Stephanie Lin ’12 was recognized this week as MIT’s newest Rhode Scholar. She will be studying at Oxford next year along with 32 other American recipients who received the honor. Lin is the 45th MIT undergraduate to receive the Rhodes Scholarship.
“I was extremely surprised when I got the news,” said Lin, a biology major and applied international studies minor. “The other applicants are all so highly accomplished — I feel very lucky to have received the scholarship.”
Lin will be spending her year at Oxford to pursue an MPhil in medical anthropology. “I’m interested in studying viruses and infectious diseases, especially when they are applied to issues in international medicine,” she said.
According to Lin, one of her inspirations to purse medicine was the work that she did at Health Leads Boston, a patient advocacy program that works to improve the health of individual children and families. There, she volunteered in hospital waiting rooms and referred patients to resources like food stamps. “My work in Health Leads has introduced me to the social, human side of medicine, and I especially enjoy the blend of scientific and social issues involved in medicine,” Lin said.
Lin has been involved in the MIT community ever since she arrived on campus. She was first interested in pursuing chemistry, but after taking introductory biology, she was convinced that biology was the right major for her.
The activities that Lin has participated in at MIT contributed to her interest in biology and medicine. “I did a couple UROPs related to medical science, and those research experiences made me increasingly interested in studying medicine,” she said. She hopes to attend medical school after finishing her year at Oxford.
At the Whitehead Lab, she did research on the Karposi’s sarcoma virus, a cancer-causing virus that commonly infects AIDS patients. She has also worked with Assistant Professor of Biology Jeroen Saeij, studying the parasite Toxoplasma gondii, which primarily targets cats and rats.
Lin has also been very active in the campus community. She currently acts as vice president for education in her sorority, Kappa Alpha Theta, and is the editor-in-chief of MIT’s literary magazine Rune. She is also a fluent speaker of Spanish and Mandarin (in fact, Lin’s concentration is in Spanish).
Lin has worked abroad in Mexico during IAP and the summer as part of MIT’s Global Poverty Initiaive. There, she worked on developing agricultural education and building greenhouses to improve nutrition and teach people how to use agricultural technologies. “My experiences abroad really drew me into global health, particularly because there is such a huge disparity in health care quality between developed and developing nations,” she noted. “My interest in infectious diseases ties well with international health issues, because of the presence of malaria and tuberculosis in some developing nations.”
According to Lin, one of her motivations for applying to the Rhodes Scholarship was the abundance of diverse programs at Oxford. She feels that Oxford is a good place to explore the social side of education. “I like the self-directed learning approach at Oxford and the strong humanities program,” Lin said. “It’s a terrific place to think and grow.”
“The application process was definitely challenging,” she added. “But I definitely got a lot of support throughout the application process, from my family, friends, sisters at Theta, professors, and staff.”
When asked about what advice she would give to students, she said, “Be flexible and don’t be afraid to pursue what are you genuinely excited about. Make sure to take advantage of the great opportunities MIT offers outside of your coursework.”
Lin acknowledged that it is easy to feel overburdened with studies, but she emphasized the importance of exploring MIT’s opportunities and forming close relationships with students. “It’s very special that here you can form bonds with other students who are passionate about math and science, and who will have amazing accomplishments in the future,” Lin said.