Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Thomas Zirkle Awarded Prestigious Fellowship

Thomas Zirkle, recent Andrews graduate, has been awarded the prestigious Arthur J. Schmitt Presidential Fellowship to fund his pursuit of a PhD in electrical engineering at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. The highly competitive scholarship, which is awarded to only a few students each year, includes full tuition of $44,000, a $32,500 annual stipend and student insurance, all renewable for five years.

Zirkle graduated summa cum laude in May 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in engineering with a concentration in electrical and computer engineering as well as minors in physics and mathematics.  When he decided to apply for graduate school, he says, Notre Dame was a good fit for a number of reasons.

Most importantly, he says, “Notre Dame conducts the type of research I am interested in pursuing for my doctorate—namely nanofabrication of next generation computing hardware.” The school is also close enough that he can attend while his wife Madeline can have the option of finishing her degree at Andrews.

“This fellowship is an opportunity that has definitely helped to shape our present and our future,” says Zirkle. “I am excited that God has provided me with such an opportunity.”

Zirkle’s final career goal is to be a lead research scientist in the field of nanoelectronics, working on the next generation of computing hardware. In order to  get to that point he needs a strong background in research and a degree from a well-known graduate school.

“In the graduate electrical engineering program,” he says, “I will be able to work in the National Science Foundation-supported laboratories on campus, present my research at major conferences and learn under some of the leaders of my future career.”

Andrews University, Zirkle says, has been invaluable in equipping him for this next step in his academic career. He received research experience early in college as a research assistant to engineering professor Hyun Kwon during his freshman and sophomore years, and because of this he received two summer undergraduate research fellowships at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. These experiences, he says, “really opened the door for me to receive this prestigious award.”

The most important thing, Zirkle emphasizes, is to be proactive. “Andrews will provide you with the know-how,” he says, “but you have to supply the initiative. For those that have high aspirations for their futures…I can’t say enough on how valuable real-life experience can be in getting a job or into graduate school.”

“Thomas was an absolutely outstanding student!” enthuses Kwon. “When he was working as a student researcher, I noticed his talent as he focused and analyzed a problem in-depth and came up with a solution. He is one of the most memorable students for this self-discipline, integrity and most of all, his brilliant mind. I know that wherever he goes he will be noticed and he will astonish people around him.”



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