Two University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill students were recently among the 28 individuals chosen nationwide for the prestigious Gates Cambridge scholarship — a competitive fully funded scholarship for graduate study in any subject available at the University of Cambridge.
UNC School of Medicine student Yasemin Cole and Carolina senior Daniel Malawsky will both be attending the University of Cambridge pursuing doctoral degrees in genomic sciences.
Both Cole and Malawsky are multinational geneticists who see the importance of genetics to the future of applied medicine and also have a passion for refugee health. Cole holds dual citizenship with Turkey and speaks Turkish and Spanish; Malawsky has dual citizenship with Israel and speaks Hebrew fluently.
Cole was selected for this esteemed scholarship due to her academic track record, leadership and commitment to improving the lives of others.
“I am delighted that Yasemin’s hard work and talent are being recognized with this highly prestigious award,” said Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai professor Anne Bowcock. “This should leverage her to research areas where she can truly help to improve the human condition.”
As a biology major and with minors in medical anthropology and chemistry, Cole graduated with highest distinction and induction into Phi Beta Kappa. As an undergraduate researcher at UNC-Chapel Hill and the National Institutes of Health, she gained an understanding of the biological mechanisms underlying disease, ranging from genetic therapies for diabetes (Anton Jetten Lab, NIH) to the circadian rhythms of tumors (Aziz Sancar Lab, UNC School of Medicine). It was through this work that she found her passion in cancer molecular biology and precision medicine. Her research work in Jeanette Cook’s lab at UNC School of Medicine culminated in a senior honors thesis on the phosphorylation regulation of Cdt1, a protein in the cell cycle. She has co-authored multiple articles in “Molecular Biology of the Cell” and “PLOS One.”
While an undergraduate in the Honors Program, Cole contributed to the Chapel Hill community by serving in organizations such as Carolina Pre-Medical Association, UNC Partners in Health and the Office of Undergraduate Research, earning the title of Buckley Service Scholar. She taught a seminar with the C-START program, which focused on the integrative nature of research and medicine. She was awarded the Chancellor’s Award for her teaching excellence.
After graduating in May 2016, she completed her master’s in genomic medicine at Imperial College London with the Dean’s Master’s Scholarship, where she graduated first in her class. She completed her master’s thesis on uveal melanoma genomics in Bowcock’s lab.
Outside of medical coursework and clinical work, Cole is continuing her commitment to underserved populations and genomics education by volunteering at Student Health Action Coalition, working with refugee families with Refugee Community Partnership and leading DNA Day CONNECT.
As an NIH Oxford-Cambridge Scholar, Cole plans to study the genomic landscape of paragangliomas, pheochromocytomas and gastrointestinal stromal tumors at the NIH and the University of Cambridge in the labs of Zhengping Zhuang (National Cancer Institute) and Eamonn Maher (University of Cambridge). Through metabolic, epigenetic and functional genomic studies, she hopes to elucidate the biological underpinnings of these devastating neuroendocrine tumors, leading to advancements in prognostication and treatment.
Malawsky was accepted for his outstanding intellectual ability, leadership and commitment to improving the lives of others. Given his well-roundedness, UNC-Chapel Hill physics and astronomy assistant professor Adrienne Erickcek describes Malawsky as “the complete package: a successful student, an accomplished researcher, a talented artist and a compassionate humanitarian.”
While taking a wide array of advanced courses at UNC-Chapel Hill, Malawsky has maintained a 3.97 GPA. He was awarded a Morehead-Cain Scholarship, which is the University’s premier scholarship based on academic excellence, leadership and moral force of character. He will graduate Phi Beta Kappa in May 2020, majoring in biostatistics and mathematics with a minor in chemistry.
While at Carolina, Malawsky joined UNC School of Medicine associate professor Timothy Gershon’s neurology lab. He is a co-author on an article published in the journal “Nature Communications.” More recently, Malawsky completed two summer research projects abroad, one at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel and another at the University of Oxford.
Malawsky’s contributions to UNC-Chapel Hill extend far beyond the classroom and laboratory. He has also designed and taught a seminar on the misuse of science in the public sphere and founded a critical theory reading group on campus to discuss works related to Judith Butler’s book “Parting Ways.” Additionally, he is an accomplished cellist and plays in multiple chamber ensembles at UNC-Chapel Hill and elsewhere.
Malawsky’s commitment to serving underprivileged populations is evident in his proposed program of study. He will be completing his Ph.D. in biological sciences at the Wellcome Sanger Institute working with Hilary Martin. Malawsky proposes to research medical population genetics of understudied populations. He plans to apply mathematical techniques to genetic datasets to identify rare and undertreated genetic diseases.
Outside the lab, both Cole and Malawsky will continue their involvement in scientific outreach and refugee health. The future scientist and future physician-scientist will join the interdisciplinary cohort of Gates Cambridge Scholars working to improve global health.