The Williamson Medal is the highest student award presented each year at Franklin & Marshall’s Commencement. It is given to the member of the graduating class who has, during his or her senior year, reached the highest standing in character, leadership and scholarship. The medal was endowed by Owen Moon Jr., in memory of former Trustee Henry S. Williamson, and has been presented annually since 1922. This year, the Williamson Medal is awarded to Hailan Yu.
Hailan came to F&M from Beijing, China. She graduates summa cum laude with a major in biochemistry and molecular biology and a minor in psychology.
Hailan has tackled complex scientific questions in her academic research. In her most recent presentation at the April 2022 spring research fair, she synthesized holomycin and its derivatives, describing the role specific parts of the molecule play in its antibacterial activity and whether structural modification could improve its potency. In previous years, she has studied everything from proteins in two-day-old mouse brains, to the stability of coral proteins at high temperatures—a project that has implications for the health of coral reefs in warming oceans.
Hailan’s academic interests are not limited to the laboratory, however. She decided to minor in psychology purely out of interest in exploring a new field to broaden her intellectual horizons. She was a Marshall Fellow and used that funding to study tea culture, including the classification, processing and history of Chinese teas. Her studies culminated with a seminar open to the entire campus community in which Hailan made tea for all attendees. And only a month ago, she performed her senior recital as a talented soprano, singing 14 classical pieces after taking voice lessons for three years.
Hailan has been a member of the Asian Cultural Society for four years, serving as its president in 2021-22. Under her leadership, the group has hosted campuswide events such as a Lunar New Year celebration and has moderated discussions about how to support the Asian community on campus. She also is a member of the Black Pyramid Senior Honor Society. In addition, she has earned several academic honors and awards at Franklin & Marshall, including this year’s Rawnsley Science Prize and the Carl and Ellen Pike Biology Senior Prize. She also earned the best presentation award in the organic division at the 85th Annual Intercollegiate Student Chemists Convention.
Hailan was accepted into five prestigious graduate schools and has decided to pursue her doctoral degree in chemical biology this fall at the California Institute of Technology. She plans to become a research professor, investigating molecular solutions to human disease.
Hailan, your academic research that expands existing fields of knowledge, your absolutely outstanding record of scholarship and intellectual prowess, and your personification of the spirit of the liberal arts clearly demonstrate Franklin & Marshall College’s ideal of developing graduates of intellect, character and leadership. You represent not only the power of a liberal arts education, but all that makes Franklin & Marshall College such a special place. Congratulations!