MechE student named a Rhodes Scholar

Matthew Chun will begin postgraduate studies at Oxford University next fall.

Mechanical engineering senior Matthew Chun and biology and literature double major Mary Clare Beytagh were selected this weekend as Rhodes Scholars and will begin postgraduate studies at Oxford University next fall.

Photos: Ian MacLellan

Recipients of the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship are selected based on scholarly achievement, character, commitment to the public good, and leadership potential. The scholarship provides funding for one to three years of graduate study at Oxford.

This year’s two Rhodes Scholars from MIT bring to 51 the total number of MIT winners honored since the scholarship was first awarded to Americans in 1904. The MIT students were supported by MIT’s Office of Distinguished Fellowships and the Presidential Committee on Distinguished Fellowships.

“It has been a privilege to serve as co-chair of the Presidential Committee for Distinguished Fellowships alongside Professor Rebecca Saxe, and to watch these amazing students grow through the process,” says Professor Will Broadhead. “We could not be more proud of how they represent MIT to the world.”

Matthew Chun, from Arlington, Virginia, is an MIT senior majoring in mechanical engineering with a minor in management science. As a Rhodes Scholar, Chun seeks to further his knowledge of policy and law, with the goal of advising organizations that bring life-improving technologies to countries around the world. At Oxford, he will pursue a second BA in jurisprudence before returning to the U.S. to enroll in law school with a focus on intellectual property.

As a freshman, Chun joined Professor Hugh Herr’s Biomechatronics Laboratory, where he helped design an exoskeleton adaptor. His experience there inspired him to co-found Need-a-Knee, LLC, a student-led company that has developed a low-cost transfemoral rotator for above-knee amputees. Chun and his team have field-tested the device in India and partnered with international and domestic humanitarian organizations. Besides winning multiple awards for this technology, including the 2017 MIT IDEAS Global Challenge, Chun has secured over $50,000 in funding to develop prototypes and begin manufacturing. He currently serves as the chief executive officer and head of business development for the company.

Chun was an “innovator-in-training” at Tikkun Olam Makers in Israel, where he managed multiple projects to build open-source assistive technologies for people with disabilities, and led a project to design an affordable prosthetic dog paw. Chun has also sought opportunities to gain experience in the business aspects of technology; he has interned with companies in venture capital, investment banking, and patent law. He has conducted independent research on the legal challenges faced by new technologies with John Akula, a senior lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management.  

A two-time Academic All-American wrestler for MIT, Chun currently serves as team captain. He is also the co-editor-in-chief of Et Spiritus, MIT’s student-run journal of Christian thought, has held executive roles with the national engineering honor society Tau Beta Pi, and was selected as a member of an MIT delegation to Congress to advocate for federal science policy.