Stanford chemical engineering major wins Churchill Scholarship

The goal of the scholarships, established at the request of Sir Winston Churchill, a British statesman and former prime minister, is to advance science and technology on both sides of the Atlantic, helping to ensure future prosperity and security.

Kara Fong

Kara Fong (Image credit: Courtesy of Kara Fong)

Stanford senior Kara Fong, a chemical engineering major, has been awarded a Churchill Scholarship, which provides funding to American students for one year of master’s study in science, mathematics and engineering at the University of Cambridge in England.

Fong is one of 15 students awarded scholarships by the Winston Churchill Foundation of the United States. The scholarships were established at the request of Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965), a British statesman and former prime minister, to fulfill his vision of scientific exchange between the United States and the United Kingdom. The goal of the scholarships is to advance science and technology on both sides of the Atlantic, helping to ensure future prosperity and security.

As a Churchill Scholar, Fong plans to pursue a master’s degree in materials science and metallurgy at Churchill College, which is part of the University of Cambridge. She will be performing research on polymer-based supercapacitors, an energy storage technology with potential applications in roll-up displays, wearable devices and other novel electronics.

“I am thrilled to go to Cambridge next year and make the most out of the incredible scientific and cultural opportunities provided by the Churchill Scholarship,” Fong said.

“Immersing myself in new communities – in my lab, among the other Churchill Scholars, and in Cambridge as a whole – will not only improve my research skills but also help me develop new ways of viewing the world. I am very thankful for the support of my friends and mentors, who have been instrumental in helping me become who I am today.”

In her application for the scholarship, Fong, of Highlands Ranch, Colo., wrote:

“When I first discovered the subject of chemistry, I was amazed to learn that the simple molecules depicted in my textbooks could be combined and manipulated in such powerful ways. Whether it be fueling our cars or charging our phones, chemical processes form the basis for a myriad of energy technologies that we use daily. Now, as I look towards graduate school and my ultimate goal of professorship, my aim is to use a fundamental understanding of these chemical systems to improve the ways in which we produce and store energy.”

Currently, Fong is an undergraduate member of the Thomas F. Jaramillo Research Group at Stanford, where she is conducting an independent research project for her honor’s thesis, which is titled Improving Electrochemically Active Surface Area Measurements for Fundamental Understanding of Solar Water Splitting Catalysts.

At Stanford, Fong is the co-chair of the peer-advising program of the Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society’s California Gamma Chapter. In that role, she has organized and participated in mentorship and tutoring events for first- and second-year engineering students and has developed a new mentoring program to pair younger and older engineering students for advising.

In 2014, Fong was named a Goldwater Scholar in Mathematics, Science, and Engineering by the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program. In the summer of 2014, she worked as a research intern in the Electrochemical Process Engineering Division of the Jülich Research Center, an interdisciplinary research institution in Jülich, Germany, under a scholarship awarded through the German Academic Exchange Service Research Internships in Science and Engineering Program.  

She has tutored Stanford undergraduate students in organic chemistry courses and served as a teaching assistant for “Introduction to Chemical Engineering” and “An Exploration of Art Materials: the Intersection of Art and Science,” offered by Stanford Sophomore College.

Fong also has served as a one-on-one English tutor with Spanish-speaking members of Stanford’s janitorial staff as a volunteer in Stanford Habla, a student organization.

If Stanford students are interested in overseas scholarships or if Stanford faculty are interested in nominating students for such awards, they may contact Diane Murk, manager of the Overseas Resource Center, at, or John Pearson, director of the Bechtel International Center, at