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."

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Men's and Women's B-ball Teams Score Wins

The Caltech women's basketball team broke a 5-year, 64-game conference losing streak with a 59–58 win over the University of La Verne on Wednesday, February 18.

The win caps a banner week for Caltech basketball, as the men's team notched its third straight home SCIAC win with a 70–69 victory over La Verne on February 17. The men's three SCIAC wins are the most in a single season since 1960–61, when the Beavers topped four conference foes, and equal the total number of SCIAC wins over the previous 42 years.

Read more about the women's game and the men's game.

Both teams face off against Occidental College on Saturday, February 21, at Braun Gym, in their last home games of the season. The women tip-off at 5 p.m. and the men at 7 p.m.

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Men's Basketball Makes it Two Wins in a Row

Just days after shaking off a 55-game conference losing streak, the Caltech men's basketball team accomplished something it had not in 44 years—two Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) wins in one season—with a 92–77 victory over Whittier College on Saturday, February 7.

Their first win of the season—and first conference victory since February 22, 2011, when the team broke a 310-game conference losing streak—came Tuesday, February 3, against the University of Redlands, after a game-winning basket at the buzzer.

"It was an amazing, unprecedented week for basketball and Caltech athletics. Our team continues to progress and the effort each player and coach puts into our program translated into two huge wins," says head basketball coach Oliver Eslinger. "We thank our fans and community for the energy they brought to Braun. There's more to come!"

The men's team last won two conference games in the 1970–71 season. The last set of back-to-back conference wins occurred 61 years ago, in the 1953–54 season, when the team won three straight conference games to claim the SCIAC Championship. Caltech also recorded consecutive SCIAC victories during the 1960–61, 1959–60, and 1958–59 seasons, although in each case there was a nonconference loss between the two winning conference games.

The team will next face off against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps on Thursday, February 12, at the Rains Center on the Pomona College campus. Tip-off is at 7:30 p.m.

Learn more about Caltech athletics at

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Men's Basketball Snaps Losing Streak

With a game-winning basket at the buzzer, the Caltech men's basketball team snapped a 55-game, four-year SCIAC losing streak with a 49-47 victory over the University of Redlands on February 3.

Read the full story on the Caltech Athletics' site.

Mark Becker
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Saturday, April 4, 2015 to Sunday, April 5, 2015
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Friday, April 3, 2015 to Saturday, April 4, 2015
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Amateur Radio License class, Part One of Two

Learning While Leading

Caltech's student leaders have full plates. In addition to splitting their time among responsibilities in academics, research, athletics, internships, social causes, and many other activities, they have also been elected to serve as representatives of and advocates for their peers.

However, these students say the juggling act can be a gratifying challenge. We recently spoke with Catherine Jamshidi, Connor Rosen, and Sunita Darbe about their experiences in student leadership, their goals for their organizations, and their time-management strategies.


What are your main leadership responsibilities?

Darbe: As chair of the Graduate Student Council (GSC), my job is to be the face of the graduate student body when interacting with all of the other parts of Caltech—for example, in working with the undergrads and with all of the various administrative offices and staff offices. I also try to keep an eye on what graduate students are bringing up and try to make sure that those concerns are heard by the appropriate people.

Rosen: I'm the chair of the Interhouse Committee (IHC), and the ASCIT vice president for nonacademic affairs. I deal mainly with housing, dining, issues related to how housing placements happen, and any other issues related to where people are living. IHC is also involved in the policies related to those issues, so I also serve as the intermediary between the administration and the students on these policies.

Jamshidi: As ASCIT (Associated Students of the California Institute of Technology) president, my first job is to oversee the ASCIT board of directors, which is the student government of the undergraduates. I try to be in touch with what's going on around campus, what the student body is currently concerned about, and how I can bring those concerns to the relevant administrators or members of the faculty board.


Since you are all student leaders, can you tell us what year you are and what you're studying?

Jamshidi: I'm a junior, studying computer science and business, economics, and management.

Rosen: I'm a senior majoring in chemistry. I do work on protein degradation in the biology lab of professor Alex Varshavsky.

Darbe: I'm a fourth year graduate student in materials science. I work with Harry Atwater on optics for ultrahigh-efficiency solar cells.


What were your goals when you began your term at the end of the last school year?

