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Beth Sorensen
Office of Communications


Andrew Essin, a Reed College senior physics major from Monrovia, California, has won a prestigious Churchill Scholarship. The scholarship will fund one year of tuition and living expenses in Churchill College at England's Cambridge University, where Essin plans to study in the department of applied mathematics and physics.

Churchill Scholarships are awarded by the Winston Churchill Foundation of the United States to students of exceptional ability who show capacity for original, creative work as well as character, adaptability, demonstrated leadership, and concern for the critical problems of society. A minimum of 11 scholarships are awarded each year to students from a select group of colleges and universities. Essin, a graduate of LaSalle High School in Pasadena, California, is the second Reed student to win a Churchill Scholarship.

He was recognized for both his outstanding academic achievements and his commitment to volunteering for numerous organizations in Portland, where his activities have included building houses for lower-income families and helping to restore city parks.

At Reed Essin is writing a senior thesis in theoretical physics based in quantum mechanics, advised by physicist David Griffiths. "Every few years one encounters a student who is so outstanding, so strikingly superior, that it is almost impossible to provide a reliable evaluation." wrote Griffiths in a letter of recommendation for Essin. "Frankly I don’t think the courses Andrew has taken at Reed come close to testing the limits of his ability."

Essin has served in two summer internships funded by the National Science Foundation. Between his junior and senior year he worked at CERN, the premier European research facility for elementary particle physics, in Switzerland, where he did an independent study in quantum field theory with noted Italian physicist Guido Altarelli. After his first year at Reed he worked at SRI International, a nonprofit research institute in Menlo Park, California, with an atmospheric chemist on uptake of atmospheric methanol. Essin enjoyed the experience of being in a community of physicists abroad at CERN, and this inspired him to apply for the Churchill scholarship. After his year in England he plans to attend a graduate school in the U.S., where he will continue his studies in theoretical physics. He hopes to eventually teach in a college setting after he earns a graduate degree.

"Reed has a great physics department," said Essin. "The teachers made the subject interesting." In 2002 Reed's physics department was noted in the journal of the American Institute of Physics for its high numbers of graduates in relation to all other institutions of higher education. The department was also recognized in 2002 by the National Task Force for Undergraduate Physics, which praised its high rate of graduation and retention, as well as its non-competitive "cohesive, supportive, and collegial attitude." The report concluded that "It is difficult for even a casual visitor to the department to come away without an appreciation of the enthusiasm and cohesiveness of the faculty and students in understanding and carrying out the department's mission."

Reed College, in Portland, Oregon, is an undergraduate institution of the liberal arts and sciences dedicated to sustaining the highest intellectual standards in the country. With an enrollment of about 1,360 students, Reed ranks third in the undergraduate origins of Ph.D.s in the United States and second in the number of Rhodes scholars from a liberal arts college (31 since 1915).

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