UNM engineering student joins ranks of the elite

February 2, 2017 - By Katie Williams

UNM engineering student joins ranks of the elite

Julian Vigil is a point of pride for the Lobo pack. The chemical engineering senior was just named as one of the elite Churchill Scholars.

The Churchill Scholarship was set up at the request of Sir Winston Churchill in order to fulfill his vision of US-UK scientific exchange with the goal of advancing science and technology on both sides of the Atlantic.

The Churchill Scholarship is extremely competitive and has been called the most academically rigorous of the prestigious scholarships.

The highly-competitive scholarship awards 14 STEM students the opportunity to study at the University of Cambridge for a one-year master’s program.

"I am very humbled to receive this award, and join such an accomplished group of current and former Churchill Scholars," says Vigil. "The opportunity to pursue my interests in chemistry at a university as historically significant to scientific discovery as the University of Cambridge is a huge honor, and so exciting. A lot of work in my studies and research made me competitive for the scholarship, but I also owe a lot of the credit to the many great mentors I've had in the faculty here at UNM and the technical staff at Sandia Labs."

Vigil is also a Regents Scholar and a recipient of the 2016 Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship. He has worked at Sandia National Laboratories throughout his undergraduate career, and co-authored seven peer-reviewed publications—three as first author—in the areas of materials chemistry and electrocatalysis. He plans to pursue a Ph.D. in chemical engineering.

"Ultimately, my goal is to pursue an academic position to teach and continue conducting fundamental chemistry research on energy conversion and storage," said Vigil. "The development of renewable energy technologies is one of the most pressing issues facing mankind, and presents chemists, chemical engineers, and materials scientists with many challenging and exciting questions."

At the University of Cambridge, Vigil will be working in Erwin Reisner's group, studying and developing materials and molecular catalysts to generate hydrogen directly from sunlight.

JulianUNM recently became a participating institution of The Churchill Scholarship. It provides an opportunity for independent research, often leading to publications, that Churchill Scholars will not find again until well into their Ph.D. programs.

"Julian is an exemplary student who is a true embodiment of the best we have to offer students in the School of Engineering: academic excellence, professional experience, and real-life research opportunities," said Joseph L. Cecchi, Jim and Ellen King Dean of UNM Engineering and Computing. "We are proud that one of our brightest students is making an impact not just in this country, but globally at the University of Cambridge."

The UNM National & International Scholarships and Fellowships (NISF) office provides opportunities for undergraduate students to become competitive candidates for prestigious scholarships—from coordinating the institutional endorsement to assisting the UNM nominees with the scholarship application process. Students who are interested in these scholarships must submit a preliminary application to obtain institutional endorsement.