Darbe: Obviously the technical training at Caltech is awesome, bar none. But we also want to make sure that some of the nontechnical skills—ones that are important for professional development, but don't necessarily come through the graduate curriculum—are supported by GSC efforts. This year another one of our goals is to support and recruit a diverse student body, and we've been very pleased to see support for this at all levels in the administration.

Jamshidi: My main goal is to learn about and address what the students care about. I also went into my term expecting to be able to give good direction to the individuals on the board of directors, helping them figure out what they need to be doing in their roles.

Rosen: A lot of what the IHC works on are yearly needs that relate to the way the house system functions. The biggest of these is rotation, which is the process by which first years are assigned to a house. When I came in as IHC chair, I set goals for how efficient and effective I wanted the process to be. In the end, I wanted the students to be pleased with both with the process itself and with the outcomes. Rotation was all over and done at the beginning of the school year, and it went very well—I think we improved on the things we wanted to improve on from previous years.


How did you get involved in this leadership role, and what made you want to be a leader?

Rosen: I ended up in student government almost by accident. I love the houses, and I was very involved in my house socially, and when someone said that our house needed a president, I said, "I want to do it." As president of my house, I served on the Interhouse committee for a year before becoming chair. I like being involved because I care about the people, I care about the house, and I want to be here to help students solve their problems, so they can go back to focusing on everything else that life—and Caltech's coursework—is throwing at them.

Jamshidi: I started in student government during the third term of my freshman year. For the first two terms I was here I saw the upperclassmen who were involved, and they seemed to know everything—I wanted to be like them. And my involvement was also partially driven by boredom. I play volleyball during the fall term, and then during winter I had my first break from volleyball in a long time and I was like, "I have so much free time! What do I do now?" So I became the ASCIT secretary and I really enjoyed it.

Darbe: I was involved in GSC last year, in the capacity of organizing a professional development conference. When I see something happening and I have opinions about it, I don't like to let things sit. I like to do something about it. And fortunately, because of its small size, Caltech is an easy place to make things happen.


It sounds like these roles are time-consuming. How do you fit in time for all of the other things in your lives, like classes, research, athletics, and so on?

Jamshidi: I balance it by staying extremely organized. I schedule everything that I do, pretty much always. And if I notice that I'm spending more time on homework, I'll reschedule everything. I don't know how else I'd be able to do it.

Darbe: I can only do this role by virtue of it being a one-year commitment. It's a lot of time, but it's really rewarding, and it's really cool to see the academic institution from the other side—to sort of peek behind the curtain.

Rosen: I've always made my position in the IHC a priority. I took this on because I felt it was important, and I had a lot of things I wanted to get done in the position—things that I cared about accomplishing. It is a priority, not only in terms of when I am in class, but also when I sign up for classes. If I know I could be spending 60 hours a week on IHC commitments during a particular term, I'm not going to sign up for 60 hours of classes. For example, during rotation there was one day where I woke up at 8 a.m., went to bed at 1 a.m. the next morning, and only had a lunch break in between.


How will these leadership skills be applicable to your after-graduation plans?

Darbe: I'm interested in being a research scientist. It's not yet clear to me where the most exciting opportunity is going to be, but I think that a lot of these GSC skills are going to be very helpful. Being able to corral people, and motivate people, and run an effective meeting. And, among other things, learning how not to promise too much. So many of these skills will be very, very useful, in years to come.

Rosen: I'm applying to biology programs for graduate school right now; I definitely know that I want to stay in research. Just as Sunita said, these roles allow us to peek behind the academic curtain, and if I end up being a professor, I'll be on the inside. To know how an institution like Caltech runs at more than just the teaching level will be useful.

Jamshidi: I think the people skills I've gained as a leader will help in the future. My classes have prepared me with scientific and technical knowledge, and my leadership role has helped me develop skills like being able to work with lots of different people and learn how they're thinking. Those are important skills.


What do you think is unique about being a leader at Caltech?

Jamshidi: Caltech is so small that I feel like everyone knows me. At a larger school, people wouldn't know who I am or what I do. Often, administrators will email me random questions like, "Who do I talk to about XYZ?" and I'll redirect them. That interaction wouldn't happen at a larger school.

