UC Riverside Undergraduate Named Finalist for Marshall Scholarship

Connor Richards, a fourth year undergraduate in physics, is a finalist for the prestigious U.K.-based scholarship

Richards is the first UC Riverside student to receive the Gates Cambridge Scholarship.

By Amy Zahn

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (www.ucr.edu) — Fourth-year physics undergraduate Connor Richards recently became the first UCR student in more than a decade to be named a finalist for the Marshall Scholarship, one of the most prestigious academic honors in the nation.

“His selection shows once again that the UCR student body includes some of the top students in the entire country,” said Vice Provost of Undergraduate Education Steven Brint. Every year, the scholarship provides fewer than 40 American students with the opportunity to attend the United Kingdom university of their choice for two years.

Richards currently works with physics professor Owen Long on detecting dark matter, a topic that has fascinated him for years. “We don’t know what 95% of the universe is and we know that even our best theories can’t explain it,” Richards said. He has spent the last three years conducting research, including travelling to Switzerland to work with CERN, in hopes of contributing to the field’s understanding of the issue.

If selected for the scholarship, Richards plans to pursue a Masters of Advanced Study (MASt) in applied mathematics and theoretical physics at the University of Cambridge, and a Master of Science in quantum fields and fundamental forces at Imperial College the following year.

According to Long, Richards’ leadership potential and academic accomplishments — among which include maintaining a 4.0 GPA — make him an ideal candidate for the scholarship. “Connor is a very special student,” Long said. “I’ve known only a handful of physics students with similar academic distinction and achievement in research.”

Since coming to UCR, Richards has won both the Strauss and Goldwater scholarships, and has spearheaded a project to mentor and encourage high school students interested in pursuing STEM careers. He is active in the UCR Honors program.

Richards is one of fewer than two-hundred students who were selected as finalists, an accomplishment he feels belongs not only to himself, but to everyone who helped him get there.

“The day I stepped on campus, before I was even committed to attending UCR, I had so many resources at my disposal,” he said. In addition to the research position he was offered at the beginning of his UCR career, he said, the Undergraduate Education office has been instrumental in his success.

“I would not be anywhere near where I am today without their help,” he said.

“Undergraduate Education is committed to supporting and mentoring students to pursue opportunities through the National Prestigious Scholarships and Awards Program,” said Gladis Herrera-Berkowitz, director of student success. “We are very proud of Connor’s accomplishments. He truly represents the values of a Marshall Scholar, through his academics, leadership and ambassadorial potential.”

Richards will face the final stage of the scholarship’s selection process, an interview at the British consulate in Los Angeles, on Nov. 12.

He hopes to pursue a Ph.D in physics and eventually a faculty position at a University of California campus.

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