Swarthmore College: Fellowships and Prizes
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Email Christina Dubb (cdubb1-at-swarthmore.edu), Chair of Swarthmore College Fellowships and Prizes Committee to obtain information about fellowship and prize options, deadlines, and applications. Email Joanna Nealon (jnealon1-at-swarthmore.edu) for copies of applications.
Check official websites for Watson, Marshall, Rhodes, Mitchell, Churchill, Gates Cambridge, Fulbright, and Jack Kent Cooke information. Many applications can be completed online or downloaded from these sites. These applications are generally due between early September and October and do not usually require GRE scores.
Swarthmore students and alums have won some of these fellowships. Feel free to contact them from the list of Swarthmore Fellowships and Prizes Awardee Profiles below.
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Here is a list of Swathmore winners of a variety of fellowships and prizes with blurbs about their experiences and contact information. Don't hesitate to email them with any questions.
If you are a fellowship nominee, alternate, finalist, or winner who would like to post a blurb or revise what you have written here, please email Robin Smith '03 (robinleslie-at-alum.swarthmore.edu).
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Elcin Akcura '03
Swarthmore Fellowship recipient 2003 for graduate study at Oxford University
Elizabeth Anderson '05
Mitchell scholarship recipient 2005
Mary Campbell '03 (irmgardkeun-at-gmx.net)
Fulbright scholarship recipient to Warsaw, Poland 2003-4
Erica Cartmill '03 (Erica_Cartmill-at-alum.swarthmore.edu)
Fulbright scholarship recipient to Poland 2003-4
Vernon Chaplin '07 (vchapli1-at-swarthmore.edu)
Goldwater Scholarship recipient 2005
I decided to apply for the Goldwater Scholarship in the fall of my sophomore year at Swarthmore after hearing about it from one of the emails from the fellowships and prizes office. The Goldwater is a scholarship rather than a fellowship, meaning that I don't get to go anywhere or do anything--instead the foundation will pay part of my tuition during my last two years in college. I made the decision to apply because I felt that I fit the candidate profile well and would have a legitimate chance to be chosen for a scholarship. Grades are a large factor in the decision process, but it was also very important that I had done meaningful research through an REU program the summer before. This research was the basis for several essays and paragraphs that I had to write for the application, and I think that it was what really made my application stand out. Completing the application was pretty much work, so it helped that my course load was slightly easier than usual that semester. That said, it was definitely worth the trouble. I think the most important thing in the application is to really convey a passion for the work you have done and for the areas of science in which you have interests.
The first step of the selection process was an interview at Swarthmore with several science faculty. After the interviews four candidates were chosen to be Swarthmore's nominees for the national scholarship competition. After my interview, Michael Brown kindly offered to help me with my essay. His advice was invaluable in helping me to connect my research on interstellar dust to larger issues in astronomy.
I found out that I had been selected in early April. If you are at all interested in applying for a Goldwater Scholarship, I recommend downloading the application from the scholarship website and looking over the questions to get a feel for what is required. If possible don't wait until your junior year, because if you win as a sophomore you get to reap the benefits for two years instead of one.
- May 2005
Matt Fiedler '06 (mfiedle1-at-swarthmore.edu)
Truman scholarship recipient 2005
Ben Geller '01 (bdavidgeller-at-yahoo.com)
masters program in Philosophy of Science at Columbia; 2003-4 Fulbright for CAS in theoretical physics at St. Catherine's College, Cambridge University; teaching physics at Columbia; physics PhD program in fall 2005
Youngmee Hahn '05 (youngmee.hahn-at-gmail.com)
Fulbright teaching grant in Russia, 2005 recipient
First of all I'd better preface this by saying I applied for a teaching Fulbright, which in my opinion requires a pretty different approach from applying for a research grant. My project proposal wasn't anything special and certainly not particularly academically rigorous (I applied for a teaching grant so my project was pretty much already determined for me, that is, teaching English). I think the reason why it worked for me is mainly that I made it very clear that I fully believed in and was completely personally dedicated to this project. Applying for a teaching grant is more like applying for a job than it is like applying for a grant (in my experience anyway)--it's really important to show that you're dedicated to teaching.
