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including The Conductor, a special section of the Spectrum printed 4 times a year

Rhodes Scholarship awarded

By Sally Harris

Spectrum Volume 18 Issue 17 - January 18, 1996

Mark Patrick Embree, a Virginia Tech senior from Springfield who broadens his education in mathematics and computer science with minors in English and history, has won the most prestigious honor a graduating senior can receive-the Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University.

Based not just on academic excellence, but on a combination of scholarship, versatility, leadership, and social concern, the Rhodes Scholarship also emphasizes integrity and energy to use one's talents. Embree's record fits all the requirements.

His academic excellence, as he completes requirements for a bachelor's in computer science and another in mathematics, has earned him numerous previous scholarships, including the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship.

Embree's research interest in numerical analysis focuses in two specific areas: numerical linear algebra and numerical ordinary differential equations. "Linear algebra is the bedrock upon which the bulk of scientific computing rests," he said. Also, he said, "numerical ordinary differential equations have fascinated me since I wrote my first numerical earth-satellite flight predictor several years ago."

That practical application of his computer-science and mathematics education started early. At the end of his first year of college, a member of the W.J. Schafer Associates team in Arlington encouraged him to refine a satellite flight-prediction program and use it to analyze the upcoming Clementine lunar mission. During the mission, he was able to visit the satellite's ground station in Alexandria and watch as lunar images were down-linked in real time. "Science's pioneering significance became clearer to me in this mission control room," he wrote.

Between studies, Embree also has served as a student researcher in the Mathematics and Orbit Dynamics Section of the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington and as a teaching assistant with the Department of Computer Science at Virginia Tech.

However, he wanted to enrich his understanding with disciplines other than his two majors; so he minored in history and English. The study of history, he said, "lends perspective to current events and shows how people react to and rise above the circumstances of our world."

He took creative writing courses to help him better express himself, and he writes poetry. As a sophomore, he took an African literatures honors colloquium and discovered "the struggle African authors wage for spiritual, literary, and political alteration." His world view was changed forever when he found in Botswana author Bessie Head's work "communal integration {that} provides a model for strengthening organizations and nations."

Embree has long been involved in community and has taken leadership roles in various organizations. The University Honors Associates, of which he is president, molded his leadership philosophy, he said, and gave him an opportunity to initiate and lead service projects.

"I believe service is an essential component of my life," Embree said. "Regardless of academic pursuits, without service I could not be complete."

His social concern and versatility are reflected in the service he has provided. He served as coordinator for the Honors Volunteer Tutoring Program, was director of the Admissions Department Multimedia Project, developed software for the Virginia Tech Outreach Program for Schools (VTOPS), assisted with a High Performance Scientific Computing interdisciplinary honors colloquium, served as a teaching assistant for an honors freshman seminar on Conflict and Consensus in Society, is a full member of the Youth Apostles Institute, and was a staff member for the Silhouette literary magazine.

Embree is a member of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, the Association for Computing Machinery Virginia Tech chapter, the American Astronautical Society, and the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics.