On Tuesday, May 5, Sophie Claudel '15 received the 2015 Frontis W. Johnston Thesis Award. Named for the first dean of the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies (CIS) at Davidson, the Frontis W. Johnston Thesis Award is given annually to the student whose thesis, in the judgment of the faculty of the center, is the most original work of scholarship among all the theses written, reveals breadth of learning as well as the advancement of a thesis, and is written in a style distinguished by its force and clarity.
Claudel is a double major, in neuroscience and public health, and completed two theses: "Recovery of Spatial Working Memory Following Bilateral Hippocampal Lesions in Rats" for neuroscience and "Understanding care for the most vulnerable: the influence of the social determinants of health on glycemic control at the Ada Jenkins free clinic" for public health. She received the Johnston award for both.
"Majoring in neuroscience allowed me to fully explore my passion for the natural sciences in a way that satisfied my desire to learn fine details of the human brain and their clinical applications through an investigation of a specific disease (Alzheimer's)," Claudel said. "My naturally detail-oriented personality thrived in designing and executing the controlled experimental design and numerous surgeries."
Psychology Professor and Department Chair Julio Ramirez, who served as Claudel's neuroscience adviser, praised Claudel's captivating and thought-provoking writing and research abilities.
"Claudel's mastery of the theoretical literature and sophisticated technology to address her research questions propelled the research effort in my laboratory into new territory that future students will continue exploring," Ramirez said.
In addition to her work in neuroscience, Claudel's volunteer work with the Free Clinic of Our Towns and her courses in medical humanities gave her a broader perspective on health and medicine, she said.
"Working on a public health thesis challenged me to shift my perspective from micro- to macro-level determinants of health and synthesize my understanding of scientific and social theory," she said.
Claudel is a native of Carmel Valley, CA. She will enter the Wake Forest University School of Medicine this fall.