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Churchill Scholarship goes to MIT senior


Daniel P. Riordan, a senior from Eatontown, N.J., has been awarded the prestigious Churchill Scholarship.

Riordan, who will receive the S.B. degree in biology and mathematics in June, will spend next year at the University of Cambridge, England pursuing an M.Phil. degree in biological science.

The Winston Churchill Foundation of America, founded in 1959, sponsors the scholarship program for students from the United States. Churchill College, where awardees spend a year, was founded in 1959 to honor Winston Churchill, the United Kingdom's World War II prime minister, by providing a center for education in science and technology.

Riordan chose to study at MIT, he said, "because of its unbelievable educational opportunities, its amazing and unique students and its ideal location in the greater Boston area."

He arrived with an interest in biology, but was inspired in his freshman year to pursue the double major by the encouragment and example of Gian-Carlo Rota, professor of mathematics and philosophy who died in April 1999, Riordan said. He credits his advisor, Chris Kaiser, associate professor of biology, for guiding him toward bioinformatics.

"After I discussed with Professor Kaiser ways to combine my interests in biology and mathematics, he suggested I explore bioinformatics and computational biology through a summer internship in the Functional Genomics Group at Millennium Pharmaceuticals in Cambridge, Mass. I did that and enjoyed it very much, so I chose to further pursue this field through a UROP in the lab of Professor Chris Burge," said Riordan.

Rota and Burge, a research scientist in biology, encouraged him to consider university teaching as a career, Riordan said.

"Professor Rota inspired me to major in mathematics and aspire to a career as a professor. My academic advisor, Professor Chris Kaiser, supported my interest in biology and encouraged me to explore bioinformatics and computational biology. Professor Chris Burge, my project lab and UROP research mentor, helped me develop research skills in bioinformatics and inspired me to pursue this field in my graduate studies. He also helped me to prepare for my intended career in academia by encouraging me to teach. I am now a teaching assistant for a new class first offered this semester, 7.93 Foundations of Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, that Professor Burge co-teaches," noted Riordan.

Riordan, who has travelled to Spain and Italy, is "very excited about going to the U.K. and traveling throughout Europe next year."

Following his year at Cambridge, he plans to continue his graduate study toward a Ph.D. in biology, he said.

The last MIT winner of a Churchill Scholarship was Carmen Berg, in 1998.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on May 1, 2002.

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