Monday, February 14, 2011
Physics Student Receives Prestigious Churchill Scholarship
PITTSBURGH—Carnegie Mellon University physics major Rebecca Krall has been selected as one of 14 students in the United States to receive a Churchill Scholarship, which funds a year of postgraduate study at the University of Cambridge in England.
The Churchill Scholarship is one of the most prestigious awards for studying abroad in the United Kingdom. Krall is the third Churchill Scholar from CMU in the last four years.
After completing her senior year at CMU this spring, Krall will go to Cambridge to pursue a Master of Advanced Study in Experimental and Theoretical Physics, a program that combines courses and research. She hopes to work with a research group that is involved with the ATLAS experiment at CERN, home to the Large Hadron Collider, the world's largest and most powerful particle accelerator.
"This is a great opportunity to learn more about high-energy physics," said Krall, a native of Kissimmee, Fla. "I really enjoy physics because it's so exciting to discover something new. The ATLAS group is looking for the Higgs boson, which has been predicted but never found, so that's something that I'm interested in being a part of."
Krall's interest in high-energy physics was sparked during her junior year, when she began conducting research with Physics Professor Roy Briere. Since August 2009, she has been studying the J/psi particle and some of the ways that it decays. The J/psi, which is composed of a charm quark and an anticharm quark, is produced at the Beijing Electron-Positron Collider II (BEPCII) in China. Krall's research project involves using computer software to analyze the data recorded by the Beijing Spectrometer III (BESIII) detector, including information from 225 million decays of the J/psi.
"In a research field where it is often difficult for students to get their bearings, Rebecca quickly learned how to make independent progress," said Briere, a member of the BESIII experiment at the BEPCII collider. "It's a pleasure to work with someone who helps me figure things out."
In addition to the research she has conducted at CMU, Krall participated in a National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program in astronomy at UCLA. While there, she developed a computer program to determine whether another star is a part of what was thought to be a two-star system.
Her enthusiasm for physics extends beyond the laboratory. For six semesters, Krall has been a teaching assistant in the Physics Department, helping students learn new material and answering their questions during the department's office hours. She is member of Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society and Sigma Xi Honor Society.
"Rebecca has shown a great deal of initiative and commitment to her discipline, which made her a strong fit for the prestigious Churchill Scholarship," said Stephanie Wallach, assistant vice provost for undergraduate education and director of the Fellowships and Scholarships Office. "Her quiet confidence and drive will serve her well in Cambridge and we look forward to hearing more about her accomplishments in the future."
Wallach and Jennifer Keating-Miller, assistant director of the Fellowships and Scholarships Office, assisted Krall during the application process.
After completing the program at Cambridge, Krall plans to return to the United States to pursue a doctoral degree in high-energy physics.