UNC-Chapel Hill student Maggie Hilderbran named Marshall Scholar

She is Carolina’s 18th Marshall Scholar, and was one of only 32 recipients of the two-year Marshall award.

Maggie Hildebran
UNC senior Maggie Hildebran poses for a portrait on Polk Place on November 19, 2018, on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (Johnny Andrews/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Maggie Hilderbran, a fourth-year undergraduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has been named a recipient of the Marshall Scholarship, a graduate studies scholarship to study at up to two United Kingdom institutions, in any field of study.

Maggie is one of 40 Americans selected for the one- and two-year awards, which provide university fees, cost of living expenses, annual book grants, thesis grant, research and daily travel grants and fares to and from the United States, an average award of £35,000 per year. She is Carolina’s 18th Marshall Scholar, and was one of only 32 recipients of the two-year Marshall award.

“I’m honored to have been selected for a Marshall Scholarship,” Hilderbran said. “It’s thrilling to know that for the next two years I’ll have the opportunity to dig deeper into my fields of study, work closely with others who share my academic interests, and experience Scottish and English culture. I especially appreciate the support I’ve received from my professors and from the Office of Distinguished Scholarships, which helped me realize this dream. I’m excited to have the honor of representing Carolina in the UK for the next two years.”

Hilderbran, 22, is the daughter of Gregory and Carole Hilderbran and is from Asheville, North Carolina. She is a 2015 graduate of Carolina Day School and plans to graduate from Carolina this May with a double major in physics (with a concentration in astrophysics) and religious studies, along with a minor in history.

“Faculty, students and staff who know Maggie see how her clear sense of what she wants to do with her life inspires her work. Thanks to her amazing academic, scientific and community building skills, I know she will make the most of this Marshall Scholarship opportunity,” said Chancellor Carol L. Folt. “Beyond excelling in the classroom and the lab, Maggie is a student leader and mentor who also gives back through community service. With her keen ability to explain complex science to non-scientists, she will advance the world’s understanding of the importance of international space missions and research.”

A Carolina Scholar and Honors Carolina student with a near-perfect GPA, Hilderbran is also a Phi Beta Kappa member and the recipient of North Carolina Space Grants for undergraduate research and scholarship. She is currently writing her senior honors thesis based on her research at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Astrophysical Fluid Dynamics Lab.

In her sophomore year, Hilderbran was the managing editor and a founding member of “UNC JOURney,” Carolina’s first interdisciplinary undergraduate research journal. She is an ambassador for the UNC-Chapel Hill Office of Undergraduate Research, promoting research on campus through information sessions and student mentoring. Hilderbran has also spent five summers as a camp counselor at Camp Illahee in Brevard, North Carolina.

While in England, Hilderbran plans to pursue two master’s of science degrees, one in science and religion at the University of Edinburgh and another in space exploration systems at the University of Leicester. Professionally, she aspires to perform astrophysics research for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, where she has twice served as an intern.

“Maggie has an unusual strength of character and enormous energy, is mature and self-aware, and is a brilliant community builder who has left her mark on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus in more ways than one,” said Inger Brodey, director of Carolina’s Office of Distinguished Scholarships. “She is poised to become a scientist who knows how to talk to non-scientists, bridging an important gap in our current society, and serving an important role as a spokesperson for NASA and international space research.”

The Marshall Scholarships were founded in 1953 and finance the opportunity for young Americans of outstanding ability to study for a degree in the United Kingdom. Approximately 40 Marshall Scholarships are awarded annually and cover study in any discipline at graduate level at a UK university: up to 32 recipients can receive the two-year award and up to eight recipients can receive the one-year award.

The Marshall Scholarships honor the ideals of the Marshall Plan and are named after U.S. Secretary of State George C. Marshall. Applicants who “have the potential to excel as scholars, leaders and contributors to improved UK-US understanding” are highly desired by Marshall Scholarships selectors.