KU Phi Kappa Phi announces fellowship recipient

A University of Kansas dual-degree recipient was selected to receive a fellowship for graduate study from the KU Chapter of Phi Kappa Phi.

Mario Balcazar, who completed requirements for degrees in electrical engineering and physics in May, was selected to receive the James Blackiston Memorial Graduate Fellowship. The award provides Balcazar, a third-generation Jayhawk from LaPaz Bolivia, with $1,500 for graduate study. He is also the winner of a $5000 National Fellowship from Phi Kappa Phi!

“I have gotten to know Mario through multiple contacts and contexts over the past three years. He is an impressive young scholar in a superbly talented cohort” said Professor Bryan Young, director of the University Honors Program and president of the KU Phi Kappa Phi chapter. “He is extraordinarily bright, highly motivated, and intensely curious.”

Balcazar is in the University Honors Program and received numerous internal and external academic scholarships. In fall 2015 he was selected for KU’s highly competitive and prestigious University Scholars Program. The University Scholars Program selects KU’s top 20 sophomores out of nearly 4,000 and engages them in a challenging interdisciplinary seminar.

In addition to being academically talented, Balcazar has been involved in a variety of research, work and service activities. He was selected for Undergraduate Research Awards three times during his years at KU. He has served as a teaching assistant in the Department of Physics and as a teaching assistant and tutor in the Department of Mathematics. He has been a member of the Funding Advisory Committee for the Engineering Student Council, an Honors Peer Mentor, an International Student Orientation leader and an active member of the International Student Engineering Association.

He has engaged in several research experiments as part of the Particle and Astroparticle Physics research team, including his work on the CMS particle detector for the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. In summer 2017, he interned with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, often called Fermilab, in Batavia, Ill.

Balcazar, who was initiated in Phi Kappa Phi in fall 2016, plans to pursue a doctoral degree in nuclear engineering at the University of Michigan, considered by many to be the top program in this field in the nation.

About the Blackiston Fellowship

The Blackiston Fellowship was created to honor the memory of James Blackiston, a graduate student in the Department of Linguistics and an instructor in the Intensive English Center, now the Applied English Center, at KU. He graduated from Michigan State University, where he was inducted into Phi Kappa Phi. In 1975, Blackiston played a key role in the formation and activation of the KU chapter of Phi Kappa Phi. The Blackiston Fellowship recipient becomes the KU chapter’s nominee for one of nearly 60 fellowships from Phi Kappa Phi with values from $5,000 to $15,000. These national fellowships provide assistance to students during their first year of post-graduate study.

The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi is the nation’s oldest and most selective honor society for all academic disciplines. More than 100,000 members maintain their active status in Phi Kappa Phi, which offers them numerous benefits as dues-paying members including access to $1.4 million in awards and grants each biennium.


Course offerings are “among the most comprehensive in the nation,” according to “A Review of Fifty Public University Honors Programs”
98% of University Honors Program graduates are employed or accepted to graduate school within six months of graduation
40% of students in the University Honors Program conduct research before graduation
9 to 1: Average ratio of KU honors students to faculty advisors
1 of only 7 programs nationwide to receive a top rating from “A Review of Fifty Public University Honors Programs” in 2014
60% of University Honors Program students study abroad
KU honors students select their advisors from top-ranked KU faculty
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