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Harvard Senior Earns Churchill Scholarship

By Ruth Zheng, Contributing Writer

UPDATED: April 2, 2018 at 1:11 a.m.

Vikram Sundar ’18 was recently named one of 16 Churchill Scholars from a pool of 101 nominations, allowing him to pursue a fully funded master’s degree at the University of Cambridge next fall.

Sundar, who will graduate this spring with a degree in mathematics and a secondary in chemistry, as well as a master’s in physics, is the only Harvard student to receive the prestigious scholarship this year.

Launched in 1963 in honor of Winston Churchill, the scholarship provides awardees with a year of study at Churchill College in Cambridge. The scholarship supports students studying science, technology, engineering, and mathematics “with the goal of advancing science and technology on both sides of the Atlantic, helping to ensure our future prosperity and security,” according to its website.

Sundar said he is looking forward to pursuing his research project: exploring computational techniques to model protein-ligand binding in a new cultural and academic environment.

“I get to be in a community of really intelligent and really driven people who are interested in a lot of the same things as I am,” Sundar said.

Alán Aspuru-Guzik, professor of chemistry and chemical biology and Sundar’s current research advisor, said he is not surprised by Sundar’s achievement.

“Vikram is an outstanding student. He has always been an excellent researcher,” Aspuru-Guzik said.

Sundar said he first became interested in research in high school, when he pursued projects in computational biology. But it wasn’t until he took organic chemistry at Harvard that he found his current area of interest, which falls in the field of computational chemistry.

Sundar said his goals extend beyond purely academic achievement. He hopes to use computational techniques and his knowledge of physics and chemistry to come up with new and better ways to treat diseases.

“That’s broader than just whatever degree I get,” Sundar said.

Aspuru-Guzik said he thinks Sundar's potential is boundless.

“For people like Vikram, the sky’s the limit," he said. "As long as he continues being such a humble, talented, young man, he will go as far as he wants,” he said.

To date, Harvard students have received over 40 Churchill scholarships, the most recent earned by Daniel H. Rothchild ’17, who pursued a master’s in physics at Cambridge in the 2017-18 academic year.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

CORRECTION: April 2, 2018

A previous version of this article incorrectly indicated Vikram Sundar '18 is pursuing a joint degree in math and chemistry. In fact, he is pursuing a concentration in math and a secondary in chemistry.

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