Brendan Marsh

Brendan Marsh, 2017 Mark Twain Fellow

As a fourth-year doctoral student at Stanford, Brendan Marsh is tackling some of the most complex problems in quantum physics — challenges that have stumped scientists since the dawn of the computer age.

He wouldn’t be addressing those questions at all had he not applied for competitive international post-baccalaureate awards — including the Rhodes Scholarship, Marshall Scholarship and National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship — and receiving the Mizzou-funded Mark Twain Fellowship. 

The fellowship applications forced him to clarify in writing the research path he wanted to pursue, where and why. “Those were things I hadn’t thought about before,” Marsh says. “I didn’t have a clear picture of where I was going.”

In the course of answering those questions, he realized he wanted to pivot from the biophysics he had studied at Mizzou to theoretical physics and quantum computing. He enrolled in a master’s degree in applied mathematics and theoretical physics at Cambridge University. 

His time at Cambridge as a Mark Twain Fellow gave Marsh the skills he needed to bridge to a new field and the confidence he needed to thrive at Stanford. 

“I would not be where I am today without it,” he says.

Marsh is a co-author of an article recently published in Nature about how you can send sound through light waves. He is working to develop quantum computers that can solve real-world problems such as how proteins fold and are shaped, which affects how they function within the body.