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Utahn is named Rhodes scholar

USU student will continue graduate studies at Oxford

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Lara Anderson

Lara Anderson

"It's just unbelievable."

That was the reaction Sunday of Lara Anderson, a 22-year-old physics graduate student from North Logan who is the latest student from Utah to be named a Rhodes scholar.

Anderson was home-schooled until she entered Utah State University in Logan. Now she will continue her graduate education at Oxford University, England, starting in October 2004.

Every year, about 95 of the world's top students travel to Oxford under Rhodes scholarships, which are among the most prestigious in the world. The awards fund their education at Oxford for two or three years, depending on the field of study.

When Gretchen Domek, a University of Utah student from Minnesota, won a Rhodes last year, the award was estimated to be worth about $30,000 per year.

The United States is allotted 32 of the scholarships, granted by geographic region. Utah is among eight states in District VII.

Anderson, an expert in Japanese martial arts, graduated this year from USU with bachelor degrees in physics and mathematics. She was USU's College of Science valedictorian.

On Friday and Saturday she participated in Rhodes scholarship district interviews and competitions, held in Houston. "They were incredibly competent, graceful, impressive people," she said of her fellow candidates.

"I was totally surprised, just dazzled, to be picked."

Scholarship criteria include intellectual accomplishment, demonstrated by academic achievements; physical competency; the ability to lead and a commitment to service.

She was educated at home by her parents, USU biology professor Andy Anderson and nurse Sher Anderson. "They were excellent. They were great teachers," she said.

Among the ways she demonstrated her academic excellence was by winning the Dirac Centenary Conference poster conference, held at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, according to a 2002 USU press release.

The poster explained in detail the possibility of putting gravity into a super-symmetry context, the university added.

"My experience and the research I've done so far and that I'll continue on is with super-symmetry," she said Sunday in a telephone interview.

Physics interests include subatomic particles and their interactions, as well as the new branch of theoretical physics called string theory.

In the area of physical achievement, she has studied Japanese martial arts for 15 years, earning a first-degree black belt in kempo karate and a second-degree black belt in aikido.

A certified instructor in aikido, she volunteers six hours a week to teach the skill.

"One of the cool things about akido is we practice multiple-attackers defense," she said. She has "fought off" five attackers at once in martial arts demonstrations.

She also plays intramural soccer, "enthusiastically if not very skillfully."

Anderson said she is excited about going to Oxford. "I'm looking forward to it immensely."

E-MAIL: bau@desnews.com