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Rutgers Senior Awarded Gates Scholarship for Graduate Study at Cambridge University
Computer science major, tennis team captain is sixth Rutgers student to earn prestigious award
NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – Rutgers student Amy Zhang, a computer science major and captain of the university’s Division I women’s tennis team, has been awarded a prestigious Gates scholarship for graduate study at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. She is among 90 students from 29 countries chosen this year to receive this prestigious scholarship from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Zhang will pursue a Master of Philosophy degree in advanced computer science at Cambridge, where she will study distributed computing and information systems in Internet communities.
The Gates Cambridge Scholarships, established in 2000, cover all fees and living expenses for a student’s full-time masters or doctoral studies at Cambridge, one of the oldest and most esteemed universities in the English-speaking world. Zhang’s award for her nine-month master’s program is expected to be worth about $38,000.
A resident of Plano, Texas, Zhang studies at Rutgers on academic and athletic scholarships. She is completing her honors program in computer science, with minors in mathematics and economics, working on a research project that examines Twitter messages for common themes based on factors such as time of day or location from which they were sent. Her role was to build a software framework that investigators could use to quickly query almost 350 million Twitter messages collected from 60 locations worldwide.
She also serves as president of the university’s Women in Computer Science student group, through which she began a mentoring program for fellow students and raised funds for an organization in Nigeria that teaches girls computing.
On the tennis court, Zhang has amassed a four-year home record of 28 wins and no losses. She has been recognized as a New Jersey female athlete of the year, a Big East scholar-athlete and a two-time All Big East athlete. She was nationally ranked in doubles tennis last year. In high school, she played national junior tennis, which ultimately led her to Rutgers.
“I had actually never heard of Rutgers because I’m from Texas,” Zhang said. “I met the coach, Ben Bucca, at a tournament – it was the super national hard courts in California. He asked me to come on an official visit to Rutgers at the beginning of my senior year. I’ve lived in California and Texas, but had never been to the East Coast. I saw Rutgers and really liked it, so I decided to come here.”
She credits Bucca for encouraging the team to perform well academically, and says his commitment shows in the team’s high overall grade point average during the past several years.
Her ability to balance academics and athletics is not lost on her professors.
“Amy has excelled in her sports but, at the same time, performed at the highest level in her studies as well,” said Mor Naaman, her research mentor and assistant professor in the School of Communication and Information. “This kind of personal balance is rare and hard to achieve, and attests to Amy’s unique qualities.”
“She has been consistently creative and articulate,” said Casimir Kulikowski, Board of Governors Professor of computer science who leads a seminar examining the roles of computer technology in society. “Amy has been outstanding in the clarity of her writing and the persuasiveness and sound logic of her arguments.”
Zhang is the sixth Rutgers student to earn a Gates scholarship. Four students were named Gates scholars in 2008, and one earned the award in 2001, the program’s first year. Competition for the scholarships is fierce, with several thousand applicants worldwide.
“Along with the Rhodes, Marshall, and Churchill Scholarships, the Gates Cambridge Scholarship is among the most prestigious and competitive awards available to U.S. undergraduates looking to pursue graduate study in the U.K.,” said Arthur Casciato, director of Rutgers’ Office of Distinguished Fellowships. “To be named a Gates Cambridge Scholar is to be recognized as one of America’s finest students. Amy Zhang, an outstanding scholar-athlete and even better person, richly deserves this recognition and will no doubt make Rutgers very proud during her time at Cambridge.”
Media Contact: Carl Blesch