Student receives full ride to Cambridge

Andrew Lynch began college like any other freshman — stressed and uncertain about the direction his life would take. Four years down the road, his compass is suddenly pointing him straight to Cambridge, England.

Lynch received the prestigious Gates Cambridge Scholarship to study chemical engineering for the next three years at the University of Cambridge, starting in October.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation awards about 100 Gates Cambridge Scholarships worldwide each year, and students can pursue studies in any discipline offered. Lynch is among about 45 U.S. students who received the scholarship, which provides full tuition and living expenses for study at Cambridge.

Lynch’s professors at UK said it was no surprise that he was selected out of the 600 other applicants. He has maintained a 4.0 GPA throughout high school and college, but that only scratches the surface of what has made Lynch so successful, said Douglass Kalika, a professor in the chemical and material engineering department.

“Andrew is clearly one of our top students,” Kalika said. “But it’s about more than GPA. Andrew has a vision and is able to communicate that vision, and that is what helps him win these scholarships.”

Other national honors Lynch has received include the Astronaut Scholarship, the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Scholarship, the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and the Morris K. Udall Scholarship.

Dibakar Bhattacharyya, Lynch’s research adviser, said Lynch is more than just another smart student.

“He is very well rounded,” Bhattacharyya said. “He’s not just a good student; he has a grasp on the outside world as well as many other talents.”

Lynch attributes much of his motivation to perform well to his upbringings. He was born in Victor Harbor, Australia, and attended school in both Southeast Asia and Eastern Kentucky. He said the time he spent around the world made him realize all the opportunities he has been given.

“The advantages given to me are special, and I really want to take advantage of them,” Lynch said. “I don’t want to sit on my butt and look back on it and think about how I wasted my opportunities.”

Lynch has been helping Bhattacharyya study how to improve groundwater quality, though his research focus could change when he gets to Cambridge. He’s considering joining a biology or biochemical research group once at the university.

“I’m hoping the scientific research I do at Cambridge will be helpful to Kentucky,” Lynch said.

The Gaines Center for the Humanities and other students in the engineering department have served as key motivators for his accomplishments, Lynch said.

Despite his marked success, Lynch is not one to gloat, said Peter Frailie, a friend, housemate and fellow senior in the engineering department.

“He grew up overseas, and his background of living in so many different places has definitely helped him succeed,” Frailie said. “But he doesn’t throw stuff like that around to try and impress people.”

Lynch is good at balancing academics and play, and working hard has not sucked the fun out of Lynch, Frailie said.

When he’s not studying, researching or typing 70-page papers, Lynch likes to play “Mario Kart,” play racquetball and cook.

“It’s a nice creative escape from all the left-brain work,” Lynch said with a laugh.

As Lynch embarks on his journey to England, he leaves behind many former educators who said they are proud of his accomplishments.

Kenny Siler, Lynch’s math teacher at Whitley County High School, said he always knew Lynch would be successful.

“I’ve never known Andrew to back down from a challenge,” Siler said. “I expect only the best for him.”