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Environmental justice, AI and neuroethics are top of mind for Hasselmo Award co-winners

Two Augustana juniors, Lucas Fahnoe and Zack Horve, are the recipients of this year’s Nils Hasselmo Award for Academic Pursuit. Each winner will receive $2,750. 

The Hasselmo Award is given annually to an Augustana student(s) pursuing a career in research or higher education teaching. The award was established in 2011 by Dr. Nils Hasselmo '57 in recognition of the ways in which his Augustana education both informed and transformed his life and vocational calling. 

With majors representing fields in the humanities, social sciences and STEM, both of this year's winners will use their award money to assist them on their way to careers addressing some of the world’s most pressing concerns.

“I think the representation really shows how students across campus are passionate about pursuing a career in higher education and see this as a legitimate path to take," said Dr. Mariano Magalhães, coordinator of student research and creative scholarship. "In other words, it's not just our students in STEM who think about careers in academia.”

Lucas Fahnoe

Lucas Fahnoe '24

For Lucas Fahnoe, that means research in AI, neuroethics and/or philosophy of mind. He plans to pursue a doctorate in a field that incorporates both of his undergraduate fields — neuroscience and philosophy. The award money will fund his attendance at philosophy conferences and access to professionals in the fields of AI and neuroethics.

Fahnoe describes the field of philosophy, as a whole, as the highlight of his undergraduate studies. “The discovery of a discipline that takes the rational pursuit of knowledge so seriously … has been incredibly influential in my personal development, as well as my appreciation of and interest in the world," he said.

His philosophy professors noted that Fahnoe engaged their community with his insights on “the normativity of logic and the disputes about various artificial intelligence systems.” In the future, Fahnoe says he would like to apply what his faculty described as his exceptional attention to detail and deep commitment to living a life of the mind to work at a research institute, university or think tank.

Zack Horve '24

Zack Horve '24

Co-winner Zack Horve, with majors in environmental studies and geography, seeks to be a scholar of environmental justice. His ultimate goal for furthering his education is to equip himself to tackle the complex issues related to climate change and the environment.

Horve has proven to be a gifted intern for Augustana’s Upper Mississippi Center (UMC), contributing to community ecological projects including water quality testing, urban pond assessments and a lead service line inventory for Rock Island. His professors noted his skill at leading all phases of a research project on stormwater-fed ponds in nearby Moline — from design to sampling, analysis, interpretation, and sharing of findings in a report and presentation to the city. 

Versatile skills like Horve’s are nurtured by a liberal arts education. In his nomination letter, Horve said, “Augustana’s liberal arts education expanded my worldview, shaped my ambitions and pushed me to go further than I ever thought I could.”

With funds from the Hasselmo prize, he’ll continue to go further: become certified to fly drones for his UMC internship, collect field samples for Augustana’s herbarium and visit graduate schools. After Augustana, Horve plans to pursue a master’s in an interdisciplinary environmental studies program, towards a career in environmental management.

Genevieve Ryan '26 contributed to this article.

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