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Pomona Award Winners

Nick Murphy

  1. Why did you choose to apply to this scholarship in particular?
    I chose to apply to the Gates Cambridge scholarship because of its emphasis on a commitment to improving the lives of others through the development of driven and intelligent leaders.  I look forward to meeting others in my cohort of scholars and learn about not only their scholarly pursuits, but also how they intend to apply these towards positive change in communities around the world.
  2. What graduate program will you enroll in at Cambridge, and what will be your focus in that program?
    I am enrolling in a research-based MPhil degree through the Department of Pathology. More specifically, I will be researching the Trypanosome which causes African Sleeping Sickness with Professor Mark Field in the Department of Parasitology. We aim to study the communicative pathways within the Trypanosoma brucei which control vital life processes such as the beating of its flagellum. Studying the interfaces in these biochemical pathways can aid us in the directed development of novel drugs. This is of particular importance for African Sleeping Sickness because there has been no novel drug development for treatment since the 1970's. In addition, while the disease does not have the breadth of malaria or dengue fever, it is devastating to the communities to which it is endemic in Sub-Saharan Africa.
  3. What are you most looking forward to about your time in Cambridge?
    I am very excited for a few things in Cambridge. First, I am excited to have the chance to apply my experience as a Molecular Biology major to the treatment of an important disease.  At this point, I plan to pursue the study of infectious diseases and their treatments. I am also excited to live in Cambridge, I have never been to the city but have heard much about the beauty of its campus. My future residential college, Darwin College, is also right on the water where people go punting. Going from Pomona, California to Cambridge, UK is going to be very interesting.
  4. How have your experiences at Pomona prepared you to apply for this fellowship?
    Pomona prepared me for this scholarship in many ways. The strength of our Biology and Chemistry departments coupled with the small class sizes and direct access to professors has created an awesome Molecular Biology department. While there were downsides to taking 2-3 laboratory courses every semester, with extra days in lab researching for thesis, the professors made these hours more enjoyable and we ended up with excellent training and experience. In addition, the Draper Center for Community Partnerships has fostered my passion for social justice by not only supporting the development of the Food Recovery Network, but also providing indispensable guidance in my understanding of how one should aim to enact positive change in communities around the world.
  5. What advice would you give to future applicants about the application process?
    My advice to future applicants would be to get in contact with the researchers with whom they might like to work EARLY.  I stupidly did not contact any professors until October and was very lucky to receive a quick response from Professor Field.  Setting up this contact and learning more in depth about the work and what you will actually be doing is also critical to the application.  For the Gates Cambridge, first you must find someone who wants you to work in their lab, then you will generally have an interview of some sort with them and other members of the department.  So always be very professional in these correspondences.  Once you get departmental approval, you move on to the Gates committee who can then give you an interview (in February, you can either Skype or go to DC).

