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OSU student named Churchill Scholar for first time in 44 years

For the first time in 44 years and second time ever, an Ohio State student has been named a Churchill Scholar.

Tyler Merz, a fourth-year in engineering physics from Fairfield, Ohio, has been named the 2011 recipient of the award.

“The Winston Churchill Foundation awards 14 scholarships annually to graduating seniors or recent graduates who display exceptional academic talent, outstanding personal qualities, and a capacity to contribute to the advancement of knowledge in the sciences, engineering or mathematics,” according to the Honors Collegium at OSU.

The scholarship, first awarded in 1963, grants students one year of post-graduate study at the University of Cambridge in England in a related field.

Merz first learned of the news on Jan. 11.

“I was really happy. I was excited, I’d been stressing out about it a lot,” Merz said.

Merz will be pursuing a Master of Philosophy in physics at Cambridge and plans to return to the U.S. to start a doctorate program in applied physics. His goal is to become a physics professor at a research university, mentoring students and conducting research.

“I was almost in tears when I read the article in the school e-mail,” said Bill Merz, Tyler’s father.

Tyler’s journey to the 2011 Churchill Scholarship began his freshman year while conducting research with Leonard Brillson, a professor in the college of engineering. His research led to a project designing and constructing a microscope to look at the electronic structure of materials at a scale smaller than previously possible under normal conditions. He is currently in the process of redesigning and adding more functionality to the microscope.

Last year, Tyler, along with four other students and two professors, presented research findings in Brazil at the University of Sao Paulo after receiving first place in his division at OSU’s Denman Undergraduate Research Forum in May 2010. This was not the first time Tyler had worked on physics outside the U.S.

After his sophomore year, Tyler received a research internship from the DAAD, Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst, or in English, the German Academic Exchange Service, to conduct research at the Technical University of Munich, in Germany, on the characterization of magnetic materials under cold temperatures and high-applied pressures.

In 2010, Tyler was named a recipient of the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, the most prestigious award recognizing undergraduate research in the sciences and engineering, according to OSU’s Honors Collegium. He also spent part of 2010 conducting materials science research at Cornell University.

Research is just one of Tyler’s passions as he constantly promotes education through various programs with which he is involved.

In 2010, he was named a DAAD Young Ambassador, for which he is a liaison for scholarships related to OSU. His sophomore year, he helped found Students for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, which promotes such fields in Columbus City Schools. He is also involved in the programs Women in Engineering and Engineers in Motion, designed to promote engineering as a career path.

Tyler has helped co-author four publications and is the first author in an upcoming publication, “Surface Science Letters.”

“I can’t imagine I would have these same opportunities had I gone to a different school. I feel like I’ve been extremely fortunate to become involved with the mentors and the programs that I have here,” Tyler said. “I can’t imagine being as successful anywhere else.”

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