A Westporter studying physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has been awarded a fellowship valued at $250,000 to continue graduate studies.

Alexander Siegenfeld is one of 12 students selected from across the nation to receive the award from the Fannie and John Hertz Foundation, the California-based foundation announced this week.

Siegenfeld, whose field of study is concentrated in physics, condensed matter theory, was selected for the fellowship as one of "the most innovative and promising scientists in the applied sciences every year," according to the foundation's release about this year's group of recipients.

"I want to bring chemical thinking into research models in physics so that we can better understand where on the periodic table to look for materials with desirable properties," Siegenfeld was quoted in the release. "This field can be very counterintuitive, and I find that interesting. I want to use my research to develop better tools and materials for society."

In 2010, Siegenfeld represented the United States at the International Chemistry Olympiad, where he won a gold medal. As an undergraduate at MIT, he created a model that explained an inverse melting electronic phase transition in strontium-doped lanthanum nickelate, a material similar in structure to the cuprate superconductors, according to the Hertz Foundation.

He also conducted research on topological insulators, a recently discovered class of substances that have technological potential because they are insulating in the interior but conducting on the surface.

The fellowship, with a stipend and tuition valued at more than $250,000, according to the foundation, can be used for up to five years for the recipient to use for graduate research studies.

The selection process began with a comprehensive written application, including four references. From a pool of more than 800 applicants, the foundation selected 150 candidates for a first round of interviews. These interviews were conducted by national figures in the science and technology fields, many of whom are Hertz Fellows.

"The selection process always is incredibly challenging because of the amount of worthy candidates," David J. Galas, Hertz Fellow and chairman of the Fannie and John Hertz Foundation Board of Directors, said in the release. "But these Fellows demonstrated special vision, dedication, and future ambitions that helped them rise to the top."