One more tip, specifically for those applying to go to Russia--not all countries hold second-round interviews, but Russia happens to be one of the few that do. Don't worry too much about it. The interviews are in Russian. Don't worry too much about that either. Even if your Russian is rudimentary at best (like mine was at the time), don't panic (like I did). Go find one of the Russian faculty (Kira Fedchak is a great person to go to, but I'm sure Sibelan Forrester would also be happy to help) and ask them to hold a mock interview with you, ask you questions, etc. For the research grant, your Russian really should be quite good and you should be able to conduct the whole interview in Russian; for the teaching grant there's quite a bit more leeway, and I ended up doing about the first half in Russian, and then, when things got too complicated for me to understand, we switched to English. In both cases the interviews started out with more personal questions about extracurriculars, personal interests etc. (a friend of mine applied for a research grant to Russia so we compared notes later), and then moved into talking about the project proposals. If you, like me, are applying for a teaching grant and have not-so-great Russian skills, the interviewer may express some concern about your language proficiency. Do not let this be the final word of the interview. I pretty much insisted (after, of course, acknowledging that my Russian was not so great but then come on, I'd only had a semester's worth of intensive Russian here by that point) that I was confident in my ability to learn languages quickly, pointed out that I still had a whole semester of Russian to learn between the interview and the beginning of the grant period, and that I was planning on taking an intensive summer Rusian language course if I felt by the end of the school year that my Russian still needed work. Apparently it was convincing, because they ended up giving me the grant--unfortunately I had to turn it down for medical reasons, but applying was still a highly rewarding process and I think the fact that I learned so much about myself and my own interests made it worth it, even though I couldn't accept the grant. If you have any questions about the application process, please feel free to email me at youngmee.hahn-at-gmail.com. I'd be happy to answer your questions or tell you more about my experiences with the application process. - May 2005
David Jones '93 (dj.at.yvr att gmail dotNOJUNKcom)
After Swat, I was fortunate enough to receive a Churchill scholarship and studied one year in Cambridge for an M.Phil (by research) in Engineering. I then went to MIT and received my PhD in Electrical Engineering in 1998. In hindsight, I would have taken off ~1 year off between Swat and grad school as I was completely burned out when I finished. Subsequently, I went to JILA in Boulder CO as a post-doc for two years and had an extremely rewarding time in and out of the lab. Joining the lemming telecom crowd of late 1990s-2000, I went to work for a startup. But then I quickly saw the writing on the wall and after 1 year returned to JILA as a research scientist on soft money. One of the biggest problems I found in industry was substantially amount of pressure placed on the integrity of research (and my work in particular). After another 2 years at JILA, I took a tenure track position as a physics professor at University of British Columbia. I consider the area where I live to be nearly tantamount to everything else, and my choices as a post-swat really enabled me to follow this path. I also consider myself very lucky to have been able to rejoin the academia path and end up as a professor. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me...and good luck! www.physics.ubc.ca/~djjones - May 2005
Jacob Krich '00 (jkrich-at-alum.swarthmore.edu)
I graduated in 2000 and have been studying math at Oxford University on a Rhodes Scholarship for the three years since. I finished my MMath (yes, an odd name for a degree) in June 2003 and started working on my PhD in condensed matter physics at Harvard in Fall 2003.
Anyone who has any questions about taking a detour is welcome to ask and I suppose I can also let people know what it's like to transition back to the physics world. - May 2003
Matt Landreman '03 (mlandre1-at-sccs.swarthmore.edu)
summer 2003 research at University of Minnesota, Rhodes scholarship physics research at Oxford, currently traveling in South Africa for March-May 2005
Emery Ku '05 (emery-at-sccs.swarthmore.edu)
Fulbright scholarship recipient 2005 to England
Charlie Mayer '98 (CMayer-at-npr.org)
Luce scholarship recipient 2005
Matt Miller '04 (mmiller1-at-gmail.com)
2004-5 Fulbright in Iceland 2004-2005
I began my senior year at Swarthmore not knowing what I would do the next year. I thought graduate school was somewhere in my future, but it definitely didn't appear to be thing I would do right after graduation. In fact, I wasn't even sure what I would study in grad school. Would it be physics, astrophysics, or planetary science? And what kind of research would I pursue? Certainly, during the summer between my junior and senior year I had given much thought to these questions, and, in some cases, I came up with some answers. I knew I wanted to explore the earth sciences more and conduct astronomy research in fields in which I had no experience. Grad school did not seem like the right place to do this exploration, so I looked into various fellowship programs and decided that a Fulbright to Iceland would be a good place to start to think about my future career in science.
