Giovanni Orlandi is the second student in Clemson University history to win the Churchill Scholarship, allowing him to pursue a master’s degree at the University of Cambridge, one of the world’s oldest and most distinguished institutions of higher learning.
As a student at Cambridge, Orlandi will be following in the footsteps of some of history’s most towering innovators and thinkers, including Sir Isaac Newton, Stephen Hawking, Alan Turing, Charles Babbage and Lord Kelvin.
The scholarship will pay for a year of tuition and various other expenses, including travel costs and room and board. Orlandi plans to pursue a Master of Philosophy in materials science and metallurgy under Bartomeu Monserrat, a materials physics professor.
“Applying for the Churchill is one of the things I really wanted to do,” Orlandi said. “Cambridge is one of the oldest universities in the world, and so much good work is done there. Just to go would be an honor, but being able to go with funding as a Churchill Scholar, that’s really special, and I’m really excited for it.”
At Cambridge, Orlandi plans to join the quest to find a room-temperature superconductor, an innovation that if achieved could revolutionize fields ranging from energy to computing to medicine. His long-term goal is to earn a Ph.D. in materials science and engineering with a focus on theoretical and computational materials science.
Orlandi is an Honors student who is majoring in mechanical engineering and minoring in physics at Clemson. He would like to either become a university professor or lead a research team at a national lab, focusing on renewable energy production to address climate change.
The Churchill Scholarship is named after former United Kingdom Prime Minister Winston Churchill. He requested the scholarship in the wake of World War II to deepen the nation’s relationship with the United States and to advance science and technology on both sides of the Atlantic.
Only participating institutions may nominate up to two students each year. Scholars are selected on the basis of academic and research achievement.
Orlandi, a senior at Clemson, is among 16 U.S. students this year to win the scholarship, with several others coming from highly esteemed institutions, including Stanford University, Harvard University, Yale University, the University of Pennsylvania, Brown University and the Georgia Institute of Technology.
His academic credentials include multiple scholarships, honors and awards, among them a 2023 Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship.
Orlandi is now conducting research through a remote internship with Sandia National Laboratories, and three papers he has co-authored are on track for publication.
One of his most important mentors at Clemson is Enrique Martinez Saez, an associate professor with a joint appointment in mechanical engineering and materials science and engineering. Martinez Saez said that Orlandi’s selection as a Churchill Scholar came as no surprise.
“He is that good,” Martinez Saez said. “He is an A student. He is very interested, a hard worker and smart. That combination is key.”
This is the second consecutive year a Clemson student has received a Churchill Scholarship. Grant Wilkins, who double-majored in computer engineering and mathematics at Clemson, won in 2023 and is now at Cambridge pursuing a Master of Philosophy in advanced computer science.
Robyn Curtis, the director of the Office of Major Fellowships at Clemson, said the University became eligible in 2017 to nominate students for the Churchill Scholarship– a sign of Clemson’s growing academic reputation.
“We have come a long way in a relatively short amount of time,” she said. “The competitive scholarships our students are receiving highlight the quality of undergraduate experiences we are able to offer.”
Orlandi has been active in service while a Clemson student and has been particularly interested in helping fellow students with financial challenges.
Orlandi has advocated for need-based grants at the Statehouse, helped introduce middle-school students to STEM as a volunteer for PEER & WISE and served as vice chair for Clemson’s student chapter of The American Society of Mechanical Engineers. As a Jansen Scholar, he has helped fellow mechanical engineering students navigate the major.
Orlandi also enjoys tutoring.
“Clemson has helped me grow as a person,” he said. “My service is about helping people grow. I think that is what college is supposed to be.”
Orlandi, the youngest of four siblings, graduated from West Ashley High School in Charleston.
Rose Orlandi said that her younger brother has always been full of energy and even as a child would come up with new inventions around the house. She remembers him starting to write a book when he was as young as 10 years old.
“The Churchill Scholarship is a huge accomplishment,” she said. “I can’t say I’m super surprised. He is really an amazing kid. He’s very smart and very passionate about engineering. That has always been something he loves, and he has an amazing work ethic.”
Among Orlandi’s most influential mentors is Fadi Abdeljawad, who was an associate professor of mechanical engineering with a joint appointment in materials science and engineering at Clemson when they first met.
Abdeljawad said a turning point for Orlandi came when he visited for office hours and asked detailed questions. Abdeljawad decided to recruit Orlandi to join his research group and was further impressed by the undergraduate’s work ethic.
Orlandi went on to a prestigious internship with Sandia National Laboratories, working in the same group Abdeljawad once did.
“This is just the beginning for him,” said Abdeljawad, now an associate professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Lehigh University. “I am pretty confident there will be even greater professional achievements for him. He is one of those students who has an extremely successful and bright career ahead of him.”
Students interested in the Churchill Scholarship or other nationally competitive programs should contact the Office of Major Fellowships at 864-656-9704 or email@example.com.
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