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Physics Major Ashley Nord wins Rhodes Scholarship

Ashley Nord
Ashley Nord
Patrick O'Leary

Ashley Lynne Nord, a senior in the University of Minnesota’s Honors Program, has been named one of 32 Rhodes Scholars for 2008. She is a summa cum laude candidate for a Bachelor of Arts degree in global studies with a minor in Spanish studies, and a candidate for Bachelor of Science degrees in physics and astrophysics.

“Considering the talent, intellect and poise of my fellow Rhodes candidates, I was surprised to receive the Rhodes scholarship,” said Nord. “I am very honored by the award and incredibly excited at the opportunity to study in Oxford.”

Nord intends to pursue a doctorate in condensed matter physics at Oxford University, in preparation for a career in the field of biophysics. During her undergraduate career, she spent one summer studying abroad in Merida, Venezuela and two summers conducting research with funding from the National Science Foundation's Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program, at the University of Hawaii's Institute for Astronomy and in a biophysics laboratory at UCLA. At the university, Nord has worked on software for the motor and temperature control system of the cryogenic portion of a new instrument that is being built for the Massive Mirror Telescope on Mt. Hopkins in Arizona; studied a simulated neural network that interprets signals from the forearm; and conducted research on counter-terrorism.

"Ashley is an impressive student who deserves this prestigious honor," said Steven Crouch, dean of the Institute of Technology, the university's college of engineering, physical sciences and mathematics. "We are very proud to have helped her achieve this honor and pleased that she plans to continue her education in important areas of science."

A native of Rapid City, S.D., Nord, 23, is an accomplished pole vaulter and was a member of the university's Track and Field team from 2003-2008. She placed in several Big Ten championships and was an Academic All-Big Ten Honoree every year. According to Nord, her experiences as an athlete, including her recovery from several injuries, led to a passionate interest in the biological and medical applications of physics. At Oxford, Nord plans to pole vault with the Oxford track team and be a part of the Mountaineering Club.

"We are extremely proud of Ashley and her achievements," said James Parente, Jr., dean of the College of Liberal Arts. "Her rigorous academic program in Global Studies and Physics and Astrophysics at Minnesota has prepared her well for further study at one of the most distinguished institutions in the world and for presenting her future work to the international scientific community. She is an outstanding example of the academic excellence for which the University of Minnesota is renowned."

Nord's name has appeared on the Dean's List in every semester of her enrollment. She has been the recipient of a National Merit Scholarship, the Robert C. Byrd Excellence in Academics Scholarship and several other awards honoring her accomplishments in her diverse fields of specialization.

Nord's parents live in Rapid City, S.D. Her father is a family physician and her mother is retired. She has two brothers, Michael, 33, who received a Ph.D. in astrophysics from the University of New Mexico and currently works with the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab, and Jason, 31, who double majored in English and philosophy at the University of Nebraska, and later received a Masters in Montessori Education. He is currently a Montessori teacher in Lincoln, Nebraska.

The Rhodes Scholarships, the oldest international fellowships, were initiated after the death of Cecil Rhodes in 1902, and bring outstanding students from many countries around the world to the University of Oxford. The first American Scholars entered Oxford in 1904.

Read and see an interview with Nord by Deanne Morrison.

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