Four Pomona students and alumni will head to the U.K. this fall as Downing Scholars. Kate Aris ’22, Jacinta Chen ’21, Calla Li ’22 and Paul McKinley ’22 will pursue master’s degrees as part of a special arrangement between Pomona and the University of Cambridge’s Downing College. The scholarship funds a year of study, covering tuition, fees, living expenses, airfare, books and other expenses.
In a typical year, the Downing Scholarship sends two graduating seniors from Pomona. This year, three were selected, and one deferred from last year due to the pandemic.
“Many of Pomona’s most accomplished students apply for the Downing. This year’s pool was particularly impressive, however,” says Jason Jeffrey, assistant director of fellowships & career advising in Pomona’s Career Development Office, who serves as a resource for students interested in post-graduate fellowships.
Kate Aris ’22
Kate Aris ’22, a chemistry major, will pursue a Master of Philosophy in biotechnology at Cambridge.
She is looking forward to being part of a small program of about a dozen students. During the first part of the program, she will conduct independent research with a faculty member along with doing coursework. During the last term, she will work on a group project in which the students are matched with a company and work hands-on to solve a problem.
At Pomona, she has conducted chemistry research in Professor Nicholas Ball’s lab. Ball “has been instrumental in my ability to be a researcher, to question science, to design experiments,” Aris says. Professor Frederick Grieman, her academic advisor, has been another mentor. He persuaded her to major in chemistry and instilled confidence in her that she could take on difficult intellectual challenges.
After her time at Cambridge, Aris plans on applying to M.D.-Ph.D. programs. Medical accessibility is her driving motivation. “As I pursue a career as a physician, I want to emphasize looking at not only physical access but policy,” Aris says. “Where biotech fits into that is the small technologies that make medicine more accessible.”
Jacinta Chen ’21
Jacinta Chen ’21 graduated with majors in history and politics. Bridging the two disciplines, her history thesis was titled, “Asia Reimagined: Inter-Imperial Encounters and Exchanges in the Early Modern World.” Professors Arash Khazeni and Kenneth Wolf advised her on her thesis and also helped her create her own history subfield specialization in “inter-Asian history.”
At Cambridge, Chen will pursue a Master of Philosophy in world history. She will work on a research dissertation, conducting archival research at the Cambridge University Library, the Fitzwilliam Museum and the British Library. She looks forward to studying with a faculty member who has a similar research focus of connections between China and the Persianate world during the early modern period.
Since graduating from Pomona, Chen has been working at Asia Society Policy Institute in New York City, focusing on the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative. She is weighing whether she wants to take an academic route after her time at Cambridge or a policy route.
“Regardless of what field I end up in, strengthening ties between people from different places and elevating the perspectives of underrepresented communities are two things I want to do in the long run,” says Chen.
Calla Li ’22
Calla Li ’22 is double majoring in international relations and Russian & Eastern European studies. Her international relations senior thesis is on Russian and Chinese geopolitical influence in Serbia and was inspired by the Eastern European Politics course with Professor Mietek Boduszynski, with whom she also worked on multiple research projects.
At Cambridge, her research will expand on her thesis, looking at broad patterns of how Russia and China interact with Europe’s periphery. Besides Serbia, she is interested in widening her study to other Balkan countries.
Li feels indebted to the Russian program at Pomona for its support and especially to Professor Larissa Rudova, who helped her improve her Russian to where she could conduct research in the language. “I really enjoyed the sense of community in the Russian program—going to Oldenborg language tables, taking conversation classes and working on the department magazine,” says Li.
Because of the pandemic, Li wasn’t able to study abroad while at Pomona, so going to Cambridge made a lot of sense, especially to study politics and international relations from different perspectives.
After her time at Cambridge, Li is considering pursuing advanced studies, working at a think tank or working for the government in foreign policy.
Paul McKinley ’22
Paul McKinley ’22 arrived at Pomona knowing he was interested in physics. During his junior year, he realized that he wanted to do something with it that was more applied.
Working with his research advisor, Professor Janice Hudgings, on his senior thesis sold him on the energy engineering aspect of combating climate change. He studied electricity-free, passive cooling and how to incorporate these types of material properties into the energy sector and reduce electricity consumption.
At Cambridge, he will be a part of a master’s program focused explicitly on energy technology. “It’s an area that, having done a liberal arts education, lends itself quite well to study a more applied area that relies on many different elements of the sciences,” McKinley says.
Eventually, McKinley sees a Ph.D. as a possibility, but after gaining employment experience in the field first.
Looking back at his time at Pomona, McKinley says, “My time in the beginning of college was very much spent trying to figure out what I wanted to do. It isn’t until now, looking back, I can see that having that myriad of experiences and interests is really a benefit, and I could not be more appreciative to Pomona for supporting postgraduate study.”