Pitt Senior David Palm Awarded a Churchill Scholarship

Issue Date: 
January 20, 2014

University of Pittsburgh senior David Palm has been awarded a Churchill Scholarship by The Winston Churchill Foundation of the United States. Palm is one of only 14 students in the nation to be chosen for the prestigious honor. 

AsDavid Palm a Churchill Scholar, Palm will pursue a Master of Philosophy degree in chemistry at the University of Cambridge while conducting research on solar and alternative energy technologies. The Churchill Scholarship provides American students of exceptional ability and academic achievement full support for one year of study in engineering, mathematics, and the sciences at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. Churchill Scholars reside in Churchill College.

“This exceptional and highly competitive form of recognition, awarded in the name of the great British leader, is one of the highest honors that can be earned by an American university student,” said Pitt Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg. “The selection of David Palm as a Churchill Scholar is a reflection of his academic achievements, the strength of his character, and his great potential to become an influential leader. Of course, it also reflects well on the opportunities for learning and growth that David has found at the University of Pittsburgh. This is a very happy occasion for Pitt.”

University Honors College Dean Edward M. Stricker is familiar with the scholarship recipient's work and aspirations. “Throughout his years as an undergraduate student, David Palm has displayed diverse talents and intellectual curiosity in developing expertise that is relevant to his goals. I find his efforts and accomplishments to be most commendable and his vigor and idealism refreshing,” said Stricker. “David possesses a great desire to find solutions that would harness the sun’s energy and end our reliance on earth’s resources of fossil fuel. He has the intellectual ability to make his work valuable and the tenacity to make it fruitful.”

A native of Warren, Ohio, Palm has been interested in developing solar and sustainable energy technologies since his teenage years. He expects his research endeavors in the United Kingdom to play an essential role in his long-term career ambitions.

“Even before coming to Pitt, I’d been interested in the challenges presented by our current energy infrastructure, which include its contribution to global climate change and its reliance on limited fossil fuel resources. In learning about the successes and limitations of modern energy technologies, it has become my goal to develop various means of producing viable alternative fuels that derive their energy content directly from the sun,” said Palm. “My research endeavors at Cambridge will provide me the opportunity to work with experts who are currently working to make significant breakthroughs in the solar fuel technology field.”

As a Churchill Scholar, Palm will work in the lab of noted University of Cambridge lecturer Erwin Reisner. Upon earning his master’s degree, Palm plans to pursue a PhD degree in chemical engineering and enter the solar energy field, developing technologies that will be more sustainable and cost effective for society as a whole.

With triple majors at Pitt, Palm is currently working toward a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering in the Swanson School of Engineering as well as bachelor’s degrees in chemistry and the history and philosophy of science in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences.

As an undergraduate researcher, Palm has assisted Swanson School faculty members in sustainable energy projects, most notably an endeavor to remediate the environmental effects of fossil fuel combustion through nanoscale carbon dioxide capture within the lab of Götz Veser, Pitt’s Nickolas A. DeCecco Professor in the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering. In addition, Palm has studied energy technologies at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, and has participated in the National Science Foundation’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates program at Pennsylvania State University.

Palm’s honors and distinctions include a 2013 Richard L. Lombardi Award, which provided full financial support for a semester of study at the Universidade Federal do Paraná in Curitiba, Brazil, during the fall of 2013. He also is a three-time University Scholar, an annual award that recognizes students in the top two percent of cumulative undergraduate standing. Palm entered Pitt in 2009 as a Chancellor’s Scholar, the highest University honor bestowed upon incoming freshmen students.

Palm’s professional associations and memberships include the Pitt chapter of Engineers for a Sustainable World, where he has held the positions of president and project leader. Palm also has served as an outreach coordinator for the University’s chapter of the American Chemical Society.

Only 100 colleges and universities are invited annually to nominate students for the Churchill Scholarship based on an institution’s overall distinction and strengths in science and technology. Palm was nominated with assistance from Pitt’s University Honors College, which advises Pitt undergraduates and alumni who are interested in pursuing national and international awards.

Palm is the second Pitt student to be named a Churchill Scholar. Clayton Magill (A&S ’06) was awarded the honor in 2006.

Established in 1959, the Winston Churchill Foundation of the United States is a nonprofit organization founded by American friends of Winston Churchill (1874-1965), former prime minister of the United Kingdom. The organization seeks to fulfill Churchill’s wish of always having American graduate students at Churchill College and to promote Anglo-American relations.