March 4, 2016 – By Roxy Shooshani
UC Berkeley senior, Chun Man Chow, has been awarded the prestigious Winston Churchill Scholarship which provides funding for graduate study at Cambridge University in England. Chow is the first UC Berkeley student to be named a Churchill Scholar since 2012, and he will use the scholarship to fund an MPhil in Advanced Chemical Engineering as part of the Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology at Cambridge.
Chow’s Churchill Scholarship builds upon a remarkable history of standout achievements while at Cal. Arriving as a Regents and Chancellors Scholar in 2012, his list of respected awards includes: the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, the Tau Beta Pi Scholarship, the Society for Chemical Industry Scholar Award, and the Cal Alumni Association Leadership Award. “I am really honored to receive the Churchill scholarship, and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to live and study at Cambridge to be immersed in a new community, to meet students and professors and learn from them, and to work on cutting-edge research that can provide solutions to energy and environmental problems.”
An Accomplished Undergraduate Researcher
An important part of what has made Chow a stand-out applicant for so many scholarships has been his achievements as an undergraduate researcher on topics ranging from low-cost water filtration to EV batteries. The common thread has been passion for how engineering can help address pressing environmental problems. “I grew up in Hong Kong, a city with significant pollution problems, and living there,” Chow emphasizes, “helped shape my interest in studying environmental engineering.” Over the past four years, he has spent significant time advancing research within the Gadgil Lab for Water and Energy Research at UC Berkeley and the Nanoelectrofuel Team at the Energy Systems Division at the Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois. His current project within the Gadgil Lab is developing an automated system for bench-scale testing that allows researchers to run a large number of experiments to assess long-term electrode behavior without requiring constant oversight.
Dedicated to Clean Water Treatment Systems
Chow is excited about the opportunity to take his research on water treatment systems to the next level at Cambridge University. “I am interested in gaining new perspectives and exploring a different frontier of research specifically molecular simulations on metal-organic frameworks. I really like the Advanced Chemical Engineering program because the program itself is interdisciplinary, offering training on both fundamental engineering principles and on business, economics, and policy. Gaining a better understanding of how these forces interplay with each other is extremely important in the current world where technology deployment is bound by economic, socio-political, and legislative constraints.”
Having spent the past decade in California in the midst of a severe drought and witnessing water related public health crisis such as that unfolding in Flint, Michigan, Chow has a heightened concern for the urgency of advancing water system design and policy. Chow believes there are opportunities to redesign our water portfolio and tap into unconventional water sources through wastewater reuse, storm water capture, and desalination to meet our future water needs in a more sustainable way. “I also hope to bridge the gap between research and development work at the lab bench and the actual marketplace to directly impact the lives of people by bringing low-cost but effective technology to communities in need. The experience and molecular simulation tools I will gain through my research at Cambridge will be immensely useful in designing novel multifunctional nanomaterials for environmental treatment purposes.”
Chow’s Path to UC Berkeley and Beyond
Chun Man Chow’s road from Hong Kong to Cambridge via Berkeley has not been simple or unimpeded. The many obstacles he faced along the way are part of what encouraged him to excel in school and apply to so many scholarships. Chow explains, “Two months after I immigrated, my father passed away from cancer. During one of the hardest times of my life, I received tremendous support and help from teachers and other classmates alike even though they barely knew me. My father’s death motivated me to work harder to find my full potential and make some contribution to the world. That is why I chose to volunteer in Japan in summer 2014 for an NGO that provides education support to children who have lost their parents. This helped me see that none of the challenges or obstacles I faced are anywhere close to what some of my peers are facing or have experienced, and their stories really inspire me to continue to give back to the community and help the lives of others.”
Chow has advice for other undergraduates who look to pursue research opportunities and scholarships starts with the Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarships (OURS). “I received tremendous help from OURS throughout the whole application process. Ms. Alicia Hayes, the Prestigious Scholarships Manager and Advisor, provided me with support, guidance, and feedback for my scholarship application, and I really appreciate her help. In addition to the substantial assistance with the application process, OURS also helped me grow as a student researcher through its research programs and workshops. My first research experience at Berkeley was through the URAP program during my freshmen year, and that experience allowed me to get my feet wet in scientific research and helped me develop interest in research and secure my first research internship the following summer.”
For those Cal students who are just beginning to discover research interests, Chow emphasizes, “It is okay not to know exactly what you like to do in the future. That’s why you’re in college. Try to explore around to find what you like and what you don’t like. Try out different research projects, different student groups, classes across different departments and disciplines. Doing things in order to put them in your resume isn’t the best way to go. Try to find something you’re passionate about and dive into it.” The strategy has clearly served Chun Man Chow well.