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UT Austin student wins coveted Marshall Scholarship

A University of Texas at Austin undergraduate, who has followed an unusual academic path with a double major in biochemistry and French, is one of 40 American students nationwide who has won a prestigious British Marshall Scholarship.

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AUSTIN, Texas—A University of Texas at Austin undergraduate, who has followed an unusual academic path with a double major in biochemistry and French, is one of 40 American students nationwide who has won a prestigious British Marshall Scholarship.

Tara Spires joins Sean Braswell, a UT Austin Plan II Honors Program major and an infielder on the University’s baseball team, who received word last week that he is the recipient of a Rhodes Scholarship. This is the first year UT has had a winner in both competitions since 1993.

The Marshall Scholarship was set up by the British as a way of thanking the American people for the Marshall plan. Recipients are selected each year for two years of study at a university in the United Kingdom. Spires will pursue an M.Phil. and D.Phil. in physiology/neuroscience at Oxford University.

The Rhodes Scholarship offers two years of study at Oxford University to 32 young Americans each year. As a Rhodes Scholar, Braswell will pursue a B.A. in Oxford University’s interdisciplinary Human Sciences program.

“Tara Spires and Sean Braswell are precisely the kind of students who give hope to the future,” said UT Austin Executive Vice President and Provost Sheldon Ekland-Olson. “Their dazzling intelligence is matched by their deep commitment to make this a better world. It simply does not get much better. They bring honor to us all. I say, BRAVO!”

“Tara is that rarity, a scholar who glories in the joys of pure learning, and also is delightfully grounded in the real world,” said Dr. Cynthia W. Shelmerdine, chair of the UT Rhodes/Marshall Selection Committee. “Her enthusiasm for tutoring middle, high school and university students, and her love of the outdoors, are as genuine as her appetite for research. The latter is formidable, and one has only to read the comments of her professors to see what strides she has already made as a research chemist.”

Dr. R. Malcolm Brown Jr. recommended Spires for the Marshall Scholarships and calls her “one of those truly brilliant undergraduates who comes to a professor’s lab only once or twice during his/her professional lifetime.”

Spires is a good advocate for research, in part because she never loses sight of it potential benefit to mankind, said Shelmerdine. Spires’ current project is on electron microscopy. “As president of the American Chemical Society Student Affiliate, she has revitalized that organization for the benefit of all students. And, in Professor Brown’s laboratory, she has taken the lead in group discussions of scientific ethics,” said Shelmerdine, who is chair of UT’s classics department. In addition, Spires has served as council member in the Dean’s Scholars Program in the College of Natural Sciences.

Braswell has had a distinguished career at UT as a varsity letterman on the baseball team. At the same time, he has maintained an overall 3.97 average, while majoring in the rigorous Plan II program. “Sean’s ambition is to exert his influence as a professor and writer, to bridge what he sees as a growing gap between science and religion,” said Shelmerdine. “The program in human science at Oxford is an excellent fit with his interests, and an ideal chance to extend his education in fields precisely relevant to his future goals.

“Sean’s desire to bridge ‘the two cultures’ is clearly the result of both deep feeling and serious thought.” Braswell was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa as a junior.

In addition to the announcements about Spires and Braswell, a recent UT Austin graduate, Duan DeFrance, also has been named a Marshall Scholar. She currently is a graduate student at Cornell University.