Junior Matthew Zedler, a mechanical engineering major who uses his technical expertise to assist humanitarian efforts, has been named a 2006 Harry S Truman Scholar.
The Truman Scholarships were established in 1977 to honor students who are likely to make a difference, according to the program's web site.
Former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright announced the 75 scholars on March 28. They were selected from among 598 candidates from 311 colleges and universities. Each scholarship provides $30,000 for graduate study.
Scholars receive priority admission and supplemental financial aid at some premier graduate institutions as well as leadership training, career and graduate school counseling and special internship opportunities within the federal government.
Zedler's community service efforts have been both local and global. Last summer, he spent a month in Lesotho teaching a high school class about hydropower generation.
Since then, he has become an active member of Engineers Without Borders, a humanitarian organization that uses engineering skills to improve the quality of life in developing countries.
In March 2005, he spent spring break with Habitat for Humanity, framing a home for a family in Washington, D.C.
Zedler is also the coordinator of Families Accessing Computer Technology, a computer access and training program run through the Public Service Center.
Zedler, who has a particular interest in energy policy, said he plans to use the scholarship to study mechanical engineering with a particular focus on renewable energy technology and policy. "I will hopefully work with a think tank or government organization for a few years in the U.S. before going to a developing country or the United Nations to work on energy policy there."
Currently spending his junior year at Cambridge University in England, Zedler said that the Truman application process last year was an opportunity to reflect. "The process itself gave me a chance to reevaluate where I am heading in my life and set some goals for myself," he said.
Associate Professor Anne McCants of history, a former Truman Scholar, recommended Zedler. "Matt has already demonstrated his commitment to applying science and technology to 'the problem' of social inequality, and it will be great to have talented, thoughtful and compassionate individuals like him working on the whole complex of these issues in the future," McCants said.
In May, the 2006 Truman Scholars will attend a weeklong leadership development program at William Jewell College in Liberty, Mo. For a listing of the 2006 scholars and more information on the foundation, visit www.truman.gov.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on April 5, 2006 (download PDF).