Five MIT Students Receive Prestigious Awards

By Kimberly L. Benard, Distinguished Fellows Program Advisor

Three MIT students were recently awarded the Rhodes Scholarship, and two were awarded the Marshall Scholarship. Both awards will take the students to the UK for graduate studies. All students who applied were endorsed by MIT through Distinguished Fellowships of the Global Education Office, advised by Kimberly Benard, and the Presidential Committee on Distinguished Fellowships, chaired by Professor Linn Hobbs.

The Rhodes Scholarship, begun with a legacy from Cecil Rhodes, is an award for study at the University of Oxford and was the first large-scale program of international scholarships. The scholarships are administered and awarded by the Rhodes Trust, which was established in 1902 under the terms and conditions of the will of Cecil Rhodes. Scholarships have been awarded to applicants annually since 1904 on the basis of academic achievement and strength of character.

Ugwechi Amadi

Ms. Amadi, who hails from Tallahassee, Florida, maintains dual Brain & Cognitive Science and Literature majors. Since her freshman year, Ugwechi has been a member of Professor Ki Ann Goosens’ laboratory, which uses “the fear system” to study the mechanisms by which mammalian neurons encode and store information, and to explore the relationship of this encoding to behavior. The research is aimed at providing insight into potential treatment approaches for post-traumatic stress and panic disorders. She created the Brain & Cognitive Science Pre-Orientation Program that introduces freshman to the faculty and students in the department through lectures, short-term experiments, and outings. The program has proven so successful that it is now a regular feature of Freshman Orientation and has inspired other disciplines to inaugurate similar programs.

Ugwechi currently serves as the President of the Brain & Cognitive Sciences Society and is a Burchard Scholar. She will travel to Oxford to study neuroscience before returning to the US to attend medical school.

Caroline Huang

Caroline is an advocate. Her voice has called for support for children of cancer patient parents, victims of domestic violence, Massachusetts constituents of the late Senator Edward Kennedy, inner-city children, child sufferers of hemophilia, and even her MIT classmates. She has founded significant organizations and served as an active member of countless others. Her major at MIT is Brain and Cognitive Sciences, while she additionally pursues double minors in Psychology and Political Science.

The summer prior to arriving at college, Caroline learned about a novel program started at Stanford and undertook to establish at MIT a chapter of the Camp Kesem organization, shortly after her arrival here. Camp Kesem seeks to provide children of cancer patients a place where they can escape the stress of having a seriously ill parent and find acceptance for themselves and the trying experiences they have endured. She found that her professional background in the hard sciences, including her extensive research experiences in the Gabrieli Laboratory—where she examines that part of the brain which controls visual word form, using functional MRI (fMRI) and electroencephalography, and explores its clear link to dyslexia—have supplied her a scientifically informed voice for health policy advocacy on behalf of those genetically disadvantaged. Her goals became better defined after spending this past summer, and continuing this fall even after his death, working in the Boston office of the late Senator Ted Kennedy.

Caroline will join Oxford University’s unique Ethox Centre, a program that aims to improve ethical standards in healthcare practice and medical research, and read for a doctorate degree.

Steven Mo

Steven is a biology major, who studied abroad last year in MIT’s Cambridge-MIT Exchange Program. Beginning in his freshman year, Steven has conducted research in the Laboratory for Multiscale Regenerative Technologies, which is led by Professor Segeeta Bhatia. Her research seeks to discover applications of micro- and nanotechnology for tissue repair and regeneration, improving cellular therapies for liver disease. Steven synthesized and chemically modified polymeric nanoparticles to prepare them to deliver genes to tumor cells. He volunteers to dress as “Tim the Beaver” at MIT events. He has worked at the Massachusetts General Hospital as a patient volunteer, the Master of Ceremonies at the Cambridge University Chinese New Year Ball, President of the MIT Student Ambassador Program, and President of the MIT Chapter of National Society of Collegiate Scholars.

Steven will travel to the UK next year to read for a DPhil from Oxford in Biomedical Engineering, which would best prepare him for an intended future career as an academic scientist and scientific advisor for the Federal government.

Marshall Scholarships were created by the Parliament of the United Kingdom when the Marshall Aid Commemoration Act was passed in 1953. The scholarships serve as a living gift to the United States of America in recognition of the post-World War II European Recovery Plan, commonly known as the Marshall Plan. Marshall Scholarships provide students with two fully-funded years of study, with a possible third-year extension, at any university in the United Kingdom and applicable to any field of study. 35 Scholars were selected this year.

Tanya Goldhaber

Tanya is a Mechanical Engineering major, with Music and Brain & Cognitive Science double minors. Someone who loves engaging with her community, Tanya delighted in understanding why people made the choices that they did. What she quickly came to realize is that the combination of mechanical engineering with brain and cognitive science could give her an ideal academic background to pursue inclusive design. In Tanya’s junior year, she began research in Prof. Kanwisher’s laboratory in the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT, which examines the neural and cognitive mechanisms underlying human visual perception and cognition. Theirs is a special focus on object recognition, visual attention, and perceptual awareness, as well as response selection, social cognition and the human understanding of number. Tanya was tasked with examining whether the same or similar regions of the brain are engaged when subjects were given verbal descriptions as when they were given pictorial descriptions.

She will join Cambridge University’s Inclusive Design program within that university’s Engineering Design Centre, before pursuing a career in inclusive design. A violinist, she is a three-time recipient of an Emerson Music Scholarship and a two-time recipient of the Ragnar and Margaret Naess Award for exceptional talent and commitment to private performance study as an Emerson String Scholar. In 2009, she won the MIT Concerto Competition and subsequently performed Ravel's chromatically challenging Tzigane with the MIT Symphony.

Vinayak Muralidhar

Vinayak was born in Pittsburgh, and is currently pursuing double majors in mathematics and biology. Vinayak plans to pursue a future career in academic medicine, while using his experiences and discoveries to inform healthcare policy in the US. In 2005, Vinayak began research under the tutelage of Dr. Gil Alterovitz at Children’s Hospital, using computational biology methods to analyze genetic regulation networks, protein interaction networks, and metabolic pathways for E. coli bacteria. More recently, he joined Professor Robert Langer’s laboratory at MIT, where he has investigated the use of certain RNA ligands selectively endocytosed by cancer cells and also use of PLA-PEG resorbable nanoparticles for delivery of a pair of tumor-toxic drugs (one hydrophilic, the other hydrophobic), as two promising tumor-specific therapies for cancer treatment. R

ecognizing the benefit that he has received from research experiences, Vinayak realized that high school students could be encouraged in science and engineering by being provided similar opportunities. Vinayak therefore founded the MIT High School Research Program under the auspices of the MIT’s Edgerton Center. Simultaneously, Vinayak has been an active member, and is now President of, the MIT MedLinks program, a residentially-administered peer-based health-advocacy program that supports the health of students in their residences through one-on-one informational counseling and health promotion events. Vinayak participated in the MIT Washington Program, where he spent the summer interning with the US Senate Committee on Finance. He was tasked with assisting the Investigative Health Counsels, examining conflicts of interest in medical practice, FDA regulations, and most importantly healthcare reform proposals.