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Stanford senior named Rhodes scholar, two receive Marshalls
The high-Tc superconductivity mathematics problem presented to Olivia White this summer might have stymied some of the most able physicists or mathematicians. But the Stanford senior found it no problem at all.
"The specific task I gave her was to read, understand and translate into plain English the exact solution of the inverse-square quantum antiferromagnet found by Duncan Haldane, the expert on this subject at Princeton," wrote Stanford physics Professor Robert Laughlin, who worked with White on the research problem. "Not only did Olivia do what I asked, she found several classes of exact eigenstates Duncan himself had overlooked," added Laughlin, who described White as the best student researcher he has ever encountered, including those working on graduate degrees.
White, a senior majoring in physics and mathematics, was named a 1997 Rhodes scholar on Dec. 7. On the same day, Gabriela Teodorescu and Robert Yeh, two recent Stanford graduates, were named recipients of British Marshall Scholarships.
White is the 76th Stanford student to win a Rhodes award, established in 1902 by the estate of British colonialist and philanthropist Cecil Rhodes. She is one of 32 Americans who will receive a two-year scholarship to Oxford University. The British Marshall Scholarships were established in 1953 as an expression of gratitude for U.S. aid given under the Marshall Plan after World War II. They provide for two years of study at any British university.
White, a native of Salt Lake City, called her superconductivity finding "precedent-setting in that it indicates that a holistic approach to physics is at least sometimes the only way to proceed in trying to describe physical phenomena." Although White hopes to make a career of theoretical physics, her short-term goal is to delve more deeply into pure mathematics when she heads for England in September.
"Theoretical physics requires a great deal of mathematical knowledge. I find that if I learn such mathematics in a rigorous way, I understand it far better than I do if I come by it tangentially while doing physics," White wrote in her Rhodes application. A member of Stanford's women's water polo team, White speaks French and has served as a Structured Liberal Education tutor at Stanford.
Teodorescu, a history major who graduated in June, is currently working as a research analyst for KPMG Peat Marwick in San Francisco. In September, she'll begin studies at the University of London's School for Slavonic and East European Studies.
"I think it's the only school in the world that has interdisciplinary as well as full regional scope to fully fulfill the need of understanding all the region's problems," said Teodorescu, who came to the United States from Romania when she was 7 years old. She is looking forward to reconnecting with Wendy Bracewell, a former visiting professor at Stanford who is a senior lecturer at the School for Slavonic and East European Studies. Bracewell and history department chairman Norman Naimark were among those who recommended Teodorescu for the scholarship.
At Stanford, Teodorescu, who speaks Romanian, Italian, Russian and French, was editor of Herodotus, the university's undergraduate history journal, and of Intermission, the Stanford Daily's entertainment and culture magazine. She also served as a staff writer for the Daily. During the summer of 1995, she worked as an intern in the Wall Street Journal's Moscow bureau.
Yeh, who earned a degree in human biology from Stanford last June, is currently employed by the University of California-San Francisco as a staff research associate at the Stanford Center for Tuberculosis Research. He plans to attend the University of London's School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. As a Stanford student, he was involved with, and ultimately directed, the Stanford Medical Youth Science Program, designed to introduce low-income youngsters to the field of medicine. For his honors thesis, Yeh examined the social and political implications of tuberculosis transmission on San Francisco's Mexican immigrant population. Yeh also spent the summer after his junior year as a volunteer for a development organization in the Honduran rain forest.
"While I was there, I organized a public health education program for some of the primary schools in the region," said Yeh, a Los Angeles native, who plans to concentrate on community health in developing countries when he goes to London next fall.
Donald Kennedy, president emeritus and professor of biological sciences, described Yeh as someone with extraordinary analytical skills and an impressive social commitment.
"He's a remarkably versatile and capable person who has contributed enormously to this place as a human biology student leader. As an independent researcher, he has done a terrific piece of work on tuberculosis in San Francisco. . . . I think he's one of the most exceptional undergraduates around not only in terms of his own academic ability, but in terms of the strength of his commitment to others and to the institution," Kennedy said.