early Christian Studies, University of Notre Dame (2012)

Joshua’s primary research focus is on the New Testament, specifically the Greco-Roman philosophical background and theological exegesis. His language skills include Latin, Greek, Hebrew, French, German, and Syriac.

A mechanical engineer who practiced for four years with the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program while continuing a life-long study of the New Testament, Joshua writes: “It gradually became clear to me that my true passion lay in biblical studies, and, turning down a management position, I undertook a radical career change.”

“I chose Notre Dame for two reasons,” Joshua writes. “First, I found the idea of studying the New Testament within a Catholic theological framework attractive. Second, the generous Notebaert Fellowship allows me to best concentrate on my graduate studies while helping to support a (growing!) family.”

Francesco Pancaldi:  Applied and Computational Mathematics and Statistics

Francesco Pancaldi, Applied and Computational Mathematics and Statistics

Undergraduate Institution:
University of Ferrara, Italy (Mathematics, 2009)
Graduate Degree:
University of Ferrara (M.S., 2011)

Francesco’s masters-degree work was in the “pure” mathematical field of algebraic geometry-specifically, elliptic curves over finite fields.

While a graduate student in Italy, Francesco was admitted to a Japanese development group. This is the foundation of his interest in Notre Dame’s program in Applied and Computational Mathematics and Statistics — he wants to use his interest in mathematics to contribute to a research group in biology. Under the direction of Profs. Andrew Sommese and Mark Alber, he intends to work on current efforts at Notre Dame to numerically study tumor growth.

Francesco chose Notre Dame for his doctoral studies because of the unique nature of the interdisciplinary ACMS program and the generous Notebaert Fellowship. He calls the Notre Dame approach to embedding mathematicians in research groups the “perfect path” for him — allowing him to realize his ambition to use his mathematical abilities for “the greater good.”

Michael Rauschenbach, Philosophy

Michael Rauschenbach, Philosophy

Undergraduate Institution:
Yale University (Philosophy and Russian, 2012)

Michael’s overarching philosophical interest is in the topic of skepticism. In his studies at Yale, he traced this theme across a very broad range of thinkers: Sextus Empiricus, Descartes, Heidegger, Kierkegaard, and Marion. At Notre Dame, Michael plans to work on the intersection of philosophical positions and religious faith in both the analytic and continental philosophical traditions. In addition, he hopes to work on questions of a more directly theological nature, specifically on the question of human knowledge of God.

“I chose Notre Dame for graduate studies,” he says, “because of the variety and depth of the faculty in the philosophy department, its receptivity to faith-driven approaches to philosophical inquiry, and its general open-mindedness. Also, as a Catholic, I felt honored to be given the opportunity to study at the foremost Catholic university in the world, in one of its strongest and most vibrant departmental communities. Also, I am an avid football fan who has been cheering for the Fighting Irish on Saturdays since I began following the sport.”

Ryan Solava, Computer Science and Engineering

Ryan Solava, Computer Science and Engineering

Undergraduate Institution:
University of Notre Dame (Computer Science, 2012)

As an undergraduate at Notre Dame, Ryan worked with Profs. Amitabh Chaudhary and Tijana Milenkovic in the Complex Networks Lab — developing a new method for measuring the topology of an edge within a graph. This graph theoretic method has already been used in some preliminary research to identify proteins in the human body that are involved with diseases.

With a primary research interest in theoretical computer science, especially network analysis, Ryan chose Notre Dame to continue his studies.

“Notre Dame has faculty working in my area of interest and applying it in useful ways to real-world problems,” he says. “I also appreciate the focus on faith that the Notre Dame community allows. And, the additional financial support provided by the Notebaert Fellowship was another influential aspect in my decision.”

Cheyenne Tait, Biological Sciences

Cheyenne Tait, Biological Sciences

Undergraduate Institution:
Princeton University (Biological Sciences, 2012)

At Princeton, Cheyenne’s thesis focused on mate-choice behavior as a vehicle for speciation. She will continue in the Biological Sciences at Notre Dame, where she intends to work with Profs. Jeffrey Feder and Zain Syed — both faculty members who study speciation and the divergence of populations in insects.

Accepted at several other institutions, Cheyenne says that she ultimately chose Notre Dame, “because I felt it was the best fit. Although I visited for fewer than 24 hours, this biology department just was where I felt I belonged. People were friendly and passionate about what they were doing.”

Ultimately, Cheyenne hopes to teach at a major research university. “I want to inspire others,” she says, “to find their passion in science-others who, like me, have perhaps not had the most traditional upbringing.”