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University of Iowa News Release


Jan. 28, 2010

UI student Maria Drout awarded Churchill Scholarship, second for UI

Maria Drout, a University of Iowa senior in the Department of Physics and Astronomy in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, has won a 2010 Churchill Scholarship. She is the second-ever Churchill scholar from the UI. Only 14 Churchill scholarships are awarded nationally each year to outstanding math, science and engineering students. This award, worth up to $50,000, will send Drout to study for one year at the University of Cambridge in England.

Drout, from Eau Claire, Wis., has been working on research with Cornelia Lang, assistant professor of physics and astronomy, since her freshman year. They have been using telescopes, including the Very Large Array and the Hubble Space Telescope, to study the core of the Milky Way Galaxy. She also collaborates with Phil Massey of the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Ariz., on massive star evolution research and Alicia Soderberg of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics on Supernovae and Gamma-Ray Bursts. In 2009, Drout received a Goldwater Scholarship, a national award given to sophomores and juniors with potential for careers in math, science or engineering research.

Drout plans to complete the Master of Advanced Study in Applied Mathematics/Theoretical Physics (Part III of the Mathematical Tripos) at the University of Cambridge. Through this program, she will complement her experiences in observational astronomy by taking courses in advanced astrophysical theory. Upon returning to the United States, Drout plans to earn her doctorate in astrophysics, conduct research in astronomical sciences and develop outreach programs to encourage students to pursue careers in the sciences.

Each year, participating institutions can nominate up to two students to compete for a Churchill Scholarship. The application process for the scholarship -- and Maths Part III, in particular -- is rigorous, according to Andrea Beloy, UI Honors Program scholarship director, who advises UI Honors students through national and international scholarship competitions. Drout faced an additional challenge in choosing Maths Part III, since this is perhaps the most sought-after mathematics graduate program in the world.

"Maria is such an unusually talented and enthusiastic student, and she will be missed in our department when she graduates," Lang said. "However, the community of astronomers is fairly small, and I look forward to watching her excel in her graduate studies and being her colleague and collaborator in the future."

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 World War II recognized the growing importance of science and technology for prosperity and security. Churchill College focuses on the sciences, engineering and mathematics.

For more information about the Churchill Scholarship, visit

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACT: Lois J. Gray, University News Services, 319-384-0077,; Program: Andrea Beloy, UI Honors Program, 319-335-1874,