March 11, 2003

Cornell senior Yolanda Tseng wins 2003 Churchill Scholarship for graduate study at Cambridge University

ITHACA, N.Y. -- Yolanda Tseng, a senior in the College of Engineering at Cornell University, has been awarded a 2003 Winston Churchill Scholarship for a year of graduate study at Cambridge University in England.

The scholarships, funded by the Winston Churchill Foundation of the United States, provide for a year of graduate study in engineering, mathematics or the sciences for students with exceptional academic records and research proposals that can be carried out at Cambridge. Only 11 of the scholarships are awarded each year; and this year's competition included candidates from more than 50 institutions.

"It's been a personal dream of mine to go to England, and I didn't get a chance to go during my undergraduate years," said Tseng. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I imagine it's going to be a wonderful cultural experience, as well as an academic one."

At Cornell, Tseng has majored in biological and environmental engineering. She conducted research under Dan Luo, Cornell assistant professor of biological engineering, involving the use of the atomic force microscope (AFM) to observe DNA molecules. She assisted in Luo's research, which involves creating new DNA structures not found in nature. Last summer she worked at Harvard Medical School studying protein-protein interactions using fluorescence resonance energy transfer. At Cambridge University she plans to continue work with the AFM with Dr. Robert Henderson, senior lecturer in the Department of Pharmacology.

"I am totally not surprised at all that she received this scholarship," Luo remarked. "She is self-motivated; I don't need to push her at all. She is juggling many things at the same time and doing them almost perfectly."

Tseng received a prestigious Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship in 2002. In addition to her academic work, she has been a co-leader for the Expanding Your Horizons Workshop, a one-day science conference for seventh- and eighth-grade girls. This year she is serving as president of the Cornell Chapter of Tau Beta Pi, a national engineering honor society. She also is an avid runner and co-chair of the 5K charity run and intramural team for the Society of Women Engineers. After completing her year at Cambridge, she plans to continue graduate study and attend medical school, aiming for both M.D. and Ph.D. degrees.

She is a graduate of Presentation High School in San Jose, Calif., where her mother is a chemical engineer with IBM and her father is a software engineer with Ariodata.

Eighteen Cornell students have been named Churchill scholars since 1974, eight of these since 1992. For the period 1997-2001, more Cornellians have won the Churchill Scholarship than students from any other institution, said Beth Fiori, fellowship coordinator for Cornell Career Services.

Selection for the scholarship is based on academic record, potential for success in the field, an innovative research proposal and letters of recommendation. Tseng received recommendations from, in addition to Luo: Michael Walter, professor and chair of the Cornell Department of Biological and Environmental Engineering; Susan Ely, Cornell lecturer in molecular biology; and David Golan, Harvard University professor of biological chemistry and molecular pharmacology.