Wednesday, April 16, 2014

University of Maryland Junior Fang Cao has been awarded a Truman Scholarship, the nation’s most selective and prestigious award for underclassmen who demonstrate exceptional leadership potential and a commitment to careers in government, the nonprofit or advocacy sectors, education or elsewhere in the public service. This year, 59 Truman Scholars were selected from a pool of 655 students nominated by 294 universities nationwide.

2014 Truman Scholar Fang Cao. Cao is a junior at UMD double majoring in biological sciences and computer science.“I was delighted to learn that Fang Cao will be awarded the prestigious Truman Scholarship after winning the nationally competitive Goldwater Scholarship last year. It was especially fun to be able to deliver the good news about the Truman award myself along with Margaret Pearson, UMD’s Truman faculty representative,” said Mary Ann Rankin, UMD’s senior vice president and provost. “As these awards show, Fang's academic and research achievements and his community activism are extraordinary. He brings great honor and distinction to the University of Maryland and I’m sure he will continue to do so as an alumnus in the years to come."

Cao—who is double majoring in biological sciences and computer science, and is a member of the Integrated Life Sciences program in the Honors College—has extensive leadership and community service accomplishments. As a sophomore, Cao founded a program at a local high school to tutor disadvantaged minority students in college-level biology. With Cao’s help, the school’s average AP biology exam score improved significantly. Inspired by these results, Cao founded an additional tutoring program at the school to help students obtain their high school diploma and consider attending community and four-year colleges. The program now boasts two-dozen UMD students serving as mentors.

“We worked with the teachers to understand past failures with tutoring initiatives, sat in on classes to observe student behavior, and developed new approaches, such as worksheets using hip-hop icons in a family tree to explain genetic inheritance,” said Cao.

Cao is the recipient of numerous honors and awards, and is the first UMD student to be awarded both a Goldwater scholarship and a Truman scholarship. In addition, he has received a Howard Hughes Medical Institute undergraduate research fellowship, a National Institutes of Health (NIH) intramural training research award and an NIH exceptional summer intern award. He has conducted molecular and computational neuroscience research in the laboratories of Jeffrey Smith at NIH and Daniel Butts at UMD. He was also selected to serve as one of four UMD representatives to present at the 2013 Meeting of the Minds regional conference.

“Since I set foot on the University of Maryland campus, I have had many wonderful mentors, teachers and advisers,” said Cao. “I want to thank all of them, because they have all contributed greatly to the successes that have helped me earn these prestigious awards.”

Cao is a graduate of Montgomery Blair High School’s Science, Mathematics and Computer Science Magnet Program in Silver Spring, Md.

Each new Truman Scholar receives up to $30,000 for graduate study. Scholars also receive priority admission and supplemental financial aid at some premier graduate institutions, leadership training, career and graduate school counseling, and special internship opportunities within the federal government. Recipients must be U.S. citizens, have outstanding leadership potential and communication skills, be in the top quarter of their class, and be committed to careers in government or the non-profit sector.

“I plan to make science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education for disadvantaged students an important aspect of my career as a scientist,” said Cao, who plans to pursue a Ph.D. in neuroscience. “My commitment to this area is motivated from my own childhood experiences, having parents who were early in their STEM careers so they didn’t have a lot of money. We lived in impoverished neighborhoods in the United States and England. High school provided me great educational opportunities, but I also witnessed the struggles of classmates whose parents could not help them with their homework in their STEM courses like my parents. I want to help these disadvantaged students succeed in achieving their dreams of a college education and STEM careers, if they so choose.”

The Truman Scholarship Foundation was established by Congress in 1975 as the federal memorial to our thirty-third President. The Foundation awards scholarships for college students to attend graduate school in preparation for careers in government or elsewhere in public service. The activities of the Foundation are supported by a special trust fund in the U.S. Treasury.

--University of Maryland/College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences--

Media Relations Contact: Abby Robinson, 301-405-5845,