Rosen: It also goes the other way. Because Caltech is so small, we are able to have weekly and biweekly meetings with the vice president for student affairs. That just doesn't happen at other places. Also, I know that my job doesn't exist elsewhere because the house system is unique. That has its pros and its cons. I love the house system; it's great to be a part of. But when I'm trying to troubleshoot something, I can't ask, for example, "What did they do at MIT when something similar to this happened?" because there's no comparison to be drawn.


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Tuesday, February 17, 2015
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Going Global

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Credit: Alexandre de Beauséant

"Being a student at UCL has given me a global perspective. From day one you interact with students from all over the world. Just on my dorm floor alone we have students from France, Singapore, and all over the UK—not to mention the people we've met in our classes and outside of class who come from places as far away as India and Ecuador and as close as Serbia and Hungary. Daily interactions cause self-reflection and a heightened awareness of unique and varying viewpoints." —Bianca Lepe '16, University College London

Pictured: (Left to right) Kevin Zhao '15, Lepe, Alice Michel '16, and Ayush Gupta '16 at the Tower Bridge.

Credit: Courtesy of Kurtis Carsch

"I am using this opportunity to enroll in courses that are not offered at Caltech. I am enrolled in four chemistry courses: applied catalysis, synthetic biomolecular chemistry, the chemistry of metals in biological systems, and a PhD course on sustainable energy. Additionally, I am conducting research in organometallic chemistry." —Kurtis Carsch '16, Technical University of Denmark

Pictured: Carsch and Patrick Yu '16 overlooking the Charles Bridge and St. Vitus Cathedral.

Credit: Courtesy of Cedric Flamant

"I arrived at Polytechnique wanting to learn at the institution associated with the great minds of Fourier, Navier, Cauchy, and Lagrange. Never would I have guessed that I would eventually write a report on symmetry groups in SU(5) grand unification in the very language in which Galois first formulated group theory! Studying at Polytechnique has allowed me to reconnect with part of my heritage and meet fellow physicists, all while exploring Paris." —Cedric Flamant '15, École Polytechnique

Pictured: Flamant during a biking trip at Chamonix Mont-Blanc in France.

Credit: George Hopes

"Stepping into Cambridge, I felt as if I were transported back in time into a completely different world. I am currently staying at Corpus Christi College, which was founded in 1352 and is Cambridge's sixth-oldest college. At Corpus, I have had the chance to meet people who are not only studying STEM subjects but also classics, history, sociology, French, and more! . . . The experiences have felt so surreal that I've had to double-check to see that I am actually here in Cambridge." —Jacqueline Masehi-Lano '15, University of Cambridge

Pictured: Masehi-Lano (third from the left) poses with the other Cambridge fresher engineers.

Credit: Poonim Daya

"I've learned a lot from my classes here at Edinburgh, but many of my learning experiences have gone beyond academics. One of my favorite moments happened during a day trip to Glasgow with some friends from Caltech. While walking around the city, we spotted a bowling green. After asking a few questions, we ended up getting a free lesson in lawn bowling from some kind Glaswegians, and spent the afternoon honing our skills. It was a fantastic time—even if I'm not so good at lawn bowling!" —Emily Ellsworth '15, University of Edinburgh

Pictured: Ellsworth (front, center) with Harrison Miller '15 (left) and Caltech alumna Supriya Iyer '13 (right) hiking Arthur's Seat.


Earlier this fall, 28 Caltech sophomores and juniors ventured overseas and out of their comfort zones to spend time studying, doing research, traveling, and learning to communicate in countries far from home.

These students were the latest cohort of Caltech undergraduates to participate in the Institute's study abroad programs. Once accepted to one of the six Caltech-faculty-approved programs run each fall in partnership with peer institutions around the world, these Caltech students have the opportunity to study in England at the University of Cambridge or University College London; in Scotland at the University of Edinburgh; in Denmark at the University of Copenhagen or the Technical University of Denmark; in France at the École Polytechnique; and in Australia at the University of Melbourne.

Since Caltech's study abroad programs were established in 1999, more than 450 undergraduates have taken advantage of the chance to spend a term far from sunny Pasadena.

"The natural and engineering sciences are international arenas," says Lauren Stolper, Caltech's director of fellowships advising and study abroad. "All of our partners are top research universities. Caltech students continue to face the same rigorous academic challenges as at Caltech, while experiencing firsthand different styles of teaching and learning.

