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University Gazette

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Benjamin Kompa one of 15 Churchill Scholars, Carolina’s 17th

04BenjaminKompaHeadshot.jpgCarolina senior Benjamin Kompa from Columbus, Ohio, has been named a recipient of the prestigious Churchill Scholarship, a research-focused award that provides funding to outstanding American students for a year of master’s study in science, mathematics and engineering at Churchill College, based at the University of Cambridge in England.

Kompa was one of 15 selected for the award, which requires not only exemplary academic achievement but also seeks those with proven talent in research, extensive laboratory experience and personal activities outside of academic pursuits, especially in music, athletics and social service.

He is Carolina’s 17th Churchill Scholar. “Receiving a Churchill Scholarship is an incredible opportunity for a young scholar and Benjamin is so deserving of this prestigious award,” said Chancellor Carol L. Folt. “He is focused on applying his significant skills in computer science and statistics to solve challenging, global biomedical problems. We are very pleased for Benjamin and know his studies at Cambridge will help pave the way for him to make life-changing impacts in the fields of computational biology and bioinformatics.”

This is the third year in a row that a Carolina student has been awarded the Churchill Kompa, 22, plans to graduate from Carolina in May with a double major in mathematics and computational science, and a minor in biology. He is a Colonel Robinson Scholar, a Phi Beta Kappa member and an Honors Carolina student and has worked in biology labs since high school. Kompa is also a two-time national champion bridge player, who upon a request from the World Bridge Federation, successfully investigated cheating in bridge using computer methods.

He has worked in the same lab since his first year where he learned biology lab techniques and conducted computational research to model chromosomes. His research has been pioneering in its exploration of new models and approaches, emphasizing lasting impacts over quickly publishing papers. Kompa also spent a summer at Harvard Medical School studying methods of artificial intelligence neural networks and applied them to
analyzing MRIs.

Deeply interested in applying the techniques of computer science and statistics to biomedical problems, Kompa plans to use the Churchill Scholarship to pursue a master’s degree in computational biology in the Department of Applied Math and Theoretical Physics, and conduct research on disease comorbidities with Pietro Lio. He then hopes to pursue a doctorate and career in research in bioinformatics.