Georgia Tech Student Wins Coveted Churchill Scholarship to Study at Cambridge

A love of teaching, research and language helped senior Saniya Ahsan become the first female student at Georgia Tech to win the coveted Churchill Scholarship. The mechanical engineering senior is one of only 11 Americans chosen to study engineering, science or mathematics for a year at Cambridge University in England. Ahsan will pursue a Master of Philosophy in Engineering at Cambridge next fall.

The trip abroad will be Ahsan's fourth since enrolling at Tech in 1998. After her freshman year, she studied at GT Lorraine, returning to France her junior year to intern at Schlumberger in Clamart. She also spent time in Bangladesh and India on her own. Ahsan said her international experience has given her a fascination with the way people from different cultures communicate and solve problems.

Studying at Cambridge is an amazing opportunity, said Ahsan. Its reputation as an academic institution is legendary and "it's a place where I'll see a meeting of the minds from all over the world. I'll see people from different cultures and how they approach a problem."

In addition to her work in France, Ahsan worked as a co-op student at Visteon in Pennsylvania, conducted undergraduate research at Tech's Manufacturing and Research Center and taught fluid mechanics as an intern in the School of Mechanical Engineering, all while maintaining a 3.97 grade point average.

"Saniya has put together an incredible record at Tech," said Amanda Gable, academic professional in the Office of Graduate Studies and Research. "She's someone who's always trying to find something to put her energy into."

Teaching is what she's most passionate about. In addition to teaching at Tech, Saniya has taught literacy to adults with Project Read and English-as-a-Second Language with Hands on Atlanta.

"I've always loved to read, and education has been a huge part of my life. Language is so important. It's how we communicate, which is something we take for granted," said Ahsan.

While at Cambridge, Ahsan will perform research projects with auto makers and power companies using tiny machines, known in the industry as Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS) to study how fluid flows through turbines. More fuel-efficient cars and power plants are just two of the possible applications of her research.

She plans on returning to the states the following year to get a doctoral degree in mechanical engineering.

Born and raised in Kansas, Ahsan moved to Georgia with her parents where she became valedictorian of North Cobb High School in Kennesaw. She was a President's Scholar at Tech and also received a Wohlford Cooperative Education Scholarship as well as a Governor's Scholarship. Ahsan said Tech's reputation as a tough school challenged her to do better than her best.

"When I first came to Tech, I was so scared because of its reputation of failing people out. It doesn't matter if you were valedictorian, so I really studied hard and made sure that I knew my stuff," she explained.

Tech's first female to win the Churchill, Ahsan is only the second Tech student to receive the honor. The scholarship is given out by the Winston Churchill Foundation of the United States, which was founded in 1959 as an expression of admiration for former British Prime Minister William Churchill. The award pays for one year of study at Cambridge University, plus a living allowance. Only 75 universities are allowed to nominate students for this prestigious honor.