Efe Kabba

  1. Why did you choose to apply for a Watson fellowship?
    I was interested in finding a gap year option because I wasn’t sure I wanted to immediately dive into graduate school or the job market. I have so many different interests which, often times, don’t seem to fit together, so I longed for the opportunity to explore my interests outside an academic setting. The Watson “invests in people not projects”, which means that the year is primarily about fellows discovering new things about themselves. It also means that the focus is on the process and the experience rather than a specific end result. My overall mindset aligns with their Mission Statement. I could have applied for a Fulbright or another fellowship, but the Watson spirit matches my personality and my desires perfectl
  2. Briefly describe your project and your travel plans.
    My project is titled "Musical Swings and Other Digital Landscapes and Experiences”. I'm exploring how interactive digital technologies are moving away from the traditional model of screened objects (ie. computers, mobile devices) and towards a model where these technologies are effortlessly integrated into the rest of our physical world. I’m primarily concerned with how interactive digital technologies are transforming the physical spaces we live in—blurring the line between the virtual and actual (physical)—and how that transformation is changing how we perceive ourselves, our relationship to the world and other human beings. I plan to travel to Denmark (Copenhagen), Canada (Montreal), Japan (Tokyo), and Germany (Berlin). All these places have rich, diverse design histories and are currently on the cutting edge for interaction design. I hope to get an insight into the mechanics of these unique environments by working with artist collectives, design studios and/or research institutions that create these kinds of environments and experiences. I’m also going to visit and experience temporary and permanent sites for myself and hopefully talk to people around me who are experiencing the same site.
  3. What are you most looking forward to about your Watson year?
    I’m looking forward to challenging myself in a way that I haven’t before. I’m excited to just be in the world, meet all kinds of new people and not really know exactly what will come next in my journey. I’m also looking forward to learning how to trust myself. My Watson interviewer, who was a former fellow, said something that really stuck with me. He is a musician and on his year he learned to trust himself as an artist. He wrote more music during his Watson year than he had ever prior to it. I want to learn to trust myself as a traveler, an artist and as a person.
  4. How have your experiences at Pomona prepared you to apply for this fellowship?
    During my four years I’ve learned to not take any idea, viewpoint or societal system at face value. I’ve learned to constantly challenge others’ ideas (even those of authority figures) as well as my own and understand the sources of my own biases. This has allowed me to understand myself better, as well as the world. For a lot of us it seems as though there is only one path in life—school for almost two decades, holding “stable” jobs (even if we hate them) primarily in order to sustain the current economic system, finding a partner, having kids etc. Although some people are content with this model, in the simplest of terms, I’ve learned that it’s not an absolute but merely the current paradigm that mostly benefits those at the top of the food chain. I now know that I don’t really want to follow the current model and I saw the possibility of going on a Watson year as a first step to going off track and creating my own model—one that’s tailor made for me.
  5. What advice would you give to future applicants about the application process?
    Figure out early a project that will sustain your interest for a year. It doesn’t have to be related to what you’re studying in school but it has to be something that you’re passionate about. Also, write multiple drafts of both your personal statement and project proposal. Show it to people you trust—your favorite professor, your roommate, your mom. My first draft of my personal statement was nothing like what I actually turned in. Both written statements are important but my personal advice is to really focus on your personal statement. The Watson Foundation stresses that they “invest in people, not projects”, so they really want to see that you are a passionate person who is ready to go out in the world and embark on a journey with many unknowns.

Jennifer Schmidt

  1. Why did you choose to apply for a Udall?
    I was encouraged to apply for a Udall scholarship during my sophomore year, when I had been working on introducing post-consumer composting to the dining halls at Pomona. Bowen Close and Samantha Meyer, both of whom I’d been working with on the project, had spoken to Char; without their recommendation, I wouldn’t have known about it! After finding out more about the scholarship, I chose to apply in hopes of taking advantage of the incredible opportunities for networking there. The scholarship is more than a financial stipend: it also includes a week-long Scholars Orientation, which provides opportunities to learn from environmental leaders and connect with other students with similar interests.
  2. Do you have any post-graduation plans? How (if at all) are they connected to your Udall Scholarship?
    I’m not entirely sure of my post-graduation plans, but at this point I’m planning on going to graduate school to study sustainable agriculture. I’m particularly interested in soil science and hope to help improve our collective understanding of how agriculture impacts the soil. That may end up being a Master’s degree and hands-on work at a nonprofit, or a Ph.D and a career in research: I’m not quite sure where I’ll end up! My interest in making agriculture more environmentally friendly was certainly the basis for the activities I’ve been involved with at Pomona (composting, Farm Club, Pomona for Environmental Activism and Responsibility, and more) that contributed to receiving the Udall scholarship.
  3. How have your experiences at Pomona prepared you to apply for this scholarship?
    Pomona’s incredible resources, human as well as financial and institutional, were instrumental in applying for this scholarship. First, there’s the Farm, perhaps the most under-valued resource at Pomona. Not many colleges of Pomona’s size have a working farm as well-developed and accessible as ours, and being able to be involved with the Farm in various capacities has been a huge part of my college experience. Second, there is the wonderful environmental community at Pomona, from the Environmental Analysis program to current and former sustainability personnel. Their support, from the nomination to the application process, was invaluable, and Pomona’s lucky to have (and have had) such dedicated environmentalists!
  4. What advice would you give to future applicants about the application process?
    Apply (there’s nothing to lose), frame your experiences, don’t be afraid to apply multiple times, and take advantage of the resources you have at Pomona! By the time you’ve gotten to your sophomore or junior year, you’ve had all kinds of experiences at college, and hopefully had a chance to try out lots of different things. Only some of them are relevant to the story you’re telling with your application, though, about what your passions are and how those have led you to create change. As for reapplying, I actually applied twice: after receiving an Honorable Mention my sophomore year, Char Miller encouraged me to apply again this past year. Various mentors in the sustainability community at Pomona also helped give me feedback on my application, which was very helpful. I’d suggest talking to professors, former Udall scholars, and sustainability personnel about your application.

