David Li wins 2022 Marshall Scholarship

Julia Mongo | Office of Distinguished Fellowships
Published by MIT News on December 13, 2021

David Li, from Woodbury, Minnesota, has been selected as a Marshall Scholar and will commence graduate studies in the UK next fall. Funded by the British government, the Marshall Scholarship provides exceptional American students with the opportunity to pursue two years of advanced study in any field at any university in the U.K.

Li, along with MIT’s other endorsed Marshall candidates, was mentored by the distinguished fellowships team in Career Advising and Professional Development, and the Presidential Committee on Distinguished Fellowships. “We are very proud of all the MIT students who applied for the Marshall this year,” says Professor Will Broadhead, who chairs the committee along with Professor Tamar Schapiro. “These are students whose undergraduate experience has been disrupted by all kinds of turmoil, and yet they maintain an optimism about the future and their ability to improve it that we on the committee found truly inspiring. David stands out as a richly deserving winner of the scholarship and will no doubt thrive as he continues his studies in the U.K. We offer him our warmest congratulations!”

Li is majoring in electrical engineering and computer science with minors in mechanical engineering and economics. As a Marshall Scholar, he will complete an MPhil in biological science at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology through Cambridge University, and then an MS in neuroscience at Oxford University. After returning to the U.S., Li intends to pursue a PhD in bioengineering, combining engineering and computer science with biology to develop transformative technologies.

Li has been interested in CRISPR technology since middle school, when he enrolled in an online version of MIT’s introductory biology class. This experience led him to conduct research during high school in the Hendrickson Laboratory at the University of Minnesota. Li was a national winner of the 2018 Genes in Space competition as part of a team that designed an experiment to measure changes in DNA double-strand break repair pathway choice in microgravity. This experiment was performed on the International Space Station (ISS) in 2019, presented at the 2018/2019 ISS R&D conferences, and published in PLOS One in 2021.

When he arrived at MIT, Li immediately began working in the Zhang Lab at the Broad Institute, which seeks to develop molecular and cellular tools for manipulating biological systems. Li focused on helping to engineer CRISPR technologies for genome editing as well as new approaches for directed evolution and Covid-19 testing. Within his first year with the lab, he was a co-first author on an article published in Molecular Cell. Since then, he has worked on three other projects, two of which have led to publications.

Li has served as a community teaching assistant for the MIT biology department’s online courses on edX, and has tested content for new online courses since middle school. He teaches courses on molecular biology and CRISPR/Cas9 to high school students through MIT’s Splash educational outreach program, and has volunteered with MIT Science Bowl as a session moderator and biology question writer. In his free time, Li enjoys recreational swimming and participating in the MIT Asian Christian Fellowship.

By Julia Mongo
Julia Mongo Staff Writer and Advisor