"They return to Caltech with a more sophisticated understanding of the world and academically and personally energized by the study abroad experience."

View the slideshow below to learn more about the experiences of this year's class from the students themselves.

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Senior Adam Jermyn Named Marshall Scholar

Caltech senior Adam Jermyn has been chosen as a recipient of the 2015 Marshall Scholarship to pursue graduate studies in Great Britain.

Funded by the British government, the Marshall Scholarship provides support for two years of post-bachelor's degree study—covering a student's tuition, books, living expenses, and transportation costs—at any university in the United Kingdom. Each year more than 900 students from across the nation compete for this prestigious scholarship. A maximum of 40 scholarships are awarded.

A physics major from Longmeadow, Massachusetts, Jermyn will use the award toward his pursuit of a PhD in astronomy at the University of Cambridge. "I got the call from the British Consulate, and when they told me, I couldn't believe it," Jermyn says. "After the call, I got an email from my parents about it, and it turns out that on my application I swapped my home and cell phone numbers, so they called my parents before calling me."

"My plan at Cambridge is to study how planets form around binary star systems," says Jermyn. "This will involve a collaboration I proposed between the fluid mechanics group in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics and the faculty researching astrophysical heat transport in the Institute of Astronomy. I'm extremely excited about the project and the scholarship as it will give me a chance to really focus on research in a field that I'm somewhat new to."

After the completion of the fellowship he hopes to pursue a career in academia and eventually obtain a faculty position in which he can both teach and do research.

Jermyn is currently completing his senior thesis—a study of how pulsars alter the atmospheres of tidally locked companion stars. More generally, his research interests fall under the field of emergent phenomena, "a broad term referring to situations where we know all of the laws on a fundamental level but where there are so many pieces working together that the consequences aren't known," he explains. Examples include protein aggregation, quantum information, and fluid mechanics.

At Caltech, Jermyn works in the lab of Harry Atwater, the Howard Hughes Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science, on research that could be applied to solar cells. He also collaborates on quantum information with Associate Professor of Theoretical Physics Jason Alicea in Caltech's Institute for Quantum Information and Matter, and with former Marshall Scholar and Professor of Theoretical Astrophysics Sterl Phinney (BS '80) on the impact of external deep heating on stellar atmospheres.

Although he is still finishing up his undergraduate degree, Jermyn has already had two papers accepted for journal publication, on his solar energy and quantum information research projects. He is also the principal investigator on a computing grant from the Department of Energy (DOE) for exploring symmetric protein folding. Last spring, he was recognized at the national level for his research accomplishments with a Goldwater Scholarship.

In addition to his research, Jermyn's activities on campus include involvement on the Council for Undergraduate Education, the Curriculum Committee, and the Faculty Board's Honor Code Committee. He also served as a teaching assistant for several physics classes, including first-year physics course Phys 11.

"Adam has been an outstanding source of encouragement and advice for many Caltech students, particularly through Physics 11, where he is currently a teaching assistant. He has helped to keep the course going after the passing of Professor Tombrello," says David Stevenson, Marvin L. Goldberger Professor of Planetary Science.

Lauren Stolper, director of Fellowships Advising and Study Abroad, acts as Caltech's official Marshall Scholarship advisor. Stolper says, "It was a pleasure to get to know Adam well during the application and endorsement process. Adam has the kind of penetrating intellect that is a hallmark of Marshall Scholars. He is interested in the world around him and is willing to jump in to have an impact on things he cares about."

The Marshall Scholarship is named after George Marshall, chief of staff of the Army in World War II who was the creator of the Marshall Plan (also known as the European Recovery Program), which helped Europe rebuild after the war. Marshall later served as secretary of state and was a Nobel Peace Prize winner. The fellowship was established by the British government in 1953 to recognize the vital role the Marshall Plan played in Britain's post-WWII recovery.

Recent Caltech alumni winners of the Marshall Scholarship program include Emma Schmidgall (BS '07), Wei Lien Stephen Dang (BS '05), Vikram Mittal (BS '03), and Eric Tuttle (BS '01). In addition to Phinney, other former Marshall Scholars in the Caltech community include President Emeritus Thomas Everhart, Provost and William E. Leonhard Professor of Geology Edward Stolper, Bren Professor of Chemistry Jonas Peters, and Professor of Chemistry Thomas Miller.

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