Top US students win scholarships at Imperial


Valerie Osband, Nicholas McCarthy and Josephine Cooke

American students are choosing to come to Imperial to carry out ‘ground-breaking research’ and experience London life.

Every year, more than a hundred American students study at Imperial College London, the UK’s most international university.

Some of those students also win prestigious Marshall, Fulbright and other scholarships.

This year Imperial will welcome American students from institutions such as MIT and City University of New York. Imperial recently announced an exchange programme with MIT, strengthening our ties with the world-leading institution.

To find out why Imperial is regarded so highly among American students, we spoke with Nicholas McCarty, a bioengineering student who won a place through the Fulbright Scholarship and Josephine Cooke, from CUNY who will arrive later this year through a Marshall Scholarship.

Nicholas McCarty

Nicholas McCartyBefore coming to Imperial, Nicholas spent four years at the University of Iowa, in a research laboratory studying diabetes, insulin signalling and heart failure.

Why did you choose to study at Imperial?

Imperial is very much a leader in the field of synthetic biology, which kind of lies at the intersection of biochemistry, molecular biology and biological engineering.

The field is very broad, but it ultimately enables biologists, engineers, physicists and computational scientists to come together to work on predictably engineering biological organisms.

The moment that pushed me to make the leap and apply was when Imperial’s team won the 2016 iGEM competition, a global competition in synthetic biology.

Their win affirmed that, even at the undergraduate level, Imperial was training students in this field and were very, very good at it.

The laboratories and faculty in the Centre for Synthetic Biology and Innovation are also great – everyone is extremely collaborative and willing to share their ideas in a transparent way.

Synthetic biology labWhat are the aims of your research?

My research project, which I am conducting with Dr. Rodrigo Ledesma-Amaro and Dr Tom Ellis in the Centre for Synthetic Biology and Innovation, aims to improve the CRISPR system.

CRISPR is a genetic engineering tool that has repeatedly made headlines in the last few years, mainly due to its usefulness for making changes to the genome of cells.

I am quantitatively characterising the different components of the CRISPR system (the guide RNAs and CRISPR-associated proteins) to determine how we can optimise it for use in many different cell types.

The long-term vision of this work is to improve CRISPR to a point where we can use it to, quickly and reliably, engineer cells ranging from budding yeast to thermophiles (organisms that thrive in extreme temperatures) to mammalian cells and everything in between.

How have you found living in London?

It was a bit jolting to move from Iowa to London, but I truly feel at home here now. I’ve had many opportunities to explore other cities and to see the UK as a whole, also.

Imperial sits in the middle of everything, so students here are never far from big scientific conferences, short train rides to mainland Europe and lots of parks, museums, theatres and amazing food.

Imperial and the USA

Would you recommend Imperial to other Americans considering coming to London to study?

Absolutely! For American scientists in particular, it is always beneficial to gain an international perspective and begin making transatlantic connections.

Science is a global game and gaps in science funding between different countries are rapidly shifting. Imperial consists entirely of scientists, mathematicians, engineers and medics, and the international student ratio makes it the ideal place to connect with leading researchers from around the world.

aerial view of ImperialThis year abroad is helping me build scientific relationships at an early stage in my career.

The Fulbright programme is great because it allows for in-depth cultural experiences while abroad – the program has already enabled me to do things like meet the US Ambassador, present my research in Berlin and build friendships with other Americans studying throughout the UK this year.

Josephine Cooke

Josephine CookeJosephine will join Imperial later this year to complete a PhD in Neuroscience with the Department of Medicine.

Why did you choose to study at Imperial?

Primarily for its excellent reputation for interdisciplinary and ground-breaking research.

Location was also important to me, so I looked for universities in London when I was applying. After living in New York City for the past few years, I'm used to the activity and vibrancy of a large city.

It was crucial for me that I lived in a place with lot of cultural diversity, so attending a university in central London was a great option for me.

The Marshall Scholarship seemed like an excellent opportunity to get a fully funded, world-class postgraduate education while getting to travel and experience living abroad.

Brain MRIWhat are the aims of your research?

Before I transitioned to neuroscience, I was training to become a professional dancer. I've been dancing since the age of three, so when I stepped back from dancing due to an injury, I wanted to still keep it in my life.

As such, I'm planning to study how dance can be used to rehabilitate elderly adults with balance disorders, as well as improve balance in healthy adults.

I also plan to investigate the neural mechanisms underlying balance performance through neuroimaging.

I plan to work with Dr. Adolfo Bronstein, who is head of the Neuro-Otology Unit at Charing Cross Hospital.

He studies dizziness and inner ear disorders, particularly those that affect the vestibular system.

I hope to learn more about how the arts can help supplement neurorehabilitation and medical treatment.

London busHow do you feel about moving to London?

I am very much looking forward to exploring London and the UK. I want to get back into dancing in my free time and get better acquainted with the arts scene in Europe, so I'm very excited for this opportunity.

Moving to the States

Valerie OsbandTop Imperial students are also winning scholarships to study in the United States.

Valerie Osband, who graduated from Imperial in materials science and engineering, will join Stanford University in California through their first group of Knight-Hennessy Scholars.

Valerie will begin her studies later this year and pursue a master's degree in business administration at Stanford Graduate School of Business.

The scholarship program aims to prepare a new generation of leaders with the deep academic foundation and broad skill set needed to develop creative solutions for complex challenges.

Scholars will receive financial support for the full cost of attendance for their graduate education at Stanford.


Image credit (Josephine Cooke) - Alia Collins-Friedrichs

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Stephen Johns

Stephen Johns
Communications Division

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