WEST POINT, N.Y., April 4, 2011 -- West Point Class of 2011 Cadet Thomas Dean, an electrical engineering major, was named a Hertz Fellowship recipient March 31, by the Fannie and John Hertz Foundation.

Since 1963, the Foundation has awarded more than 1,000 doctoral fellowships with the goal of supporting the early-stage research endeavors of applied physical, biological and engineering science students. The fellowship, valued at more than $250,000 per student, goes to 15 new recipients this year, who will receive financial support lasting up to five years of their graduate studies.

Dean is the 38th recipient from West Point and the first since 1997 to receive a Hertz Foundation Fellowship.

Following graduation in May, Dean will attend Stanford University where he will further his studies in electrical engineering with a focus on information theory and coding.

"One thing I am very proud about is being able to represent the academy, and I certainly didn't do this alone," Dean said. "The fellowship is not only a reflection of my achievements but of the academy as a whole."

Dean developed an early interest in electrical engineering and physics long before entering West Point and was active in the amateur radio club since the seventh grade.

"That where I was first exposed to electronics, which I found fascinating," said the Groton, Conn., native. "I also found physics really interesting -- understanding the way things interact in the world."

Midway through high school, Dean also took an interest in the U.S. Military Academy.

"I think halfway through high school I made the decision that I wanted to attend West Point, because I knew it was a good school that could develop me wholly, and I wanted to serve my country too," Dean said. "I thought I'd be checking off a lot of what I wanted to do in life by coming here."

He attended the Summer Leaders Seminar for prospective candidates prior to joining the Class of 2011.

"I knew what I was coming into, and I was as prepared as you could be," he said. "I had a pretty good idea of the challenges I would face. Some things were harder than I had thought, other things weren't too bad."

As a yearling, Dean embraced the electrical engineering program and found that doing what he always loved made him more productive. Naturally, he became involved in the amateur radio club and took advantage of extracurricular research opportunities.

Earlier this year, Dean was accepted into the Military Intelligence branch and is eager to pursue the field of signals intelligence, which he said has significant electrical engineering applications.

Past Hertz Fellowship recipients from West Point, like Maj. Luis Alvarez, Class of 1997, found the opportunities to be life-changing.

"The Hertz Fellowship was transformational and allowed me to define my own career path in the Army," Alvarez said. "It afforded me the opportunity to not only pursue graduate studies but to pursue any topic I wanted without regard for financial limitations or other constraints typically placed on graduate students. Having a Hertz Fellowship gives you enormous access to resources and a vibrant network of like-minded peers and mentors."

Alvarez is currently the assistant product manager for Bioscavenger in the Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical and Biological Defense. The former chemistry and life sciences major wanted to pursue bioengineering after receiving his commission and found the chemistry curriculum at West Point was excellent preparation for these studies.

"West Point gave me the foundation I needed to maintain my connection with the military while I was in graduate school," Alvarez said. "Since the Hertz Fellowship provides up to five years of support it can take you away from the regular Army for long periods of time. Having attended West Point gave me a solid foundation so this separation was not an issue."

Alvarez was one of two Hertz Fellows from the Class of 1997. Like Dean, Alvarez also branched military intelligence and was assigned to Company C, 1st Regiment in the Corps of Cadets.

"I offer my heartiest congratulations to Cadet Tom Dean," Alvarez said. "The Hertz Fellowship is considered to be the most competitive and prestigious graduate fellowship in science and engineering. Enjoy the benefits and privileges it brings and use it to pursue your passion."

Scott Ransom, Class of 1993, said it is the most amazing scholarship most people have never heard of. Ransom is currently a staff astronomer specializing in pulsar research at NRAO-Charlottesville and is a research professor at the Astronomy Department at the University of Virginia.

"It changed my life because it gave me a taste of what doing science was like," Ransom said. "And once I experienced it, I knew that was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life."