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May 7, 2014

Wheaton College Student Awarded Marshall Scholarship to Study at Cambridge and Oxford

Matthew McMillan

Matthew McMillan, a senior graduating as a mathematics and physics double major at Wheaton College, has been awarded a Marshall Scholarship. The scholarship will fund two years of graduate studies in the United Kingdom.

McMillan, of Wheaton, Ill., is the first Wheaton College student to receive a Marshall Scholarship. Up to 40 American students receive this prestigious award each year.

McMillan will spend his first year in the U.K. studying for the MASt in mathematics in Part III of the Mathematical Tripos at Cambridge, where he will focus on geometry, topology, and theoretical physics. In his second year, he plans to take the MSt in Philosophy of Physics at Oxford.

“Oftentimes mathematicians and physicists struggle to communicate their ideas to each other because they tend not to think the same way or to have the same background, priorities and interests,” McMillan says. “My hope is to be trained at an advanced level in the ways mathematicians and physicists separately tend to think, so that I can do research that brings the best out of each discipline to further the other.”

At Wheaton, McMillan designed signal conditioning electronics to study magnetic reconnection in plasmas and presented the results to the American Physical Society. He modeled neutral beams in fusion reactors at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, studied measure theory and quantum logic in Budapest, and explored sympletic embedding problems at UC Berkeley. He is also a trained classical pianist and trumpeter, and has strong interests in philosophy.

According to his academic advisor, Associate Professor of Mathematics Dr. Stephen Lovett, McMillan’s honors thesis on embedded contact homology reached well into topics within graduate-level mathematics and cutting-edge research. “His exceptional abilities, his dogged pursuit of knowledge, his already excellent curriculum vitae, and now the wonderful opportunity of studying at Cambridge and Oxford through the Marshall Scholarship indicate that he has the potential to become a world-class mathematician or mathematical physicist,” Dr. Lovett says.

The Marshall Scholarship was created by the British Parliament as a gift to the United States to recognize U.S. aid in the Marshall Plan after World War II. The criteria used to evaluate candidates include potential for leadership and ambassadorial service between the United States and Britain, as well as intellectual merit.

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