Four MIT seniors win Marshall Scholarships

Four MIT seniors — Kate Koch, Colleen Loynachan, Kirin Sinha, and Grace Young — are among 34 new winners nationwide of prestigious Marshall Scholarships, which support two years of graduate study in the United Kingdom.

The four seniors join John Mikhael ’13, who won a Rhodes Scholarship on Nov. 23, among the Institute’s winners of distinguished fellowships this year.

“We are extremely pleased that MIT students this year have won four of the 34 Marshall Scholarships, a remarkable accomplishment, and we are proud of all of our students who applied,” says John Ochsendorf, the Class of 1942 Professor of Building Technology and Civil and Environmental Engineering and co-chair of MIT’s Presidential Committee on Distinguished Scholarships.

“We are exceptionally proud to have four superb female engineers and scientists to represent MIT as Marshall Scholars,” adds Kimberly Benard, assistant director of distinguished fellowships in MIT Global Education and Career Development. “Colleen, Grace, Kirin, and Kate each have pursued innovative research that seeks to improve the quality of life for others, and we are proud that their work has been recognized at this high level.”

Kate Koch

Kate Koch, a native of Cleveland, will graduate from MIT this spring with a bachelor’s degree in biology. The Marshall Scholarship will allow her to go to Oxford University to complete an MSc in radiation biology. Upon her return to the U.S. after completing that degree, Koch plans to pursue an MD/PhD as preparation for a career developing cancer treatments and practicing clinically.

Since her sophomore year, Koch has worked on cancer research projects in the laboratory of David Sabatini, a professor of biology, which examines regulation of growth and metabolism in mammals. As a result of this work, Koch was cited as a contributing author on a paper published in Nature Genetics that suggested a new therapeutic strategy based on the exploitation of cancer metabolism. Continuing work in this area, in the summer of 2012, Koch conducted research at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Italy.

Sabatini says he is “very impressed with Kate’s drive … she is completely unfazed by new techniques or questions. … Kate is also wonderful to work with. She has a warm personality and quickly became friends with many in the lab.”

Colleen Loynachan

Colleen Loynachan, from Los Angeles, is graduating this spring with a bachelor's degree in materials science and engineering. She will pursue an MSc in biomedical engineering with biomaterials, followed by a master’s degree in biomedical research, at Imperial College London. Loynachan spent last spring studying abroad at Oxford.

Loynachan’s work in the summer of her sophomore year — studying the deformation of nanostructures with Julia Greer, a professor of materials science and mechanics at the California Institute of Technology — resulted in a publication in Nano Letters. Loynachan is now doing research with Polina Anikeeva, the AMAX Career Development Assistant Professor in Materials Engineering at MIT, developing methods for remote manipulation of protein aggregation using targeted magnetic nanoparticles for potential disease therapies.

Linn Hobbs, a professor of materials science and of nuclear science and engineering who has worked closely with Loynachan, says,  “I have encountered substantial numbers of truly gifted American students, some verifiable prodigies even, who’ve gone on to impressive careers. Few have ever demonstrated the innate drive I see in Colleen Loynachan. She works at her science with uncommon intensity and uncompromising thoroughness, the product of a disciplined mind and an unwavering will to get the best out of herself.”

Kirin Sinha

Kirin Sinha, originally from Denver, is graduating this spring with a bachelor’s degree in theoretical math and electrical engineering and computer science, with a minor in music. She has worked with professor of mathematics Scott Sheffield on decision theory and is currently working with professor of applied mathematics John Bush on hydrodynamic quantum analogs, or the wave behavior of water droplets.

The Marshall Scholarship will allow Sinha to pursue two master’s degrees, in mathematics and in advanced computer science, at Cambridge University. Sinha will also introduce her nonprofit SHINE — a program that integrates dance and math tutoring to help girls gain confidence in math — to the U.K. While at MIT, Sinha dances professionally with the Triveni School of Dance in Brookline.

“It’s been my delight to have had Kirin Sinha as my undergraduate advisee in mathematics for the last three years,” says Victor Guillemin, a professor of mathematics.  “Not only has she maintained an impeccable record in her math and other courses, but she also has wide-ranging non-course-related interests as well.”

Grace Young

Grace Young grew up in Hartville, Ohio, and in Washington. She will graduate this spring with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical and ocean engineering and a minor in history of art and architecture. She will undertake an MSc/PhD in engineering science at Oxford.

Young’s fascination with both robotics and the sea led her to MIT, passing up the opportunity to become a professional ballet dancer. In 2012, Young worked with Hanu Singh of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute to develop a submersible robot that makes 3-D maps of sea ice in Antarctica. As a Hollings Scholar at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, she designed an underwater autonomous surveillance system to monitor fish populations. Her extensive outreach includes teaching elementary and high school students about robotics, science, and the ocean. This spring, Young will be living for a month in an underwater research facility.

Young’s academic advisor, Pierre Lermusiaux, an associate professor of mechanical engineering and of ocean science and engineering, describes her as “a dynamic young woman with amazing potential and personal drive for success. She is one of those rare students that very early on know what they want to study and work on, aiming to make major contributions to our society and life on Earth.”

NOTE: MIT News ran a profile of Grace Young earlier this fall. Similar profiles of Kate Koch, Colleen Loynachan, John Mikhael, and Kirin Sinha will appear in the coming weeks.