Anjali Misra, from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, has been named a winner of the prestigious George J. Mitchell Scholarship. Misra, an MIT senior majoring in brain and cognitive sciences with a minor in music, will spend the 2018-2019 academic year pursuing a master's degree in public health from University College Cork in Cork, Ireland. She then plans on returning to the U.S. to attend medical school, with the goal of widely implementing preventative medicine in rural settings and promoting cardiovascular health.
Misra was one of 12 students selected in the nationwide competition, which attracted over 300 applicants. She is the second MIT student to win the award, and the first in over a decade. Now in its 20th year, the Mitchell Scholarship program is sponsored by the U.S.-Ireland Alliance with additional support from Ireland’s Department of Education and Skills, Morgan Stanley, Pfizer, and the American Ireland Fund. The scholarship honors U.S. Senator George Mitchell and his contributions to the Northern Ireland peace process. Mitchell Scholars are selected on the basis of academic merit, leadership, and commitment to community and public service. They are awarded a year of postgraduate study in any field at participating Irish universities.
Misra’s Iowa upbringing gave her insights as to how rural locations are medically underserved, and instilled in her a commitment to helping these communities and their residents. As a Mitchell Scholar, she hopes to explore how mobile health clinics and community paramedicine (having EMTs and paramedics deliver primary care medicine in remote areas) can enhance access to primary healthcare. Misra is particularly interested in living and studying in Ireland because of the country’s commitment to innovatively combatting preventable disease.
Since her freshman year, Misra has been active in community healthcare through her work as an EMT with MIT Emergency Medical Services, which serves the campus and surrounding neighborhoods. In addition to staffing the ambulance and responding to emergency calls, as a HeartSafe Officer she has facilitated the training of over 1,000 community members in first aid and CPR techniques. She regularly teaches high-demand courses on infant and child emergency medical response. This past summer, Misra was awarded a Priscilla King Gray Public Service Fellowship to work with the Harvard Family Van, which works to reduce incidence of preventable disease in vulnerable communities.
In addition to Misra’s strong involvement in health-related activities, she has dedicated significant time to mentorship and peer support. Since 2014, Misra has been a member, and now serves as co-president, of SHINE for Girls, a middle-school mentorship program that combines dance with after-school math education to encourage more young women to consider STEM fields. Her efforts led her to be selected as an MIT Women’s Initiative Presenter, which provided funding for Misra to travel to Union County, North Carolina, to give 15 presentations in public schools to promote STEM education for middle-school girls. Misra has also led the MIT South Asian Association of Students as co-president, and has been a coordinator for the MIT Freshman Urban Program, which introduces freshmen to volunteering opportunities and social issues in the Cambridge area.
Misra has conducted research in the Edelman Laboratory at the Harvard-MIT Biomedical Engineering Center where she used biomedical engineering techniques to analyze the impact of cardiac pathology on blood flow. She is currently an undergraduate research assistant at the Laboratory for Quantitative Cell Biology at Harvard Medical School where, under the supervision of Peter Czarnecki, she seeks to increase understanding of the cellular basis of human disease by examining the biochemistry of signal transduction in primary cilia.
Misra was supported by MIT’s Office of Distinguished Fellowships and the Presidential Committee on Distinguished Fellowships. “Anjali’s commitment to service with and for others is palpable,” notes Kimberly Benard, assistant dean of distinguished fellowships. “Her deep empathy and dedication to improving people’s lives are inspiring to us all.”