The University of Chicago News Office
Nov. 28, 2005 Press Contact: Sabrina Miller
(773) 702-4195

University of Chicago scholar wins Marshall Scholarship

stephen brusatte
Stephen Brusatte

Fascination with dinosaurs and a driver’s license jumpstarted Stephen Brusatte’s career studying dinosaurs while still in high school. University of Chicago student Brusatte, who began his earliest fieldwork driving the farmlands of northern Illinois detailing 300 million-year-old fossils, has won a prestigious British Marshall Scholarship.

The awards were founded by a 1953 Act of Parliament to commemorate the humane ideals of the Marshall Plan, the U.S. effort to rebuild Europe after World War II. Brusatte’s award brings the University’s total to 17.

The 21-year-old fourth year plans to build upon his undergraduate geophysical sciences work by tracking the evolution of five rare specimens of theropods, or predatory dinosaurs, housed in British museums. As a kid growing up in Ottawa, Ill., he marveled at dinosaurs, went on to write his own magazine column on state fossils beginning in high school, and had his first book published before entering the University of Chicago in 2002.

“He is a self-made individual who is just passionately following something he always loved,” said Paul Sereno, University of Chicago Professor in Organismal Biology and Anatomy and world renowned for his dinosaur discoveries. “I didn’t have that singular idea of what I wanted to become,” that early on.

Brusatte has known Sereno since he was a sophomore in high school, when he wrote to the professor whose fossil findings “seem to grace the pages of the newspapers on a weekly basis,” he said.

Two years later, Brusatte enrolled at Chicago, and soon after that, began examining specimens in the lab.

What he enjoys most about studying paleontology is “using it to reach out to whatever audience you are talking with,” Brusatte, who speaks to schools and at national conferences to his future peers, said. “There is a lot of opportunity to study these incredibly old organisms, and use them to inspire.”

Brusatte credits Sereno’s inspirational teaching for much of his success.

“Since first year he has provided so many opportunities working in his lab giving me specimens to describe, taking me in the field and to national meetings. It’s a testament to how much he cares about undergraduate research,” Brusatte said.

Brusatte was elected a Student Marshal, the highest academic honor the University gives to undergraduates, made the Dean’s list for the past three years, and is the winner of the John Crerar Foundation Science Writing Prize and the Howard Hughes Institute Undergraduate Research Fellowship.

Ultimately, Brusatte plans to pursue a doctoral degree in geology or evolutionary biology. He would like to both conduct research and teach. While in Britain he will study at the University of Bristol and Imperial College London.

For as long as fossils have mesmerized him, Brusatte has also been a die-hard fan of the White Sox. “This has been a good month,” Brusatte said.
Last modified at 10:16 AM CST on Tuesday, November 29, 2005.

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