Six Yale students were awarded prestigious national fellowships this week and will receive money for their achievements in academics and extracurriculars, as well as for their leadership potential.

Yale had three Gates Cambridge Scholars — Jerrell Whitehead ’05, Juliet Lapidos ’05 and James Park MED ’07 — who will receive full funding to attend graduate school at the University of Cambridge next year. Jacob Leibenluft ’06, was selected as one of 75 recipients nationwide of the 2005 Truman Scholarship, which gives winners $30,000 for graduate study. In the competition for the Goldwater Scholarship, Hannah Collins ’06 and Eleanor Marshall ’06 took home the award for achievement in the sciences, the second year in a row the University had two female winners.

The Gates Cambridge Scholarship is awarded annually to about 100 students nationwide, primarily on the basis of intellectual and academic abilities.

Whitehead, a history major, works as a personal trainer and is one of the founding members of the Yale Bodybuilding Club. He said he plans to study the issue of obesity in minority populations in England next year at Cambridge. A transfer student from the University of Washington, Whitehead said he was proud that he overcame obstacles to win the scholarship.

“In high school I told people about my intention to transfer one day to a better school, but they laughed at me,” Whitehead said. “Fast forward three years into the future, and now I’m winning one of the major scholarships in the world.”

Lapidos is a comparative literature major and hopes to study the works of novelists Henry Fielding and Lawrence Sterne when she attends Cambridge. Lapidos, who is considering pursuing a career in either academia or journalism, said she has served as a contributing editor for The Yale Review of Books and has also helped to compile information for a cover story in the New Haven Advocate on local poets.

Park, a M.D./Ph.D. candidate at Yale, is currently conducting research on Alzheimer’s disease and hopes to continue this work at Cambridge. During his time at Yale, he founded the Yale Friends of the American Red Cross and served as editor-in-chief of the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine. Park said Yale’s resources and supportive environment were important in helping him decide to apply for the Gates Scholarship.

“It’s being surrounded by open-minded people at Yale that made a difference,” Park said. “I’m sure if I had gone to a different medical school I would have plodded along and not considered opportunities like this.”

The Truman Scholarship is awarded to college juniors who plan to purse careers in government or the non-profit sector, and winners are selected on the basis of leadership potential, intellectual ability and their likelihood of future success.

Leibenluft, who is double-majoring in history and economics, currently serves as editor-in-chief of the Yale Daily News and said he hopes to work for the government on economic policy issues. Over the past two summers, Leibenluft has worked as a research assistant in Washington, D.C., for Gene Sperling, the former national economic advisor to President Bill Clinton.

He said he was pleased to win the scholarship, especially considering the strong competition for the award.

“You know that these are very, very impressive students,” Leibenluft said. “That’s why it was really exciting — knowing that I was with a group of people that was very impressive.”

The Goldwater Scholarship honors about 320 juniors and seniors nationwide who are studying math, engineering or science with an award of up to $7,500 to pay for tuition and educational costs.

Collins and Marshall — this year’s Goldwater scholars from Yale — both said they have focused on conducting scientific research during their time at the University.

Collins, a biomedical engineering major who plays the cello, said she focused in her application for the award on the research she has conducted on the ways different people react to pain and changing temperature on their skin.

Marshall, a molecular biophysics and biochemistry major, said she has spent a large part of her time at Yale doing research on the role of the specific RNA involved in the onset Kaposi’s sarcoma disease. Marshall said she thinks Yale’s success in fellowship competitions reveals its commitment to education.

“If Yale is able to have people go and win all these national awards, it’s a testament to Yale’s teachers and its overall academic mission,” Marshall said.