Class of 2016 announced

  • April 7, 2016
Class of 2016 announced

Fifty-five Scholars selected after international interviews to join class of 90.

The Scholars are truly remarkable and inspiring individuals and showed at interview that they fit the mission of the Scholarship by their commitment to using their academic skills and leadership capacity to improve the lives of others.

Professor Barry Everitt, Provost

Fifty-five of the most academically exceptional and socially committed people from across the globe have been selected as Gates Cambridge Scholars after interviews in Cambridge in March.

The Scholars will join the 35 US Scholars selected in late January to form the class of 2016, all of whom will take up the most prestigious international postgraduate scholarship at the University of Cambridge this October.

The 55 new Scholars come from 30 countries – ranging from Colombia to Australia and Denmark to Sudan – and include the first ever Scholar from Rwanda. They represent 68 universities – 18 of which have produced their first Gates Cambridge Scholar – and at Cambridge will study in 39 University Departments and be members of 24 Colleges. Forty-one will pursue a PhD and 14 a one-year MPhil. Women outnumber men by a ratio of 36 to 19.

The Gates Cambridge Scholarship aims to identify and select applicants who are academically outstanding and are likely to be transformative leaders for the benefit of others in all fields of endeavour.

Competition for the Scholarships is fierce. The successful candidates were selected from a total pool of 3,730 applicants on the basis of their intellectual ability, commitment to improving the lives of others, leadership potential and academic fit with Cambridge. Departments in Cambridge nominated 242 candidates for the Scholarships and, of these, 101 were interviewed in Cambridge in late March (in person or by Skype) by four panels of interviewers drawn from across the University.

The new Scholars include several who have overcome a background of war and violence to become high achievers in their academic studies and service to others:

·     Alice Musabende will become the first Gates Cambridge Scholar from Rwanda. She will pursue a PhD in Politics and International Studies. She is currently completing a Masters in International Development at Dalhousie University in Canada. Musabende, a journalist who survived the 1994 genocide in her country in which her family died, will study the concept of sovereignty as the point of interaction between domestic and international actors in relation to peacebuilding interventions in Burundi. She has extensive experience of NGO work and was part of a Canadian-funded programme to provide academic training to young Rwandans.

·     Sivapalan Chelvaniththilan will do a PhD in Physics, focusing on the mechanisms of activation and silencing of genes in DNA. His family was displaced 18 times during the civil war in Sri Lanka and he taught himself maths and physics, winning a silver medal in the International Physics Olympiad. He was the highest-scoring student in the Physics Aptitude test for Oxford where he won a first.

·     Iryna Shuvalova will pursue a PhD in Slavonic Studies, focusing on the depictions of armed conflict and its aftermath (particularly conflict-inflicted trauma) in Ukrainian oral and written poetry traditions. She has published three award-winning poetry collections in Ukraine and, in the face of threats and physical attacks from ultra-right organisations, co-edited the first anthology of LGBTQ literature in Ukrainian, coordinating a team of 40+ writers, translators and academics from 15 countries. 

Other successful candidates include a psychology student focusing on cognitive susceptibility to radicalisation and an imam who does stand-up comedy:

·     Leor Zmigrod will do a PhD in Psychology. She grew up in the USA, Europe and the Middle East. She says her background made her “intimately aware that radicalisation can emerge on all sides of conflict and so is not merely a product of a particular ideology or demographic”. By combining cognitive neuroscience and experimental psychology to study the psychological processes that underlie radicalisation to an ideology or group, her PhD will aim to address the gap in our understanding of the cognitive susceptibilities to internalising a doctrine and a willingness to harm and self-sacrifice for an ideological cause. She says: “Through this research, I hope to bring a fresh perspective to questions which have been traditionally only dealt with in the social and political sciences and thereby to shape interventional and educational programmes aimed at identifying vulnerabilities to radicalisation.”

·     Mohammad Shomali will do a PhD in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies which will explore ways in which the rights of non-Muslims and Jews are considered and recognised by Shia jurists. He aims to illuminate the principles of human rights that are inherent in Islam and to connect them to current questions. Shomali is an imam who has studied and taught theology, philosophy and Islamic jurisprudence in Iranian seminaries for nine years as well as in Africa. Discovering that one of his students was a member of the Boko Haram extremist group, he began organising workshops to educate young people and prevent them succumbing to radical misinterpretations of Islam, persuading many of the participants to leave Boko Haram. He also performs stand-up comedy with the Cambridge Footlights.

Professor Barry Everitt, Provost (CEO) of the Gates Cambridge Trust, said: "We are delighted to have awarded Gates Cambridge Scholarships to 55 outstanding individuals from such a wide spread of countries and backgrounds. The Scholars are truly remarkable and inspiring individuals and showed at interview that they fit the mission of the Scholarship by their commitment to using their academic skills and leadership capacity to improve the lives of others. We look forward to welcoming all 90 new Scholars to Cambridge in October and to seeing their future impact as Gates Cambridge Alumni."