Josh Propp

  1. Why did you choose to apply for a Fulbright? What made you choose Germany as your host country?
    I think many students at the Claremont Colleges feel compelled to apply for a Fulbright, and that's certainly a part of why I applied.  But my education has always been fairly international in its focus; my high school program focused on international studies, and studying abroad as a junior at Pomona reinforced my belief in the power of cross-cultural communication.  I chose Germany for a few reasons.  I have moderate proficiency in the language, but hope to strengthen my speaking abilities through extended cultural and linguistic immersion.  In terms of the focus of my research, Germany is also a wonderful case study as a beacon of renewable energy leadership, analogous in many ways to California within the United States.  Lastly, the nostalgia I felt from leaving Freiburg after my study abroad experience beckoned me back to the gem of a city, one with a vibrant culture set amidst astounding nature.
  2. Briefly describe your research project.
    The focus of my research is the different policies that encourage greater deployment of renewable energy procurement, especially small-scale solar (like on residential roofs, stores, and warehouses).  Germany has led the European Union in this effort, as has California in the United States.  I hope to uncover the differences in political culture that account for a persistent gap between European and American reliance on renewables and glean practicable insights to be implemented Stateside.
  3. What are you most looking forward to about your time as a Fulbright fellow?
    My experience as an abroad student in Freiburg was in many ways better than I ever could have hoped for, but the social aspect of my interactions were inherently very American-centric.  Therefore, I am looking forward to embedding myself more deeply with German colleagues, acquaintances, and friends for an extended period of time.  The international perspective I gained from spending a semester outside of the United States was tremendous, and I can only imagine how much more I can develop this perspective over a full academic year.
  4. How have your experiences at Pomona prepared you to apply for this fellowship?
    By far the most important aspect of my Pomona education that I feel prepares me to do independent research in Germany has been my Senior Thesis.  My research in Environmental Analysis allowed me to explore personal academic interests in greater depth under the guidance of my advisors, and the topic of solar energy in California has become a bridge to my proposed studies under the Fulbright grant.  The Fulbright advisors, especially Hans Rindisbacher, and application process through Pomona were also extremely helpful, as my application changed drastically based on feedback from faculty both familiar and unfamiliar.
  5. What advice would you give to future applicants about the application process?
    Before applying for a Fulbright--or any graduate grant for that matter--students should ensure that the program they are applying for is one in which they feel a genuine urge to participate.  The Fulbright Program, of course, has a very prestigious reputation; I applied not for this reason, but rather because I desire to spend more time outside of the US and to further my understanding of renewable energy policy.  If you are truly passionate about the research project you propose (or the ETA), it will come across in your application.

