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Six from MIT win Rhodes, Marshall Scholarships

MIT students have won two Rhodes Scholarships and four Marshall Scholarships to pursue postgraduate studies in the United Kingdom.

Four of the six scholarship winners are women. Three majored in electrical engineering and computer science (EECS). The others majored in mechanical engineering, biology and mathematics. Five will study at Oxford University and the sixth at Cambridge University.

Rhodes Scholars study at Oxford University. Winners are chosen for their intellectual and academic ability, integrity, respect for others, and ability to lead and to use talents fully. The estate of Cecil Rhodes, a British philanthropist and colonialist, established the scholarships in 1902.

Marshall Scholars, who attend various British universities, must demonstrate outstanding academic achievement and a capacity to make a significant contribution to society. The scholarships, awarded every year since 1953, are awarded by the United Kingdom as a national gesture of thanks to the US for aid received under the post-World War II Marshall Plan.


Lisa A. Poyneer of Renton, WA, a suburb of Seattle, received the SB last June in EECS and will earn the SM in June. She plans to study philosophy and linguistics at Oxford University and pursue a career in academia. Ms. Poyneer is a member of the executive board of the Association of MIT Alumnae and an apprentice member of the MIT Shakespeare Ensemble. She is a research assistant at the Laboratory for Computer Science. In 1997, she worked at the Whitehead Institute's Genome Center on a UROP and was a laboratory and teaching assistant at the Edgerton Center in 1996.

Ms. Poyneer, whose father is principal engineer for the Boeing Co., has resided in the Women's Independent Living Group (WILG) since her freshman year and served as vice president and president during the 1997-98 academic year. "Seeing a group of women [at WILG] working together, cleaning the house, balancing the budget and fixing things was extremely empowering," Ms. Poyneer wrote in the personal statement filed with her scholarship application. "For many, the thought that women can do such things without male guidance is incomprehensible. For our members, such competency is reality."

The summer she spent in France after her junior year also had a profound effect. "I found that I savored the differences in French culture -- saying hello to strangers when you meet them in an elevator, the long dinners where the focus is conversation, not television, and the more accepting perspective on the human body," she said.

Two of Ms. Poyneer's proudest accomplishments are learning to swim during her junior year and being the only woman all-round player on her intramural volleyball team, which finished second in the A League this year. She is also an accomplished chef and baker who prepared a cake for 130 guests at a friend's wedding.

Christopher L. Douglas of Southboro, MA, will receive the SB in mathematics in June. He plans to study mathematics and philosophy at Oxford. He is just 18 years old.

He is a researcher at the Media Laboratory and was a National Science Foundation intern at the Santa Fe Institute last summer. As a freshman, he was a student in the Experimental Study Group and has remained active in the program as a teaching assistant, associate advisor and tutor. A poet and musician, he has won numerous awards and is an MIT Arts Scholar. He plans to pursue a career in research. He is also a figure skater and downhill skier.

Having attended a Montessori School, a "democratic" school and a public middle school, Mr. Douglas has a keen interest in the effect that design and structure have on education. In his personal statement, he observed that the Montessori School director's "distinguished status curtailed students' political awareness and limited their active involvement in school policy."

At the "democratic" school, students "learned concrete lessons of political, social and personal conscience��������������������������� often coming at the expense of correspondingly progressive intellectual growth." The traditional public school's regimented atmosphere "cultivated a school system antithetical to the nation's political principles." He plans to continue to study educational design.


Orli G. Bahcall of Princeton, NJ, will receive the SB in biology in June with a minor in political science. She plans to study the history of medicine at Oxford University.

She is president of the Biology Undergraduate Student Association and was the founding editor of the Biology Undergraduate Journal. She is a teaching assistant in cell and molecular biology and has been associate news editor of the Tech.

As an MIT-certified mediator, Ms. Bahcall organized and acted as the facilitator at two leadership conferences for freshmen. She was aNational Institute of Health intern in 1997 and has done research on the initiation of DNA replication since her freshman year. She plans to pursue a career in science and public policy.

