From Taxation to Quantum Computing: Truman and Goldwater Fellows Pursue Passions | spotlight

Two Wellesley students received prestigious grants this spring: Eshika Kaul ’23 has been named a Truman Scholar and Cora Barrett ’23 is a Goldwater Scholar.

An economics and peace and law graduate, Kaul is studying double major, brimming with particular enthusiasm for the tax law. “When I started working at Harvard Law School’s Legal Services Center and their Federal Tax Clinic, I really had no background in tax. I thought it was an incredibly complex process,” she says. Today, she uses her tax knowledge to help low-income taxpayers navigate the system and direct them to other resources they may need. “When I saw how the tax law crosses other systemic barriers, I came to see it as a kind of gold mine to help people,” she says. “It was so valuable to see how my work, focused on taxes, enabled my clients to pay their children’s medical bills or put food on the table.”

The Harry S. Truman Scholarship this year was awarded to 58 accomplished students who have demonstrated outstanding leadership potential, academic excellence and dedication to a career in public service. Madeleine Korbel Albright ’59 was president of the Truman Scholarship Foundation from 2003 until her recent passing; although Kaul never met her, she has been in touch with Wellesley alumnae who have been awarded the Truman Scholarship in recent years. Kaul is excited to have a community of public service scientists with whom they can exchange ideas and collaborate down the line.

Kaul’s passion for economics stems from her interest in understanding the world by quantifying it, she says, but “the world is so inherently complex that I also wanted some contextualization and a different perspective.” Through economic research at Wellesley, work at the Department of Commerce and volunteering locally through the Ministrare Council, Kaul explores different ways to serve her community. “My double major in economics and peace and justice has allowed me to see in different ways what works and what doesn’t, and how I can support people,” she says. She credits her mother and brother as her main sources of inspiration and also credits her successes thus far to the professors who have pointed her in the right direction.

It was so valuable to see how my tax-centric work enabled my clients to pay their children’s medical bills or put food on the table.

Eshika Kaul ’23

Kaul will work in an economic consulting firm in Washington this summer through the Wellesley in Washington Program, hoping, she says, “to understand the extent to which I will incorporate economics into my future policy making or future career.” She is considering going to law school but has not yet decided on a future career path. Among other things, she says: “The pandemic has taught me the value of being open to unexpected opportunities. …I have found that the experiences I turned to were the most valuable in improving my skills to drive the systemic change I hope to make.”

Barrett is the recipient of a 2022 Goldwater Scholarship, awarded to outstanding students who intend to pursue research careers in the natural sciences, engineering and mathematics. She plans to do a PhD, but like Kaul, she’s not sure she’ll go straight to high school. “I just want to keep my options open,” she says. “There are also a lot of exciting opportunities in the industry.”

Inspired by her grandfather, a ballistics engineer, and her uncle, a particle physicist, Barrett is a double major in physics and mathematics. Her research interests are focused on quantum engineering and quantum computing. “In physics, chemistry, [and] biology, quantum systems are really hard to simulate,” she says. “The advantage of building quantum computers is that we can simulate the time evolution of complex quantum systems, which are practically impossible to study with classical computers.”

“For example,” she adds in an email, “we could use quantum simulation to help search for superconductivity at high temperatures (the gateway to a clean-energy future). Or we could use a quantum computer to synthesize proteins.” that play an important role in neurodegenerative diseases to help discover a cure.… Really, the possibilities are endless. The quantum computer is the perfect tool to simulate everything in nature, because nature is quantum by nature!”

After working with quantum materials in the lab of Robbie Bergprofessor of physics at Wellesley, Barrett completed a 10-week GOLF Fellowship at Caltech the summer before her junior year. “I was working in an experimental condensed matter physics lab studying the electronic phases of complex crystals,” explains Barrett. This summer she will conduct experimental quantum computing research via the MIT Summer Research Program—with the added bonus of being able to continue in .’s lab William D. Oliver, director of the Center for Quantum Engineering at MIT, where she has worked all year. “That will be my graduation thesis next year,” she says.

Karen LangeTheresa Mall Mullarkey, associate professor of mathematics, encouraged Barrett to apply for the Goldwater Scholarship, which is jointly funded by the Department of Defense and the Barry S. Goldwater Foundation. As one of 417 grant recipients, Barrett plans to make the most of the access she has to a community of scholars who come together to provide panels and advice.

For now, Barrett is enjoying the Wellesley Blue crew team winning the 2022 NCAA DIII Rowing National Championship† “I really can’t imagine my life without rowing,” she says. “My teammates are some of my biggest inspirations. We’re all there because we like to work hard and push ourselves and push each other.”

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