Miriam Shiffman

  1. Why did you choose to apply for a Fulbright? What made you choose Australia as your host country?
    After a fulfilling and transformative experience studying abroad and traveling alone in Europe, I knew I wanted to travel after graduation if possible. I chose to apply for a Fulbright in order to combine my wanderlust to experience new cultures with my desire to pursue microbial ecology research. Australia is home to the unique Centre for Ecogenomics, which is devoted to the sequence-based study of microbial communities - tools I am keen to add to my repertoire.
  2. Briefly describe your research project.
    While traditional microbiology is based on the study of a single species in artificial isolation, this is opposed to how microbes actually live in nature: in complex, interactional communities. Sequence-based metagenomic methods are revolutionizing our understanding of microbial communities. Working with scientists at the Australian Centre for Ecogenomics, I will use these tools to study the gut microbiomes of native Australian marsupials. My research will help fill in large gaps in our understanding of the Tree of Life, and could lead to the discovery of microbes with novel, useful properties.
  3. What are you most looking forward to about your time as a Fulbright fellow?
    I am looking forward to pursuing research exactly in line with my interests, to interacting with researchers at the cutting-edge of the field, to learning new tools from their inventors, to exploring the culture, foods, and animals of Australia, to immersing myself in the Brisbane community, and to learning the quirks of Australian culture that make it unique.
  4. How have your experiences at Pomona prepared you to apply for this fellowship?
    Opportunities and encouragement to do research as early as freshman year prepared me for this fellowship.
  5. What advice would you give to future applicants about the application process?
    Future applicants should spend time researching and contacting potential affiliates abroad as early as possible! This part of the application is really important, is not entirely in your control, and will probably take longer than you think. Also, I went to my first-ever CDO event on writing a personal statement, and it was helpful in getting started.

Rodrigo Ranero

  1. Why did you choose to apply for the Strauss and Davis grants? Could you briefly describe the project(s) you’ll be funding? I initially heard about both these scholarships through a friend from Scripps College who won both in 2012. The funding will be used to continue expanding the coverage of a language reclamation project for the extinct xinka language of Guatemala. More specifically, I will use the funding from Davis to collaborate with the Council of the Xinka People of Guatemala (COPXIG) to co-write, publish and distribute an array of pedagogical materials designed specifically to teach the xinka language from scratch in schools across the state of Santa Rosa. The Strauss funding will be used to expand our coverage to the community itself - we will carry out workshops with older xinka people who wish to learn the language, in order to expand from the school setting directly into the community itself.
    After launching the project with the xinka community last year, I realized that the ideology behind both these scholarships fit my project perfectly. First, the Davis grant is focused on peace building, so in my application I related the project to the fulfillment of the 1996 Peace Accords following the civil war in Guatemala - accords in which the government committed to the preservation of minority languages (a promise that has not been successfully kept in all cases, as with xinka). As such, reclaiming xinka will be a political statement for the xinka. On the other hand, the Strauss' focus on community building tackled another major issue in any language revitalization project - it is of utter importance that the entire community become active participant in recovering a language, since leaving it to be taught solely in a school setting rarely works in the long term. As such, both these grants focused on two different and equally important aspects of our reclamation vision - an empowerment for the xinka people and a recovery of an otherwise lost heritage.
  2. Do you have any post-graduation plans? How (if at all) are they connected to your Strauss and Davis grants?
    My plan at the moment is to attend grad school to pursue a PhD in linguistics. I wish to describe and analyze the syntax of under documented and endangered languages, but I also want to carry out revitalization work directly with communities who wish to strengthen their language. I believe it should be any linguist's responsibility to work against the disappearance of languages worldwide - in my opinion, focusing solely on theoretical matters should not be the sole goal for linguists, since they possess the tools necessary to advise communities on viable revitalization techniques.
  3. How have your experiences at Pomona prepared you to apply for these fellowships?
    The linguistics department at Pomona is excellent, and I have received full support from all faculty on pursuing my interests. It was through the mentoring of my professors that I learned the value of linguistics as a discipline, so I was prepared to frame a project such as mine around the goals and vision of the Davis and Strauss foundations. Furthermore, I have engaged in hands on research alongside faculty for two years now at Pomona, so I was confident as well in my ability to carry out the projects successfully.
  4. What advice would you give to future applicants about the application process?
    I would advise them to start early. I began to work on the applications three months before the deadline. I consulted with the organization I work with in Guatemala for several weeks during the winter regarding the purpose of the projects and how they would benefit the community, since I did not want to receive funds for something they were not in complete agreement with. Thinking about every aspect of your project proposal in detail takes time, and your application will show your passion and commitment only if you've been careful in considering every single aspect. If you wrote a project proposal a night before the deadline, you will be at a great disadvantage. Another advice I'd give is to contact previous winners of the awards. They will provide you with insight into the aspects of their application they believe gave them the advantage over all others, so take their advice to heart.

