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  • Caltech senior Connie Hsueh
    Credit: Connie Hsueh
02/24/2015 13:15:09

Senior Connie Hsueh Wins Gates Cambridge Scholarship

Senior Connie Hsueh, a physics major, has been awarded a 2015 Gates Cambridge Scholarship that will fund graduate studies at the University of Cambridge. She is the seventh Caltech undergraduate student to receive this award. 

The Gates Cambridge Scholarship program, established in 2000 through a donation to Cambridge University from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, recognizes young people from around the world who not only excel academically, but also display a commitment to social issues and bettering the world. Hsueh and the 39 other American recipients were selected from a pool of 755 applicants competing for this year's U.S. award. In April, 55 international scholars, selected from a pool of around 3,000 applicants, will join Hsueh and her U.S. colleagues as Gates Cambridge Scholars.

A native Californian, and the only student in this year's U.S. applicant pool to win a Gates Cambridge Scholarship to study physics, Hsueh will use her scholarship to pursue an MPhil in physics. She will use computational and theoretical techniques to investigate novel battery materials—an interest that began for her while doing experimental work with batteries at Caltech in the laboratory of Brent Fultz, Barbara and Stanley R. Rawn, Jr., Professor of Materials Science and Applied Physics.

"The summer after my sophomore year, I investigated the electronic properties of lithium-ion rechargeable batteries in Professor Fultz's lab," Hsueh says. "I think it's incredible that through a variety of spectroscopic techniques, we can explain how materials behave at the atomic level. That we have the ability to probe materials on these scales—so many orders of magnitude smaller than what we physically deal with—is what astounds and interests me about physics. In addition," she adds, "Professor Fultz has been an incredibly supportive advisor and friend to me as I have tried to figure out what I want to do with my life."

A student with varied research interests, Hsueh spent her first summer at Caltech investigating novel HIV diagnostics as part of a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) project in the laboratory of Jim Heath, the Elizabeth W. Gilloon Professor and professor of chemistry. In 2014, she completed a summer internship at Lockheed Martin, where she gained experience in computer modeling and experimental research for defense-related technologies.

While at Caltech, Hsueh also kept a busy schedule outside of the laboratory and the classroom, serving two terms as the director of operations of the Associated Students of the California Institute of Technology (ASCIT) board of directors, four seasons on the Caltech volleyball team, and three seasons on the water polo team. Surprised that there was no physics club for students, Hsueh co-founded the Caltech Physics Club to give interested students a place to explore physics topics outside of the classroom.

Hsueh, who is currently studying abroad at Cambridge as a participant in Caltech's undergraduate exchange, the Cambridge Scholars Program, "is an outstanding student and human being," says Lauren Stolper, director of the Fellowships Advising and Study Abroad Office and the Career Development Center. "Connie has invested herself in her Caltech education and always considers how she can help her peers academically or by bettering extracurricular opportunities for them. She will be an excellent representative for Caltech as a Gates Cambridge Scholar," Stolper adds.

After Cambridge, Hsueh would like to continue to pursue an academic career and, one day, become a professor. However, this pursuit is not her only goal.

"It's always been my ambition to improve society and do good in the world. What that means exactly is still up in the air—maybe it will mean encouraging and mentoring future generations, or maybe it will mean inventing a life-changing device that completely revolutionizes the world," she says. "I'm honored to join the community of Gates Cambridge Scholars because I believe that they share this passion for improving the world, and I hope that we will support one another in this mission."

Written by Jessica Stoller-Conrad