Two UK Students Earn NSF Fellowships

Contact: Ralph Derickson

Photo of John H. “Jack” Challis
John H. “Jack” Challis

Photo of Ryan Gabbard
Ryan Gabbard

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Both National Merit Scholars, Challis and Gabbard reside on the same floor in Boyd Hall, an Honors Program residence hall at UK, and share the presidency of the UK math club. They also have been in national mathematics competitions together while they were undergraduate students.

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 14, 2004) -- Two University of Kentucky students who will graduate in May have been awarded National Science Foundation (NSF) grants to pursue graduate studies.

John H. “Jack” Challis of Erlanger and Ryan Gabbard of Louisville, both UK Singletary Scholars, will each receive $30,000 per year in NSF grants for three years of graduate studies. Additionally, NSF will pay their tuition and fees at the institutions where they study.

Challis, who also received $7,500 from the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program in his junior year at UK, will receive a bachelor’s degree in physics and a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the College of Arts and Sciences during UK’s 137th Commencement set for Saturday, May 8, in Rupp Arena. He will pursue a doctorate in physics from Yale beginning this fall.

Gabbard, will receive a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and a second degree in linguistics from the College of Arts and Sciences at the May graduation ceremony. He will study computer science at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, this fall.

Challis, who was described by UK physics professor Ganpathy Murthy as “the best undergraduate student I've ever seen – ever,” said he anticipates a career in academia after earning his doctorate. He said he chose Yale for graduate studies because “there is a physics professor there, Steve Girvin, whose work I greatly admire.”

Challis, the son of Richard and Emily Challis and a graduate of Villa Madonna Academy in Villa Hills, Ky., has current research interests in theoretical physics and quantum computing. “I'm interested in building a simple quantum computer,” he said.

Both National Merit Scholars, Challis and Gabbard reside on the same floor in Boyd Hall, an Honors Program residence hall at UK, and share the presidency of the UK math club. They also have been in national mathematics competitions together while they were undergraduate students.

Gabbard, a graduate of Jefferson County’s duPont Manual High School, is the son of Melinda and Gary Gabbard of Louisville. He will study computational linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania. This field, he said, is about “how statistics can be combined with linguistics to make computers learn about human language.”

Jerzy Jaromczyk, one of Gabbard’s professors, said Gabbard led UK’s computer science programming team to last year’s finals in the Association for Computing Machinery International Collegiate Programming Competition in Beverly Hills, Calif., to a 10th place finish. “Ryan’s contributions to the team have been on all the levels starting from diligent and intensive practices, to being an outstanding problem solver and extremely efficient programmer,” Jaromczyk added.

Another of Gabbard’s professors, Gregory Stump, professor of English and linguistics, said, “He is capable and energetic, extremely hard working and passionate about language and how it works.”

Gabbard said he found that he liked both computers and linguistics while studying at UK, “and I found a way to combine the two.” He served an internship last year with Microsoft in Redmond near Seattle, Washington, and worked on projects related to making computers extract desired information and filter out uninteresting material from documents and search engine results.

Gabbard said he chose to attend UK because “the university has really good teachers and is really good at getting undergraduate students involved in research.”


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