For her studies in quieting wind turbines and making other forms of renewable energy more competitive, a University of California-Merced student from Germany has been awarded the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship to study at Oxford University in the U.K.
In October, Selina Brinkmann will start four years of study, all expenses paid, courtesy of the Rhodes program that awards a mere 102 scholarships each year to academically outstanding applicants around the world.
Brinkmann told VOA she is passionate about renewable energy and has focused her research on desalinating farm wastewater in the agriculturally lush Central Valley of California. The valley produces half of all fruits and vegetables in the U.S., but requires massive irrigation, some of which requires desalination.
“I’m working on the third alternative, which will allow them to reuse the wet content of their drainage water — the water, because that’s valuable, especially here because it’s so dry — while also not having any salt, like on the ground,” Brinkmann said.
Prior to UC-Merced, Brinkmann attended the University of Siegen in Germany and spent a year in the U.S. at the University of Tulsa in Oklahoma.
Brinkmann said that her parents were very supportive of her and her three siblings growing up. They expected her to achieve, but weren’t strict about it, she said.
“My parents would never be upset with me if I had bad grades if I showed that I actually tried it,” she said. “My parents would really get annoyed at me though, if I was just like not doing anything and then got a bad grade — that was bad. So, they were definitely into education.”
After graduating high school in Germany, Brinkmann spent a year in Edinburgh, Scotland, before attending the University of Siegen.
“I went to my local university and I stayed at home, which was nice,” Brinkmann said. “It allowed me to save up money for traveling and doing my own hobbies,” which include backpacking, dancing and ultimate frisbee.
In her third year, she studied abroad on a grant in the U.S. at the University of Tulsa. A graduate student fellowship followed through the DAAD — the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst, or the German Academic Exchange Service.
Brinkmann applied to the German Rhodes Scholarship in fall 2020, working toward her Ph.D. to follow the master’s degree she is working on now. The Rhodes interview was conducted over video.
“Yeah, so and then the unique thing is, you obviously hear back the same day, which considering the time difference was really nice, because I just went to bed and woke up in the morning to get the email,” she explained to VOA.
Her plans for Oxford fit in with her experience and passion for renewable energy. She reached out to two professors at Oxford before even applying to the Rhodes Scholarship.
“I’ll be joining the center for doctoral training in wind and marine energy systems and structures,” she said. She noted that the program combines her precise interests: sustainable energy and turbo machinery.
Brinkmann is excited for the opportunity, but acknowledged how daunting studying at Oxford is.
“It’s not like any university,” she said.
Other famous Rhodes Scholars include former President Bill Clinton, U.S. senator Cory Booker, American actor and songwriter Kris Kristofferson, and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ronan Farrow.