Four MIT students named 2017 Marshall Scholars

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November 28, 2016

Julia Mongo | Office of Distinguished Fellowships

Matthew Cavuto, Zachary Hulcher, Kevin Zhou, and Daniel Zuo will pursue two years of study in the U.K.

photos of students

Left: Daniel Zuo; Right: Zach Hulcher; Photo: Casey Atkins


Four MIT students — Matthew Cavuto, Zachary Hulcher, Kevin Zhou, and Daniel Zuo — are winners in this year’s prestigious Marshall Scholarship competition. Another student, Charlie Andrews-Jubelt, was named an alternate. The newest Marshall Scholars come from the MIT departments of Mechanical Engineering, Physics, Mathematics, and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

Funded by the British government, the Marshall Scholarships provide exceptional young Americans the opportunity for two years of graduate study in any field at a U.K. institution. Up to 40 scholarships are awarded each year in the rigorous nationwide competition. Scholars are selected on the basis of academic merit, leadership potential, and ambassadorial potential.

“The Presidential Committee on Distinguished Fellowships is so proud — as am I, personally — to have had the opportunity to help all the nominated MIT students through the Marshall Scholarship process,” says Kim Benard, assistant dean of distinguished fellowships and academic excellence. “Matthew, Zach, Kevin, and Daniel represent the very best of MIT. We have also had the great pleasure to work with students who ultimately didn’t win, but who will have extraordinary careers that will increase the reputation of MIT.”

Zachary Hulcher

Zachary Hulcher, from Montgomery, Alabama, is pursuing a dual major in electrical engineering and computer science and physics, with a minor in mathematics. As a Marshall Scholar, he will study and perform research in high-energy physics at Cambridge University, following in the footsteps of such luminary physicists as Newton, Maxwell, and Hawking. Hulcher plans to earn a PhD and, as a professor of physics, make contributions to expand the field of high energy physics.

Hulcher spent his sophomore summer conducting research with Professor Yen-Jie Lee at the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) Experiment at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, Switzerland. He returned to CERN his junior summer to continue with and present on his research. Since the fall of 2015, he has been a research assistant in the group of physics professor Krishna Rajagopal at the Center for Theoretical Physics at MIT. Hulcher has been improving the analysis and modeling of how CMS measurements can be used to probe quark-gluon plasma, a substance connected to the Big Bang that may lead to greater understanding of the formation of the universe. "Zach took on, mastered, and then drove a theoretical physics research project,” observes Rajagopal. “He will be the principal author of a paper describing an important advance, and he showed fearless confidence in giving a talk at an international workshop in which he showed new results (some only hours old) that garnered much attention. All the while, he is both well-grounded and well-rounded.”

Hulcher is also motivated by a desire to teach others. He has been a teaching assistant for the physics department at MIT, a grader in the mathematics department, and a tutor for MIT’s chapter of Eta Kappa Nu, the national honor society for electrical engineering and computer science. Through the MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives’ Global Teaching Labs, he traveled to Xalapa, Mexico, to assist with courses focused on mobile and internet technologies, and he taught courses on physics to high school students in Italy and Israel.

Since his freshman year, Hulcher has been an offensive lineman with MIT’s varsity football team and was named this year to the NEWMAC all-academic team for his outstanding scholarly and athletic performance. Hulcher also serves on the executive board for the MIT chapter of the Tau Beta Pi engineering honor society.

Daniel Zuo

Daniel Zuo, from Memphis, Tennessee, is graduating next June with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and computer science, an MEng in electrical engineering and computer science, and a minor in creative writing. At Cambridge University, Zuo will do two consecutive one-year master’s degree programs: an MPhil in advanced computer science and an MPhil in machine learning, speech, and language technology. After completing his studies in the U.K., Zuo will pursue a PhD and hopes to develop a startup venture that will advance internet connectivity in the developing world. He ultimately plans to teach and conduct research as a professor of computer science.

Zuo is particularly interested in lossless datacenter architectures and their potential to help people interact more effectively with massive amounts of data. He is currently a research assistant for TIBCO Career Development Assistant Professor Mohammad Alizadeh in the Networks and Mobile Systems group at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL). Alizadeh’s group works to improve the performance, usability, and robustness of networks and cloud services; Zuo has been investigating algorithms that provide scheduling and congestion control to enhance network performance. “Daniel is brilliant,” Alizadeh says. “It’s been a joy to work with him. He is one of those rare students that can jump into an unfamiliar area and quickly figure out exactly the right way to think about the hard technical problems.”

Zuo has also conducted research in Professor Manolis Kellis’ group at CSAIL, which focuses on computational methods for accessing large data sets for the analysis of human disease. He developed “greedy” algorithms to produce a comprehensive set of overlapping enhancers across cell types for a specific gene. He has also worked as a software engineer at several technology and finance companies, including Electronic Arts, Arcadia Funds, and Complete Solar Solutions. Zuo’s own projects include Fold, a mobile payment service to allow easy and secure peer-to-peer Bitcoin transactions over Bluetooth technology.

In his freshman year, Zuo helped launch MakeMIT, the largest hardware hackathon in the nation, and has continued his involvement with the project as a committee member with the MIT student organization TechX. Zuo is also active in public service in the Boston community through his leadership roles with the Phi Kappa Theta fraternity.

For the full list of Marshall Scholars, read this article on MIT News.