Naomi Mburu ’18, chemical engineering, is the first student in UMBC history to receive the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship.
Established in 1902, the Rhodes Scholarship is the oldest and most celebrated international fellowship award in the world. Each year, 32 young students from the United States are selected as Rhodes Scholars, through a process representing the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories. Rhodes Scholars are chosen not only for their outstanding scholarly achievements, but for their character, commitment to others and to the common good, and for their potential for leadership in whatever domains their careers may lead. Past Rhodes Scholars include Bill Clinton, Rachel Maddow, Cory Booker, George Stephanopoulos, and Susan Rice. UMBC now stands shoulder to shoulder with the best and the brightest.
“As a Rhodes Scholar, I will be completing a Ph.D. in engineering science and likely conducting my research under Dr. Peter Ireland at Oxford University to work on heat transfer applications for nuclear fusion reactors,” says Mburu. “I believe the Rhodes Scholarship will allow me to foster a strong community amongst my fellow scholars.”
Mburu is currently working with Gymama Slaughter, Associate Professor of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering, to to develop a bioreactor to extend the viability of human organs awaiting transplant. The sensors will track glucose levels, lactic acid, and nitric oxide to ensure that the organ remains healthy as it is transported to the recipient. “As a mentor, I’m fortunate to work with the best and brightest students at UMBC, including Naomi, who have a strong desire to change the world. Naomi’s aspiration is to become an advocate for scientific advancement in renewable energy sources and education equality. The Rhodes scholarship is a well-deserved recognition of the positive impact she will have in the field of nuclear engineering and on the human condition across the world," says Slaughter.
Naomi has co-authored two publications with her mentor, and also presented her research at multiple conferences and at URCAD. Naomi's other undergraduate research experiences include internships at world-class research institutions such as Johns Hopkins, Vanderbilt University, Intel, and at the European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva, Switzerland. One of only ten Americans selected for the CERN experience from three hundred applicants- and the only African American female in her cohort- Naomi combines great tenacity and drive with a strong sense of self and a deep understanding of others. While she was studying abroad in Geneva, Naomi came to appreciate the benefits of doing research as part of a team of international scientists with diverse viewpoints and ideas. The Rhodes Scholarship will provide Naomi with superb opportunities to develop her talents and deepen her connections to people from around the world who are all working to solve global problems related to nuclear energy.
Mburu’s success shows that UMBC’s commitment to research and unique undergraduate academic opportunities is working, explains April Householder, Director of Undergraduate Research and Nationally Competitive Scholarships. "Naomi took advantage of everything UMBC had to offer during her time here as an undergraduate student- engaging with dedicated faculty mentors, being involved in academic support programs like the Honors College and the Meyerhoff Scholars Program, dedicating herself to undergraduate research, giving back to the community as a Sherman STEM classroom coach, receiving a Goldwater Scholarship, serving as a student leader in NSBE, and studying abroad. It takes a well-integrated team of dedicated support staff to prepare a candidate for this process. I was impressed by how Naomi listened humbly to every piece of advice that she was given by our team in Undergraduate Academic Affairs throughout the rigorous application process.” She adds, “I am delighted that Naomi is the first Rhodes Scholar in the history of our institution.With Naomi's success, we can say with confidence that UMBC has finally arrived as a national leader in innovation, teaching, and student success. This is a monumental accomplishment and we couldn’t be more proud."
Naomi adds, “Being the first Rhodes Scholar from UMBC is a tremendous honor! I am excited for the recognition that this is bringing UMBC, and I am elated that UMBC's first Rhodes Scholar went to an African American female in STEM! That really shows the power of the minority STEM recruitment and support at UMBC.”
The office of nationally competitive scholarships helps support high-acheiving students to study within the U.S and abroad, by providing funding for graduate school and research opportunities. These scholarships are recognized as some of the most prestigious in the world, and their purpose is to develop outstanding students into leaders whose research and careers will have far-reaching impacts on the world. UMBC provides direct support to students seeking to apply for nationally competitive scholarships. If you are interested in applying for one of these opportunities, contact Dr. April Householder at firstname.lastname@example.org. Before beginning this process, please review the eligibility guidelines for the scholarship(s) you are interested in.