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MIT alum Lorna Ogolla Omondi wins Gates Cambridge Scholarship

Lorna Ogolla Omondi, from Kenya, has won an international Gates Cambridge Scholarship, a competitive full-cost scholarship that will allow her to pursue an MPhil in management science and operations at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. After completing this program, she will proceed to Stanford University for a master’s degree in management science and engineering in financial analytics. Omondi joins two other MIT Gates Scholarship winners this year: Michelle Teplensky and Maria Isabella Gariboldi.

Omondi graduated from MIT with an BS in civil engineering in 2012. Civil engineering professor Eduardo Kausel, who taught Omondi and served as her academic advisor, notes that she “is a most outstanding student and an extraordinary young lady, a true gem. She exudes irrepressible optimism and enthusiasm for the sciences as well as for politics, social and human issues.” Robert S. Pindyck, Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi Professor of Economics and Finance, adds: “Lorna worked with me as a UROP student for over a year on a project involving the implications of uncertainty for climate change policy.  She was one of the most outstanding research assistants I’ve ever worked with!  She is extremely intelligent, able to learn new concepts extremely quickly, highly productive, and an absolute pleasure to work with to boot.   have no doubt that she will go on to do great things in the future.”

Since graduating from MIT, Omondi has worked as an energy analyst at Charles River Associates and Greylock McKinnon Associates. Omondi is primarily interested in the intersection between the energy industry and economics. Graduate work in operations at the University of Cambridge will give her the tools and insight to work further with energy markets in the developing world. Her long-term goal is to return to Kenya and hold a position where she can have an impact on public policy and the regulation of energy markets. 

Omondi spoke with MIT’s Global Education & Career Development office about her plans.

What made MIT special for you as a student?

What drew me to MIT was everyone’s desire to find solutions to the world’s greatest challenges. The pursuit of excellence is very clear here. One highlight for me was a MISTI trip to Israel, where we pursued ways to understand how trace compounds from fertilizers entered water sources. Another project, through CEE’s TREX, took me to Hawaii to study how soil erosion affected biodiversity on the coral reefs. I also enjoyed my yearlong UROP, which aimed at characterizing the economics of abating climate change. MIT exposed me to a great number of interesting problems and gave me the skill set to help understand and solve these challenges. MIT also has amazing professors who are not only brilliant, but are down-to-earth, accessible, and very willing to share their knowledge.

You have done some work with high school girls in Kenya to get them interested in science and engineering. Can you tell me about that?

After I got into MIT, one thing I wanted to do was encourage other young women from Kenya and other African countries to get into top engineering programs. I saw girls getting accepted into great liberal arts schools, which was good, but fewer who pursued science and engineering programs both in Kenya and across the globe. I’ve been going back to Kenya regularly to mentor students and motivate them. One high school girl I worked with just got into Stanford for an engineering program. It was fulfilling to see my work come full circle!

What drew you to the MPhil in management science and operations at the University of Cambridge in the UK?

This particular program will help me expand my knowledge of operations and will build on the knowledge I have gained at MIT. My undergraduate education has been wonderful and I love the creativity and brilliance at MIT, but studying in the UK will give me another perspective that will be helpful for the work I plan on doing in Kenya. My long-term goal is to return to Kenya and have a position involving public policy. What I learn in the UK will therefore be very useful in achieving this goal, given that the Kenyan government framework was largely influenced by systems in place in the UK.

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