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Engineering Student Receives Knight-Hennessy Scholarship

Prestigious Award, Which Aims to Create Multidisciplinary, Multicultural Community of Scholars, to Fund Doctoral Studies at Stanford

By Robert Herschbach

Kim Building

Photo by Emma Howells

Elizabeth Childs '21 (below) has been named a Knight-Hennessy Scholar, and will receive full funding for up to three years to pursue her doctorate this fall at Stanford’s School of Engineering.

A University of Maryland senior is among 76 scholars newly selected from more than 8,000 applicants around the world to become a Knight-Hennessy Scholar at Stanford University.

Elizabeth Childs will receive full funding for up to three years to pursue her doctorate this fall at Stanford’s School of Engineering. There, she will study the intersection between augmented reality—which combines real-world experiences and computer visualizations—and haptics, or technologies like vibrating phones screens that convey information to users through touch. She is among a cohort of scholars from 26 countries seeking degrees in 37 graduate programs.

Elizabeth Childs headshot“I thank God for this scholarship,” Childs said. “As a Knight-Hennessy Scholar, I’ll have the autonomy I need to conduct research in my area of interest.”

Childs, a mechanical engineering major from Suffolk, Va., is a Banneker Key Scholar with a GPA of 3.98.  At UMD, she has worked with mechanical engineering Professor Ryan Sochol and computer science Professor Dinesh Manocha, among other faculty. Taking a course in bioinspired robotics helped shape her long-term research interests, she said.

As an undergraduate, Childs has mentored students in 3D printing research and helped develop a new 3D printing methodology. She published this work as a first author in the peer-reviewed Journal for Microelectromechanical Systems.

In addition, she has developed modular robots for explosive ordnance disposal for Cambodia, co-taught 3D printing to pre-professionals in Cambodia, and co-led science demonstrations in indigenous Ecuadorian schools.

“Elizabeth set the bar high as an undergraduate, and we know she will go on to even greater accomplishments in the next stage of her academic career,” said Bala Balachandran, chair of the UMD Department of Mechanical Engineering. “We are all very excited about the news that she has been selected for the Knight-Hennessy. It’s a well-deserved recognition and we wish her continued success.”

Childs is the second Terp selected as a Knight-Hennessy Scholar, following Yousuf Khan ’18, a biological sciences major, in 2019. The program, launched in 2018, aims to develop leaders who have a strong cross-cultural perspective and a bold vision for the future, can inspire others and are committed to a greater good. It was named for Stanford graduate Phil Knight, philanthropist and co-founder of Nike, and former Stanford President John Hennessy. 

“At a time when humanity faces difficult challenges ranging from the pandemic to climate change to racial justice, we are delighted to welcome a set of scholars determined to contribute to finding solutions and making a better world,” said John L. Hennessy, president emeritus and the Shriram Family Director of the Knight-Hennessy Scholars program.

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