Fourth-year wins Gates scholarship, will study physics at CambridgeBy Josh Schonwald
Baumgart, 21, a Physics concentrator, is the third University student to earn the honor in the program’s three-year history. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation chose Baumgart, one of 41 American recipients and 250 recipients worldwide, to receive a full-tuition scholarship to pursue an advanced degree at Trinity College at the University of Cambridge. The scholarship, which is comparable to a Churchill or Rhodes scholarship, covers $32,000 in tuition and roughly $14,000 in annual spending money for academic supplies and living expenses.
Baumgart, who said he has known since his junior year in high school that he wanted to be a physicist, believes the year at Cambridge will enable him to answer a crucial question about his career path. “I know I want to work as a high-energy physicist. But I’m not sure whether I want to do experimental or theoretical work,” said Baumgart. “This program will give me a chance to decide before entering a Ph.D. program.”
At Cambridge, Baumgart will focus his studies in the department of applied mathematics and theoretical physics, where he hopes to gain a better grounding in quantum field theory and the math that relates to high-energy physics.
A native of DeKalb, Ill., Baumgart attended the Illinois Math and Science Academy, where he studied quantum mechanics with Nobel laureate Leon Lederman, the Frank L. Sulzberger Professor Emeritus in Physics, who was a scholar-in-residence at the school.
He developed an interest in high-energy physics at the academy and has continued to pursue it at Chicago. Since his second year, Baumgart has worked with Melvyn Shochet, the Elaine M. & Samuel D. Kersten Jr., Distinguished Service Professor in Physical Sciences, on the Collider Detector at Fermilab project on high-energy physics.
“He’s one of the finest undergraduate students I’ve had,” said Shochet, who noted that Baumgart presented his experimental results to a CDF working group that typically comprises graduate students, post-doctoral students and faculty members. Baumgart has the potential to make great contributions to his field, Shochet added.
While Baumgart continues to work at Fermilab on his undergraduate thesis, he also makes time for additional activities. He is interested in modern dance and is an active member of the University of Chicago Dancers.
After graduating from Cambridge, Baumgart plans to pursue his Ph.D. in physics. To date, he has been accepted into Ph.D. programs at Chicago, Columbia, Harvard, Princeton, and Stanford universities, the University of California-Berkeley, the University of California-Santa Barbara, the University of Wisconsin, the California Institute of Technology and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.