2015 Walt and Bobbi Makous Prize Awardees

April 30, 2015

This year's recipients of the 2015 Walt and Bobbi Makous Prize:

  • Zoe Pruitt, a Brain & Cognitive Sciences/Studio Art major working in Dr. Rachel Wu's laboratory
  • Jungeun (Jenny) Won, a Biomedical Engineering major working in Dr. Jannick Rolland's laboratory

Zoe and Jenny will receive award certificates (and checks for $895) at a College-wide award ceremony on Saturday, May 16.

Below are descriptions of their research and other accomplishments.

Zoe Pruitt

Zoe Pruitt

Zoe's research investigates how we learn to attend. Specifically, she is interested in how we develop category knowledge and use this knowledge to guide our attention. In one study, she showed that people who diet more have stronger representations of healthy vs unhealthy food (because dieting necessitates strict boundaries). Moreover, consistent dieters activate these category representations by 200ms even when the categories are irrelevant, such as when searching for a specific food item. In another study, she showed that we can use feature regularities, such as correlation, to bind features into novel objects and objects into novel categories, and use these unitized novel object and category representations by 200ms. Both of these studies have resulted in two manuscripts under review in high-ranking academic journals, and two conference presentations. She is now interested in investigating how this ability develops from childhood and how it potentially declines in aging adults.

Broadly speaking, "learning to attend" is related to "learning to see", an interesting skill often developed when learning fine art. Zoe merges her major in Studio Art with her major in Brain and Cognitive Science and her minor in Psychology to better understand the underlying mechanisms involved in finding relevant information. During her junior year, she studied graphic design at the Danish School for Study Abroad to better understand how visual designers purposefully direct the viewer's gaze.

Zoe has been recognized on the Dean's List every semester of her college career and receives multiple merit-based scholarships. Beyond academics, she dances in the Sihir Belly Dance Ensemble- performing in biannual shows, choreographing, and designing posters. She is also a purple belt and trains with the University's Tae Kwon Do club.

Zoe is honored to receive the Makous Prize and extends thanks to the Center for Visual Science for making the award available. She is also grateful for her supervisor, Dr. Rachel Wu, whose guidance makes Zoe's research possible.

Jungeun (Jenny) Won

Jenny Won

Jungeun (Jenny) Won is a biomedical engineering major with a minor in optics. She is interested in interfacing technologies with medicine and contributing to the improvement of human health using light. She has been deeply intrigued by the development of high-resolution imaging techniques that would extend the range of early diagnosis and primary care. Since her sophomore year, she joined Dr. Jannick Rolland’s lab at the Institute of Optics, and started several optical diagnostic projects that employed Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT). The projects include skin cancer diagnosis, optimization of Gabor-Domain Optical Coherence Microscope (GD-OCM) system, and corneal imaging.

During the summer of 2014, Jenny had a prestigious opportunity to completely immerse herself in research as a Xerox Engineering Fellow. In addition, she was also a part of the Center for Visual Science undergraduate summer research program, where she learned recent researches in neuroscience, cognitive science, and biomedical optics from faculty members. Her research explores the effect of edge-thickness of soft contact lens in comfort by providing precise measurement of the edge-thickness using GD-OCM. She has developed an automated algorithm that accurately computes the edge-thickness of contact lens and displays the thickness profile. During her senior year, she was chosen to present a poster on her research at Frontiers in Optics (FiO) in Tucson, AZ, and the annual meeting of Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) in San Antonio, TX. Currently, she prospects to submit her first co-authored publication that elaborates her findings.

Jenny has had a strong academic career, and also served as a tutor and teaching assistant for various courses at the biomedical engineering department. She is looking forward to continuing her research career and achieving her next goal. In the fall, she will enroll in University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) for bioengineering PhD program. Upon completion of the degree, she would like to look into academia.