The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Junior engineering major awarded national sholarship

SMU junior engineering major Michael Shearn has done it again. In addition to being a Presidential Scholar and triple majoring, he was just awarded the prestigious Goldwater Scholarship for 2003-2004, given to one sophomore and one junior each year. The award covers the cost of tuition, fees, books and room and board up to a maximum of $7,500 per year.

The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program, which is the formal title of the award, was established by Congress in 1986 to encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in mathematics, the natural sciences and engineering. Goldwater Scholarship recipients are nominated on the basis of academic merit by faculty members from colleges and universities around the country.

Shearn, who is presently studying in Britain, is excited about receiving the award and joining the ranks of other students across the country that were also fortunate enough to receive such an honor.

Shearn has been interested in computers and engineering since a young age.

“Since my dad got a computer in the early ’90s, I’ve been toying around with computers, and actually doing something useful as well,” he said.

When asked how he came to choose engineering as his major, he said “It was interesting and it seemed to have the most secure job at the end.”

Shearn also enjoys an academic challenge. What seems like an overwhelming schedule for most is very standard for Shearn. He added physics and mathematics majors because of his interest in the subjects. He said the combination of the three majors reflects what he sees as a convergence of them. He believes that in order to do significant work in any of these fields, he must know information from areas other than engineering.

“They are quite complementary as you can imagine, and they reinforce each other,” he said.

SMU professors are impressed with Shearn’s dedication and commitment to the engineering and science programs.

“I’ve enjoyed having Michael as a student enormously,” Kent Hornbostel, SMU physics professor, said. “He’s enthusiastic, picks up concepts quickly, does very solid work and demonstrates the intellectual engagement and self-motivation that we usually associate with our better graduate students.”

Many professors at SMU are intrigued by Shearn and impressed with his academic knowledge.

Geoffrey Orsak of the engineering department was influential not only in Shearn’s decision to attend SMU over colleges such as Stanford, MIT and CalTech, but he was also influential in his decision to become an engineering major.

“Michael has really been a star here at SMU. He has excelled in the classroom, and he is a leader among his fellow students,” Orsak said. “The prestigious Goldwater Scholarship will give him the opportunity to develop into a great researcher.”

“In choosing my majors, I’ve also been influenced by Dr. James Walker who I worked with at Southeast Research Institute in San Antonio for a number of summers,” Shearn said.

Something Walker once said to him that sticks with him today was, “You can teach a mathematician how to program, but not always teach a programmer how to do math.” Shearn has taken these words with him throughout his collegiate career.

After SMU, Shearn said he is planning on going onto graduate school for applied physics at either Stanford, MIT or a British school if he gets the opportunity to do so.

Some of Shearn’s other hobbies include music, both listening and performing, backpacking through Italy and Greece, traveling, reading, hanging out with his SigEp fraternity brothers and, when he is able to, rowing for the SMU crew team.

Currently, Shearn is looking forward to what the future holds for him back at SMU when he returns from studying abroad.

“I just want to finish up my degrees next year and I want to have a good time doing it.”

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