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Rachel Bass ’19 becomes fifth Grinnellian to receive Marshall Scholarship

Rachel Bass ’19 will use her Marshall Scholarship to spend a year studying physics at the University of Edinburgh followed by a year studying mathematics at King’s College in London. Photo by Sarina Lincoln.
Rachel Bass ’19 will use her Marshall Scholarship to spend a year studying physics at the University of Edinburgh followed by a year studying mathematics at King’s College in London. Photo by Sarina Lincoln.

Rachel Bass ’19 recently received a Marshall Award, a prestigious scholarship that only four other Grinnellians have received before her.

After taking into consideration the Watson Fellowship, the Churchill and the Marshall Awards, Bass decided that the Marshall suited her interests best.

“I like the flexibility and I liked the fact that it seemed like it created a cool cohort community of people who have different interests,” she said.

Bass, a mathematics and physics double major, will first use the award to study physics for one year at the University of Edinburgh. She chose this specific program for her physics master because she was attracted to its flexibility in terms of learning: she will learn physics theory and research techniques as well as computational skills. After her year in Edinburgh, she will spend a year at the mathematics education program at King’s College in London. Bass opted for these schools over Oxford and Cambridge because she has a special interest in getting a broader sense of the U.K.

Bass said that the liberal arts education she has received from Grinnell College will benefit her in the future in terms of being able to think broadly about issues and to see the impacts of her research, as opposed to only having the technical skills for it. She also mentioned how she was looking forward to incorporating what she has learned in her courses outside of STEM, specifically her Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies courses.

“The research classes I’ve taken here and the lab classes give me the technical preparation, but I think that some of my classes outside of STEM will help me a lot. I’m excited to weave together my love of math but also these other classes I’ve taken outside and see from that perspective,” Bass said.

A physics mentor for five semesters now, Bass is also excited about looking at education more critically from now on.

The Marshall Award, which can be tailored to a particular program, will pay for Bass’s full tuition during the two years of her stay in the U.K. In addition, she will receive a stipend of around one thousand pounds per month, which will support her living expenses.

“I predict that I will work a couple hours over there just because I like to stay busy. But studies come first,” Bass said.

Bass feels very grateful and lucky to even have had the opportunity of an interview before she was awarded the Marshall. She believes that even if there have only been five recipients in Grinnell, people should not be discouraged from applying for the Marshall Award.

“I think more people should seriously consider themselves as potential candidates for these awards. Even if you don’t get it, thinking really hard about what you want is useful for summer research applications or graduate applications. However, I think there is proof that people from small liberal arts colleges like Grinnell do get these scholarships,” Bass said.

In the future, Bass is interested in teaching physics and math at a collegiate level. She is especially interested in helping students who are interested in studying physics but might be intimidated by the mathematics component of it. Her teaching would focus on ways with which she can change that perspective.

“The whole reason I want to do this mathematics education masters is to learn the ways in which I can support physics learning for students for whom math is what scaring them away from physics,” Bass said.

After graduating from Grinnell College, Bass will be very excited to experience the differences between the United Kingdom, especially Edinburgh, and her hometown in Oregon. She is looking forward to living in a different place outside the United States and adapting to a different culture.

“I’m ready to be challenged. I’m looking forward to being challenged, not only in the course, but also living in a new place and not knowing a lot of the cultural cues,” Bass said.

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