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McCormick School Student Named Churchill Scholar

Honor will support graduate studies in physics at the University of Cambridge

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January 25, 2010 | by Megan Fellman
Kelsey Stoerzinger is the seventh Churchill Scholar from Northwestern. For the last two years she has conducted nanoscience research in the lab of professor Teri Odom. Photo by Peter Barreras

EVANSTON, Ill. --- The Winston Churchill Foundation has awarded Northwestern University senior Kelsey Stoerzinger a Churchill Scholarship to pursue graduate studies at the University of Cambridge.

Stoerzinger, the seventh Churchill Scholar from Northwestern, was selected from among 81 nominees for the 14 scholarships available. Eligible universities, consisting of the top schools in the nation, are allowed to nominate only two qualified applicants. Nominees must display high academic achievement and the capacity to contribute to the advancement of knowledge in their field.

"I am beyond ecstatic," said Stoerzinger, a senior in materials science and engineering in the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science and a native of Inver Grove Heights, Minn. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity on so many fronts. I am looking forward to being part of an international community of scientists at an 800-year-old institution with so much history in physics."

The Churchill Scholarship provides one year of support for a postgraduate degree in engineering, mathematics or the sciences at Cambridge, including all tuition and fees, airfare and a living allowance. Stoerzinger will be based in the physics department, working toward a research-based Master of Philosophy degree.

For the last two years, since her sophomore year, Stoerzinger has conducted nanoscience research in the lab of Northwestern professor Teri W. Odom. In her work with nanopyramids, Stoerzinger has investigated ways to assemble them in a controlled manner and studied how they behave when irradiated with light. She has studied using nanopyramids irradiated with near-infrared light as localized therapeutic agents to help kill breast cancer cells.

"In nanoscience, there are so many new ways to image and study materials and learn how things work at different scales," said Stoerzinger, a talented musician who came to Northwestern as a prospective oboe major. "Quantum dots are particularly cool because a small difference in size, say a difference in diameter of just a few nanometers, results in a big difference in properties."

She is particularly excited about conducting research using a helium-3 spin-echo spectrometer. The state-of-the-art instrument uses the electron spin of the helium atom to measure the surface of a material on the subnanometer length and nanosecond timescales.

"Kelsey is spectacular," Odom said. "She has been one of the most effective undergraduate students I've had in my lab. She is very conscientious and pays attention to details, which is extremely important. Kelsey makes the natural leaps or connections necessary to make progress in research."

Odom is associate professor of chemistry and Dow Chemical Company Research Professor in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. She also holds an appointment in McCormick's department of materials science and engineering.

As a sophomore, Stoerzinger took her first nanoscience class, which was taught by Odom. "She was far and away the best student, both in understanding the material and in her hands-on work," Odom said. "So I approached Kelsey and recruited her to my lab. She has been a very important part of our team."

After Cambridge, Stoerzinger plans to return to the United States to pursue a doctoral degree in materials science.

Last summer she interned at Dow Corning Corp. doing research and development work on photovoltaic encapsulants, and she also has interned at General Motors. Stoerzinger plays oboe in Northwestern's Philharmonia Orchestra and is section leader.

Stoerzinger, who serves as program director for the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), has received numerous honors in her undergraduate career, including the Meredith Thoms Scholarship from SWE; the Lucille and Charles A. Wert Scholarship from ASM, the materials information society; and the J. Keith Brimacombe Presidential Scholarship Award from the Minerals, Metals and Materials Society.

Established in 1959, the Winston Churchill Foundation was founded by American friends of Churchill who wanted to fulfill his wish of always having young American graduate students at Churchill College at the University of Cambridge.

The foundation's scholarship program offers American citizens of exceptional ability and outstanding achievement the opportunity to pursue graduate studies in engineering, mathematics or the sciences at Cambridge. One of the newer colleges at the University of Cambridge, Churchill College was built in tribute to Winston Churchill, who in the years after the Second World War recognized the growing importance of science and technology for prosperity and security. Churchill College focuses on the sciences, engineering and mathematics.