Two Yale students were awarded the 2012 Gates Cambridge Scholarship for graduate study at the University of Cambridge in England, Yale Director for National Fellowships Katherine Dailinger said Tuesday.

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Sarah Armitage ’12, a history major in Pierson College, and Harry McNamara ’11, an alumnus of Branford College who completed a double major in Ethics, Politics & Economics and physics, will both pursue masters of philosophy at Cambridge this coming fall — Armitage in social and economic history and McNamara in micro- and nanotechnology enterprise. The two Yalies are among 40 American students who received the scholarship this year from a pool of approximately 750 applicants, according to a press release from the Gates Cambridge Trust.

Yale was one of five Ivy League institutions to have students named Gates recipients this year. Princeton boasted the largest number of scholarship recipients, with five students named Gates scholars, while Harvard University had four and both Cornell University and the University of Pennsylvania had one. The University of California, Berkeley, also had four winners, while the University of Michigan and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology had three and two winners, respectively.

The scholarship was established in 2000 with a $210 million endowment by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and at least two Yale students have won the award each year for the past decade. Two Yalies also received the scholarship in 2011.

According to its website, the Gates Cambridge Trust awards scholarships according to four criteria: intellectual ability, leadership capacity, commitment to improving the lives of others, and the candidate’s fit with Cambridge.

Armitage, who hails from Concord, Mass., said she is interested in studying urban planning, the history of cities and modern British history. At Cambridge, Armitage said she plans to write a dissertation on the municipalization of social services in Britain during the 1920s and 1930s. After completing her studies at Cambridge, Armitage said she intends to work as an academic historian or a policy researcher.

“One thing I have learned is that cities very rarely follow general theories,” she said. “An understanding of their particularities and local context really matters.”

Armitage added that her interest in urban planning expands beyond the classroom. She said she has worked with a “socially responsible” investment fund, volunteered for a case management agency for low-income and homeless clients, and worked with the Danish Architecture Centre in Copenhagen.

McNamara, who grew up near Pittsburgh, Pa., said his undergraduate research focused on circuit quantum electrodynamics and quantum information processing. McNamara said he is interested in studying how nanotechnology can be used in medical research, such as monitoring neuron activity in the brain, and added that he plans to pursue a Ph.D. in condensed matter physics after studying at Cambridge.

“The types of problems I find rewarding to study are human problems, with direct human impacts,” McNamara said. “My dad is a doctor, so I’ve always been interested in the issue of health, and I’m particularly interested in different types of technology that could be applied to biology.”

During his time at Yale, McNamara also served as president of Yale’s chapter of the Sigma Chi fraternity and coordinated FOCUS on New Haven, a community service and urban studies orientation program for sophomores and transfer students.

Fifty more Gates scholarships will be presented in Cambridge to 50 international students in late March.