Crouched under a desk in Hawaii, Rice senior learns he won prestigious scholarship

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For the first time in 25 years, a Rice University student has won the prestigious Churchill Scholarship.
Alex Hwang is the first Rice student to win a Churchill Scholarship in 25 years.
Alex Hwang is one of 15 Americans to win the 2019 honor, which provides one year of graduate study at the University of Cambridge, based at Churchill College.
Only one or two students from 110 participating U.S. universities are nominated for the program every year.
Hwang, a Jones College senior from Palo Alto, Calif., was with his family in Hawaii when he found out he’d won. The physics and electrical engineering major had already spent part of his holiday preparing for the final phone interview with the Churchill Foundation.
Unable to find a good internet connection or a quiet space in his hotel, Hwang crouched under a desk — the most peaceful place he could find.
“Then, during my interview, the director of the Churchill Foundation, Dr. Michael Morse, actually told me almost immediately that I had won the scholarship,” Hwang said. “He also let me know that I definitely had chosen the most unique interview location — under a desk — than anybody he’s interviewed in the past.”
After the interview, Hwang immediately ran to find his family and share the good news, then began texting his friends and colleagues back at Rice.
“None of this would be possible without the tremendous support I’ve had from academic mentors in research and classroom settings,” he said.
Hwang credits many Rice faculty, staff and postdocs for helping him in his journey so far, especially physics Ph.D. student Chloe Doiron and Gururaj Naik, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering. “Guru,” as Hwang and others affectionately call Naik, has served as Hwang’s research adviser for the past three years, molding him and nurturing his passion for nanophotonics.
“Through dozens of hours of …

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