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Hofstra’s Joe Burg Named Rhodes Scholar Finalist

Nov 20, 2012, 4:45 PM EDT

Hofstra's Joe Burg

Hempstead, NY  – Senior Joseph Burg, a gifted scientist who brings precision and discipline to his research and his pitching, is a 2013 American Rhodes Scholar finalist, becoming the second student in Hofstra University history to achieve that honor.

Burg, a math and physics major, was one of 212 finalists from more than 800 students who were endorsed by their college or university for a Rhodes Scholarship, one of the most prestigious academic awards in the world. A total of 32 students were named Rhodes Scholars, earning full scholarships for two or three years study at Oxford University in England.

“Joe is among one of the most accomplished undergraduates that Hofstra has seen in the past decade,” said President Stuart Rabinowitz. “He has earned virtually every academic recognition that the university grants, from scholarly and athletic scholarships to membership in the Phi Beta Kappa honor society.”

“He represents the very best quality our university and its student body,” President Rabinowitz said.

Burg is the second Hofstra student to be a Rhodes finalist. Dr. Hilarie Cranmer ‘89, a physician and professor at Harvard University who played basketball for the Pride, was the first.

A native of Lindenhurst, IL, Burg, 22, is an Honors College student with a 4.0 GPA. He aspires to a career in nanotechnology with a focus on clean energy or medical applications. Besides Phi Beta Kappa, he is a member of the Pi Mu Epsilon Mathematics Honor, the Sigma Pi Sigma Physics Honor Society, and the Golden Key International Honor Society. He serves as a physics and astronomy tutor, and as a teaching assistant for the Physics department.

He was the recipient of the Phi Beta Kappa Sophomore Book Award, the 2010 Carl Friedrich Gauss Award for Excellence in Mathematics , the 2011 Homer DemetriouEndowed Scholarship for Mathematics, and the Azelle Waltcher Endowed Scholarship for Mathematics in 2012. He’s also a three-time Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) Commissioner’s Academic Award recipient.

“I am humbled and honored to have been a finalist for such a prestigious award,” Burg said, crediting his professors and baseball Coach John Russo for helping him balance school and sports. “So many professors have gone out of their way to mentor and challenge me in my studies and projected career path.”

“But the support I have received from the Department of Athletics staff is unparalleled,” he said. “Coach Russo has been instrumental. His first rule for us baseball players is to earn a degree….He and the rest of his coaching staff has created the best possible environment to be a student in addition to competing at a high level athletically.”

On the field, Burg, a lefty who usually works out of the bullpen, has appeared in 65 games over three seasons, recording 86 strikeouts in 123 1/3 innings pitched. Already fifth on the team’s career appearances list, Burg is on pace to be second. This year, the team posted its best season ever, with 34 wins and an appearance in the CAA championship.

“This is an extraordinary achievement, and one that serves as an inspiration for every other student and student-athlete at Hofstra,” said Vice President and Director of Athletics Jeffrey A. Hathaway. “As much as he’s accomplished already, it’s clear that Joe has even greater things in his future. He is a winner in every sense of the word – as a student, athlete, leader in the University community and, most importantly, as an outstanding person.”

Said Coach Russo:  “I am extremely proud of Joe. He epitomizes the definition of a student-athlete. Seeing all of the effort Joe puts into his studies, I am not surprised that he advanced to the final stage of the selection process. It is truly a well-deserved honor.”

In his Rhodes application, the southpaw scientist explored the nexus between physics and baseball.

“In baseball, a great pitcher throws 60-70 percent strikes, while an exceptional batter gets a hit about 30 percent of the time,” Burg wrote. “Failure is part of the game. In physics, one pitches many ideas and not all work out.”

“Physics and baseball describe similar experiences with different language,” he wrote, “and I’m starting to gain fluency in both.”