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Mierau Selected as New Rhodes Scholar

By Kevin R. Lang

Susanna B. Mierau ’00 has been named one of thirty-two U.S. Rhodes scholars for 2000.

Mierau is a resident of East Campus majoring in Brain and Cognitive Sciences in MIT’s Whitaker College of Health Sciences and Technology.

Mierau said that she is currently deciding which specific area to study at England’s Oxford University, but that her primary interest is neural pharmacology and neural transmitters.

“Right now, I’m going to talk to my advisors and see what they think,” Mierau said. She currently plans to complete her PhD in three years, which is common at Oxford.

Mierau has concentrated on both cognitive science research and molecular biology research involving Alzheimer’s disease. At Oxford, she hopes to focus her research somewhere in between the two. Eventually, Mierau hopes to conduct academic medical research in the U.S.

“I’ve enjoyed being at MIT so far,” Mierau said. She expects Oxford to be drastically different from MIT, since teaching is based on a one-on-one tutorial system. While classes offer lectures, the program is essentially independent study.

Application process rigorous

Becoming a Rhodes scholar involves a rigorous application process beginning in October. Mierau was required to obtain eight letters of recommendation for her application.

Mierau applied in her home state of Kansas, and “toward the middle of November, I found out that I had an interview for the state,” Mierau said.

“At the state interview, it was a lot of fun,” Mierau said. Mierau said that both interviewers and candidates were easygoing. “The interviewers were really nice, and asked easy questions.”

Of the nine candidates competing from Kansas, Mierau was one of two selected to move on to the District VI competition, which includes most of the Midwest.

At the regional level, however, the competition intensified. An eight-person panel conducted the interview, including several scientists and a medical doctor. All panel members were Rhodes scholars themselves.

“At the state level, there was only one scientist on the committee,” Mierau said. “At the regional level, there were several scientists.” Also on the panel was a former MIT HST researcher.

Four regional finalists, including Mireau, were selected as Rhodes Scholars.

Mierau is captain of the MIT Sailing team, and is also involved in the MIT Symphony Orchestra. She serves as vice president and housing chair for East Campus, and also works as a teaching assistant for Introduction to Psychology (9.00).

Rhodes scholars in recent years

Mierau is MIT’s fourth Rhodes scholar in the past three years. Last year, Christopher Douglas ’99 and Lisa A. Poyneer ’98 were named Rhodes Scholars, following Toby H. Ayer ’96 in 1998 and Pardis C. Sabeti ’97 in 1997.

The Rhodes Scholarships, the oldest international fellowships, were started early this century. Regional selection committees choose thirty-two scholars each year from among those nominated by selection committees in each of the fifty states.

Rhodes scholars have traditionally demonstrated academic excellence, leadership, and athletic ability. They are appointed for two years of study in the University of Oxford, with the possibility of renewal for a third year. All educational costs such as matriculation, tuition, laboratory and certain other fees are paid. President Clinton and current Democratic presidential candidate Bill Bradley were Rhodes scholars.