Rachel Bass ’19 Receives Prestigious Marshall Scholarship

December 04, 2018

Rachel Bass ’19 has been named one of 48 recipients of the prestigious Marshall Scholarship to pursue graduate studies in the United Kingdom. The physics and mathematics major from Salem, Oregon, was selected from about 1,000 applicants on the basis of academic merit, as well as leadership and ambassadorial potential.

Bass, well-poised to navigate the world’s complexities to contribute to the common good, is the first Grinnell recipient of a Marshall Scholarship since 1990 and the fifth since the program was founded in 1953. Others are Susan Harvey ’75, James Goodfellow ’82, Christopher Johnson ’82, and Julia Janik ’90.

Bass intends to complete a Master of Science in particle and nuclear physics at the University of Edinburgh and a Master of Arts in mathematics education at King’s College London. She then aims to return to the United States to earn a Ph.D. in experimental physics and become a professor, mentor, and researcher, much as the Grinnell faculty members who collaborated with her as an undergraduate.

The Marshall Scholarships, honoring former U.S. Secretary of State George C. Marshall, enable Americans of high ability to undertake one or two years of graduate study at British universities. These future leaders come away with a lasting understanding of British society, strengthening the relationship between the British and American peoples, their governments and institutions.

Bass says the particle and nuclear physics degree will provide her with a strong theoretical foundation along with insight into that science’s applications. The math degree, she adds, will help her develop a knowledge of mathematics pedagogy and increase her understanding of the intersections between education, research, and society.

“I am curious about how the world works and want to use physics to develop that answer,” Bass says. “I plan on working in a capacity that allows me to pursue my love of physics while working to help others understand and appreciate the subject.” 

Bass has contributed to the Grinnell student experience as a physics SEPC leader, calculus tutor, physics lab teaching assistant, physics mentor, science peer mentor, and dining hall student leader.

Seizing on Grinnell’s focus on individually advised learning, Bass secured a 2018 summer internship at CERN, the European organization for nuclear research based in Geneva, Switzerland. That kindled her interest in international graduate study. She also conducted physics research on the Cornell-Brookhaven National Laboratory Energy-Recovery Linac Test Accelerator team, which led to a conference proceedings publication.

“This international research group really brought home to Rachel how collaboration between people with different perspectives, values, and backgrounds enhances the possibilities for serious intellectual inquiry,” says Barbara Breen, assistant professor of physics. Breen and Paul Tjossem, Bass’ academic adviser, are two experts who worked closely with the student to advise and mentor her. Tjossem and Bass produced a manuscript, which they submitted for publication, regarding the classic candle seesaw experiment.

“Rachel is a creative problem-solver with first-rate physics, computing, mathematics, communication, and interpersonal skills,” Tjossem says.

Bass, a Trustee Honors Scholar, has received the Sujeev Wickramasekara Memorial Scholarship, Able Scholarship, and Goldwater Scholarship Honorable Mention during her time at Grinnell.

For more information about the Marshall Scholarship, advising, and application, contact Ann Landstrom in the Center for Careers, Life, and Service.