Last spring, Jean Weatherwax, an electrical engineering student at the University of South Florida, won one of the highest honors in the country for undergraduates in science. Now she has topped that, corralling a prestigious Marshall Scholarship to study in London — the first in USF history.
The Marshall scholarships provide for up to three years of study at Imperial College, which hosts one of the best electrical engineering programs in the world. They're generally awarded to fewer than 40 U.S. college students each year. In the past decade, according to USF, only one other Florida student has been awarded one.
Weatherwax, 21, could not be reached late Monday. But a media release said she plans to use her scholarship to continue making better medical devices. She'll be working with a researcher whose current focus is developing an artificial pancreas to treat Type 1 diabetes.
"This is a very new and innovative kind of research that I'm interested in because my father (a Boeing engineer in Charleston, S.C.) is a Type 1 diabetic, and because most of my undergraduate research activity has centered around biomedical devices," she said in a news statement.
Weatherwax was born in Seattle. She moved to the Florida Panhandle in 2005. She graduated from Niceville High School.
She was one of only 275 science undergraduates awarded a Goldwater Scholarship for the 2011-12 year, USF said in April. It said then she would be interning with NASA and co-authoring a book chapter on "porous silicon carbide microdialysis membranes."
She plays the trumpet, minors in music, volunteers with Big Brothers Big Sisters and co-founded a USF group that regularly visits middle schools to try and inspire students to excel in math, science and engineering.
"The recipients of these awards are extraordinary," said USF provost Ralph Wilcox. "This isn't just the result of excellence in a narrow field … it's an acknowledgement of the breadth of her abilities."
The award is an honor for USF, too, said Wilcox. He reeled off a string of other prestigious scholarships awarded to USF students in recent years. "This hasn't just happened," he said. "It's further evidence that we're attracting the best and the brightest intellectual talent."
Ron Matus can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8873.