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Senior with passion for physics wins Marshall Scholarship

December 03, 2008

A bright, energetic young ASU senior with a notable passion for science has won a 2009 Marshall Scholarship, among the most prestigious awards for graduate study in the world.

Andrew Gamalski of Chandler, who just turned 20 this summer, will use the award to study in England for two years, starting next fall.

Gamalski started taking college courses at 15 and began working in ASU laboratories as a high school junior, in the high school research program of ASU’s Southwest Center for Education and the Natural Environment. The work so fascinated him that he worked in the lab at ASU every day after school for two years. He also signed up for summer classes.

When he entered ASU as a freshman in fall of 2006, he had completed enough college credit to be a junior. One of his professors has referred to Gamalski, with his devotion and energy, as a “force of nature.”

Gamalski is one of about 40 college seniors nationwide chosen to receive the award, which provides full funding for up to three years of graduate study in the United Kingdom, worth more than $60,000. He is the latest in a string of 14 ASU students who have won Marshalls in the last 16 years, though two students declined.

For more than a year, Gamalski has conducted research at ASU’s Leroy Eyring Center for Solid State Science Laboratory, investigating how variations in temperature and pressure affect carbon nanotubes’ growth. He anticipates graduating this coming May from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences with a degree in physics and mathematics, and he will continue his study at the University of Cambridge.

“Andrew is one of the two most intensely focused physics majors I have ever taught,” says Richard Lebed, an ASU associate professor of physics. “He approaches physics with an indefatigable ‘can-do’ spirit. No problem, no matter how complicated, seems to intimidate him. It has been delightful to see Andrew mature intellectually beyond his purely technical background. He is well-liked by his peers and viewed, due to his energy, as something of a benign force of nature.”

Gamalski says he fell in love early on with the field of mathematics. As a high school junior, working in an ASU lab, he developed an algorithm using linear programming to minimize factory inefficiency. He decided to go to ASU because of the opportunity to continue his research as an undergraduate.

He also loves getting youths excited about science and math, doing chemistry demonstrations for children through the ASU Chemistry Club, and designing lesson plans and demonstrations for high school physics and science teachers in an outreach program called Science is Fun. He hopes to be a university professor someday.

Gamalski, an avid woodworker, also volunteers at United Food Bank and Paz de Cristo Community Center.

“Andrew’s accomplishments owe a lot to his passion, perseverance and perspiration,” says Michael Treacy, professor of physics. “He works very hard and pushes himself to his limits. His enthusiasm and energy for physics is contagious, and his diplomatic personal style is a pleasure to watch and experience. It is clear that he will succeed at whatever he chooses to embrace.”

The Marshalls are awarded by region, with eight regions. ASU has the distinction of being the only university in the Los Angeles region to have a Marshall Scholar both this year and last year.

Prominent past Marshall Scholars include U.S. Supreme Court justice Stephen Breyer, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Tom Friedman of the New York Times, Peter Orszag (who just was named budget director in President-elect Barack Obama’s administration) and former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt.