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Srinivas Mandyam was awarded the Churchill Scholarship this past December for his research in the inorganic compound tungsten diselenide. 

Credit: Mona Lee

College senior Srinivas Mandyam was awarded the Churchill Scholarship in December 2019 from the Winston Churchill Foundation.

The scholarship funds one year of graduate study at the University of Cambridge in England and is awarded annually to fifteen students in the U.S. for “outstanding academic achievement” in science, mathematics, and engineering.

As a Vagelos Molecular Life Sciences Scholar, Mandyam, who is also an Under the Button staffer, will graduate from Penn with a bachelors of arts degree in physics, mathematics, and biophysics and a master's of science degree in physics and astronomy. Mandyam added that while a triple major may sound impressive, many courses he took double counted across his major requirements.

"It just sort of happened, because I took classes that interested me, and I found out I just had those majors," Mandyam said.

Mandyam said that Jeremy Baumberg, a nanophotonics professor at Cambridge, had published a paper in Nature in which he stated his research would benefit from being able to grow two sheets of tungsten diselenide on top of each other in a more scalable and selective manner. Two-sheet tungsten diselenide gives rise to new and intriguing quantum properties that one-sheet or other multi-sheet tungsten diselenide do not have, Mandyam added. 

The Churchill Scholarship funds American students one year of Master's study at the University of Cambridge.

Mandyam said that he conducted his research under A.T. Charlie Johnson, a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, and managed to produce two-sheet tungsten diselenide. Mandyam attributed the reason he was chosen for the scholarship to his contribution in tungsten diselenide research.

“I would say that in terms of research guidance and being a scientist, [Johnson's] lab is where I learned all I got," Mandyam said.

Mandyam added he also received assistance from Senior Associate Director for Fellowships at the Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowship Wallace Genser to navigate the exact profile that the Churchill Scholarship looks for in an applicant.

“I don’t think that I am an unusual student in the Vagelos program," Mandyam said. "I think that I just happened to be in a position where my discovery was very useful to something someone else wanted."

2018 College graduate Kevin Chen and 2014 College graduate Sarah Foster won the Churchill Scholarship in 2018 and 2014, respectively. They both majored in biochemistry, chemistry, and physics and graduated with a master's of science in physics and astronomy and a master's of science in chemistry, respectively.

In England, Mandyam plans to pursue his passion for research and use his discovery to work with Baumberg. After one year of graduate study at Cambridge, he said he will come back to the U.S. to study for a Ph.D. in physics. 

"There are all kinds of very skilled people in my program and other programs and just in general at Penn," Mandyam said. "I guess I lucked out.”

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