Champaign Native Wins Prestigious Hertz Fellowship

October 12, 2006

LIVERMORE, Calif. -- OCTOBER 12, 2006 -- Future physicist Daniel Slichter has always loved to build things with his hands, even as a child. A problem-solver by nature, Slichter was drawn to physics by its elegance and broad applicability to problems in many fields.

"Early on, I was excited to find so much power in physics to describe the world, Slichter, 23, says. Physics fascinates me because it can be used to approach many complex problems or questions, even those in widely disparate areas of study."

Slichter, a native of Champaign, Illinois, is one of 15 graduate students selected from more than 670 to receive a full five-year fellowship from the prestigious Fannie and John Hertz Foundation. He will use the Hertz Fellowship to support his research in experimental physics as he enters his second year at University of California, Berkeley this fall.

Of diverse ethnicities and backgrounds, Hertz Fellows receive up to $240,000 each in support to pursue their own scientific interests with the best academicians at top research universities in the United States. This no-strings-attached support gives Hertz Fellows financial independence from the constraints many graduate students face of having to choose a university or a research project because of its funding.

"After a competitive application process, Hertz Fellows are chosen for their creativity and leadership as well as for their achievements in science," says John F. Holzrichter, PhD, Hertz Foundation president. "These young people represent the future of science in America, and the results of their research will make a significant contribution to the ongoing spirit of innovation in this country."

During a six-week long camping trip across the country before his senior year in college, Slichter marveled at the beauty and mystery of nature. After that, his aspiration to pursue physics was strengthened by what Slichter calls the primal human desire to explain the amazing world. Slichter could have just as easily gone into history or foreign languages as a field of study, but chose physics because it provides what he calls a fresh, practical perspective on everyday problems, and one that lends itself nicely to other fields, such as biology or chemistry.

While he hasn't settled on a specific research area in physics, he's interested in everything from superconductors to super computers -- Slichter hopes to become a physics professor one day. He enjoys teaching as much as he loves working with his hands, and is one of the Berkeley grads bestowed with the honor of having his own personal copy of the key to the machine shop, which he uses frequently to make elegant and precisely designed pieces for use in the laboratory.

Slichter graduated from University Laboratory High School, Urbana, Illinois, in 2000, and received his bachelor of arts in physics from Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he graduated magna cum laude in 2004. Slichter's previous honors include the Detur Prize for academic excellence, the Robert C. Byrd Scholarship and the John Harvard Honorary Scholarship. He is also a National Merit Scholar. His father, Charles Slichter, is a physics professor at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and his mother, Anne Slichter, works on Illinois child advocacy projects at the state and local levels. He has a younger brother, David, who is a senior at Harvard studying psychology, and four older half-siblings.