On the whole, my Fulbright was an excellent science and cultural experience. During my time in Iceland, I had the opportunity to take classes in geophysics, glaciology, volcanology, and various other earth science subjects that I never had the time to explore at Swarthmore. I also had the time to be involved in some interesting research projects, like mapping earthquake fractures and measuring the gravity anomaly of a volcano. Furthermore, I was able to match my physics and astronomy training at Swarthmore with some new earth science topics by turning a few class assignments towards my own interests, such as volcanoes on Io and glaciers on Mars. Personally, I often found the rigorous physics curriculum at Swarthmore a little stifling at times, and, for me, the Fulbright was the chance to finally pursue these extra academic interests. It was also a chance to live abroad for the first time. (I also didn't think I had time for a foreign exchange program while I was at Swarthmore.)
As a Fulbrighter, you should expect freedom and flexibility to pursue the goals you present in your grant proposal. Once you receive your grant, no one will be checking to make sure you do everything you said you would do in your grant proposal, but you are expected to be responsible and productive with your grant. In each host country, there is a Fulbright office that is there to help you achieve your project goals in any way possible. In Iceland, the Fulbright Commission organized cultural events and dinners in addition to helping grantees with basic things like registering for classes and finding the cheapest grocery store. That said, there isn't too much pressure to work on your project all the time. After all, the heart of the Fulbright mission is cultural exchange, and you should feel like you have plenty of time to engage in cultural activities, make friends, and travel around your host country.
Because a large part of your Fulbright experience will be cultural exchange, you should be prepared to be a cultural ambassador for the United States. Sometimes this part of the exchange is fun, mostly because you get to be the intelligent, well-spoken, and passionate American some foreigners don't know exist. At other times, dealing with an overbearing image of America and Americans is difficult and frustrating. I particularly enjoyed being abroad during a hotly contested U.S. presidential election. Icelanders are especially interested in American politics and culture, and this was even more evident in the weeks coming up to the election. For a good two/three weeks before the election, any Icelander (grocery store clerks, bartenders, hairdressers, professors, etc.) who suspected that I might be an American asked me who I was voting for, who I thought would win, and what I thought would happen if Bush or Kerry won.
Overall, I really enjoyed my Fulbright experience in Iceland. I ate the best salmon in the world at least twice a week, went hiking on glaciers and volcanoes, met lots of interesting people, and had the time to think about and do some interesting science. If you are thinking about applying for a Fulbright Grant, be aware that a successful application may take months of work. Therefore, I recommend you start the application process early, preferably during the summer before your senior year at Swarthmore (if you plan to do a Fulbright directly after graduation). If you're planning a research-oriented Fulbright object, there are some extra things you might have to do to make your application successful. For instance, you might need to contact researchers abroad, ask them if they're interested in pursuing research with you, and then later obtain a letter from the researchers abroad confirming that you will be working with them. In any case, start thinking about the Fulbright early, come up with an interesting but feasible project, and then go talk to the chairperson of the Fellowships & Prizes Committee at Swarthmore. He or she will have lots to say about your project and will do everything possible to help you create a successful application. - April 2005
Arun Mohan '00 (arunmohan-at-alum.swarthmore.edu)
Soros Recipient 2005
I first heard about the Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship as a third-year medical student at Emory University. The Fellowship supports immigrants or children of immigrants that demonstrate (1) creativity, originality, and initiative, demonstrated in any area of her/his life; (2) a commitment to and capacity for accomplishment, demonstrated through activity that has required drive and sustained effort; and (3) a commitment to the values expressed in the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. As someone that was deeply involved in issues of expanding access to healthcare, I thought I would be a good fit. As it turns out, though, there is one catch - applicants should not be beyond their second year of study in a graduate program.
A few months later, I made the decision to pursue an MBA as part of my graduate education, also at Emory. This put me back in the eligibility pool for the Fellowship and I decided to take the risk of applying.
