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John Mikhael ’13 wins Rhodes Scholarship

Recent MIT graduate in mathematics, who has also conducted research in neuroscience, will study at Oxford next year.
John Mikhael
John Mikhael
Photo: Andrea Wirth/MIT SHASS

John Mikhael, who received his bachelor’s degree in mathematics with a minor in chemistry from MIT in June, has received a Rhodes Scholarship to study next year at Oxford University. He is one of 32 American recipients selected this weekend by the Rhodes Trust.

A native of Dallas, Mikhael joins 46 previous MIT recipients who have won the prestigious international scholarships since they were first awarded to Americans in 1904, according to the Institute’s Distinguished Fellowships office.

At MIT, Mikhael completed his undergraduate degree requirements in three years. With his Rhodes Scholarship, Mikhael will undertake graduate studies in neuroscience at Oxford, with the goal of pursuing an MD/PhD. Mikhael’s ultimate goal is a career researching neurological disorders.

Mikhael’s work in mathematics has been supplemented by neuroscience research in the laboratory of Nancy Kanwisher, the Walter A. Rosenblith Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at MIT. He began this research in early 2011, continued it through graduation, and is now working as a full-time scientist in Kanwisher’s lab. Mikhael has studied cortical plasticity and how functional regions in the brain allow us to understand physical interactions. Mikhael’s drive to help others has also led him to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity; MedLinks, an MIT student group that supports undergraduate health and well-being; and as an Addir Interfaith Fellow. He has also taught mathematics as a teaching assistant for MIT lecturer Jeremy Orloff.

Before coming to MIT, Mikhael lived for a number of years in Lebanon. At MIT, Mikhael was awarded this year’s Isabelle de Courtivron Prize for an essay on cross-cultural fluency.

“John is an exceptional talent,” says John Ochsendorf, the Class of 1942 Professor of Building Technology and Civil and Environmental Engineering and co-chair of MIT’s Presidential Committee on Distinguished Scholarships. “Clearly brilliant and a phenomenal researcher, he is driven to a career in science because of his humanitarian compassion.”

Jason Fischer, a postdoc who works with Mikhael in the Kanwisher lab, notes, “John has an exceptional mind for science — a rare combination of creativity and fierce technical skill. He has exactly what it takes to show the world something new and extraordinary.”

“MIT has once again supported the applications of remarkable Rhodes candidates this year,” says Kimberly Benard, assistant director of distinguished fellowships in MIT Global Education & Career Development. “They represent the very best of MIT and are all worthy of celebration.”

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