Student receives prestigious Marshall Scholarship


Rebecca Denova, a religious studies professor at Pitt, once taught a class on martyrdom… Rebecca Denova, a religious studies professor at Pitt, once taught a class on martyrdom where she asked her students to choose someone from a list containing names of people from the last 2,000 years who died for a cause and write a report about them.

One of her students asked her if she could write a report about someone not on the list. Anna Quider, the student, wanted to write a report about the rapper Tupac Shakur. Denova told her that she could but told her that there had to be a reason for it.

“It was one of the best research papers I have ever read,” Denova said about it later. His lyrics are biblical, like psalms, Denova said.

Quider, a student who by all counts brought a boundless enthusiasm to whatever she did, won the Marshall Scholarship – a prestigious award given by the British government to only 43 people in the United States. Quider was the only student in Pennsylvania to receive the award. It allows her to study at her university of choice in the United Kingdom.

Denova describes Quider as hardworking and always willing to share her knowledge with students of all ages.

“I can use 10 Annas in my courses. She does the work, and she makes it interesting and fun,” Denova said. “She’s in love with learning. She’s almost contagious when she talks about stuff.”

Quider is an astrophysics, religious studies and history and philosophy of science major, and this broad learning is what research professor Sandhya Rao believes to be Quider’s strength.

“It’s a very holistic view of the human experience,” Rao said. “She wants to learn about everything there is to know. I’ve never worked with anyone like her.”

Rao worked with Quider on researching quasars, ancient black holes that, by spinning matter at high speeds, have emitted light just now reaching Earth. That allowed Quider the chance to see other galaxies by analyzing what that light has since passed through on its billion-mile journey to Earth.

But she also spends a lot of her time teaching children about science, as well as showing non-science majors what she believes to be important.

“She loves to talk about her science and educate non-scientists about her work,” Rao said. “She wants to convey her excitement about the whole universe to children.”

Audrey Vanim is a friend of Quider’s and editor of the Pittsburgh Undergraduate Review. Vanim credits Quider’s enthusiasm with the change that has gone through the Review.

She was eager to start up the publication again and even began a Web site, printed flyers and manned booths at various functions. People would come up and ask her questions about all subjects, Vanim recalled.

“Whatever she does, she is whole-heartedly involved in it,” Vanim said. “And she is involved in a lot of things, so she must have lots of energy,” she added.

But as for Quider, she has many reasons for choosing astrophysics and her other two majors, especially as she looks back on her career at Pitt. She recalled a moment in her 8th grade class when she learned about the expanding universe.

“It made me ask ‘Why is it expanding?’ and ‘What is it expanding into?’ and that’s how it began,” Quider said. As for the religious studies major, a priest asked her if she believed in God, and she told him that she did not know.

Quider said that one of her major goals in life is to open up science to anyone who will listen. She believes that scientists should reach out to their communities to foster understanding.

“I think that it’s stupid that they get this privilege on how the world works. Everyone should be able to understand how the world is working despite their academic ability,” Quider said.

Quider said she hopes people will try to understand science and realize how important it is in their day-to-day lives.

“You are a science person. You drive a car – that’s science. You breathe – that’s science. Science is all around us,” Quider said.

Quider has chosen to study at Cambridge and continue her research about other galaxies. She said that it’s a wonderful feeling to have a passion in life.

“I positively love what I do. I love it, and I’m actually sort of good at it,” Quider said. “Once you find that, life’s pretty awesome.”