The application process consists of an application that includes two essays, letters of recommendation, and, potentially, an interview. Each year, the selection committee receives 1000 or so applications for 30 Fellowships. After a series of initial cuts, 84 people are invited for an interview.
I spent more time on the essays than I'd ever spent on admissions essays. The result were two deeply personal essays that reflected who I saw myself as - past, present and future.
After a few months of submitting the application, I was fortunate enough to receive an interview. The interview consists of two half hour interviews with a panel of three or four "Distinguished New Americans."
The interviews are modeled after the Rhodes and Marshall interviews, with significantly less emphasis placed on embarrassing applicants. Instead, the process is meant to put applicants at ease and learn more about them on paper.
I prepared by brainstorming questions and answers, collecting stories that I could map these answers two, and participating in two mock interviews by mentors.
In the end, the preparation proved successful. I heard in March (applications were due in November) that I'd received the Fellowship and the support (financial and otherwise) it provides.
Background info: The Fellowship provides half-tuition for two-years of graduate study and a living stipend of $20,000/year. There are no restrictions on how that funding can be used and the Fellowship is open to graduate study in any field, though it is dominated by medicine and law.
- May 2005
Michael Morse '03 (mdmorse-at-alum.swarthmore.edu)
Jack Kent Cooke nominee 2005
Although I have know for a few years that I would pursue medicine as a career, it was only in the last two years?since graduation?that I realized that I would like to focus my work on underserved populations. After graduating from Swat in 2003, I spent a year working as a Mental Health Counselor with pediatric psychiatric patients at Riverside Hospital in Washington, DC. The patients with whom I worked were from the most socioeconomically isolated margins of the city, and I saw how much their poverty contributed to their struggle to receive adequate care.
In June of 2004, I moved to Israel. I have spent this past year studying Jewish texts, volunteering in a community mental health center that serves Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Jewish patients, and volunteering with Israeli-Palestinian coexistence organizations. Since Haredi Jews and Palestinians are among the poorest populations of Israel and Palestine, I again had the opportunity to work with marginalized patients and to see how this marginalization reduces their access to quality care.
After being accepted to medical school in the spring of 2005, I began looking into how I would finance my clinical education. Focused on serving patients who cannot afford to pay me a nickel, I was particularly interested in a way to reduce my medical school debt. The JKC scholarship, which would pay for much of my medical school costs, seemed ideal. While the essay requirements may seem daunting, I found that recruiting my girlfriend and friends from Swat as editors was quite helpful. My conversations with Christina Dubb were also instrumental in helping me to tailor my thoughts and essays.
If you do choose to apply, I would recommend that you take advantage of peer editors and the Swarthmore Writing Center. Whatever your future line of work, if you do have a commitment to serving disadvantaged populations, tell your story in a way that highlights this commitment. And if you have overcome significant challenges to get to where you are, make sure to include that too.
I can be reached at mdmorse-at-alum.swarthmore.edu with questions. - May 2005
Tafadzwe Muguwe '05
Rhodes scholarship recipient 2005
Jayanti Owens '06 (jowens1-at-swarthmore.edu)
2005 Truman scholarship finalist and 2005 Mellon Mays scholarship recipient
Emiliano Rodriguez '05 (erodrig1-at-swarthmore.edu)
Watson scholarship recipient 2005
Kevin Setter '02 (kevinsetter-at-yahoo.com)
Jack Kent Cook scholarship recipient, used for Part III Mathematical Tripos at Cambridge University and then grad school in theoretical physics at Caltech
Robin Smith '03 (robinleslie-at-alum.swarthmore.edu)
Fulbright quantum optics research at ENS Cachan, France 2003-4; Swarthmore Fellowship for postgrad theoretical physics study at Cambridge University, 2004 (see website)
Marissa Vahlsing '06 (mvahlsi1-at-swarthmore.edu)
Truman Scholarship recipient 2005
