MIT senior Shruti Sharma is one of 40 U.S. recipients of the prestigious Gates Cambridge Scholarship this year. This award will allow her to pursue a PhD in materials and manufacturing engineering at the University of Cambridge, focusing on nanotechnology in the Cavendish Laboratories’ Centre for Nanoscience. She intends to pursue a career in industrial engineering.
Sharma is studying materials science and engineering at MIT, and serves as president of the MIT Undergraduate Association.
Sharma grew up in New Zealand and New Jersey. Inspired by her uncle, a physician who treats landmine victims, she became an activist for amputees in middle school. Partnering with the Campaign to Ban Landmines, among others, Sharma led initiatives to clear landmines in Venezuela.
Sharma’s advocacy for amputees has influenced her research pursuits at MIT and elsewhere. In the laboratory of Hugh Herr, an associate professor of media arts and sciences, she has helped design multimaterial prosthetic sockets. Sharma has also used 3-D printing to conduct research on low-cost prosthetics, and received an independent grant from the National Science Foundation for work with Professor Jennifer Lewis at Harvard University. With Lewis, she produced epoxy-based silicon-carbide and carbon-fiber inks that were used to 3-D print nacreous architecture for high-strength, lightweight applications. This project led to a publication in a peer-reviewed journal on which Sharma was the first author, along with presentations at the Merck Technology Symposium and an undergraduate research symposium at Harvard.
More recently, Sharma has worked with Markus Buehler, professor and head of MIT's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, to print bone for reconstructive efforts.
“Shruti exemplifies the best of MIT, and she has done exceptionally well as a student leader within and outside of the Institute, academically, and in getting involved in hands-on research," Buehler says. "She recently joined my research lab and is working on a project to develop a 3-D-printing approach to create synthetic bone-like materials, which opens exciting new possibilities in creating bioinspired material platforms that will ultimately help save people’s lives.”
This past summer, Sharma worked at the Department of Medical Devices at the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, where she investigated and wrote about new medical technologies. She ultimately presented her work at the WHO Global Forum on Medical Devices.
“As stated by the Gates Cambridge Trust, the Gates Scholarship is awarded to students who show outstanding scholarly achievements, commitment to others and to the common good, and potential for leadership," says Adriana Velazquez Berumen, director of the WHO's Department of Medical Devices. "In my 30 years at the WHO as a mentor to students and delegates, some of whom have gone on to impressive careers in global health and politics, no one has shown the above qualities as fully as Shruti Sharma.”
Sharma was nominated as a youth member to the United Nations' Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. She also established the Girls Leadership and Mentorship program at Boston’s Shriners Hospital to promote leadership and confidence in young girls who are burn survivors — a program she is now working to bring to India, in collaboration with the Indian Department of Disability and Empowerment Affairs.