Two students, nominated by Ohio State, were awarded the Churchill Scholarship, a prestigious and competitive U.K. scholarship, for the first time ever in the same year.
Alexis Crockett, a fourth-year in psychology and neuroscience, and Henry Tran, a fourth-year in chemistry and mathematics, are the fifth and sixth OSU students to win the Churchill scholarships, according to an OSU release.
The Churchill Scholarship, which is known as “the most academically challenging of the U.K. scholarships,” according to the foundation’s website, was founded by former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to promote scientific exchange between the U.S. and the U.K. The foundation’s website states that it has offered funding to American senior students annually since 1963 for a one-year master’s degree in science, engineering or mathematics at the University of Cambridge. Each institution can nominate only two students yearly.
“I cried right after I got off the phone,” Crockett said. “I was just in complete shock and surprise. I remember even telling my professor that ‘Oh, it’s a waste of time writing the letter to apply. I’m not going to get it.’”
At OSU, Crockett has focused on exploring the neuroscience of psychological disorders. Recently, she researched the effects of the antidepressant ketanserin on chronic neuroinflammation, a potential contributor to major depressive disorder.
“As I was working in the psychology lab and talking to patients, I felt myself wondering more of what were the underlying causes of these patients,” Crockett said. “So I got started in a neuroscience lab.”
Gary Wenk, Crockett’s research adviser and a professor of psychology and neuroscience, said that Crockett was a dedicated student right from the beginning.
“(Crockett) was once working with one of my (post-doctoral) fellows,” Wenk said. “They were doing a surgery in the early morning hours. You certainly expect that from a post-doctor. But as an undergraduate, Alexis also worked for 16 or 18 hours a day.”
Crockett said that she will try to seek a faculty position at a research university to study the pathophysiology of depression and contribute to the development of more effective antidepressants after obtaining a Ph.D. in neuroscience.
Crockett said she was involved in STEM educational outreach, including volunteering at the Columbus Alzheimer Care Center and talking to high school students about preparing for college.
Tran, who also won the scholarship, conducts theoretical mathematics research. He said his goal is to develop computer-based methods to understand chemical processing.
Tran said that a very big part of this field is combining advances in computing and science to make computational strides in theoretical chemistry.
“That kind of computer knowledge does not come from a Ph.D. in chemistry,” Tran said. “But at Cambridge, they offer this very new program on scientific computing that lasts less than 10 years. It is perfect for what I want to do in my life. There is no word to express how great the year will be.”
In addition to the Churchill Scholarship, Tran has received a number of grants for his research and academic performance, such as the Gary Booth Chemistry Scholarship, the Sophomore Organic Chemistry Award and the Goldstein Memorial Mathematics Scholarship.
Terry Miller, Tran’s research adviser, said that Tran has always been extremely hardworking and curious.
“He always wants to understand chemistry and particularly spectroscopic problems that he has been working on in more and more detail,” Miller said. “Hopefully the life at Cambridge will fill in the little pieces that (Tran) has been filling in up ‘til now.”
Tran and Crockett said they encourage students to find something they’re interested in and never be afraid of asking for support.
“It may sound cheesy, but just believe in yourself and go to take the chances,” Crockett said. “If you want to get involved in research or some volunteering or internship opportunities that you think you’re not qualified for, it doesn’t hurt to try because you might end up being more qualified than you thought you were.”
Tran said he encourages everyone who is interested in applying for scholarships to keep an eye on the Fellowship Office website, where news about upcoming scholarships and related information sessions are posted.
“I was finding someone to do research with and approached my professor as a freshman,” Tran said. “I didn’t know anything. I was just interested in the subject. My life has been changed since that point.”