Ms. Bahcall, whose parents are both college professors, learned the value of academic achievement early in life. "I remember running home one day from middle school to show my father my report card and ask if, like my best friend, I could get a present for every 'A' I had earned," she said in her personal statement. "My father just laughed and said that he had never asked me to get good grades. I learned to be driven internally -- to be driven by a desire to satisfy myself rather than to satisfy others. The reward, and the motivation, is in the learning -- not in the stamp of approval."

Valencia M. Joyner of Washington, DC, received the SB in EECS last year and will earn the SM in June. She plans to work toward a PhD in engineering at Cambridge University.

She has competed for the MIT equestrian team and is a member of the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship and the Gospel Choir. Ms. Joyner won a Microsoft Society of Women Engineers scholarship for 1999, a Citibank Fellowship in 1998 and an Intel Foundation scholarship in 1977. She spent her junior year at Oxford University and was an intern at Toshiba Corp.'s Microelectronic Engineering Laboratory last summer. She plans to become a professor.

"My peers often ask me what it is that motivates me to seek so diligently to further my education," Ms. Joyner said in her personal statement. "I don't tend to think of myself as a brilliant student, but over the years I have come to fully recognize that every effort toward success is another opportunity for my community to shine. It is my way to say thank-you to each and every person that God has used to make an impact on my life and character. I am truly indebted to many people and I accept the responsibility not as a burden, but with pride and joy to give back to the community."

Yuka N. Miyake of La Ca���ada, CA, will receive the SB in EECS in June. She is co-president of the MIT Society of Woman Engineers and a member of Tau Beta Pi, the engineering honor society, and Eta Kappa Nu, the EECS honor society. She was an intern at the MIT Precision Motion Control Laboratory from January-June 1998. Ms. Miyake also has had internships in Hewlett-Packard's Wireless Semiconductor Division, Intel and Rocketdyne. She is an Intel Women in Science and Engineering scholar and won a National Science Foundation fellowship. She plans to become a research engineer.

As the coxswain of the men's heavyweight crew during her freshman year, Ms. Miyake was forced to ponder motivation. She wound up exhorting the eight oarsmen over and over to ask themselves: how much do you want to win? She wrote in her personal statement, "It is a question that I ask myself frequently as I challenge myself to proceed boldly in the face of difficult situations and insurmountable odds. It is the question I ask as I prepare to study for exams, to deal with a particularly difficult person, plan a course of action for a group I lead. It encompasses, to me, the ultimate challenge."

The daughter of a mechanical engineer and a corporate executive, Ms. Miyake plays the piano and guitar and is the musical director of the MIT a capella singing group, the Chorallaries.

Paul T. Oppold of Waterloo, IA, will receive the SB in mechanical engineering in June. He plans to study medical and orthopedic engineering at Oxford University and pursue a career in medical device research.

He is president of the Undergraduate Association, a member of Pi Tau Sigma, the mechanical engineering honor society, and Tau Beta Pi, the engineering honor society. He is also an Amoco Engineering Scholar and a member of Young Leaders in Action. He has been aresearcher at the MIT Newman Laboratory for Biomechanics and Human Rehabilitation since 1997, helping to develop a robotic therapy machine.

As an intern at Medtronic Inc. last summer, Mr. Oppold worked on the design and computer analysis of a drug pump. He was captain of the freshman crew and rowed on the lightweight boat that finished fourth in the Ivy League and seventh in the nation. Hehas also volunteered for the Boston Food Bank and has been a Catholic Confirmation sponsor.

Mr. Oppold, whose older brother suffered a cerebral aneurysm 16 days after graduating from West Point, was inspired by his brother's motivation during physical therapy but disappointed in the shortcomings of the process and the machinery. As a result, his career plans came into focus.

"I hope to use my understanding, compassion and motivation to include Oxford as a piece of my beautiful puzzle of medical inventions," he said in his personal statement. "I hope to have as much success as Joe, who has rebuilt his puzzle to where he can talk, walk and return to school. After accompanying him through this experience, I will forever be motivated to create a world where doctors will no longer say, 'We did the best we could with the tools we had.'"

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on December 9, 1998.

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