Daniel Moerner

  1. Why did you choose to apply to this fellowship in particular?
    I applied for the Downing Fellowship for a few reasons. Most important was the invaluable encouragement of Professor McKirahan and Professor Thielke. Professore McKirahan, in particular, has been encouraging me to study in the United Kingdom since I was a sophomore, and was the first person to suggest that I apply for the Downing. I also found the one-year length of the program attractive. I plan to return to the United States to pursue a PhD in philosophy, and spending two years in the UK felt like too long of a delay.
  2. Briefly, what graduate program will you enroll in at Cambridge, and what will be your focus in that program?
    I will be enrolling in an MPhil in Classics, specializing in ancient philosophy. In addition to attending lectures and participating in reading groups and graduate seminars, I expect to write one major paper on Plato, one major paper and my thesis on Aristotle, and pursue further study in Greek, likely culminating in a comprehensive examination.
  3. What are you most looking forward to about your time in Cambridge?
    I'm most looking forward to being surrounded by students who love classics and ancient philosophy as much as I do! Because classics is a small major with many sub-disciplines, Pomona doesn't have many other students interested in ancient philosophy. Graduate study at Cambridge will be quite different, and luckily Downing College even has a reputation for attracting more than its fair share of classicists, so I'll also be able to live in close proximity to my academic peers.
  4. How have your experiences at Pomona prepared you to apply for this fellowship?
    I have had tremendously supportive faculty advisors, who have guided me through more Independent Studies than they ever needed to supervise. We are lucky that this sort of close student-faculty relationship is not uncommon at Pomona.
  5. What advice would you give to future applicants about the application process?
    Start over the summer! I didn't, and it produced a very stressful November. I'd also encourage students to be sure to relax and be themselves in the interview process.

Erin Toothaker

  1. Why did you choose to apply for a Fulbright? How did you choose Peru as your host country?
    I chose to apply for a Fulbright because in the year(s) immediately following college, we are more free and have more resources available to us to facilitate our exploration of both our own interests and the world through opportunities such as Fulbright. I wanted to make sure that I took advantage of the opportunity to travel to a part of the world I have not yet had the chance to explore, in a way that would allow me to participate and to learn outside of the structured environment of school. Once I had decided to apply for a Fulbright, I chose Peru as my host country because I found a project there that would allow me to apply some of the skills I have learned during my time in school to a more practical, impactful purpose. 
  2. Briefly describe the research project you will undertake in Peru.
    During my time in Peru, I will be working to develop a business plan for a ceramic water filter factory in Pucará, Peru. Once I have completed the report, I will be presenting a model of factory costs and benefits to potential funders of a production facility. Drinking water in the area is extremely polluted, and a filter factory in the area would greatly lower the costs of providing in-home sources of clean water to the surrounding communities, as well as developing an exportable commodity to support local economic growth based on locally sourced inputs from the extensive ceramic traditions of the region.
  3. What are you most looking forward to about your time as a Fulbright fellow?
    I am most looking forward to meeting the students, potters, and environmental groups that I will be working with during my time in Peru, as they have already been very welcoming.
  4. What advice would you give to future applicants about the application process?
    My only advice would be to start early, because finding an organization with which to affiliate yourself during your time in the host country takes time. I was very fortunate to have been able to find an organization within the time that I left myself to complete the application process.

