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College senior Adam Konkol (left) and graduate Abigail Timmel (right) were awarded the Churchill Scholarship for 2021. 

Two Penn students have been awarded the Churchill Scholarship to study at the University of Cambridge after graduation.

The Churchill Scholarship provides funding for one year of graduate research study at Cambridge's Churchill College. College senior Adam Konkol and December 2020 College graduate Abigail Timmel were two of 16 people across the country who were awarded the scholarship, which is geared towards high-achieving STEM students who demonstrate a “proven talent in research.” This is the first year that two Penn students have been awarded the scholarship.

At Cambridge, Timmel will pursue a master's degree in physics and Konkol will pursue a master's degree in applied mathematics and theoretical physics.

Konkol will graduate Penn with a quadruple major in mathematics, physics, biophysics, and biochemistry. He has conducted research on proteins involved in plant flowering with Biology professor Doris Wagner and on the biological network structure with associate professor of Physics Eleni Katifori.

“The people that I've done research with.... have taught me what it means to be a scientist,” Konkol said. 

Konkol is also a member of the Vagelos Molecular Life Sciences program and a teaching assistant for PHYS 280: Physical Models of Living Systems and PHYS 516: Electromagentic Phenomena, both of which are taught by one of his mentors, Physics and Astronomy professor Philip Nelson.

Konkol said he is excited to explore new research areas and become acquainted with life in England while at Cambridge.

“Getting to do new research is fantastic," he said. "Starting something new, it's just like a breath of fresh air." 

Timmel graduated last year with a master’s and bachelor’s degree in physics. This spring, she is working as a technical assistant in Physics professor Eugene Mele's laboratory. Timmel has been working with Mele since 2019 to conduct theoretical condensed matter research. She has published two papers, including one as first author with Mele. 

Timmel said Mele has been instrumental to her development as a scientist.

"He's just been really incredibly willing to spend time talking to me, and working closely with me on projects,” she said.

As an undergraduate, Timmel spent two years on the board of Women in Physics at Penn, which works to celebrate the achievements of women in the field and promote an inclusive environment in the Physics department. 

She said she was encouraged to apply for the Churchill Scholarship because of its focus on the sciences.

"[The Churchill Scholarship] really seemed to me to be something that I fit, more so than other scholarships which need to be more vague in their criteria to apply to people across lots of disciplines,” Timmel said. 

Timmel also has an interest in English change ringing, which involves ringing a set of tuned bells, and she hopes to continue developing that interest abroad. 

“I really enjoy English change ringing," Timmel said. "I learned here in the United States, but there are very few towers with the type of bells that I ring, and England has a lot more so it's a very rich environment for doing this,” she said. 

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