Record-high seven Elis earn Gates Cambridge scholarship

Yale’s seven Gates Cambridge Scholars this year represent a record high for the University, International Education and Fellowship Programs administrators announced this week.

This year’s Gates scholars are Alexandra Adler ’07, Kate Blair ’07, Adam Clark-Joseph ’07, Robert James ’05, Greg Jordan ’07, Kelly Karns ’07 and Rebecca Voorhees ’07. The scholarship, which is supported by a gift to the University of Cambridge from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, supports between one and three years of graduate study at the British university. While most of this year’s winners from Yale are women studying the biological sciences, the overall pool of awardees from around the world is typically balanced in gender and field of study, IEFP United Kingdom Fellowship Advisor Mark Bauer said. The students will begin their studies overseas in the 2007-’08 academic year.

There are typically 100 new scholars announced each year. Since 2001, the scholarship has covered all Cambridge fees and round-trip airfare to the UK, as well as a maintenance and discretionary allowance for each student.

Bauer said the competition is stiff for the Gates, which requires that students exhibit a unique dedication and potential.

“[Gates scholars should have] outstanding academic credentials, a very clear rationale for why they want to do graduate work at Cambridge, a sense of how this is going to help them do the more long-term work that they want to do, and a pretty clear record of having made significant contributions in scholarship or public service,” he said. “The Gates, like the Rhodes and the Marshall [Scholarships], is very much looking for people to invest in who are going to do significant work in the future.”

While the normal time frame for a graduate degree at Cambridge is one year, Bauer said, students also have the option of pursuing a two-year master’s degree in research or a three-year doctorate. Since the IEFP office does not administer the Gates but usually helps students with their applications, he said he would estimate that about 12 Yale students and recent graduates applied this year.

Voorhees, a Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry major, is aiming for a master’s degree in biological science at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge. She will continue her undergraduate research on x-ray crystallography, she said, with the opportunity to work with one of the leaders in this field.

“It’s a great opportunity to take things home after college and work with an eminent scientist in a really unique setting,” she said. “It’s a small group of six people, which is unusual for the U.S., so it’s an intimate setting I probably wouldn’t have gotten anywhere else.”

Blair will be working towards a doctorate in biochemistry, focusing in particular on the reprogramming of adult cells into stem cells, which can then be used to find cures for diseases including diabetes and Alzheimer’s. Blair said she hopes to eventually return to the U.S. to serve the scientific community either through research or policy advocacy.

Recent graduates are also allowed to apply for the Gates. Since graduating from Yale two years ago, James has worked in business management and for the Tennessee state government, as well as starting the nonprofit Alliance Africa. A history major while at Yale, James will pursue a master’s degree focusing on collective memory after the English Civil War, possibly followed by a doctorate in history.

Jordan, also an MB&B major, said he will work in a bioinformatics laboratory, combining his interests in biology and computer science. Some of the group leaders he will be working with in England actually came from the Yale lab where he currently works, Jordan said. They contributed to his desire to work in this particular facility, which is one of the leading bioinformatics research institutions.

Clark-Joseph said he intends to use his master’s degree and possible doctorate in economics to help improve conditions in third-world nations. A Cambridge education will be especially valuable because of the school’s strength in the field of international economic issues, he said.

“I’m really interested in doing things to increase investment in developing nations, especially Africa,” Clark-Joseph said. “I could see doing this either through advocacy to governments, banks or nonprofits, or actually doing some direct work with an investment firm.”

Karns, a double major in biomedical and mechanical engineering, said she will combine the fields of biomedical engineering and business in her master’s degree. While she has not yet determined whether she will pursue research and development or academia after finishing school, she said the managerial skills and technical and scientific understanding she will gain are important to becoming a leader in the field of bioscience.

The smaller physiology lab at Cambridge where Adler will conduct research on vascular biology will allow her to work closely with Dr. Dino Giussani, the lab’s director, she said. While she may eventually go to medical school, she said, her studies in biological science will open a variety of professions to her.

Adler is a former city editor for the News.

Since 2001, there have been 29 Gates scholars from Yale.

Comments