Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

USF's Marshall Scholarship winner deflects the limelight

USF Honors College student Jean Weatherwax was the school’s first ever to earn the award.

Photo courtesy of USF

USF Honors College student Jean Weatherwax was the school’s first ever to earn the award.

TAMPA — Jean Weatherwax walked into class, and applause broke out.

A day earlier, the University of South Florida announced that Weatherwax, 22, had been awarded the school's first ever prestigious Marshall Scholarship — which will pay for her to study in London for two years.

The unassuming electrical engineering student blushed. She didn't expect a big hoopla over the award. Heck, she didn't even expect to get it.

That's Weatherwax, say those close to her. Humble is an understatement.

Ask her about the award, and she won't tell you that she's one of just a few dozen American college students who receive it each year — in honor of Gen. George C. Marshall's efforts to help rebuild Europe after World War II. Instead, she'll give credit to her teachers, her mentor, her research team, her parents, even USF itself.

"I think it must be good for the university," Weatherwax said. "They must get some publicity and recognition out of it."

She won't mention that this year she also won a Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, the country's highest honor for science undergraduates. Or that last summer she interned at a NASA research center in California.

"It's a little weird to be called and interviewed," Weatherwax said, "Because I don't feel that special."

The girl from Niceville, Fla., will next fall study at the Imperial College London with Dr. Pantelis Georgiou, whose biomedical research Weatherwax has admired from afar. She wants to help him as he develops the first artificial pancreas for treating Type 1 diabetes.

It's a personal pursuit for Weatherwax, whose father, Lee, has the disease. Her parents didn't know that was the plan until the award was announced.

"It's very sweet," said Lee Weatherwax, who works for Boeing in Charleston, S.C. Like his daughter, he deflected the spotlight. "I may benefit from possible future endeavors she works on. … But I think she's looking more bigger-picture, wanting to help a lot of people."

Her faculty mentor, USF engineering professor Stephen Saddow, said it's that care for others that sets Weatherwax apart. Plus, her humility.

"There are a lot of smart people who are arrogant or conceited," he said. "The fact that she doesn't take herself too seriously is one of her strengths."

Weatherwax came to Saddow after interviewing for the Marshall Scholarship, sure that she didn't get it. Saddow doubted that was true.

He wasn't surprised to find out he was right. "She just has a really intense desire to learn," he said.

She has been that way since she was born: curious and inquisitive, said Weatherwax's mother, Lisa, a freelance journalist. As a child, Weatherwax's favorite segment on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood was the "how stuff works" bit. She never shied away from math problems.

"Her academic achievements and her engineering achievements in the research fields are stunning," her mother said. "But as her mother, what I'm most impressed by is, she's just got a heart of gold."

Weatherwax volunteers with Big Brothers Big Sisters. One of her proudest days was when her "little sister" suddenly showed an interest in learning, bringing books from the library to read together.

As a sophomore, she also started a student organization aimed at getting minority middle school students excited about studying science, math or engineering.

When she finishes her studies, she wants to keep researching — maybe someday have her own lab to find new medical devices to help people who are suffering.

"I just hope to make a small impact," she said.

Kim Wilmath can be reached at kwilmath@tampabay.com or 813-226-3337.

USF's Marshall Scholarship winner deflects the limelight 12/10/11 [Last modified: Saturday, December 10, 2011 3:31am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Rowdies shut out at Pittsburgh

    Soccer

    PITTSBURGH — The Rowdies lost their first USL game in nearly a month, 1-0 to Pittsburgh on Thursday night.

  2. Trump reveals that he didn't record Comey after all

    Politics

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump declared Thursday he never made and doesn't have recordings of his private conversations with ousted former FBI director James Comey, ending a monthlong guessing game that he started with a cryptic tweet and that ensnared his administration in yet more controversy.

    President Donald Trump said Thursday that he didn’t record his conversations with James Comey.
  3. Lightning fans, don't get attached to your first-round draft picks

    Lightning Strikes

    CHICAGO — When Lightning GM Steve Yzerman announces his first-round pick tonight in the amateur draft at No. 14, he'll invite the prospect onto the stage for the once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity.

    Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Jonathan Drouin (27) eludes  Montreal Canadiens left wing Phillip Danault (24) during the second period of Wednesday???‚??„?s (12/28/16) game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Montreal Canadiens at the Amalie Arena in Tampa.
  4. Investigation Discovery TV show profiles 2011 Landy Martinez murder case

    Crime

    The murder of a St. Petersburg man will be featured this week on a new true crime series Murder Calls on Investigation Discovery.

    Jose Adame sits in a Pinellas County courtroom during his 2016 trial and conviction for first-degree murder. Adame was convicted of first-degree murder last year for torturing and then executing his boyfriend as he pleaded for his life in 2011. Now it will be featured in a new true crime series Murder Calls on Investigation Discovery. The episode will air on June 26 at 9 p.m. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times]
  5. Uhuru mayoral candidate Jesse Nevel protests exclusion from debate

    Blogs

    ST. PETERSBURG — Jesse Nevel, the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement candidate for mayor, on Thursday demanded that he be allowed to participate in a July 25 televised debate between incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman and challenger Rick Baker.

    Mayoral candidate Jesse Nevel holds a news conference outside the headquarters of the Tampa Bay Times on Thursday to protest his exclusion from the mayoral debate. Nevel is a member of the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement.