Marcus Forst, a senior physics major, wins Temple’s first Knight-Hennessy Scholarship
The prestigious award allows the Avondale, Pennsylvania, native to begin his graduate studies this fall at Stanford University.
Marcus Forst has spent four years studying on North Broad Street. He will spend his next three in Northern California.
A senior physics major, Forst is the first Temple University student to be named a Knight-Hennessy Scholar. The competitive scholarship program awards financial support for the full cost of attendance for graduate education at Stanford University. Forst graduates from Temple in May and, this September, will enroll at Stanford to begin the pursuit of a PhD in applied physics.
“I am really excited to be a part of the prestigious Knight-Hennessy program and help shape what it will look like for years to come,” said Forst, 23. “I look forward to being around scholars from different fields and determining how best to bring my perspective as a physicist to people who are more globally focused, and solving some complex interdisciplinary problems.”
The Knight-Hennessy Scholarship program launched in 2018 and is named for its architects—Phil Knight, a Stanford graduate and co-founder of Nike, Inc., and John Hennessy, Stanford’s most-recent past president. The program selects scholars who demonstrate academic excellence, potential for leadership, and a civic commitment with a goal toward changing the world for the better.
The son of two Temple alumni, Forst is among this year’s 75 Knight-Hennessy Scholars. Last year, for the program’s inaugural cohort, Stanford named 51 Knight-Hennessy Scholars, choosing from a pool of more than 3,600 applicants worldwide.
This is the latest academic honor for Forst, who last spring became Temple’s first Goldwater Scholar. The Goldwater is widely considered the most prestigious undergraduate award in the STEM fields: science, technology, engineering, and math.
“There is no doubt that research is Marcus’ academic strength and passion,” said Barbara Gorka, Temple’s director of Scholar Development and Fellowships Advising, “but we also believe that his commitment to community will make him a better physicist. Marcus is driven and ambitious, and cares deeply about wanting to make the world a better place.”
Senior physics major Marcus Forst instructs fellow undergraduate students in a recitation section of the department’s Introduction to Quantum Mechanics course.
Forst’s path to the Knight-Hennessy Scholarship required perseverance—in and out of the classroom. A 2015 diagnosis of T-cell lymphoblastic lymphoma kept him from completing coursework for close to a year. He has endured three and a half years of chemotherapy, with last summer marking his final treatment. “It was July 4—a true Independence Day,” he said, smiling.
His final chemotherapy treatment took place in Germany, where Forst participated in the DAAD Rise academic study-abroad program. He worked in a laboratory led by Thorsten Poeschel of Friedrich-Alexander University, primarily on a project that examined how the density of granular materials can differ based on the way they are poured into a cylinder. The experience also allowed Forst to continue his work toward fluency in German.
It will be awhile before Forst can practice another passion: basketball. Bone degradation in Forst’s right shoulder, a result of chemotherapy, required a surgery to replace the joint in January.
All the while, Forst—a former manager of Temple’s men’s basketball team—has remained focused on his academic excellence.
“He goes about life with grace and aplomb, along with talent and intellectual curiosity,” said Jim Napolitano, professor and chair of Physics at Temple’s College of Science and Technology.
When Napolitano met Forst several years ago, Forst mentioned a homework problem that triggered his curiosity toward visualizing a subtle concept in electromagnetism. Napolitano found Forst’s work “compelling and innovative.”
“I used it in the textbook I was writing and I credited Marcus in the preface of the book,” said Napolitano, in whose course, Introduction to Quantum Mechanics, Forst serves as a classroom assistant.
“It’s a theoretical physics course in which intuition will not suffice,” Napolitano said. “Everyone knows how a ball rolls down an inclined plane, but you don’t know how an atom will behave when you excite it. Marcus works so closely and mindfully with our students. It’s inspiring.”
"Marcus has very high standards and the maturity and strength to always look outside the box," said professor of physics Maria Iavarone, who oversees Forst's work maintaining a scanning tunneling microscope housed in her research lab. "He has been contributing to our current effort to study the remarkable physical properties of two-dimensional materials, and it has been an amazing journey supervising Marcus."
Forst will visit Stanford March 11-13, along with other applied physics majors. He met many of them when the program’s 150 finalists gathered in February for a three-day immersion weekend.
"I've never felt so proud to be from Temple,” Forst said. “I realized, while meeting all of these finalists from Harvard, MIT, Oxford, Cambridge, and Princeton, that being from Temple gave me a special perspective. Being the first Knight-Hennessy Scholar from Temple is something I’ll feel proud of for the rest of my life.
“I have been a part of this positive momentum at Temple, with Hazim (Hardeman, KLN ’17) winning the Rhodes Scholarship and so many students earning Fulbright Scholarships," he continued. “This upward momentum, these feelings of hope and optimism, are changing the way Temple students feel about their potential. Temple is where anyone, regardless of background, can enter and then leave reaching these great heights. That is what makes Temple such a special place, and I am so happy to represent it.”
—Christopher A. Vito