Three Indian-American women among 2018 Marshall Scholars

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Fourth-year Pradnya Narkhede, one of this year’s Marshall Scholarship recipients.(Photo: Jean Lacha, University of Chicago news website)

Three Indian-American women are among the 43 winners of the 2018 Marshall Scholarship awarded by the United Kingdom to Americans.

Pradnya Narkhede of University of Chicago, Shruthi Rajasekar of Princeton University, and Meghana Vagwala of Duke University, won the scholarship, the Marshall Scholars program announced Dec. 4, in Washington, D.C.

In what is a “rigorous and highly competitive” selection process, 43 “outstanding” students from across America will be taking up degree courses at leading British universities in a wide variety of disciplines beginning in September 2018, the announcement said.

Narkhede, a fourth-year student at U Chicago, said on the university website that she will use her Marshall Scholarship to combine two one-year degrees: the first, at the University of Edinburgh in science and technology in society, and the second at Imperial College London in plant chemical biology.

“This award provides me with an unrivaled opportunity to probe the relationship between science and sustainable development,” said Narkhede, who is particularly interested in the role of agriculture. “Equipped with the tools I hope to gain from my studies in the U.K., I aim to become a globally engaged scientist, contributing innovative discoveries that shape intelligent policy and improve people’s lives worldwide.”

Shruthi Rajasekar, among the 43 winners of the Marshall Scholarship for 2018. (Photo by David Nie, Class of 2019, Princeton University website)

Rajasekar, a senior at Princeton and a Music Major, is originally from Plymouth, Minnesota will go to London to work toward a Master of Arts in the new Opera Making and Writing program at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama during her first year abroad, according to the Princeton news website. During the second year, she will pursue a Master of Music in Ethnomusicology at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London (SOAS). She plans to use the degrees to help her meet her long-term goal of writing an opera set in India. Rajasekar is a performer and composer in classical Western and Southern Indian traditions. “I was truly stunned to receive the news,” she is quoted saying in the university website. “I’m still overwhelmed and deeply grateful. I very briefly called my family before returning to class,” she said as she did not want to interrupt an ongoing rehearsal.

Meghana Vagwala, a Duke University senior, won the 2018 Marshall Scholarship. (Photo: Duke U School of Medicine, Neurobiology)

“I am delighted that two distinguished Duke students and one alumnus have received this prestigious recognition,” said Duke President Vincent E. Price. “In their time on campus, Meghana, John and Antonio have each demonstrated tremendous academic potential and a dedication to service that reflects Duke’s core values. I wish them the very best as they embark on their studies in the United Kingdom.”

Vagwala , a senior at Duke University, North Carolina, wants to study cultural norms related to brain health in South India, the university newspaper Duke Today reported. She is at Duke on a four-year, merit-based Angier B. Duke Scholarship at Duke. As a Marshall Scholar, she plans for post-graduate studies in medical anthropology at the University of Edinburgh and in global mental health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the university website said. Vagwala is a  self-designed Program II major at the intersection of neuroscience, ethics and anthropology, Duke Today reported. She has been published as a ‘first author’ in the journal Neuroethics, and won the top-paper conference prize. Vagwala has studied mental health issues in Nepal, worked as a research assistant in Dr. Kafui Dzirasa’s Laboratory for Psychiatry Neuroengineering, and spent ‘hundreds of hours’ helping survivors of domestic violence at the Compass Center for Women and Families in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, the university newspaper said.

Named for Secretary of State George C. Marshall, the Marshall Scholarship Programme began in 1953 as a gesture of gratitude to the people of the United States for the assistance that the UK received after World War II under the Marshall Plan.