PASADENA, Calif.--For the first time ever, a Rhodes and a Marshall scholarship have gone to students at the California Institute of Technology in the same year.
The latest Caltech honorees are Joe Jewell, who will attend Oxford University next year as a Rhodes Scholar, and Wei Lien Dang, who will attend Cambridge University as a Marshall Scholar. Jewell, who graduated from Caltech in June with a bachelor's degree in engineering, has since entered the University of Michigan as a graduate student, but will suspend his program there to work on a master's degree at Oxford. Dang, currently a senior in applied physics at Caltech, will work on two master of philosophy degrees at Cambridge, one in nanoscience and the second in nanotechnology management.
Jewell is a specialist in scramjet engines, which show promise in significantly speeding up subspace travel. Just last week, NASA demonstrated an unmanned scramjet-powered vehicle that approached Mach 10, which is several times faster than the fastest jet fighter currently in service. While at Oxford, Jewell will work on the fluid mechanics of the scramjet, particularly with attention to the way air is stuffed into the front of the device to make it travel with unparalled airspeed.
After spending two years at Oxford, Jewell says he will return to the United States and either enter Caltech or return to the University of Michigan for a doctorate in aeronautics. He is a native of Stevensville, Michigan.
"I hope to have an academic career, and the Rhodes Scholarship will help me a lot," Jewell said in a phone interview. "Plus, it's a great honor, and I hope to generally soak up the medieval atmosphere. I had a second major in medieval history at Caltech, so it will be pretty cool for me to study in England."
Jewell says his trip to England will be the second time he has been out of the country, the first time having been a Caltech-sponsored, two-week excursion last fall to Germany. However, Jewell's travel resume is by no means vertically challenged. While an undergraduate, he went aboard NASA's infamous "vomit comet," which is a specially fitted jetliner maintained by the Johnson Space Center to prepare astronauts for the weightless conditions of space.
Back on terra firma, Jewell has been involved in student government and also played timpani in the Caltech concert band and symphony orchestra. Both activities turned out to be helpful in his quest for the Rhodes Scholarship-the student government experience because of the rigorous battery of interviews and socials that test the applicants' interpersonal skills, and the musical experience because one of the off-the-wall questions the Rhodes committee asked him was his favorite composer.
"My answer was Beethoven, mainly because the fifth and ninth symphonies have really interesting timpani parts," he said.
Dang, who is from La Cañada, a suburb of Los Angeles, will head to Cambridge University next September to continue his work in nanoscience. He has a particular interest in nanotechnological applications such as carbon nanotube devices. Already at work on nanotechnology at Caltech, which is one of the leading centers of the nano world, Dang plans to become a professor someday.
"I'm really excited about the opportunity," Dang said in a phone interview. "The nanotechnology programs at Cambridge are the only ones of their kind in the world."
As for the opportunity to study at an institution with the tradition of Cambridge, Dang says the British university "gives me the opportunity to learn at an institution that has historically been rich in science. From Isaac Newton to Stephen Hawking, Cambridge has been home to some of the greatest minds we've ever known."
After two years at Cambridge, Dang says he'll return to the United States for a doctorate, although he hasn't yet decided where he'll apply.
Like Jewell, Dang has already compiled a strong resume in the type of extracurricular activities long thought to favor a Rhodes or Marshall scholarship application. As youth leader and director of educational outreach for Mountain Movers Youth Ministries, Dang has been responsible for the organization, coordination, and leadership of Saturday SAT classes, tutoring sessions, and various academic programs for inner-city youth in the Los Angeles area.
He has also been a writing consultant at Caltech's Hixon Writing Center, a teaching assistant in the applied physics department, and associate editor of Caltech's undergraduate research journal, CURJ.
Dang also has a keen interest in music, and is an accomplished classical pianist and jazz saxophonist. He is interested in foreign travel and plays tennis and golf. And as if he didn't already have enough to keep himself busy, Dang has also served on Caltech committees concerning freshman admissions and financial aid, and is a deacon of the New Life Community Church in Los Angeles.