April 19, 2016
UW student and alumna named Gates Cambridge Scholar
University of Washington graduating senior Krittika D’Silva and School of Public Health alumna Miriam Alvarado were selected for the prestigious Gates Cambridge Scholarship. This highly competitive program fully funds a graduate degree and all associated expenses at Cambridge University. More than 3,730 people worldwide applied for the award; only 90 were accepted. When choosing the class, the Gates Cambridge Trust “aims to identify and select applicants who are academically outstanding and are likely to be transformative leaders for the benefit of others in all fields of endeavour.”
The University of Washington was one of only five universities globally to have a student selected in both the international and U.S. rounds of selection. D’Silva, from Canada, was selected in the international round. “It’s a striking and lovely example of how exceptional our students are and how our students flourish in a community where mentorship, teaching, service and learning matter so much,” said Undergraduate Academic Affairs’ Dean and Vice Provost Ed Taylor. Both women seek to better the world through research and scholarship.
As a bioengineering and computer science engineering double major, D’Silva has been involved in fieldwork and leadership since her early days at the UW. A highlight is her 2014 trip to Chhattisgarh, India, with Microsoft Research, where a lack of infrastructure contributed to a violent uprising. The conflict between armed Maoist insurgents and the state had gone unnoticed, due largely to the region’s remote location and language. To address this, D’Silva built a mobile app that allowed journalists in regions with no internet connectivity to record a person’s story and then upload it to a server for translation and media distribution. Once the first hand accounts reached the public, local officials were forced to take remedial action.
“My undergraduate research experience creating software for developing countries has motivated me to pursue a career as an academic researcher,” reflects D’Silva. “I have observed first-hand how an innovation in technology has the power to improve the lives of those in need. This type of work has been meaningful to me, and I’d like to continue building solutions that assist and empower individuals in developing countries.”
Throughout her experience at the UW, Krittika has been committed to building community and encouraging others to study engineering. She is the vice-chair for the Association for Computing Machinery for Women and volunteers as an outreach coordinator with STEM programs at local high schools. She is excited to continue inspiring the next generation of engineers and scientists.
At Cambridge, she will join the lab of Dr. Cecilia Mascolo. The two met at a conference in 2015 and discussed potential projects. D’Silva is interested in creating a platform to work around the often-disconnected mobile networks in rural environments.
When asked what she’s looking forward to the most, D’Silva responded “everything – studying at Cambridge, living in the UK, working with Dr. Mascolo and being part of the Gates Cambridge community.” She will spend the summer working at Google London and hopes to squeeze in a couple weeks of travel before starting grad school.
D’Silva will not be alone in representing the University of Washington at Cambridge. Miriam Alvarado, who earned a Masters of Public Health from the University of Washington, will be working toward a Ph.D. in medical science at the MRC Epidemiology Unit. Her work will focus on studying the effects of Barbados’ recently passed sugar-sweetened beverage tax and the larger role policy tools play in addressing health issues at the population level.
The Gates Cambridge Scholarship process is supported by the Office of Merit Scholarships, Fellowships and Awards (OMSFA), a UAA program. OMSFA works with faculty, staff and student groups to identify and help promising students develop the skills, personal insights and interview practice necessary to become strong candidates for this prestigious award.