November 9, 2015

Where are they now? The first 15 Seaborg Scholarship Recipients

In the Winter of 1994, Sweden & America magazine followed up with former award recipients on the 15-year anniversary of the first Seaborg Award. The full article can be accessed here.

The following is an excerpt from the article:

While none of the past Seaborg winners meet or correspond with each other, their responses to a Swedish Council questionnaire exhibit three unifying features: a commitment to education, an interest in their Swedish heritage, and a relishing of their Nobel trip memories.

The Seaborg Award winners who responded to the questionnaire have continued their academic work beyond undergraduate education, receiving M.A.’s, Ph.D.’s, or M.D.’s. Their specialities are in an impressive array of subject areas: toxicology, science journalism, oncology/head and neck surgery, applied economics/social policy research, ophthalmology, organic chemistry, brain tumor chemotherapy/nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, radiology/abdominal imaging, and lanthinide and actinide chemistry (the area of chemistry for which Glenn Seaborg received the Nobel Prize).

Though the receipt of the Seaborg award is not the sole reason for the awardees’ pursuits of higher degrees, their experiences in Sweden were motivating factors. Each recipient cites impressions of “academic excellence” as they met the Nobel laureates.

Ellen Eliason Kisker, the first Seaborg awardee, describes learning “that people with such great achievements or important positions are people, suggesting to me that high aspirations are reasonable.” Those high aspirations are not confined to a future in the physical sciences; Kisker went on to receive her Ph.D. in economics, emphasizing social policy research in relation to disadvantaged children. Janet Jessup (1982 awardee) notes a deeper appreciation for the collaborative aspects of scientific research that “span the globe and transcend cultural differences.”

Developing a greater interest in their Swedish heritage is another common theme among the Seaborg winners.David Johnson (1983 awardee) has returned to Sweden to visit relatives and to see other parts of the country. Mark Jensen (1989 awardee) has gained a love for spoken Swedish and is delving into his family history. And for Melissa Nelson Terpstra (1991 awardee), the one-week stay in Sweden was long enough to get to know her relatives so well that a distant Swedish cousin visited the United States and spent six months with Melissa and her husband.

The combination of academics, travel, and ceremony created an atmosphere from which each Seaborg winner could take home something different. Daniel Todd (1990 awardee) describes the trip as the highlight of his life. Carl Carlson (1986 awardee) was able to visit historic Uppsala University, where a relative of his taught in 1802; Eric Lindgren (1984 awardee) remembers the elegant formality of the Nobel dinner in Stockholm’s City Hall; and Kathryn Blomquist MacNeil (1985 awardee) recalls having dinner with Dr. Glenn Seaborg. Others related memories of meeting the King and Queen, attending a Lucia festival, and experiencing the magical atmosphere of Stockholm’s Gamla Stan at Christmas.

Since its inception fifteen years ago, the Glenn T. Seaborg Nobel Travel Award has already produced a legacy of excellence that appropriately honors its namesake. Not only does it reward a student’s current academic achievement, it instills a pride in education and heritage that remains lifelong with the recipient. This rare glimpse at the pillars of science ensures a lasting place for Swedish Americans in the world of discovery.

Where are they now?