Marshall Scholars

April 1, 2009

Brilliant prospects: Liu, top, and Roberts.

Brilliant prospects: Liu, top, and Roberts.

Brilliant prospects: Liu, top, and Roberts. Photos by Les Todd

Two Duke seniors involved in laboratory research have been awarded Marshall Scholarships to continue their studies after graduation.

Sally Liu, from San Diego, California, is a premed student and accomplished lab researcher who pole vaults on the Duke track team. She intends to study public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and at the London School of Economics for the next two years.

Dan Roberts, from Melville, New York, is a double-major in electrical and computer engineering and physics and is involved in electromagnetic research. After earning a certificate of advanced study in mathematics at the University of Cambridge, he will join the London lab of John Pendry, a pioneer in the field of transformational optics.

Established in 1953 to commemorate the Marshall Plan, the scholarships are awarded each year to forty or more "talented, independent, and wide-ranging" young Americans to finance two years of graduate study in the United Kingdom.

Liu, who has already been accepted by seven of the medical schools she applied to, will defer admission while she earns two master's degrees—one in public health and health policy, and one in planning and financing. "Having spent time focusing on cells and the molecular level of life as an undergraduate, it will be great to be looking at things from a more macro level," Liu says.

An A.B. Duke Scholar, Liu has worked in a Duke biology lab with assistant research professor Nina Sherwood Ph.D. '98, studying muscular disorders in fruit flies, and had some clinical experience with patients in Duke's Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center. Fluent in Mandarin Chinese, she has also worked at the Xi'an Jiaotong University in China and the University of California at San Diego.

This spring will probably be the final season of her pole-vaulting career, Liu says. She posted the fifth-highest vault in the Duke women's team history at 11 feet, 10 inches. "I'm aiming for 12," she says.

Roberts complements his double-major with a minor in mathematics. He conducts research in the laboratory of David R. Smith, William Bevan Professor of electrical and computer engineering, who gained international attention for his work in metamaterials—specifically, for developing what's known as the "invisibility cloak." Smith and Pendry, the London-based optics pioneer, regularly collaborate.