Sana Khan ’17 and Jiwon Yi ’17 received prestigious Downing Scholarships to study at the University of Cambridge for 2017-18, which are annually awarded to two Pomona College seniors.

Khan, a history major and English minor from Mumbai, India, will pursue a master of philosophy in world history, focusing on South Asian and Indian Ocean history. While at Cambridge, Khan will develop her senior thesis on the 19th-century courtesan Mah Laqa Bai Chanda and the princely state of Hyderabad into a dissertation.

While at Pomona, Khan assisted Professor of History Arash Khazeni with his research at the British Library in London, where she consulted 200-year-old Magh Buddhist palm leaf manuscripts and their wooden cover-boards, a Persian poetry scrapbook, East India Company files, and travelogues in English and Persian. She says courses with Khazeni, as well as English and religious studies classes and her independent research, introduced her to new ways of studying history and helped her think more deeply about representation in various kinds of narratives. 

Khan is excited about how close she will be to the British Library and Cambridge archives.

“Working within a world history cohort, with experts in the field, I will have so many resources at my fingertips to develop this project into something I can possibly one day publish and share,” she says.

After Cambridge, Khan plans to pursue a Ph.D. in South Asian and Indian Ocean history and become a professor.

Yi, a neuroscience major from Seoul, South Korea, will pursue a master of philosophy in biological sciences. At Pomona, Yi focused on cellular and molecular neuroscience, working closely with Professors of Neuroscience Jonathan King and Karen Parfitt. With King, she studied learning and memory in rats; currently in Parfitt's lab, she is studying anxiety, learning and memory in a potential animal model for ADHD. 

At Cambridge, Yi will be working with naked mole-rats, which are creatures that do not experience pain sensitization. Recent findings show that this is due to a mutation in a particular protein called trkA receptor, so Yi will be studying how the function of that protein changes over development. 

Yi says she is eager to return to England after studying abroad last year. Looking to the future, she envisions a career in research and hopes to pursue a Ph.D. in neuroscience. She says she is also interested in public health and is exploring the possibility of getting a master’s in that field.

Yi attributes arriving at this place in her academic journey to her professors’ encouragement and mentorship.

“There were several moments over the last couple of years when I felt like I didn't know what I was doing regarding my career, was conflicted on whether I wanted to go to graduate school, etc. [Professors King and Parfitt] were always very welcoming when I wandered into their offices feeling lost or uncertain about what I was doing; listening to their stories of the paths they took to get to where they are now, I realized it's OK to take more circuitous paths and explore different paths and interests,” Yi says.

The Downing Scholarship award covers tuition, fees, living expenses and round-trip travel, as well as a stipend for books, local travel and personal expenses. The program is a special arrangement between Pomona and the University of Cambridge’s Downing College.