Cornell University senior David L. Kaplan, of Swampscott, Mass., is the only Cornell student this year to win the prestigious Fannie and John Hertz Foundation Fellowship. The fellowship is a merit-based award for graduate work leading to a Ph.D. in an applied physical science.
The Hertz Fellowship provides $25,000 a year for five years. The Hertz Foundation holds a highly selective national competition for students with very high scholastic records, including at least a 3.75/4.00 grade point average during the last two years of undergraduate work . Students also are judged on factors such as extraordinary accomplishment in technical or related professional studies, creativity, perseverance, energy and innovativeness. Of qualified applicants, only about one in 15 nation-wide wins a fellowship, and only 25 fellowships were awarded this year. The foundation is named for John Hertz, the founder of Hertz Rent A Car, an Austrian immigrant who was also a founder of Yellow Cab.
"David has been the most energetic undergraduate I have known," said James Cordes, professor of astronomy and Kaplan's undergraduate research adviser. "He is fun to work with and is smart and diverse. David has been completely driven to get experience using all kinds of telescopes, including Palomar Mountain and Arecibo, and has taken tremendous advantage of all the experiences that Cornell can offer him. I expect him to be a big name in the world of astronomy and astrophysics in the years to come."
Kaplan, the son of Marion and Joel Kaplan of Swampscott, majors in applied engineering physics in the College of Engineering but has been conducting research in radio astronomy since his freshman year, focusing on pulsars and quasars. His senior thesis discusses his work with Cordes and James Condon at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico on a large-scale radio survey of the sky, including enigmatic sources such as neutron stars and high-red shift galaxies, using radio,
infra-red and optical telescopes, and the discovery of at least 12 new planetary nebulae, glowing shells of gas around very hot stars. The work on planetary nebulae is with Yervant Terzian, professor of astronomy and chair of the astronomy department.
Kaplan said that the research team he has been studying with believes it has discovered 70 new quasars, the most distant of celestial objects, of "an interesting sort." He is the co-author of three -- and first author of one -- published papers in Astrophysics Journal Supplement.
The recipient of a Goldwater Fellowship and the Astronomical Society of New York Undergraduate Award in 1998, Kaplan's GPA is a 3.977; he has made Dean's List every semester. Kaplan, who was offered fellowships at Harvard, Princeton, University of California at Berkeley and at the California Institute of Technology, has decided to attend Cal Tech for his doctorate and will be supported by the Hertz fellowship primarily, with additional money from the Leighton Fellowship, funded by Gordon Moore, the founder of Intel.