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December 7, 2006

Pitt senior wins Marshall Scholarship

Pitt students are continuing to distinguish themselves with national academic honors. Since 1980, Pitt honors students have won more Marshall and Rhodes Scholarships than any other college or university in Pennsylvania, private or public.

The most recent to be added to the roll is senior Anna Quider. An Honors College student majoring in physics and astronomy, history and philosophy of science and religious studies, Quider has been named a 2007 Marshall Scholar. She is the ninth Pitt student to win the prestigious Marshall Scholarship, and is the lone Marshall winner from a Pennsylvania college or university this year.

In mid-November, senior Daniel Armanios received a 2007 Rhodes Scholarship. Only eight universities — Pitt, Yale, Harvard, Princeton, New York University, Georgetown, Duke and Cornell — and the three service academies had students selected for both Rhodes and Marshall Scholarships this year.

More flexible than a Rhodes Scholarship, which requires study at Oxford University, the Marshall Scholarship guarantees access to any British university for two or three years of funded study toward a degree.

Quider said her aim was to study at Cambridge because of its reputation in her chosen field. “For what I want — extragalactic astrophysics — Cambridge has arguably the best program in the world,” she said. In addition, she has some Pitt connections waiting for her there. A former graduate student from her quasar research group, Daniel Nestor, with whom she has collaborated on several publications, has a postdoctoral position at Cambridge. And former Pitt professor Cyril Hazard is an emeritus professor at Cambridge’s Institute of Astronomy.

Noting Pitt’s connections to one of the world’s powerhouses in her field, Quider said it was her interest in astrophysics that initially led her to Pitt for her undergraduate work.

Quider said she knew she wanted to do research and to study astrophysics and that Pitt is one of the few universities that offer astrophysics for undergraduates.

She recently marked her fourth anniversary in Pitt’s Quasar Research Group in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, where she works with adviser David Turnshek and research assistant professor Sandhya Rao.

Her interest in astrophysics was sparked in eighth grade when she learned that the universe is expanding. “That was so phenomenal to me,” she said, adding that she later learned that what she was interested in really was called physics.

Quider said she’d ultimately like to work in an observational area of the field — actually using telescopes. She also has interests in the large-scale structure of how the universe is evolving as a whole.

“I’m very fortunate to find my thing early,” she said, adding that with her diverse interests she wasn’t certain that she’d immediately find the one passion she wanted to pursue. “It’s the one thing I get so excited about.”

She confesses that she got so pumped up after conversation at a celebratory dinner party last weekend turned to the topic of Stephen Hawking’s book, “A Brief History of Time,” that she was up until 3 a.m., unable to sleep. “I’m excited to talk about science,” she said.

Quider has guest-lectured in honors physics classes and for students in the School of Arts and Sciences’ First Experiences in Research program. And, for the past several years, while home in western New York on spring and summer breaks, she has educated local elementary school students about astronomy.

Pitt Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg, in a prepared release, stated, “My first opportunity to meet with Chancellor’s Scholar Anna Quider and to discuss her work in physics and astronomy came last year when she was chosen as a Goldwater Scholar. I was struck by the sheer breadth of her interests,” he said.

“Selection as a Marshall Scholar is testament to her record of superb performance and academic excellence. It also is a tribute to the strength of our Honors College and a clear reflection of the high priority that Pitt attaches to excellence in undergraduate education.”

Honors College Dean Alec Stewart added, “Anna combines vast technical ability in physics and astronomy with an unbridled enthusiasm for science literacy and outreach with young children. It is difficult to imagine a more desirable combination for future leadership in a technological age.”

The British Parliament created the Marshall Scholarship in honor of Gen. George C. Marshall as thanks for assistance received from the United States after World War II.

The Marshall Scholarship is one of the most competitive and prestigious merit scholarships available to graduating American seniors. Quider is among 43 students from 37 colleges and universities across the country selected for this year’s honor.

—Kimberly K. Barlow

Filed under: Feature,Volume 39 Issue 8

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