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MIT senior wins Rhodes Scholarship

Melis Anahtar
Melis Anahtar

Melis Anahtar, an MIT senior who aspires to become a physician-scientist, has been awarded a Rhodes Scholarship to study at Oxford University.

Anahtar, of Bethesda, Md., is a mechanical engineering major with a minor in biomedical engineering, following a pre-med program with a perfect academic record. According to the Office of the Provost, Anahtar is the 38th MIT student to win a Rhodes Scholarship.

"A stellar student, Anahtar strives to broaden biological technology with innovative research while also helping her community," said Linn Hobbs, professor of materials science and of nuclear engineering, and chair of the MIT Foreign Scholarships Committee. "MIT is extremely proud of her as a scientist, student and as a person."

"I am positive that Melis will not only impress Oxford, but also make a lasting impression on their community, just as she has done at MIT," said Kimberly Benard, program advisor for Distinguished Fellowships.

Anahtar's undergraduate research has included work in Department of Biology Professor Jianzhu Chen's lab, where she investigated treatments for influenza virus infections in mice, and work in Department of Mechanical Engineering Professor Ian Hunter's Bioinstrumentation Laboratory, where she helped demonstrate that needle-free injectors can effectively deliver treatments for hepatitis B and macular degeneration.

She also held summer internships at the National Institute of Standards and Technology and at the National Institutes of Health's National Human Genome Research Institute. Her senior thesis is on the use of micro-electro-mechanical devices in tissue engineering, in the laboratory of Sangeeta Bhatia, an associate professor in MIT's Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology.

Before coming to MIT, Anahtar worked as a medical research intern at Massachusetts General Hospital and at Harvard Medical School's Bioelectromechanical Systems Resource Center, where she designed a microfluidic device for testing blood. She co-authored a 2004 refereed journal paper on this work, which also led to her selection as a finalist in the Intel Science Talent Search.

Anahtar has also undertaken leadership roles in the Institute community. She is editor-in-chief of the MIT Undergraduate Research Journal, where MIT undergraduate researchers share their results with the wider scientific community. Her other community roles include serving as vice president of the Biomedical Engineering Society, volunteering for the Science Club for Girls and writing a popular MIT admissions blog.

On her blog,, Anahtar noted that her first house was across the street from a nuclear reactor and that her current house faces the National Institutes of Health.

"Perhaps my love for science and engineering was inevitable," she wrote.

In 2007, Anahtar was named one of Glamour Magazine's Top 10 College Women.

Anahtar plans to study integrated immunology and global health science at Oxford and to enter an M.D.-Ph.D. program in the United States after her Rhodes Scholarship.

Rhodes Scholarships, first awarded in 1904, are a legacy of Cecil Rhodes, the 1881 Oxford University alumnus and founder of the DeBeers diamond mining company. Of the 89 scholarships currently awarded annually to students from 24 countries, 32 go to U.S. citizens for study at Rhodes' alma mater.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on November 28, 2007 (download PDF).

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