Joshua Rodriguez

  1. Why did you choose to apply for a Fulbright? What made you choose Mexico as your host country?
    I chose to apply for a Fulbright because I wanted the opportunity to continue my studies, immerse myself in a new culture and be a cultural ambassador. I was strongly encouraged by my friends and advisor Professor Lozano to apply for this outstanding fellowship. I selected Mexico as my host country because it has a unique program called the Binational Business Internship that provides me a business internship with a great company and the opportunity to continue my studies with an affiliated graduate school. To me, it was the perfect opportunity to continue my studies while pursuing my goal of a business career that connects with Latin America.
  2. Briefly describe the work you will be doing in Mexico.
    I do not know yet what company I will be placed with but I expect to be using my economics background in finance or strategic planning.
  3. What are you most looking forward to about your time as a Fulbright fellow?
    I am looking forward to being around great people and great food! My parents are from El Salvador so having the opportunity to be in any part of Latin America is dream come true. Additionally, I am excited to meet other Fulbright Scholars and the great things they have done.
  4. How have your experiences at Pomona prepared you to apply for this fellowship?
    My four years at Pomona have been great. I have been able to participate in two summer research programs through SURP. The professors and Fulbright advisors at Pomona have been completely supportive of my Fulbright application. They gave me great advice along the process. Additionally, I feel my Economics, Spanish, and Latin American History courses have really prepared for this particular business related Fulbright. Lastly, the CDO has been great as they have helped with my two summer internships (and a PCIP internship) that allowed me to standout during my Fulbright application.
  5. What advice would you give to future applicants about the application process?
    As cliche as it sounds, start early! It really does help in thinking about the program that you would like to apply for and the steps needed to attain this goal. Again, be yourself. Fulbright readers can tell when you are sincerely passionate about the work you are proposing. Make sure that your application says why you need this particular Fulbright in order to accomplish your future goals. Since most of the Fulbrights require language skills, I was interviewed in Spanish, it would be wise to develop your language skills.

Lorelei Curtin

  1. Why did you choose to apply for a Fulbright? What made you choose New Zealand as your host country?
    One of my main motivations for applying for Fulbright in New Zealand was because I went abroad there during the spring of my junior year. That experience was life-changing; not only did I meet an exciting and inspiring group of people, both on my study abroad program and locally, but I gained a new perspective on life and my role in the world. I found so many opportunities for growth and learning there that I knew I wanted to go back.
  2. Briefly describe your research project.
    My project is titled "Geochemistry of South Island Lake Sediments: Recording the Impact of the Westerly Winds." I'll be studying sediment cores from lakes in the   Fjordlands region of the South Island, using stable isotope geochemical techniques to assess the effect of the Southern Hemisphere westerly winds on the hydrology of New Zealand. This project is important because the Southern Hemisphere westerly winds are very sensitive to climate change, and they control how much rain New Zealand receives. I'm hoping that by looking at the record of these winds from the last 20,000 years, I can help to predict what kind of changes that part of New Zealand will see in the future. I'll be working with a professor at the University of Otago in Dunedin.
  3. What are you most looking forward to about your time as a Fulbright fellow?
    I'm looking forward to working on my project, which I think is one that is unbelievably important, not only for New Zealand but for understanding how climate change will effect communities around the world. I am excited for the opportunity to completely immerse myself in research, without having to worry about classes, homework, or tests. Also, New Zealand is an amazing place to live--I can't wait to move to a new city, meet new people, and get involved in an international research program. As Fulbright applicants, we are encouraged to include a service aspect to our project. I hope to spend time volunteering with the Department of Conservation, maintaining trails, huts, and penguin beach habitats.
  4. How have your experiences at Pomona prepared you to apply for this fellowship?
    Pomona prepared me extremely well for Fulbright. One of the biggest factors in my successful application (I think, at least) is that I have had many opportunities to do research in the Geology Department with Bob Gaines. I've been working on my own projects with Bob since the summer after my freshmen year, and have had the opportunity to attend many professional conferences, even presenting at one of them. These experiences all culminated in a senior thesis that I am very proud of. One of the important parts of the application is the recommendations--because of the nature of Pomona professors, I had no problem finding three that I felt confident knew my strengths and weaknesses as a student, in addition to knowing me personally. My non-science experience with writing and thinking also had a huge impact on my ability to craft a successful personal statement.  Additionally, the help and guidance of the Fulbright counselors was essential.
  5. What advice would you give to future applicants about the application process?
    I would tell a potential applicant, first, to do it! The application period is at the beginning of the year, before senior year gets too stressful, so it is definitely worth putting in a modest amount of effort for potentially great results. If you're struggling to find somewhere to go or what to do, I would suggest figuring out something you are most passionate about, and following that dream. Go to a place you've always wanted to go, and work on something you've always wanted to work on.

