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Will Fletcher '12 Awarded Prestigious Churchill Scholarship

Will Fletcher

Pomona College senior Will R. Fletcher, a mathematics and chemistry double major from Missoula, Montana, has been awarded a prestigious Churchill Scholarship, which supports graduate study in the sciences, mathematics and engineering at the University of Cambridge. Only 14 Churchill Scholarships were awarded this year. Fletcher is the third Churchill Scholar to come from Pomona, following Daniel Hickstein ’07 and Michael Gormally ’11.

Churchill Scholars are selected based on exceptional academic talent, outstanding achievement, and a capacity to contribute to the advancement of knowledge in the sciences, engineering or mathematics by pursuing original, creative work at an advanced level. The scholarship covers tuition and all fees (currently about $25,000) and living and travel allowances. The total award is approximately $50,000.

Fletcher will use his award to earn an MPhil degree in physics and to conduct research on the mechanics of cellular membranes with the biological and soft systems research group of Dr. Pietro Cicutas, in the Cambridge University Department of Physics.

“I’ll be working to develop new methods to mimic the behavior of cellular membranes,” explains Fletcher. “This would provide a better understanding of their properties, and it could lead to improvements in drug design, chemical purification and other finely controlled chemical processes.” His career plans include a PhD study and a career in biophysics. 

At Pomona, Fletcher is a member of Prof. Malkiat Johal’s research group, which is focused on taking advantage of molecular self-assembly processes to construct functional nano-materials for optical and biosensing applications. He is a co-author of two research papers published in the journal Langmuir, the prestigious journal of the American Chemical Society, and has another in preparation. He has also conducted research at the Tri-Institutional MD-PhD Program of Cornell University, Rockefeller University and the Sloan-Kettering Memorial Cancer Center.

He is currently working on two theses. For mathematics, his focus is on topology, “Simon Invariants and Their Generalizations.” His chemistry thesis, “The Effect of Salt Ions in Polyelectrolyte Multilayers: A New Complexation Model,” is in the area of polymer science.

In addition to his research, Fletcher has been active at Pomona as the founder and president of Pomona’s student chapter of the American Chemical Society at Pomona, as co-president of that same group’s chapter in the Claremont Consortium, and as student-faculty liaison for the Department of Chemistry.  

A Goldwater and Questbridge Scholar, Fletcher is the son of Lisa Autio and grandson of Lelo Autio, also of Missoula.