This is an archived article.

December 1, 2005

Two talented undergrads off to Oxford, Cambridge

Two UW undergraduates have been selected as scholars to study at two of Great Britain’s most famous universities.

Eliana Hechter, a senior majoring in math, was one of just 32 Americans selected as a 2006 Rhodes Scholar. She will pursue a doctoral degree in mathematics at Oxford University. Sariah Khormaee, who is majoring in neurobiology and biochemistry, will study at Cambridge University as a Marshall scholar. She is one of just 43 U.S. students selected to study under the Marshall program.

“She is only 18 and look at all that she has accomplished,” says Jim Morrow, professor of mathematics. “I don’t know where she finds the time. She has all the attributes that make for success: Talent, persistence, enthusiasm, confidence and interpersonal skills.”

Morrow met Hechter when she was in his Math 334/5/6 sequence in autumn 2004. The class, Morrow says, is like an academic all-star team, boasting President’s and Dean’s medalists, Goldwater scholars, NSF fellows, and champions in the international Mathematical Contest in Modeling. “Eliana was outstanding even in such a group. She asked good questions. I remember her asking about a concept that could only be discussed using terminology from a senior-level algebra class. Only later did I find that Eliana was enrolled in such a class. That in itself is surprising, considering that most students would not attempt to take my class and another sophisticated math class simultaneously. However, she handled both classes with ease.

“I invited her to be in my summer research program on the basis of her talent, work ethic and personality. Her performance was terrific. She tackled a difficult problem and persisted even when it seemed impossible. Her persistence paid off and she produced a very nice result.”

Hechter, who entered the UW at 14 through the Early Entrance Program, also received a Marshall scholarship but declined it in favor of the Rhodes. She has received numerous honors at the UW, including participation in the Undergraduate Research Apprenticeship Program at Friday Harbor Laboratories, where she studied gene network dynamics and cellular behavior at the Center for Cell Dynamics. She continued her research when she returned to Seattle.

She has received support from a NASA Space Grant scholarship, a National Merit award, an Undergraduate Scholarship and the Mary Gates Endowment for Students. She received a Goldwater scholarship in 2003. She is an undergraduate teaching assistant for honors accelerated advanced calculus.

“Having seen her up close,” says Morrow, “I figured she would be an ideal TA. She is currently not only a TA, but is carrying a heavy load that includes two graduate math courses. I can’t imagine how she does it — carry this heavy workload and still find time to be the pleasant person she is.”

Hechter studied creative writing in Rome with the Honors Program. She also has danced with the UW Dance Program and has played ultimate Frisbee with the Computer Science Department team, Max Flow.

Khormaee is majoring in neurobiology and biochemistry at the UW and will graduate next year with College Honors. She has received UW Undergraduate Scholar awards in 2002-3 and 2003-4. She also has received a Mary Gates Undergraduate Research Training Grant, the Zahlia-Jencks-Rowe Scholarship in Biochemistry, the Henley Honors Program Scholarship and the CRC Department of Chemistry Freshman Achievement Award. In 2005 she received a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Undergraduate Research Grant.

She plans to be at Cambridge for three years, studying for a doctorate and specializing in neural regeneration. She plans to continue her education after Cambridge and receive a medical degree with a specialty in ophthalmology. Her career plans include developing accessible and affordable treatments for curing blindness.

Khormaee is a member of the Phi Beta Kappa honor society. She plays the harp in the UW Harp Ensemble.

Her favorite undergraduate experiences have included participating in research projects in pathology and ophthalmology, and organizing a discussion on access to medical insurance and prescription drugs for the Alpha Epsilon Delta premedical honor society.

Outside of school, Khormaee enjoys watercoloring, Web design, reading, as well as running, bicycling and canoeing.