The Fannie and John Hertz Foundation Announces 2018 Fellows

March 26, 2018
Hertz Staff
Livermore, Calif

The Fannie and John Hertz Foundation, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to empowering America’s most brilliant minds in science, mathematics and engineering, today announced the 2018 recipients of the prestigious Hertz Fellowship. The 10 newest Hertz Fellows were chosen from nearly 700 applicants interested in pursuing graduate work in the United States. The 2018 class includes six women, the highest proportion of women of any class in the Foundation’s history, with Fellows’ research focusing on chemistry, electrical engineering, computer science, mathematics and physics.

“The 2018 fellowship awardees are an outstanding group of students, with diverse talents and an extraordinary drive to reach new heights in scientific research and technological innovation,”said Robbee Baker Kosak, president, Fannie and John Hertz Foundation.”We are delighted to welcome these six women and four men to the Hertz Community. They join the hundreds of Hertz Fellows who are leading important breakthroughs and developing some of the most important scientific and engineering solutions to challenges in our world today. We look forward to seeing what these 10 women and men contribute to that goal in the coming years.”

The Hertz Foundation is the only organization in the United States that supports PhD candidates for a full five years at one of the Foundation’s numerous partner institutions and grants students total research freedom, ensuring that each Fellow is able to pursue the most compelling, cutting-edge research. Members of Hertz’s 2018 class hail from eight different states and nine different undergraduate schools. Several of this year’s Fellows have already published papers in disciplines from biological chemistry to quantum computing.

“Hertz Fellows do extraordinary work and are truly changing the world, so our new Fellows are in fine company,” said Dr. David Galas, Hertz Fellow, chairman of The Fannie and John Hertz Foundation’s board of directors and Principal Scientist at the Pacific Northwest Research Institute. “The fellowship interviewers were amazed by the brilliance and creativity of these young people. I am confident their careers will have great impact on American and global science and technology.”

The Hertz Foundation’s 2018 Fellows currently attend leading U.S. universities and will pursue their PhD work at some of America’s most prestigious universities. The 2018 Hertz Fellowship recipients are:

Alexandra Brown – Alexandra is a first-year PhD student in chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is studying the reactivity and electronic structure of metal-chalcogenide clusters, with a goal of developing new industrial catalysts. Alexandra hails from Dublin, California.
Lillian (Lilly) Chin – Lillian is a first-year PhD student in electrical engineering and computer science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, developing designs, controls and algorithms for soft robotics. She was born in New York City.
Iris Cong – Iris is a first-year PhD student in physics at Harvard University, where her research interests include experimental exploration of quantum many-body dynamics and condensed matter physics. She is from Los Angeles, California.
Colin Defant – Colin is a first-year PhD student in mathematics at Princeton University, studying combinatorics and theoretical computer science, including the combinatorial properties of fundamental data types. Colin is from Tampa, Florida.
Sarah Hooper – Sarah is a first-year PhD student in electrical engineering at Stanford University, where she is developing new medical imaging devices and computational tools for better and more accessible diagnosis in domestic and global health contexts. Sarah is originally from Austin, Texas.
William Kuszmaul – William is a senior at Stanford University, completing a double major in mathematics and computer science. He is interested in using mathematical principles to develop faster algorithms. William grew up in Lexington, Massachusetts.
David Palmer – David is a first-year PhD student in computer science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, studying applied geometry under Hertz Fellow Justin Solomon. He hails from Deerfield, Illinois.
Dina Sharon – Dina is a researcher at D.E. Shaw Research, using molecular dynamics simulations in drug discovery. She hopes to spend her PhD developing novel enzymes for therapeutics and pharmaceutical manufacturing. Dina was born in New Jersey.
Ethan Sussman – Ethan is a senior at the Stanford, double majoring in mathematics and physics. His work spans the boundaries of these fields, probing quantum physics and string theory. He was born and raised in Los Angeles, California.
Gabrielle (Gabby) Tender – Gabby is a senior studying chemistry at Caltech. In graduate school, she plans on studying chemical biology applied to human health, particularly celiac and other autoimmune diseases. Gabby grew up in Bethesda, Maryland.

One of the new Fellows, Ethan Sussman, said he was excited to join the interdisciplinary community of Hertz Fellows. “It really is just a huge collection of individuals who are experts about any topic you could imagine, and that’s really cool,” he said. “I’m interested in interdisciplinary work between math and physics, so it’s nice that there are experts in just about any topic in physics and just about any topic in mathematics.”

Alexandra Brown, another new fellow, said she hoped the Hertz community would give her new perspectives on her research. “In chemistry you’re influenced by both physics and biology, but you don’t necessarily interact with people from those fields in your day to day life,” she said. “I’m excited to talk to people who I wouldn’t normally encounter and foster new connections between our ideas.”

The Fannie and John Hertz Foundation is the legacy of John Hertz, a Hungarian immigrant who made his fortune by capitalizing on the entrepreneurship prospects in the budding automotive industry. He believed that innovative and entrepreneurial solutions were vital to the strength, security and prosperity of our nation, and began the Foundation to support exceptionally talented students expected to have the greatest impact on the world’s problems. The Hertz Community is one of the most influential groups of leaders, innovators, engineers, mathematicians and scientists in the American corporate, university, national laboratory and military sectors. To date, Hertz Fellows collectively possess more than 3,000 patents, have founded more than 200 companies and have received more than 200 major national and international awards, including eight Breakthrough Prizes in Science, a Fields Medal, a Turing Award and two Nobel Prizes.

Fannie and John Hertz Foundation

The Fannie and John Hertz Foundation is a not-for-profit organization changing the world around us by granting freedom of American scientific research and innovation through fellowship and financial support. Celebrating 60 years in 2017, the Hertz Fellowship is the most exclusive fellowship program in the world. Our 1,200 Hertz Fellows are the leaders, shapers and disruptors of American science, engineering and mathematics. For more information on the Hertz Foundation and the innovations led by our Hertz Fellows please visit