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Zeng Wins Rhodes Scholarship

Zeng Wins Rhodes Scholarship

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senior lightweight rower William Zeng (Great Falls, Va.) was chosen this weekend as one of 32 American recipients of the Rhodes Scholarship, as announced by Elliot F. Gerson, American Secretary of the Rhodes Trust. Zeng, who will study at Oxford University, was one of two Yale students and three Ivy League athletes awarded with the Rhodes Scholarship.

Rhodes candidates, who are selected on the qualities of "high academic achievement, integrity of character, a spirit of unselfishness, respect for others, potential for leadership, and physical vigor," must undergo a two-part application process. Over 1,500 candidates seek endorsement from their college or university, the first step in the process. This year, 837 candidates were endorsed by a total of 309 institutions. Committees of Selection from the 16 U.S. Rhodes districts then select the top endorsed candidates to be invited to be interviewed. After these interviews, two scholarship recipients are selected from each district.

Zeng, a Physics major, will pursue an M.Sc. in Mathematics and the Foundations of Computer Science while at Oxford. In particular, he will work in an emerging branch of physics called quantum information in the Oxford Computing Lab with Professors Samson Abramsky and Bob Coecke.

"We try to take advantage of the weird and unintuitive behaviors of quantum mechanical systems to design new technologies and experiments," said Zeng. "There's much promise for this approach to revolutionize both information processing and our understanding of quantum mechanics."

With the lightweights, Zeng is a three-time top-three finisher at the EARC Sprints. As a freshman, he stroked the first freshman eight to an undefeated season and Sprints victory. As a sophomore, he was a member of the third varsity eight, which followed an undefeated regular season with a third-place finish at Sprints. Last year, Zeng earned another Sprints bronze as a member of the varsity eight. This fall, he rowed in the varsity eight at the Head of the Housatonic and Head of the Charles before missing the Princeton Chase with a rib injury.

Zeng, who plans to continue rowing at Oxford, credits some of his academic success to his rowing background.

"I'm proud of the drive, discipline, and character that rowing has shown me. Particularly, living and working while training has made acute my sense of the balance and structure that working my body gives my mind," said Zeng. "Lessons from rowing background my approach to day-by-day work toward the long-term, self-stipulated goals that organize scientific work, and after practices I'd never shirk at needing to get into the lab."

Head coach Andy Card described Zeng as the quintessential Rhodes candidate.

"William is the number one exceptional guy on a team full of good guys. He is dedicated to making not only the experience of being on the Yale lightweights one of the most rewarding endeavors possible, but also to the idea that everyone on the outside who has interactions with the team – be they fans, parents, opponents, officials, bus drivers, hotel personnel, little kids learning to row, anyone – comes away thinking that 'wow, those guys are good guys.'"

"Every summer Will has been academically focused, yet if you check his training logs, the amount of work he can do while studying and working hard is astounding," said Card. "Whether Will was sweating like a fountain and making up his own workouts in India, or hitting the water or erg in Switzerland while still making it to the lab at 4:00 a.m. in Zurich, it's all a testament to Will's ability to balance work and, well, more work. He is very structured without being an automaton." 

Zeng will begin his studies at Oxford in October. To date, 3,228 Americans have won Rhodes scholarships, and Zeng will be a part of a group of approximately 80 worldwide scholars selected this year. While its value varies by the degree program chosen, Gerson estimated that the scholarship, which includes all university tuition and expenses, as well as a living expenses stipend and travel to and from England, averages approximately $50,000 per year.

Report filed by Trey Chandler '11, Yale Sports Publicity