Ten individuals affiliated with MIT awarded 2024 Hertz Foundation Fellowships

The Fannie and John Hertz Foundation declared that 10 doctoral students from MIT have been bestowed with fellowships. Each awardee will receive up to $250,000 over five years for their doctoral research, providing them the autonomy to explore unique concepts.

Recipients also gain access to lifelong participation in Hertz Foundation programs, offering opportunities for networking and mentorship. These individuals join a community of over 1,300 previous Hertz Fellows who have excelled in various fields within science, engineering, and technology. Collaborations between fellows have catalyzed advancements in startups, research endeavors, and technology commercialization.

Among the 18 Hertz Foundation Fellow scholars selected nationwide this year, 10 have affiliations with MIT. Five of these received their undergraduate degrees at MIT and will further their studies at different institutions. Two are current graduate students at MIT, and four will commence their doctoral studies at MIT in the upcoming fall semester.

“For over six decades, Hertz Fellows have been the trailblazers in scientific and technical innovation across numerous domains like national security, applied biological sciences, artificial intelligence, and space exploration, crucial for enhancing U.S. competitiveness,” stated Stephen Fantone, the chair of the Hertz Foundation board of directors and founder of Optikos Corp. “I am eager to witness their rigorous research and how they carry forward the legacy of leveraging their work for the greater good.”

The awardees associated with MIT for the current year are:

Owen Dugan ’24 accelerated his time at MIT, graduating in just two-and-a-half years with a physics degree. He embarks on a journey to pursue a computer science PhD at Stanford University, delving into the intersection of AI and physics. During his undergraduate tenure, he explored diverse research areas, from enhancing large language models’ efficiency using physics principles to designing machine learning algorithms for automatic scientific theory discovery. Dugan’s accolades include MIT’s Outstanding Undergraduate Research Award, and he holds distinctions such as U.S. Presidential Scholar, Neo Scholar, and Knight-Hennessy Scholar. Notably, he has multiple patents to his credit, co-created an app combating food wastage, and built a startup focusing on authenticating digital images.

Kaylie Hausknecht pivots to MIT for her doctoral studies in physics after completing her undergraduate degrees in physics and astrophysics from Harvard University. Her prior research at Harvard was centered on innovating machine learning approaches to address challenges in various realms like fluid dynamics, astrophysics, and condensed matter physics. Hausknecht received the Hoopes Prize for her senior thesis, was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa in her junior year, and clinched two significant writing awards. She enriched her experience through five NASA internships, one of which led to the discovery of 301 new exoplanets utilizing Kepler Space Telescope archival data. Hausknecht also took on the role of co-president of Science Club for Girls at Harvard, aimed at motivating girls with diverse backgrounds to pursue STEM fields.

Elijah Lew-Smith pursued his undergraduate studies in physics at Brown University and aims to pursue a physics doctorate at MIT. He is a theoretical physicist with a keen interest in effective field theory (EFT), focusing on systems with multiple interacting degrees of freedom. In 2023, Lew-Smith was honored with a national award for his work applying EFT to non-equilibrium and dynamic systems such as fluctuating hydrodynamics or flocking birds. Additionally, he received a scholarship from the U.S. State Department, spent a year in Dakar, Senegal, and later studied at ’École Polytechnique in Paris, France.

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