A Torrey Pines graduate was honored as a Rhodes Scholar over the weekend for her early accomplishments in science.
Francisca Vasconcelos is one of 32 young scholars who will get the chance to study at the University of Oxford in England through the scholarship program, all expenses paid.
“I think I was kind of in shock more than anything. I know that the other girl who won, she was very emotional and in tears, but I think I was just kind of too stunned to react. I didn’t really expect it,” said Francisca Vasconcelos.
Vasconcelos is currently a senior at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where she is double majoring in electrical engineering computer science and physics. The Rhodes scholar’s interest in quantum computing and her research in that field, thus far, played a part in her strong application into the program.
“So, my junior year at MIT, I joined the engineering quantum systems group and we do research on quantum computers and I think that was sort of what shaped my application and most of the questions I got in the interview were about my work in the group,” said Vasconcelos.
Vasconcelos intends to study mathematics and foundations of computer science during her first year at Oxford and then accomplish a master’s of statistics in her second year overseas.
“I hope that [the training] will improve the quality of the research I can do, and then Oxford has one of the world’s largest quantum centers in the world, and I think it will be really cool to go explore the technology’s there and learn about the ways in which quantum technologies are being developed in the UK, and see if that differs between here in the U.S.,” said Vasconcelos.
The scholars are selected based on academic excellence and candidates who seek to make a difference in the world, according to the Rhodes Trust.
Vasconcelos’ parents are both electrical engineer professors at UC San Diego. She said her parents valued education and always allowed her to choose her path, whether that was in science or not.
Vasconcelos also credits her San Diego education at Torrey Pines High School for preparing her for advanced classes.
“I definitely think that when I got to MIT and taking the general courses that everyone had to take, I really felt well-prepared as a result of this incredible preparation that Torrey Pines gave me. And I think because I felt prepared going into classes, that also gave me more opportunity to explore research and have more free time to work on those sorts of things,” said Vasconcelos.
The San Diego scholar starts her program at Oxford next October.