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Senior Michael Duyzend receives Gates Cambridge Scholarship

<r Michael Duyzend, Chemistry and Mathematics double major and biochemistry concentrator will soon add the Gates Cambridge Scholarship to his resume. The Gates is a full scholarship opportunity for students from outside the UK to pursue graduate study at the University of Cambridge in England. It is awarded annually to approximately 100 students worldwide, around 40 of whom are from the United States. Each year over 1000 students apply.

The Gates Cambridge Scholarship is a relatively new compared to similar funding opportunities. The Gates Cambridge Trust was founded in Oct 2000 by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which donated $210 million to the University to establish the scholarships. Competition into the program is intense. This year’s Scholars came from top schools including Yale, Stanford, Harvard, Williams, University of Pennsylvania, and Berkeley.

Duyzend says of the competition, “Indeed there are students from Ivy League institutions, but there are also some from small liberal arts colleges…I think that is something the Gates prides itself on. They look at a person as a whole and what they can do for the world.” He contrasts the Gates and other scholarships like the Rhodes or the Marshall.

“[One thing that is] unique about the Gates Cambridge Scholarships is that they are administered directly through Cambridge, so you don’t have to deal with some of the bureaucratic issues, some would say nightmares, of getting a scholarship and having to apply it to studying at a particular institution. Instead, you apply directly to Cambridge for a particular course of study and [request to be] considered for funding by the Trust,” said Duyzend.

The Gates will support any course of study offered at Cambridge, from Masters to PhD or the equivalent. The application process consists of several parts. First, a student must be accepted to University and must be ranked as among the top applicants to a particular department in order to be shortlisted for an interview.

Shortlisted candidates from the US (of which there are only 125), are then interviewed in Annapolis. The interviews are 20-25 minutes in duration and are hosted by a panel of four members, the composition of which depends on the course of study applied for.

There are five interview panels segregated based on subject. I interviewed with the biological sciences panel but there was also a physical sciences panel, a social sciences panel, etc. On my panel there were 4 individuals: a US Gates alum working in neglected disease and public policy, a US physician working on medical policy and assessment, and two people from the UK. One was the former Vice-President of the Royal Society, and the other was the former Chief of British Army Staff and former president of the Zoological Society,” said Duyzend.

“Candidates are asked about their work, why it excites them, what they know about the broader field of which it is a part, why it is important, and why coming to Cambridge will fit into their career and life goals,” states the Gates Cambridge Website.

“They asked me what the binding affinity of a particular transcription factor was that I studied during a research internship at Harvard last summer just to make sure I knew my stuff…that was the hardest question,” said Duyzend.

Candidates may also be asked questions of probing intellectual or ethnical dimension, to which there is no ‘right’ answer.

After the interview, a final selection of about 40 US scholars is chosen based on, according to the Gates Cambridge Website, “a person’s intellectual ability, leadership capacity and desire to use their knowledge to contribute to society throughout the world by providing service to their communities and applying their talents and knowledge to improve the lives of others.”

A candidate also ideally shares in the values of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which aims to “increase equity for those most in need, particularly in the areas of health and education.”

As a Gates Scholar Duyzend will pursue an MPhil in Computational Biology in the Department of Applied Math and Theoretical Physics (DAMTP). His reason for choosing this course Duyzend said, is: “It has always been my goal to utilize my interests and talents to give back in some way and, since an early age, academic medicine and biomedical research has been of interest to me. I chose to apply to this course because, with the abundance of data generated today, it is key for a biomedical scientist to understand statistical, mathematical, and computational methods of data analysis. I wanted to make sure the course was challenging, was something I had not done before, and was also something that would help my future career.”

The course consists of two parts: eight weeks of lectures and a three month research internship. He plans to pursue the internship with HHMI Investigator and computational biologist Phil Green at the University of Washington which, Duyzend says, will lead nicely into the MD-PhD program he has will pursue there.

Concluding, Duyzend said, “I would encourage people to investigate scholarship opportunities available to them. There is nothing wasted if you apply for something you want to do. My grandmother used to tell me, ‘Yes you can get; no you already have’ and that’s been the motto I’ve used. There is potential for Carleton students to get these sorts of fellowships—they just need to apply and fear not.”

For more information on the Gates Cambridge Scholarships, visit or contact Michael Duyzend at [email protected]. Also contact the Career Center for help with finding scholarships etc.

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