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OSU student named Churchill Scholar, receives opportunity to study at Cambridge

Thomas Bradley / Campus editor

Marc Khoury, a fourth-year in computer science and engineering, was named the third Churchill Scholar in Ohio State history, earning him a trip to England to study what he loves to do.

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

“I couldn’t believe it,” Khoury said of his initial reaction after receiving the news that he won on Jan. 7. “There were no words. I still don’t believe it, and it’s still not apparent that I’ve won this.”

The scholarship will grant Khoury and the other 13 scholars one year at the University of Cambridge in England to conduct post-graduate study in a related field. Khoury said he will be joining a Cambridge research group, which studies computer graphics and imaging.

Since freshman year, Khoury has been working with Rephael Wenger, an associate professor of computer science and engineering, conducting research with algorithms and data visualization. Wenger said Khoury’s initiative to get involved with research so early has set him apart from other undergraduates.

Khoury’s work with Wenger resulted in a paper they presented at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Visualization Conference in 2010.

“For an undergrad to have a paper, which this was just a two-author paper, is huge,” Wenger said. “Sometimes you get an undergrad named on a six-author paper, but he did a lot of work. It was really just me and Marc working on this 50-50.”

Khoury, from Strongsville, Ohio, told The Lantern he has known he wanted to pursue a career in computer science since high school.

“When you start off, it’s really just learning how to code,” Khoury said. “I started in an intro-programming class in high school, and I was learning how to write just simple programs to be run on a computer, but what it felt like to me was the whole world had just opened up. I could do anything I wanted, and I was limited only by my own imagination.”

Antoinette Khoury, Marc’s mother, said as a parent she is very proud of Marc after watching him work so hard and grow up a lot during his four years at OSU.

“When he started at OSU, it was such a different environment for him,” Antoinette Khoury said. “He transitioned well and made the dean’s list all freshman year. His professors at OSU really took him under their wing, and I’m really grateful for that.”

Marc Khoury has had two internships in the past year. Last summer he interned at AT&T Labs in New Jersey, and in fall he interned at Amazon.com in Seattle.

“For an undergraduate, he’s accomplished a significant amount in four years,” said Dana Kuchem, program manager at the Undergraduate Fellowship Office. “The places he did internships at are pretty competitive … For Marc the recognition is wonderful, but it’s not really about winning a big award, although it’s an honor. This allows him to really go after what he wants to accomplish.”

Marc Khoury is the second Churchill Scholar fron OSU in the last two years. He said he has spoke to OSU’s 2011 Churchill Scholar, Tyler Merz, about what to expect in England next year.

“I expect it to be an absolutely amazing year,” Marc Khoury said. “I’ll be surrounded by incredibly intelligent people at a really cool place, culture, a lot of history and one of the best universities in the world. It’s going to be an unforgettable year.”

Marc Khoury will begin his year at Cambridge on Oct. 1. He said after Cambridge he plans to attend graduate school, most likely at University of California, Berkeley, and eventually wants to focus on academia and teaching younger generations about computer science.

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