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The University of Utah is proud to announce that Eliza Diggins, a senior Honors student double-majoring in physics and applied mathematics, was selected as a finalist for the 2024 Rhodes Scholarship.

One of the oldest and most celebrated awards for international study in the world, Rhodes Scholarships provide tuition and living expenses for two or three years of graduate study at the University of Oxford.  Along with “outstanding scholarly achievements,” Rhodes Scholars must demonstrate “character, commitment to others and to the common good, and the potential for leadership in whatever domains their careers may lead.”

Diggins, who hails from Sandy, Utah, is a cross-disciplinary researcher in astrophysics and epidemiology. She is completing an Honors thesis titled “Constraining Modified Gravity Using Galaxy Cluster Dynamics” and has worked throughout her undergraduate career to couple mathematical and computational skills with observational data and statistical method. She plans to carry these skills forward in a graduate program in astrophysics, where she intends to investigate the dynamics of galactic and extra-galactic systems and become a more holistically skilled researcher, capable in both theory and observation.

In addition to excelling in her coursework, Diggins has contributed to research projects and labs run by College of Science faculty, Daniel Wik, associate professor of physics and astronomy; Frederick Adler, professor of mathematics and director of the School of Biological Sciences; as well as Melodie Weller, assistant professor, School of Dentistry. These faculty members celebrated Diggins’ “drive, scientific curiosity and collaborative nature,” “the tremendous energy and enthusiasm” she brings to her academic work, and her “ability to convey mathematically intensive and innovative research.” Along with her selection as a Rhodes Scholarship finalist, Diggins received a nationally competitive Goldwater Scholarship, an Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP) award, a Wilkes Center Scholarship (awarded by the Wilkes Center for Climate Science and Policy in the College of Science) and a Thomas J. Parmley Scholarship for Outstanding Undergraduate Student from the Department of Physics & Astronomy. Finally, Diggins serves as the inaugural chair of the Physics & Astronomy Student Lecture Series and was selected to present her research at the American Society for Virology conference and to members of the Utah state government at Research on Capitol Hill (ROCH).

“Diggins’ research on the gravitational properties of X-Ray emitting intra-cluster medium and Modified Newtonian Dynamics (MOND), galaxy evolution, and plasma dynamics answers important galactic questions and will allow her to contribute to the scientific community in myriad ways, ensuring that she will contribute to the future of scholarship about not only our world, but our universe as well,” says Ginger Smoak, director of the Office of Nationally Competitive Scholarships. Smoak also celebrated Diggins’ community work and how it “aligned with Rhodes Scholarship values, including a commitment to others and to the common good.”

Diggins taught English to low-income immigrant adults through the Adult Education Program at Guadalupe School in Salt Lake City and facilitates a transgender friendship circle for Encircle, a local nonprofit committed to advancing the well-being of LGBTQ+ youth, young adults, and their families. Her community recommenders praised her as one of the “brightest, most authentic, and committed people” they had met and stated that “her dedication transformed lives.”

For Diggins, competing for the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship was “a difficult but illuminating experience.” She felt honored, she explained, “to meet and build relationships with the other Rhodes candidates, each of whom brought unique and interesting perspectives and qualifications.” Overall, she found the experience “instructive in forcing me to think very deeply about various aspects of my life.”

Per the Rhodes Trust, more than 2,500 students began the application process this year; 862 were ultimately endorsed by 249 different colleges and universities; 240 applicants from 90 different colleges and universities reached the finalist stage of the competition. Since 1904, the University of Utah has had 23 Rhodes Scholarship recipients, including Sabah Sial in 2023 (see

Diggins was advised throughout the Rhodes Scholarship application process by the University of Utah’s Office of Nationally Competitive Scholarships (ONCS) housed in the Honors College. ONCS staff members assist outstanding University of Utah students and recent alumni in developing competitive applications, preparing for interviews, and securing University endorsements for a variety of prestigious nationally competitive scholarships.

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This story originally appeared in @TheU.

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