Fourth-year Michael Baumer receives Gates Cambridge Scholarship

Fourth-year Michael Baumer is among the 40 American recipients of a Gates Cambridge Scholarship this year. The scholarship, which the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation established in 2000, funds graduate study at the University of Cambridge for outstanding students worldwide.

Baumer, 20, a native of St. Louis, is majoring in both physics and mathematics at UChicago. He plans to pursue an MPhil in physics at Cambridge next year.

At Cambridge’s Cavendish Laboratory, he plans to continue research he conducted as an undergraduate at the Enrico Fermi Institute, working to close in on the Higgs boson. The elusive “God particle” is a crucial—and as yet undiscovered—aspect of the Standard Model, the theory that explains the fundamental building blocks of matter.

Baumer’s senior thesis will focus on measurements of Standard Model background processes and tests of a technique called Quark/Gluon Tagging, which will help researchers determine whether they have seen “hints of the Higgs,” he said.

He came to UChicago intent on studying physics, and cultivated his passion for the field with summer internships at the Laboratory for Non-Equilibrium Materials in Chile and the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Switzerland. He is a 2010 recipient of the prestigious Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, which is awarded to students in mathematics, science and engineering.

Baumer’s thesis advisor Frank Merritt said Baumer was one of the few undergraduates he had ever worked with on a major high-energy physics analysis, which is “challenging for anyone.” Baumer also collaborated closely with graduate student Sam Meehan and Prof. Mark Oreglia at the Fermi Institute. “It’s been a real pleasure to work with this group,” Merritt said.

In addition to his academic work, Baumer leads a science outreach program at Andrew Carnegie Elementary School in the Woodlawn community. He is a member of the Outdoor Adventure Club at UChicago, and enjoys hiking and fly-fishing.

Baumer learned he had received the Gates Cambridge Scholarship just as many of his friends received acceptances to graduate school. “We’re all getting good news,” he said.

Baumer is the 11th UChicago student to receive a Gates Cambridge Scholarship since the program’s establishment in 2000. Earlier this school year, fourth-year Leah Rand received a Marshall Scholarship to study medical ethics at Cambridge.