Mr Stephen Metcalf (2019)
Growing up in eastern Kentucky, in the heart of the Appalachian region of the United States, I was fascinated by questions of meaning in life and devastated by the hardship I witnessed at home and abroad. Education has been my ticket to exploring these two themes: meaning and inequity. With generous support through the Brown Fellows Program, I immersed myself in the liberal arts and sciences at Centre College, studying neuroscience and mathematics as well as philosophy and religion. I lived as a monastic for a summer in a Buddhist monastery in Taiwan, investigated crime scenes and defended the underserved in Washington, DC, and carried out a final-year thesis on spiritual memoirs and autobiographies. After examining the association between the immune system and mental illness through the MPhil in Epidemiology at Cambridge, I joined research teams at Dartmouth College, where we have explored self-regulation as a mechanism of behaviour change and conducted policy-focused research on the US opioid crisis. During my PhD I will address a critical question: Given similar histories of adversity, why do some children do better than others? Studying resilience may help us improve well-being and could lead toward greater health and educational equity. I look forward to working with others in the Gates Cambridge community as we explore fundamental life questions and help others thrive.