I first heard about the Truman scholarship when the former fellowships advisor (Monique Borque) sent around an email to the class of 2006 advertising a scholarship that awarded students with extensive backrounds in public service and strong academic credentials. At the meeting, I talked with Shelly Costa, an english professor and a former Truman scholar, and she encouraged me to apply. I went into the process bearing two facts in mind that seemed to fit the bill for a Truman applicant: 1) I was one of those swat students who was so involved in campus organizations and off campus volunteer work that my friends hardly ever saw me, and 2) I spent enough time in Mccabe to have a pretty good GPA. With that, I also knew that I would be spending the full academic year abroad. Thus, I spent the summer working on my Truman application. One thing that really helped me with my application over the summer was looking at the sample essays that they posted on the website and taking into consideration the criticisms that they wrote about the essays they found problems with. I used these comments as my parameters. When the time came to apply for the swarthmore nomination in November, I was already abroad in Tanzania and felt as though I was more or less throwing my application into the wind. When the selection panel called me for my interview in Tanzania, I was sick with Malaria and delirious for the entire interview. Somehow this must have been compelling to the selection panel because I recieved the nomination. From there I didn't expect much. I remained in contact with Christina Dubb and she did her best to advise me via email. Months later, I found out that I was a finalist, and flew home for the interview. I felt better at the interview session when I learned that most of the finalists were completely jet-lagged as well. The interview was intense. I still believe that the only thing that got me through the interview was tkaing a position and sticking too it, without looking parochial about it. They wanted to see conviction but also the ability to think in complex terms. There was definately a 'good cop' and a 'bad cop' on the interview panel. Speaking with confidence and viewing all of the panelists as peers rather than authority figures, (and doing this respectfully) was the only way I kept my confidence up even as the bad cop tried to intimidate me. I did this while also trying to let my emotions show. I knew that they didn't want just another cardboard cut-out perfect student. I came out of the interview thinking that they either really hated me or really loved me. Until the day that I found out I was a Truman scholar I was completely unsure which one it was. In the end, I am still shocked at how this all turned out. 6 months ago I simply thought I was throwing my application into the wind...and now I am a Truman scholar. - May 2005
Email from Monique announcing scholarship: April 15 2004
Application due to Swarthmore: Early November 2004
Interview with Swarthmore Selection panel: Early December 2004
Truman Final App due: Feb 7th 2005
Truman Finalists announced: Feb 22nd 2005
Finalist Interview in Philly: March 11th 2005
Notification that I won, in an email from Christina Dubb: March 22nd 2005
Nick Ward '05 (nward-at-sccs.swarthmore.edu)
Churchill scholarship nominee 2005
Ursula Whitcher '03 (ursula at math dot washington dot edu)
Swarthmore Fellowship winner 2003 for graduate study in the math PhD program at the University of Washington.
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Swarthmore Fellowships and Prizes Awardee Profiles: Alphabetically by Scholarship
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Graduate Research Fellowships
Graduate research fellowships give you much more flexibility in choosing a graduate school and in doing what you want there (since you have independent funding, potential research advisors don't need to worry about finding grant money to pay you!). Some (such as NSF and NDSEG) accept applications from not only graduating seniors but graduate students as well.
The NSF offers graduate research fellowships upwards of $21,500/year for three years. Talk to faculty members here about whether you should apply, and start your application in advance: it requires four time-consuming essays, and the application is usually due around the same time as the Physics GRE. The good news is, this application requires a lot more work than actual grad school applications, so you'll be prepared. You don't hear back until April, so be patient. (They usually plan to report NSF awardees before 15 April when commitments to grad schools must be made.) And if you don't get one the first time around, you can apply again as a graduate student.
Swat physics alum Cameron Geddes '97 received a Hertz fellowship. Mike Seifert '01 and Slava Lukin '00 received NSF fellowships in 2002, and Kevin Setter '02 received a Jack Kent Cooke fellowship in 2002. Ursula Whitcher '03 received a Swarthmore Fellowship in 2003. Lisa Larrimore '02 received an NSF fellowship in 2004. Mark Romanowsky '03 received an NDSEG fellowship in 2005, and Robin Smith '03 received an ALFP in 2005.
Here are some links providing information about the NSF and other graduate fellowships:
See the Post-Swat Plans for Swat Astro/Physics Students website for information about graduate fellowships and astro/physics grad school.
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Swarthmore College Fellowships and Prizes
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Comments for revision and addition are appreciated. Please email Robin Smith (robinleslie-at-alum.swarthmore.edu).
Website updated 27 May 2005 by Robin Smith.