Two Yale students, Julia Menzel ’17 and Simone Seiver ’17, have been awarded the prestigious Gates Cambridge Scholarship for graduate studies at the University of Cambridge.
The two seniors were among 36 U.S. recipients of the award, which funds the total cost of tuition for each recipient’s degree in addition to a £13,300 allowance and the cost of air travel.
Rebekah Westphal, director of the Yale Office of Fellowship Programs, noted that while the Gates Cambridge Scholarship is similar to other competitive fellowships providing funding to study at Cambridge, it is distinguished by its focus on leadership committed to improving the lives of others.
“This year’s winners are both spectacular students academically but also with respect to their contributions to life at Yale and beyond,” Westphal said. “The Gates Cambridge Scholarship seems to be an excellent fit for Yale students because it is centered around service and leadership.”
According to Westphal, Yale students win the Gates Cambridge Scholarship almost every year in both the U.S and international rounds. Westphal noted only the U.S. winners for this award cycle have been announced so far, and that the international round’s results are still to come in.
Last year, three Yale students — Josh Feinzig ’16, William Theiss ’16 and Sofia Singler ARCH ’16 — won the fellowship.
Menzel, an intensive physics major, spent much of her time at Yale studying math and physics but said she is more drawn to the history of those disciplines. She hopes to spend his year at Cambridge transitioning from scientific to historical research.
“I had to read the email from the Gates folks about four times before I was convinced I hadn’t misunderstood it,” Menzel said. “I was with a buddy of mine at the time, so when it sank in, I high-fived him and then called my parents.”
She told the News she was surprised to receive the honor, and expressed gratitude for the support she received from the University. She identified her family as a constant source of support and singled out Westphal’s support and the advice and mentorship of assistant professor Henry Cowles.
While noting that the competition for the award was certainly steep, Menzel wrote in an email to the News she found the application process straightforward and pleasant. The writing of the application in particular helped both to clarify her research interests in the history of science and develop a sense of how she saw her academic work connecting to the “real world,” she said.
Menzel plans to pursue a master’s degree in the history and philosophy of medicine and science at Cambridge.
Seiver described her award as a “team win,” noting that many people, from professors to family and friends, contributed to her candidacy. She described the interview experience as a “privilege,” irrespective of the outcome, and said that in her final interview she felt the panel put in a considerable amount of time reading her proposal.
Seiver, who has been pursuing both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in political science at Yale, said she will study for a master’s of philosophy in the field of criminology at Cambridge. While at Yale, Seiver has focused her work on the design and analysis of randomized experiments with particular applications to the American legal system according to her winner’s profile on the Gates Cambridge site.
While living and working in New Haven, she co-founded Connecticut’s first charitable bail fund, an innovation which has prevented people from losing their homes, jobs and families while they were incarcerated during the pretrial process.
At Cambridge, Seiver said that she hopes to continue working on the same subject.
“In my research, I plan to use experimental methodologies to test the intuition that pretrial detention negatively impacts criminal defendants,” Seiver said. “Beyond next year, I’m not prescriptive about my future. I believe in letting my next adventures unfold organically.”
Cambridge University was given royal charter status by King Henry III in 1231.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect a legal name change.