Five current PhD students and young alumni have received 2022 Hertz Scholarships in Applied Sciences, Engineering and Mathematics. They are among 13 graduate students selected by the Fannie and John Hertz Foundation who demonstrate “deep, connective knowledge and the extraordinary creativity to tackle problems that others cannot solve,” according to the foundation’s announcement.
This year’s recipients from MIT are Roderick Bayliss III ’20, MNG ’21; Alexander Cohen; David Li ’22; Scott Barrow Moroch; and Syamantak Payra ’22. In addition, two awardees from other schools, Wenjie Gong and Shuvam Sadhuka, will soon begin doctoral studies at the institute.
“We face increasingly daunting challenges to our national security and defense, including climate change, pandemic response, public health and food security,” said Philip Welkhoff, the 2004 Hertz Fellow who led the selection process and is director of the malaria program is at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. “John Hertz believed that to meet such challenges, our nation needs a vibrant, innovative cadre of applied science researchers with deep and broad knowledge and courage who are creative, curious and determined to make a difference. The 13 most recent Hertz Scholars embody these values in a unique and individual way, and I look forward to welcoming them to the Hertz community and seeing what they achieve in the years to come.”
Hertz Foundation grantees receive five years of doctoral-level research funding (up to a total of $250,000) that allows them the flexibility and autonomy to pursue their own research interests beyond the traditional graduate education path. Fellows also enjoy lifelong mentoring and professional support from a network of highly qualified alumni fellows. The connections formed between these individuals have sparked collaborative startups, research and technology commercialization.
This year’s MIT recipients explore innovative applications in electronics, bioengineering, and biomedical devices.
Roderick Bayliss III ’20, MNG ’21 is currently a graduate student in electrical engineering at the University of California, where he is focused on developing more efficient and power-dense electronics. By improving power converters — which modify the current, frequency, or voltage of electrical energy — in everyday machines, vehicles, and appliances, he hopes to increase energy efficiency and ultimately reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. Bayliss was interested in energy efficiency throughout his time at MIT as an undergraduate and graduate student. An avid motorsport fan, Bayliss was a member of the MIT Edgerton Center motorsport team and helped develop new battery and traction systems for Formula SAE electric cars. During his internships at Tesla, SpaceX and Apple, he also worked to reduce the size and cost of electronics.
Alexander Kohen, a math graduate student at MIT, studies harmonic analysis—specifically, what mathematical analysis techniques can reveal about puzzling phenomena in applied science, in fields like quantum mechanics and computer science. As a student at Yale University, he researched how structure and randomness are related in polynomials, and he worked with others to prove the uniqueness of a soliton in the “first excited state” in the cubic nonlinear Klein-Gordon equation. He received recognition for his work with a Barry M. Goldwater Fellowship and an honorable mention for the American Mathematical Society’s highest award, the Frank and Brennie Morgan Prize for Outstanding Research in Mathematics.
David Li ’22 plans to pursue a Ph.D. in Bioengineering from Stanford University and research molecular computational tools to manipulate cells and molecules. Before starting his PhD, he will study as a Marshall Scholar in the UK. Li studied electrical engineering and computer science with minors in mechanical engineering and economics, but has long had an interest in biology. As a middle school student, he took MIT’s online courses in introductory biology and molecular biology; did research during high school at the University of Minnesota; and was part of a winning team in the national Genes in Space competition in 2018. At MIT, Li worked on gene editing technologies at the Broad Institute, where he helped develop new biological tools for genome editing and directed evolution. He was also involved in the development of a new, large-scale Covid-19 testing method.
Scott Barrow Moroch is currently a PhD student in physics at MIT and works at the intersection of nuclear, atomic and particle physics. With experiments in precision physics, he hopes to develop new techniques in the fields of ion traps, radioactive isotopes, laser spectroscopy and quantum technologies. Moroch has been designing tabletop experiments since he was young when he built his own particle accelerator and nuclear fusion reactor. He received a Barry M. Goldwater Fellowship for his undergraduate research at the University of Maryland, which involved the development of a cryogenic Penning trap to study decay rate perturbations in highly charged radioisotopes.
Syamantak Payra ’22 studied electrical engineering and computer science and will receive his PhD from Stanford University this fall, where he will focus on the development of biomedical devices for a variety of applications, e.g. B. to correct physiological limitations and to facilitate the diagnosis of diseases. His interest in using technology to solve unmet healthcare needs stems from his own experiences growing up in Texas. While there, Payra witnessed his grandmother’s struggles with respiratory illnesses and lost a little brother to brain cancer. Motivated by interactions with a teacher who was paralyzed by post-polio syndrome, at age 14 he designed a robotic leg brace that won the Intel Foundation’s Young Scientist Award at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. Payra has also developed digital fibers for electronic garments that can help diagnose diseases and has helped develop space suit prototypes that could better protect astronauts during spacewalks.