Washington University student and recent alumnus named Rhodes Scholars

A current student and a recent alumnus from Washington University in St. Louis have been named Rhodes Scholars, according to an announcement Nov. 18 by The Rhodes Trust. They are Aaron F. Mertz, 22, and Leana S. Wen, 23.

The two were among 32 U.S. students chosen from 896 nominees for graduate study at the University of Oxford in England. Winners of the highly acclaimed award were selected based on high academic achievement, personal integrity, leadership potential and physical vigor.

Since the first American scholars were selected in 1904, 25 Washington University students, including Mertz and Wen, have won the Rhodes scholarship, which is the world’s oldest international fellowship. Eight have been named in just the past eight years.

Mertz and Wen will be provided two or three years of all-expenses-paid study at the University of Oxford and will begin their studies next fall. They will join approximately 80 Rhodes Scholars selected from around the world. WUSTL is one of only four schools in the nation to win more than one Rhodes scholarship this year.

“I am delighted to see these outstanding and talented students be recognized for their creative and scholarly achievements,” said Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton. “They join an esteemed and growing group of Rhodes Scholars associated with Washington University, and we are all very proud of them and what they accomplished at such a young age. They are great representatives of the kind of students we have here, and their recognition reflects the quality of the entire university community.”

Aaron Mertz
Aaron Mertz

Mertz is the son of Shirley A. and H. Edward Mertz of Palatine, Ill. He received a bachelor’s degree from Washington University in physics and in American culture studies, both in Arts & Sciences, in May 2006. Mertz, who was nominated for the Rhodes while at Washington University, began a doctoral program in physics this fall at Yale University in New Haven, Conn.

He will pursue a master’s degree in the history of science, medicine and technology at Oxford.

Mertz, who was a Rhodes Scholar finalist last year, has received numerous national scholarships, including a Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, an Astronaut Scholarship, a James Bernard Willett Memorial Scholarship, a ChevronTexaco E&P Scholarship and a Lucent Global Science Scholarship.

Washington University honored him with an Arthur Holly Compton Fellowship, a Florence Moog Scholarship, a Senior Physics Prize, the Ethan A. H. Shepley Award and the Robert N. Varney Prize.

Mertz has done physics research in the Laboratory for Space Sciences in Arts & Sciences at Washington University; the Neutron Science Center at Los Alamos National Laboratory in Los Alamos, N.M.; the Gamma-Ray Astronomy Group at the Max-Planck-Institut für Extraterrestrische Physik in Garching, Germany; and the Division of Microfluidics at Lucent Technologies Bell Labs in Murray Hill, N.J.

On campus, Mertz served as a two-term president of the Arts & Sciences Council; co-founder and editor-in-chief of Apex, the interdisciplinary journal of undergraduate scholarship; and a representative to the Washington University board of trustees.

Mertz was an active cellist in St. Louis, founding the Florence Piano Trio, playing in Quartet Aria at campus receptions and area weddings, and performing in the Washington University Symphony and Chamber Orchestras. In his spare time, he attends classical-music concerts, runs, hikes and participates in contra dancing.

While at Washington University, Mertz was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, Sigma Xi Scientific Research Honor Society, the Meteoritical Society, the Society of Exploration Geophysicists and the Delta Phi Alpha National German Honorary Society.

Leana Wen
Leana Wen

Wen, a native of Shanghai, China, is the daughter of Ying Sandy Zhang and Xiaolu Wen of Temple City, Calif. She is a fourth-year student at Washington University’s School of Medicine. Wen entered California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA), when she was 13, earning a bachelor’s degree, summa cum laude, in biochemistry in 2001 at the age of 18.

Wen, a Rhodes Scholar finalist last year as well, will pursue a master’s degree in global health science at Oxford.

Wen was on leave last year from medical school to serve a one-year term as national president of the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) in Reston, Va., the largest independent national organization of physicians-in-training to improve medical education and healthcare.

A seven-year member of AMSA, she was elected a member of the organization’s board of trustees three times. As president, her duties included representing 65,000 physicians-in-training, conducting leadership training for 125 national leaders and overseeing a $3.5 million budget.

Wen also recently served as a Global Health Fellow at the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, researching trade policies and access to medicines, and as a Department of Defense David L. Boren Fellow, working on conflict and HIV in Kigali, Rwanda.

She was also recently appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services to be a member of the Council on Graduate Medical Education, which advises Congress on physician workforce and medical education.

Additionally, Wen has received the School of Medicine’s Dames Prize in Physiology; a James E. Slater Award from the Phi Kappa Phi national honor society; a Katherine E. Carter Award in Scientific Writing; the CSULA Raul Henderson Eagle Pride Award in Service and Leadership; a National Institutes of Health Fogarty Minority International Research Training Fellowship; an Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation Research Fellowship; and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Biomedical Professional Development Scholarship.

“Aaron and Leana are fully deserving of the extraordinary opportunity and honor that a Rhodes Scholarship constitutes,” said Ian MacMullen, Ph.D., an assistant dean and director of scholarships in Arts & Sciences. “It has been a great pleasure to work with them, and I wish them the very best of luck at Oxford University and in their careers.”