Allison Penfield ’13, a physics major and history minor at Franklin & Marshall, has been named the College’s fourth winner of the Clare Boothe Luce Award.
Penfield joins Elizabeth Bushong ’10 and Kelly McCutcheon ’11 and Stephanie Douglas ’12 as winners of the award at F&M. The scholarship covers tuition for the students’ junior and senior years, and an additional $2,000 for research. A program of the Henry Luce Foundation, the award is considered to be the most significant source of private support for women interested in science, engineering and mathematics. It is named for Clare Boothe Luce, a playwright, editor, ambassador and member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Penfield received news of her award while visiting her family in Concord, Mass., last spring. “I first learned about the scholarship when I visited F&M for A Closer Look [a day for admitted students],” Penfield says. “During my first year, my professors kept encouraging me to apply for the award. I was so excited to be with my family when I found out that I received it.”
After just two years on campus, Penfield already has an active record of undergraduate research in physics. She has been a preceptor for Andrea Lommen, associate professor of astronomy; visited McCaskey High School to teach students about complex astronomy topics; and worked as a Hackman Scholar with Amy Lytle, assistant professor of physics.
For Penfield, the path to a budding physics career began with an influential teacher in high school.
“My high-school physics teacher had such a big influence on me,” Penfield says. “Before that, I always wanted to go into biology or history.” An avid reader of historical fiction relating to the American Colonial period, she said she still might end up completing a history major in addition to her physics major.
Penfield is also active outside the classroom. During her first year at F&M, she became a founding member of Phi Sigma Pi, the College’s first coeducational fraternity. The fraternity serves philanthropic goals and provides opportunities for academically focused students to socialize and build friendships. Penfield is also a member of Kappa Delta sorority, serves on the Supreme Court of the Brooks College House government and tutors students in the Department of Physics and Astronomy.
Penfield’s many experiences at F&M almost never happened. Two years ago, she sent her admission deposit to another institution.
“Late in the process, my parents said I should check out F&M. I applied and decided to come here, and I’ve loved it ever since.”