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‘Exceptional’ postgraduates from US named as new Gates Cambridge Scholars

"I aim to continue investigating how universities can become bastions that reduce - and not reproduce - socioeconomic inequities and promote social good"

Two ‘extraordinarily impressive’ postgraduates from the United States will be welcomed into the St John’s community later this year as part of the Gates Cambridge Scholars programme, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary.

The Gates Cambridge Trust has selected 24 academically outstanding and socially committed US citizens as part of its class of 2021 at the University of Cambridge. The Gates Cambridge Scholarship programme fully funds postgraduate study and research in any subject at Cambridge and was established through a US$210 million donation from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000, the largest single donation to a UK university.

The St John’s College US scholars-elect Joyce Kim and Elizabeth Wiita, who will be arriving in October to undertake their PhDs in Education and Chemistry respectively, are both committed to being a force for good.

Joyce Kim Gates Cambridge Scholar
Joyce Kim.

Joyce studied for her undergraduate degree in Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania and was its first Asian-American woman Student Body President, where she advocated for a range of issues, from sexual assault prevention to faculty diversity. She said: “This undergraduate leadership experience sparked my research interests in students’ lived experiences of belonging as well as the relationship of these experiences to institutional change in universities.”

Her interest deepened while conducting research as a Fulbright Scholar in South Korea and undertaking her MPhil at Cambridge in 2018. Most recently she has worked at Harvard Business School, researching organisational change in higher education. “As a Gates Scholar, I aim to continue investigating how universities can become bastions that reduce - and not reproduce - socioeconomic inequities and promote social good in diverse global societies,” said Joyce. “Findings can inform policies of universities worldwide so that they can better mould civically-minded future generations who possess the ability to collaborate across differing identities and perspectives.”

Elizabeth, who studied for her undergraduate Chemistry degree at Barnard College, Columbia University, was a Fulbright Scholar in Romania and is currently undertaking further studies in Chemical Engineering at Columbia. She said: “Before college, I had witnessed major disparities in health care while travelling abroad as an artistic swimmer for Team USA, inspiring me to study ways to increase access to medicine: diseases do not have geographic borders; everyone deserves treatment.”

During her PhD in Chemistry, she will explore the transportation of nucleic acids into cellular environments. “This delivery of materials is fundamental to achieving targeted health treatments, including therapeutics, CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing, and vaccines,” said Elizabeth. “With this research, I seek to address not only crucial scientific questions, but also gaps in international medical care, where stable and easily transportable therapeutics are crucial in ameliorating health disparities.

"I seek to address not only crucial scientific questions, but also gaps in international medical care, where stable and easily transportable therapeutics are crucial"

Elizabeth Wiita Gates Cambridge Scholar
Elizabeth Wiita.

“In the lab, I feel an overwhelming sense of comfort, curiosity, and responsibility; I look forward to the opportunity to enact change as a part of the Gates Cambridge community.”

Since the first class in 2001, Gates Cambridge has awarded 1,932 scholarships to scholars from 111 countries who represent more than 600 universities globally, including some 200 in the USA, and more than 80 academic departments and all 31 Colleges at Cambridge.

In addition to outstanding academic achievement, the scholarship programme places an emphasis on social leadership in its selection process, in a bid to create a global network of future leaders committed to improving the lives of others.

Announcing the US cohort in the class of 2021, Professor Barry Everitt FRS, Provost of the Gates Cambridge Trust, said: “This year has been particularly challenging and has highlighted the importance of the kind of international, outward-looking and socially committed approach that these diverse scholars embody.

“The US scholars-elect have been selected to reflect the mission of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s generous and historic gift to the University of Cambridge, the 20th anniversary of which we are currently celebrating. Like their predecessors, this year’s cohort are an extraordinarily impressive and diverse group who have already achieved much in terms of their academic studies and leadership abilities and have already shown their commitment to improving the lives of others in multiple ways.”

Fourteen of the US cohort are women, nine are men and one is non-binary. Eighteen will pursue PhDs while six others will undertake one-year master’s degrees.

The Trust will review candidates from all other countries and offer around 60 more scholarships in late March. The entire class of 2021 will be announced in early April and join the current community of approximately 240 Gates Cambridge Scholars at the University in Michaelmas Term.

Professor Everitt said: “We are sure these scholars will flourish in the rich, international community at Cambridge and that they will make a significant impact in their fields and to the wider global community. I also take this opportunity to warmly thank those who have given their time and expertise to the selection of these exceptional scholars.”

Full list of 2021 US scholars-elect

Published: 24/2/21

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