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Zhiyao Li Receives Carnegie Mellon Women’s Association Scholarship

As a strong advocate for women in science, recent physics graduate Zhiyao (Olivia) Li was awarded a Carnegie Mellon University Women’s Association scholarship.

Throughout her undergraduate career, Li conducted interdisciplinary research on cosmology and artificial intelligence with Professor of Physics Rachel Mandelbaum. She presented her research at numerous local and national conferences, where she not only demonstrated the strength of her work but inspired other undergraduate women to pursue their interests in these areas.

As president of the CMU Women in Science (WiS) organization, Li oversaw weekly meetings, hosted woman-identifying faculty and staff in science to talk about their successes and struggles and initiated a number of networking events. She also created an Underrepresented Figures in Science Talk Series, which WiS continued hosting remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I feel incredibly honored to receive the scholarship. It encourages me to continue my effort in empowering others, especially women in STEM, to pursue their passion,” said Li.

This fall, Li began her Ph.D. in physics at the University of Washington. “I hope to eventually become a professor because I want to help push the boundaries of science and mentor future generations.”


Eli Workman Wins K&L Gates Prize

Recent physics and mechanical engineering graduate Eli Workman was awarded Carnegie Mellon’s 2020 K&L Gates Prize.

Workman continually inspired his classmates with his intellect, scholarly achievement, engagement and character, all qualities that the $5,000 prize seeks to recognize.

As a sophomore, Workman was paralyzed from the chest down in a skiing accident. After only one semester of recovery, Workman returned to CMU. He continued to challenge himself not only academically by continuing his studies but also physically by returning to the slopes as an adaptive skier.

“Instead of shying away from skiing because of what happened … his persistence and determination pushed him to learn to ski again by using a monoski to adapt to his situation,” said fellow mechanical engineering and physics major Melissa Bryan.

For his capstone project, Workman’s team created an automatic sparring device to help athletes train without needing a human sparring partner. The project won the “Most Innovative” design award at the mechanical engineering design expo.

His teammate Adriana Goodman wrote, “(Eli’s) solutions to design problems were elegant while being simple and practical. He was … a mediator when the team had disagreements. I learned a lot about being a good teammate through his example.”

Workman graduated in December 2019 and is now an advanced trans and drive units project engineer at General Motors.


Jonathan Fritz Receives Fulbright Award

At a time when most people are staying close to home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Carnegie Mellon University graduate Jonathan Fritz is looking ahead to future travel as a Fulbright Student Grantee.

While the 2020-2021 Fulbright cohort would typically have begun this fall, start dates have been pushed back to at least late spring or early summer 2021, depending on the country to which each student will travel.

Fritz, who graduated with bachelor’s degrees in physics and German studies in May 2020, will head to Germany as an English Teaching Assistant.

When he was around 11 years old, Fritz began studying German as a hobby. Even as he gravitated toward the sciences, developing interests in calculus and physics, Fritz continued studying German. “It’s more a part of my identity,” he said.

Given both his interests in language and science, Fritz had to decide what Fulbright track to pursue. He chose to apply for the English teaching assistantship rather than a research grant.

“It would have made sense to have done research in Germany in physics, but I distinctly wanted to do a program to let me take a step back from science and immerse myself in the culture,” Fritz said. “During my undergraduate time I bounced around a lot in academic interests so I am able to be flexible and adapt to different challenges. I’m very interested to see how those skills will manifest together as a successful Fulbright.”

Fritz said that he was initially unsure if he should pursue a Fulbright but that Richelle Bernazzoli, associate director of Undergraduate Research and National Fellowships at CMU, and other staff members encouraged him and were with him through the whole process.

“The Undergraduate Research Office gave me the confidence and the tools to apply and see it through,” he said. “CMU has opened so many doors for me and then also said, ‘keep pushing.’ No one has ever said no, either. It’s always a question of ‘how do we get there?'”

Graduate Students Receive Fellowships to Support Their Research


Jeffrey Patrick – George E. and Marjorie S. Pake Fellowship in Physics

Physics Ph.D. candidate Jeffrey Patrick has received the George E. and Marjorie S. Pake Fellowship in Physics. The fellowship, which supports a Department of Physics graduate student, is named after George E. Pake, a physicist who studied nuclear magnetic resonance at the Carnegie Institute of Technology, and his wife.

Patrick works in the lab of Associate Professor of Physics Matthew Walker, where he has developed software to study stellar streams, tidally disrupted dwarf galaxies and globular clusters.

“The fellowship will be a huge help this year in allowing me to focus on wrapping up my current project and get rapidly up to speed on a new project working with the Southern Stellar Stream Spectroscopic Survey collaboration, a new international collaboration that is actively collecting more data using the Anglo-Australian Telescope in Australia,” Patrick said.


Chuyuan Liu – John Peoples, Jr. Research Fellowship in Physics

Physics Ph.D. candidate Chuyuan Liu has received the John Peoples, Jr. Research Fellowship in Physics. The fellowship, which supports graduate students in the Department of Physics, is named after Carnegie Mellon alumnus John Peoples, Jr., a physicist who directed the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and the Sloan Digital Sky Survey.

Liu works in the lab of Assistant Professor of Physics John Alison, where he is engaged in experimentally measuring the mass of the Higgs boson using data from the Compact Muon Solenoid detector in the Large Hadron Collider. “We are working on improving the efficiency to identify the events in which a boson pair is produced and then decays into four bottom quarks, so that we can get a more precise Higgs mass and a better test of the Standard Model,” Liu said.