Samuel J. Bjork ’10, a chemistry concentrator in Eliot House, left his interview for a Marshall Scholarship in Chicago last month with misgivings.
“I ate a soggy burrito, flew [back to Harvard], and just tried to forget about it all,” Bjork said.
The following day in class, the native of Cambridge, Minn. received a phone call notifying him of his Marshall Scholarship to pursue graduate studies at any university in the United Kingdom in the two years following graduation.
“I think I giggled for a while,” said Bjork, who is an inactive Crimson editorial editor.
One of only 35 Marshall Scholars—the lowest number in the past five years—Bjork plans to spend his first year working toward an M.Phil in the history and philosophy of science at Cambridge University. His plans for the second year have not been finalized, but Bjork is considering an M.Sc. in organic chemistry at a different university.
“I think I’m just chronically indecisive,” said Bjork, who flirted with concentrating in the humanities before settling on chemistry. “I’m not sure if it’s a good thing or a bad thing at this point, but I’m grateful for the opportunity to be indecisive in England.”
Stanford topped this year’s list of Marshall Scholars with four recipients. Yale and MIT followed with two scholars each.
Up to 40 American undergraduates are granted the prestigious scholarship every year. All applicants must have a GPA of at least 3.7.
During his time at Harvard, Bjork, who is teaching organic chemistry at the Extension School this semester, has conducted research exploring the anti-cancer effects of certain antibiotics and producing ethanol in bacteria as a possible source of renewable energy with Harvard Medical School genetics professors Jack Szostak and George M. Church as well as ry professor Andrew G. Myers.
Andrew Tolonen, Bjork’s research advisor in Church’s lab, spoke highly of Bjork’s work, adding that he was able to clone a gene in his first week on the job.
“Sam would be a great asset to scientists because he thinks about why scientists do what they do,” Tolonen said.
Outside of the lab, Bjork also played violin in the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra for three years and contributed to several campus publications. He also took a year off after his sophomore year to work at a pediatric HIV/AIDS clinic in Gaborone, Bostwana with a Carl and Lily Pforzheimer Public Service Fellowship.
University Professor Peter L. Galison cited his former student’s intellectual capabilities for science and the humanities.
“He brings just the right combination of aptitude and innovation for the field,” Galison said.