Since 1959, the highly competitive and prestigious Winston Churchill Scholarship Award for students in math and science — similar in honor to the Rhodes Scholarship and the Marshall Scholarship — has been providing fewer than 15 students a year the chance to study for one tuition-free year at the University of Cambridge’s Churchill College. This year, one of the award recipients is LSA senior Chris Hayward.
Hayward, a triple major in math, physics and astronomy, said he was “pleasantly surprised” when he found out he was awarded the research scholarship. As a result of the scholarship, Hayward said he will study theoretical physics at the Part III level while at Cambridge. This means Hayward will take classes equivalent to second- and third-year graduate classes, although he will officially start graduate school for astronomy when he returns to the United States next year.
The Churchill scholarship is funded by donations from individuals, corporations and foundations and is designed to represent the United States’ admiration for former British prime minister Winston Churchill.
To honor Churchill, the award selects students who have done outstanding work both in and out of the classroom — including receiving high grades, a high score on the Graduate Record Examination and special recognition or letters of recommendation that show the applicant is creative, original and adaptive in solving problems. The applicant must also be in good health.
University physics Prof. David Gerdes was a previous recipient of the scholarship and, like Hayward, studied theoretical physics. Based on his time spent in Cambridge and having had Hayward as a student, Gerdes said he is confident in Hayward’s ability to succeed abroad. He reasoned that Hayward possessses the qualities one needs to survive the “weeding-out” process, such as independence, confidence, self-motivation, persistence and brilliance.
“I think he will do great,” Gerdes said, although he stressed there are many difficulties American students encounter in the program.
The “famously difficult” year-end exams many students fear are one way Cambridge differs from universities in the United States, Gerdes said. He said another difference at Cambridge is the decreased interaction between students and professors as well as among students — something he attributes to the highly competitive atmosphere.
“You go through this feeling of being the stupidest person in the room surrounded by a bunch of experts,” he said.
In additoin, students do not have to turn in assignments or take tesets until the end of the second term. But Hayward is not worried about adapting to this educational system, in which there is constant pressure to prove oneself, and self-discipline is key. He said he is looking forward to this different way of learning.
“It is something I am doing to create a better foundation for my career and personally, because I can travel and experience new cultures,” he said. Previously, Hayward has studied in Geneva, Tibet and Russia.
Hayward is also a leader in Alternative Spring Break, a University organization that raises money to send student volunteers to various locations around the world to perform community service.