Rock Bridge graduate wins prestigious Rhodes Scholarship

Sunday, November 18, 2007 | 7:30 p.m. CST; updated 5:31 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008
Todd Gingrich, 22, is one of 32 Americans selected to receive a Rhodes Scholarship for study at Oxford University in England.

COLUMBIA — Todd Gingrich, a 2004 Rock Bridge High School graduate and a senior at the California Institute of Technology, is soon to be an Oxford man.

Gingrich, 22, of Columbia, was one of 32 Americans selected Saturday to receive the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship for study at Oxford University in England.

The Rhodes Scholarship pays for tuition and lab fees at Oxford and will also provide Gingrich a stipend of 11,000 pounds, or $22,600, for the year.

“Living expenses are a lot more over there,” Gingrich said, “but I think the idea is that you break even.”

While at Oxford, Gingrich said he will pursue a one year master’s course that includes coursework as well as a three- to four-month research project. Gingrich, whose research area includes solar cells and semiconductor technology, said he eventually plans to pursue a doctorate in chemistry.

“They strongly encourage us to stay (at Oxford) for at least two years,” Gingrich said, “but I’ll do the year and then make the decision.”

Gingrich said the application process began with an open-ended 1,000 word personal statement, a two-page resume and list of achievements, and between five and eight letters of recommendation.

The application process culminated in a 30 minute interview conducted Saturday. The selection committee announces the scholarship winners the same day they conduct the interviews.

“It’s a tough experience,” Gingrich said. “The committee interviews the candidates in 30-minute time slots beginning at 8 a.m. and ending by 3 p.m. Then they plan on an hour of deliberation.”

“They make the announcements in front everybody. Twelve extremely accomplished students in the room. There’s a long silence while everybody lets it sink in.”

“(The other winner and I) were too in shock to be excited,” Gingrich said.

Gingrich, who was a high school valedictorian at Rock Bridge, was a summer intern at MU’s Chemistry Department in 2005 and got his first introduction to biological research while in high school from George P. Smith, an MU professor of biological sciences.

This year’s 32 American winners were chosen from a pool of 764 applicants from colleges and universities across the nation.

The Rhodes Scholarship program was established in 1902 through the will of Cecil Rhodes, an Oxford graduate who made his fortune in the 19th century South African diamond mines.

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