Biographies of all 90 Scholars are available from the New Scholars page

 

Alice Musabende

Alice Musabende

  • Scholar
  • Rwanda
  • 2016 PhD Politics & International Stud
  • Murray Edwards College (New Hall)

I was born and raised in Rwanda, and when I was 14 years old my family was killed during the Rwandan genocide against the Tutsis of 1994. Although I was too young to understand its roots, this tragedy would forever shatter my life and shape the person I would become. I graduated from Rwanda’s first School of Journalism and I hold a Master’s in Journalism from Carleton University. I have worked as a journalist in Canada’s major news organizations. I am currently completing a Master’s in International Development Studies from Dalhousie University and have previously worked as an international development worker in Rwanda. At Cambridge, I will be researching further the dynamics of peacebuilding in the context of post-conflict countries in the Great Lakes of Africa, by investigating ways through which international organizations navigate the normative crosscurrents that come with peacebuilding. Centered around the issues of democratization and democratic recognition, this research seeks to explore how international actors respond to post-conflict countries when they express a strong wish to articulate the agenda, the levers they have as well as ways in which they use them. Ultimately, I seek to contribute my perspectives as an African scholar to a better understanding of peacebuilding on the continent and in the world.

Previous Education

Carleton University
Université Nationale du Rwanda
Dalhousie University

Sivapalan Chelvaniththilan

Sivapalan Chelvaniththilan

  • Alumni
  • Sri Lanka
  • 2016 MPhil Physics
  • Churchill College

I was born in Jaffna, Sri Lanka during the peak of the war. My parents had lost their house to aerial bombing two years before I was born and three weeks after their wedding. After I was born, we were displaced five times. Between 2001 and 2005, I studied in New Delhi where my mother went to do a PhD and hence missed most part of the peaceful time when a ceasefire was held. The fighting started again in 2005 and continued until 2009. In 2009, transport between Jaffna and Colombo, the capital city, became possible. I used this opportunity to sit for the London AL examinations and was fortunate to win a Reach Oxford scholarship.At Oxford I was able to learn about research in different areas of Physics by participating in small research projects supervised by my tutors. In particular, I became interested in computational biophysics and I am currently working on a project on the molecular dynamics of proteins for my undergraduate degree. At Cambridge, I will be using the same techniques to study the mechanisms of activation and silencing of genes in DNA.

Previous Education

University of Oxford

Iryna Shuvalova

Iryna Shuvalova

  • Alumni
  • Ukraine
  • 2016 PhD Slavonic Studies
  • St John's College

Born in Kyiv, Ukraine, Iryna Shuvalova is a PhD graduand in Slavonic Studies at the University of Cambridge, where her research centers on the songs of the War in Donbas and the communities that produce them. In addition to her academic work, she is active as a poet and translator. She authored four books of poetry (fifth due in spring 2020), and won a number of writing and translation awards, including the Joseph Brodsky / Stephen Spender Prize (2012). Her most recent book-length translation into Ukrainian were Rupi Kaur's 'Milk and Honey' (2019) and Yann Martel's 'Life of Pi' (2016), whereas her translations of poetry and short prose from Russian and Ukrainian into English appeared in 'Modern Poetry in Translation' and 'Words without Borders'. In 2009, she co-edited the first anthology of queer literature in Ukraine '120 pages of "Sodom"'. Iryna also holds an MA in Comparative Literature from Dartmouth College, USA, (2008) obtained on a Fulbright Scholarship. She is a member of PEN Ukraine.

Previous Education

Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv
Dartmouth College

Leor Zmigrod

Leor Zmigrod

  • Alumni
  • Netherlands
  • 2016 PhD Psychology
  • Downing College

A critical question that permeates history and the media of today is how and why people become radicalized. Growing up in the USA, Europe, and the Middle East, I was intimately aware that radicalization can emerge on all sides of conflict and so is not merely a product of a particular ideology or demographic. By combining cognitive neuroscience and experimental psychology to study the psychological processes that underlie radicalization to an ideology or group, my PhD will aim to address the gap in our understanding of the cognitive susceptibilities to internalizing a doctrine and a willingness to harm and self-sacrifice for an ideological cause. Through this research, I hope to bring a fresh perspective to questions which have been traditionally only dealt with in the social and political sciences, and thereby to shape interventional and educational programs aimed at identifying vulnerabilities to radicalization. I am excited and honoured to be a part of the Gates Cambridge community.

Previous Education

University of Cambridge

Mohammad Javad Shomali

Mohammad Javad Shomali

  • Scholar
  • Iran, Islamic Republic of
  • 2016 PhD Asian & Middle Eastern Studies
  • King's College

Recently my supervisor introduced me at a seminar as the ‘first Muslim cleric who has delivered a sermon in the mosque and performed a stand-up comedy in a theatre the same night’. This quote perfectly reflects my passion in leading the Muslim community towards a reasonable understanding of religion as well as addressing, through comedy, misconceptions about Muslims. It is this passion that has driven me to where I am now, having studied at the Islamic Seminaries of Iran for nine years and currently completing my MPhil at the University of Cambridge. During my time in the Seminaries, I studied and later taught theology, philosophy and Islamic jurisprudence. My PhD research aims to explore ways in which the rights of the non-Muslims and in particular rights of the Jews are considered and recognized by Shia jurists. I am very honoured to be joining the Gates Cambridge community.

Previous Education

Qom Theological Centre
University of Cambridge

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