Two current MIT seniors, Anisha Gururaj ’15 and Elliot Akama-Garren ’15, and one graduate, Noam Angrist ’13, were named Rhodes Scholars on Saturday, Nov. 22. They will begin graduate studies at Oxford University next year.
Anisha Gururaj is currently pursuing a degree in chemical and biological engineering (Course 10B). At Oxford, Gururaj plans to study biomedical engineering and public policy, and is also considering global health science. She says that her idea is to study “something more technical on the medical side, and then something more social with social implications.” Her proposal to the Rhodes Scholar selection committee and career goals emphasize an interdisciplinary approach to engineering involving human interaction.
During her time at MIT, Gururaj pursued variety of interests, including a capella singing as part of the MIT Ohms, Indian classical dance, science journalism, and medical device research and design. Gururaj started and led the design of a fluid warmer for military trauma victims, and identifies “the value of talking to people” as a crucial and often overlooked component. She is also the chair of the Everett Moore Baker Memorial Foundation, which sponsors student projects and groups, and founded MIT’s chapter of the Circle of Women, in which she is working on a project to help potential sex-trafficking victims in Nepal. Gururaj said she “started seeking out things where I could add value, and I learned from those experiences.”
Elliot Akama-Garren is a biology major who plans to pursue an MSc in integrated immunology at Oxford. He hopes to leave an impact on the world by “studying the ways one can manipulate the immune system to treat human disease” according to a Rhodes profile.
Akama-Garren considered the process of applying for a Rhodes to be “more a process of self-discovery” than a competition, and said that it is better to “give everything your best” and be passionate than to work toward the scholarship.
Akama-Garren has performed research in immunology at MIT’s Koch Institute, Stanford, Harvard, and Massachusetts General Hospital, and has been an author on several publications, according to his Rhodes Scholar profile. He is also the editor in chief of the MIT Undergraduate Research Journal (MURJ), and he volunteers at the Harvard Square Homeless Shelter. In addition to his scientific and public service pursuits, Akama-Garren is the president of the MIT Men’s Ice Hockey team.
Noam Angrist majored in mathematics and economics at MIT and was a Fulbright Scholar in his senior year. Through the scholarship, he started an NGO called Young 1ove in Botswana that aims to educate people on the “sugar daddy” phenomenon he noticed there that leads to high HIV and pregnancy rates. At Oxford, Angrist will pursue a Masters and potentially a PhD in Evidence-Based Social Intervention and Policy Evaluation, “applying quasi-experimental methods, mathematical techniques, and randomized trials to actually figure out what really adds value in the world.” He hopes to combine his work in Botswana with work at Oxford.
Angrist co-founded Amphibious Achievement at MIT, a program that brings inner city youth to MIT once a week and works with them on rowing, swimming, and academic skills. Angrist attributes Amphibious Achievement’s success to the fact that teamwork and effective coaching in rowing and swimming allow students to see that their teachers care about their success, developing “a trust that’s hard to get in people [who] distrust adults and society.” Angrist also performed economics research at World Bank and the White House, rowed, and coached rowing, according to his Rhodes Scholar profile.
All three Rhodes Scholars thanked Kim Bernard of the MIT Distinguished Fellowship Office and the other panel members for helping them through the very personal process of applying. Gururaj said that they “forced me to think about and justify why I wanted to do this.”