Eleven from MIT awarded 2020 Fulbright Fellowships

Julia Mongo | Office of Distinguished Fellowships
Published by MIT News on May 22, 2020

This story was updated on 12/17/2020 to reflect Christian Cardozo’s decision to accept a Fulbright fellowship.

Eleven MIT students and recent alumni are recipients of awards from the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. They will use their grants to conduct research, earn a graduate degree, or teach English abroad. This year’s Fulbright award winners are headed to Australia, Brazil, France, China, the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, and Malaysia. Three other MIT students received Fulbright awards, but declined them to pursue other opportunities.

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, the Fulbright U.S. Student Program offers opportunities for American student scholars in over 160 countries.

Anshula Gandhi ’19 graduated with a joint major in mathematics and history through MIT’s science and humanities program. She went on to conduct research on automated theorem proving at the National Autonomous University of Mexico in Mexico City, and explored how the human brain does mathematics at MIT’s Center for Brains, Minds, and Machines. As a Fulbright student at the Czech Republic’s Institute of Informatics, Robotics, and Cybernetics, Gandhi will combine mathematics, computer science, and logic to create algorithms for solving mathematical theorems. While in Prague, Gandhi anticipates exploring historic centers and learning more about Czech language, art, and literature.

Kedi Hu will graduate this month with double majors in chemical engineering and architecture. Passionate about sustainable development, she has worked on a number of academic and professional projects addressing environmental problems, including water scarcity, pollution capture, and grid-scale energy storage. For her Fulbright research grant at Tsinghua University in China, Hu plans to develop biodegradable electrospun membranes for air filtration applications. After Fulbright, Hu will matriculate at Columbia University to pursue a doctorate degree in chemical engineering, continuing research on grid-scale energy storage to enable a 100 percent renewable world.

Max Kessler is a senior majoring in mechanical engineering. He grew up on an island in Washington state, where he became fascinated by the northern clingfish, a small saltwater fish with a suction cup that attaches to wet and rough surfaces. Kessler will conduct research in the biology department at the University of Freiburg, Germany, to design a versatile, clingfish-inspired suction cup for industrial production processes. At MIT, Kessler designed and distributed custom sleeping bags for Syrian refugees. In Germany, he hopes to continue supporting refugees by volunteering in the community. He is also excited to hike, bike, and ski in the nearby Alps.

Talia Khan will graduate this spring with a bachelor of science in materials science and engineering and a second bachelor of science in music. For her Fulbright grant to Brazil, Khan will head to Manaus, Amazonas, in the Brazilian Amazon to research the materials properties of Amazonian plants used by native peoples. An MIT Emerson Fellow of Jazz Voice, Khan also looks forward to engaging in opportunities to listen to and sing Brazilian music. When she returns to the United States, she plans to pursue graduate studies in the field of green materials.

Ivy Li is a senior majoring in physics and literature. In Hamburg, Germany, Li will research at the Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron (DESY) to develop online tracking algorithms for long-lived particle searches in the ATLAS experiment. With interests in both the sciences and humanities, Li is also excited to attend readings and panel discussions hosted by the Literaturhaus Hamburg. As an undergraduate, Li has worked on data-intensive research in X-ray astrophysics and on machine learning projects for ATLAS. Outside of physics, Li served as an arts editor for the MIT campus newspaper, The Tech, and shot competitive rifle for the MIT varsity rifle team.

William Pinney will graduate this month with a bachelor of science in biological engineering. At MIT, he assisted in research on malaria in the laboratories of professors Harvey Lodish and Hidde Ploegh. As a Fulbright student in Germany, Pinney will conduct research in the lab of Professor Brenda Schulman at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Munich. His project will focus on the ubiquitination pathways of G-coupled protein receptors involved with allergy and asthma responses. After Fulbright, Pinney plans on pursuing a PhD in biological engineering.

Booker Schelhaas is a senior from Colorado graduating with a bachelor of science in mechanical engineering and a minor in Spanish. For his Fulbright grant, he will be going to São Paulo, Brazil, to do research on redesigning a rehabilitative exoskeleton. He also looks forward to learning more about Brazilian guitar styles and experiencing Brazilian fútbol firsthand. After completing his Fulbright program and returning to the United States, Schelhaas plans on either going to graduate school or working in the medical device field.

Srimayi Tenali is a senior studying mechanical engineering and minoring in energy studies. A recipient of the Fulbright Anne Wexler Scholarship in Public Policy, she is headed to Australia to pursue a master’s degree in sustainability. Tenali has served as vice president of the MIT Energy Club and director of the 2019 Energy Conference. She worked closely with the MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives to develop programs in STEM education for refugee populations, and hopes to continue this outreach in Australia. She has also been a member of the South Asian Association of Students board, Baker House executive board, the Student Advisory Group for Engineering, and Kappa Alpha Theta sorority.

Sandra “Sandy” Walter is a senior majoring in mechanical engineering with a minor in music. In Malaysia, she will teach English and support after-school activities that promote engineering and women in STEM. Walter has focused on engineering for improving medical technologies that are used in global resource-constrained settings. She has taught for many programs, including the Women’s Technology Program in mechanical engineering and the Edgerton Outreach Center. She founded the D-Lab Student Club, which creates engineering educational materials to empower disadvantaged communities around the world. After Fulbright, Walter will work toward a graduate degree in engineering education within the MIT Department of Mechanical Engineering. 

Christien Williams will graduate this spring with a bachelor of science in computer science. At ENS Paris-Saclay in France, Williams will conduct research on computer vision, including techniques in deep learning and probabilistic analysis, to contribute to an automatic Earth perception system. He will receive his master of engineering degree upon completion of this work. At MIT, Williams was a captain and point guard for MIT’s varsity basketball team, a board member of Sloan Business Club, a counselor for the Freshman Leadership Program, and a member of Phi Beta Epsilon fraternity. After completing Fulbright, Williams will join Schmidt Futures as an associate product manager.

Christian Cardozo graduated from MIT in 2013 with a bachelor of science in electrical engineering and computer science, and received his master of engineering degree in 2017. He taught several classes as a lecturer with the MIT Experimental Study Group. For his Fulbright program, Cardozo will be serving as an English Teaching Assistant at a high school in Italy.

MIT students interested in applying for the next round of Fulbright awards should contact Julia Mongo in Distinguished Fellowships within MIT Career Advising and Professional Development. Students are also supported in the process by the Presidential Committee on Distinguished Fellowships.

By Julia Mongo
Julia Mongo Staff Writer and Advisor