Rohith Nayak

  1. Why did you choose to apply for a Fulbright? What made you choose Indonesia as your host country?
    During my four years at Pomona, I worked with a lot of youth in the surrounding area in tutoring and mentoring capacities. Going into my senior year, I felt that applying to teach English abroad would be a great way to continue this work and travel the world before starting graduate school. I became interested in the Fulbright program because ETAs have the opportunity to conduct an independent research project in addition to teaching English. I chose Indonesia as my host country because I was fascinated by its ethnic, linguistic, and religious diversity.
  2. Briefly describe the work you will be doing in Indonesia, including how you plan to get involved in the local community.
    In addition to teaching English, I plan to examine the state of rural healthcare in Indonesia. By volunteering at local clinics, I will observe how various diseases are treated and how the healthcare system is structured and financed. I hope that these experiences will give me a unique perspective on global healthcare by the time I return to the US to attend medical school.
  3. What are you most looking forward to about your time as a Fulbright fellow?
    I am looking forward to immersing myself into the local culture and learning as much as I can about the nuances of daily life in Indonesia. I believe my interactions with students will be particularly valuable for becoming familiar with important traditions and beliefs.
  4. How have your experiences at Pomona prepared you to apply for this fellowship?
    The CDO and the Fellowships Office at Pomona were instrumental in sparking my interest in the Fulbright Program. Moreover, these offices, along with my professors, gave great advice during the application process and were very helpful when I was writing my personal statement and grant proposal. 
  5. What advice would you give to future applicants about the application process?
    I would advise future applicants to start their applications early. Beginning personal statements the summer before senior year will reduce stress and make for a more complete application.

Drew Quinn

  1. In what graduate program are you enrolled, and what has been your focus in that program?
    I am an MPhil (Master of Philosophy) student in the Department of Genetics.  My focus is determining the role of cis-regulatory adaptations in the evolution of the immune system using next-generation RNA sequencing.  Hopefully, my work will shed some light onto the question of whether structural or regulatory changes are the dominate mode of evolution.
  2. What has your experience at Cambridge been like?
    Do you have a favorite story or anecdote? Cambridge is a fantastic place to live.  Like at Pomona, what makes this place special is the people.  I think the closeness of the departmental groups coupled with the tight-knit college system and the large volume of international students lends a unique sociability to the student body.  It has never been easier to make friends—and they are certainly what I will miss most when I leave.  Of course you do have to put up with separate hot and cold water taps, but if you are willing to overlook this flaw than you really can't do much better.
  3. What are your plans for after you graduate? How will being a Downing Scholar help you with these plans?
    After I graduate I will be working at a tech start-up based in Palo Alto.  I'd like to think that the skills I have developed via the Downing scholarship will not only be useful there, but also will be ones that I carry with me for the rest of my career.
  4. How did Pomona’s programs, faculty members, or staff help prepare you for the application process and your work at Cambridge?
    For graduate study in the sciences, coming from a place like Pomona, where you have been doing hands-on lab work since first semester freshmen year (unfortunately you're dredging up suppressed memories of general chemistry lab now), gives you a big leg-up.  Many of the students straight out of Cambridge undergrad, for example, have far less experience managing an independent project in the laboratory.  Even this aside, I have come to value more and more the liberal arts education I received at Pomona—especially for the presentation and writing ability that was fostered during my time there.  These are invaluable skills in any field.
  5. What advice would you have for future applicants hoping for a Downing Scholarship?
    Contact potential supervisors at Cambridge early and work with them to develop an idea for a project that you are truly interested in.  Don't hesitate!—in my experience, the faculty here are extremely friendly.  The more concrete your proposal for study, the more you will be able to take advantage of the opportunities here, and the more likely you are to be awarded the scholarship.

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