National fellowship applicants achieve banner year

The current academic year has proved successful for a considerable number of Williams College fellowship applicants. So far, students have won the following national fellowships: the Gates-Cambridge (Emily Gladden ’07 and Nathan Benaich ’10), Watson (Jose Martinez ’10 and Corey Watts ’10), Truman (William Lee ’11), Marshall (Aroop Mukharji ’09), Udall (J.J. Augenbraun ’11 and Jennifer Rowe ’11), Beinecke (Charles Rousseau ’11) and Goldwater Fellowships (Antal Spector-Zabusky ’12). In addition, the office of fellowships is still expecting results of 19 Fulbright finalists from the College.

Benaich is the first international student from the College to win the Gates-Cambridge Scholarship, which enables outstanding graduate students from outside the United Kingdom to study at Cambridge University. Benaich is originally from Geneva, Switzerland. He studies molecular and cellular biology while conducting honors thesis research on heat shock proteins with Lara Hutson, assistant professor of biology. He plans to conduct cancer research and work towards an M.Phil. in biological science during his time at Cambridge.

“I will investigate how specific mutations in skin cells modulate the potential of stem cells in the skin to initiate the development of cancer,” Benaich said. “This work may well provide new insights into how skin cancer develops, thereby enabling rationally designed therapeutic strategies to treat this disease.”

Watts and Martinez won the Watson Fellowship, which provides a one-year grant for independent study and travel outside the United States and is awarded to graduating seniors nominated by participating institutions. For his project, “No One to the Rescue: The Experience of Emergencies,” Watts will study emergency services in Peru, South Africa, Ethiopia and Turkey. Watts expressed a profound interest in emergency services and has already volunteered in East Africa and Nepal. “In each of these places, I have visited woefully underequipped and undertrained emergency service locations and have wondered what happens when someone actually has an emergency,” Watts said. “I also have pre-med ambitions … and the long-term goal of becoming a doctor helped fuel my interest in this project.”

Martinez will travel to Jordan, Dubai, Argentina, Chile, Sweden and the Netherlands for his project, titled “Alienation or Liberation? Migration, Politics and the Printed Press in Middle Eastern Communities.”

Truman winner Lee has spent the past two summers interning with community organizations on municipal-level immigrants’ rights campaigns in New York. “Everything I learned and experienced through these internships gave me a commitment to social justice work that I tried to articulate in my application,” Lee said. The Truman is intended for college juniors with exceptional leadership potential who are committed to careers in government, nonprofits, advocacy, education or other fields of public service. It provides them with financial support for graduate study, leadership training and collaboration with other students who are committed to making a difference through public service. After graduating, Lee plans to organize with progressive labor unions before pursuing a law degree in order to practice high-impact public interest litigation in the areas of labor or immigration law.

According to Katerina King, director of fellowships, the application process for any national fellowship is extremely arduous and involves the participation of faculty, staff, alumni and community members. The process for the Truman, for example, includes a 17-page application, transcripts, three letters of recommendation, a campus interview, a nomination letter from the College and a final interview in the home states of the national finalists. King emphasized that national fellowships are more competitive than ever as educational institutions are committing more and more resources and personnel to assist students in the application process. “I admire everyone who went through this demanding process,” said King, who took over from previous fellowships director Jody Spooner last fall.

Beginning tomorrow, the office of fellowships will be holding a series of workshops for those students preparing to apply for national fellowships in the fall of 2010. More information is available on the fellowships Blackboard Web page.