MHC Alum Wins Gates Cambridge Scholarship

Lindsay Chura ’06

The gates of Cambridge University have opened for Lindsay Chura ’06. In February, Chura was awarded a full scholarship for graduate study at Cambridge University in England. Chura, a native of Slingerlands, New York, will begin her studies for a Ph.D. in psychiatry in October 2008.

This is the second prestigious scholarship that Chura has earned. In 2006, she was awarded a highly competitive Fulbright Scholarship to Australia where she conducted biomedical research in the year following her graduation from Mount Holyoke.

The Gates Scholarship, similar in nature to the Rhodes and Marshall Scholar programs, was established in 2001 by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The purpose of the program, according to Bill Gates, is to prepare “highly educated leaders, skilled in research and analysis, who will undertake a creative approach to defining and solving problems so that we can address the injustices and inequities around our world.” On graduation from Cambridge, said Gates, these scholars “are in an ideal position to bring new vision and apply their learning to the benefit of society at large.”

Chura underwent a rigorous selection process for the Gates Cambridge Scholarship. Cambridge ranks the best international students who applied for graduate study and then turns the list over to the Gates Trust. Applicants must be ranked among the top three candidates in a department or program to be named a finalist, and the trust then factors in other accomplishments such as extracurricular and leadership abilities. Following panel interviews held in Annapolis, Maryland, Chura was one of 45 Gates Cambridge Scholars chosen from the U.S. in an applicant pool of more than 600. Chura is only the second Mount Holyoke student to be awarded the scholarship; Maile Martinez ’03 earned one in 2005. Other U.S. winners for 2008 included students from Harvard, Yale, MIT, and Princeton.

Cambridge, founded in 1209, is renowned for educating many of the world’s most prominent scientists and mathematicians. This distinguished list of scholars includes Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Francis Crick, and Stephen Hawking. Cambridge also boasts the greatest number of Nobel Prize winners in the world; 82 affiliates of the University of Cambridge have won the Nobel Prize since 1904.

At Mount Holyoke Chura double majored in the biological sciences and psychology. As a senior Chura received high honors for her thesis in the biology department under the supervision of associate professor Sarah Bacon in which she studied the effects of stress during pregnancy on placental gene expression. Most recently, as a Fulbright Scholar in Australia, she investigated the role of lifestyle factors on ovarian function and pregnancy outcome.

“I am fascinated by the mechanisms through which maternal and environmental conditions induce physiological changes in the womb and influence later development,” Chura said. This work will serve as a foundation for her future career in clinical research and health policy. “I have an ongoing interest in the study of bioethics in the context of policy development, and I intend to bring together parallel lines of research in order to understand how best to advance the prenatal and postnatal management of the mother and baby.”

Chura added, “I really appreciate the ongoing support that I have received from many professors at Mount Holyoke, as well as Katya King, associate director, and David Gardner, assistant director for prehealth and science advising, at the Career experience, and I strongly encourage more Mount Holyoke students to apply for international scholarships.

King enjoyed working with a student with Lindsay’s talent and drive. “I’ve met many smart student through my work at Mount Holyoke, but none as determined and motivated as Lindsay,” she said. “She combines her natural intelligence with perseverance and courage. She expects to work for everything she wants, and because she has her sights set high, she works like a fiend to get there.”