Laura Blecha, a senior from Manhattan, Kan., has been awarded a Gates Cambridge Scholarship to study in England.
Blecha, 21, will study for a MPhil degree in physics at the University of Cambridge. A student in the Integrated Science Program at Northwestern, Blecha will receive a bachelor’s degree in physics and integrated science from Northwestern in June and begin her studies at Cambridge with 37 other Gates students in October.
The Gates Cambridge Scholarships, established by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2001, have been called the “Rhodes Scholarships” of Cambridge. The scholarships provide funding for a second bachelor’s degree or graduate study at the University of Cambridge.
Blecha, the daughter of Lynn and Alice Blecha and a graduate of Manhattan High School, was named the Outstanding Junior in Physics and Astronomy at Northwestern in 2004 and was inducted into Sigma Pi Sigma, the national physics honor society. She is a member of the Society of Physics Students and Sigma Alpha Iota, women’s music fraternity.
Her current research project is a study of the interactions of massive black holes with other stars in stellar clusters to determine whether the black holes will form mass-transferring binary systems.
After her studies at Cambridge, Blecha plans to enter a PhD program in the United States.
The Gates differs from many overseas competitions in that the student must apply both to the university and to the Gates Foundation. Students must be accepted by Cambridge before they are allowed to accept a Gates.
This includes university and college fees, maintenance allowance sufficient for a single student, contribution toward return airfare, and other discretionary allowances.
Gates Scholars from around the world study a wide range of subjects: arts, science, humanities, social science, technology and medicine. They work with distinguished faculty and other exceptional students from different countries and cultures.
To qualify for an award, applicants must be a graduating senior or graduate student in any field of study.
Blecha will be the third Northwestern graduate to attend Cambridge on a Gates Scholarship. The previous winners were Jessica Grahn in 2001 and Daniel Choate in 2002.