Two seniors and an alumnus are selected as Churchill Scholars

Megan He, Sarah Zhao, and James Diao
Megan He, Sarah Zhao, and James Diao

Two Yale seniors — Megan He and Sarah Zhao — and alumnus James Diao ’18 are among the 18 recipients of prestigious Churchill Scholarships for the 2022-23 academic year.

The scholarships support one year of master’s study at Churchill College in the University of Cambridge, funding full tuition, a competitive stipend, travel costs, and the chance to apply for a $4,000 research grant.

Yale is the first institution to have three Churchill Scholars in a single cohort.

Sarah Zhao is one of 16 students to be selected for a Churchill Scholarship in science, math, and engineering. Megan He and James Diao are the only two individuals who were named Kanders Churchill Scholars in science policy.

Established in 1963, the scholarship program was established at the request of Sir Winston Churchill as part of the founding of Churchill College, Cambridge, a predominantly science and technology college named in his honor. It seeks to deepen the U.S.-U.K. partnership in order to advance science and technology on both sides of the Atlantic to ensure future prosperity and security.

The Kanders Churchill Scholarships, created in 2017, are awarded to applicants for Cambridge University’s master’s program in public policy. Each college or university is limited to only two nominations for the Churchill Scholarships in science, math, and engineering.

Megan He ’22

Megan He is majoring in environmental engineering and global affairs at Yale, where she will also receive a certificate in energy studies. Her undergraduate research in the laboratory of Drew Gentner, associate professor of chemical and environmental engineering, focuses on emissions of organic compounds to the atmosphere and their impact on air quality. She has also conducted research on atmospheric deposition at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland. In 2021, she was awarded a Goldwater Scholarship.

At Yale, she is chair of the environmental engineering departmental club, an engineering tour guide and STEM representative in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, and a peer tutor in the physics department. She is also active with the Goldwater Community Executive Council and the Evolutions After School Program at the Yale Peabody Museum. At Cambridge, she will delve into science policy as it relates to air pollution, climate, and energy. After Cambridge, she plans to pursue a Ph.D. in environmental engineering.

Sarah Zhao ’22

Sarah Zhao is pursuing a joint B.S./M.A. in statistics and data science at Yale, along with a double major in mathematics. Her main research interests are in the theory and development of novel data science methods for complex, real-world data, and she has worked on research in quantum information and computing, statistics theory, optimization, and geometrical and topological data science methods. She also won a 2021 Goldwater Scholarship and is a member of Phi Beta Kappa.

Outside of research, she volunteers for the Yale Education Tutoring Initiative and dances in Yale Movement. At Cambridge, she will pursue a M.Phil. degree in advanced computer science with a focus on machine learning.

James Diao ’18

James Diao graduated magna cum laude from Yale, majoring in statistics and data science and molecular biophysics and biochemistry. He is now a third-year medical student at Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. At Yale, he developed extracellular RNA analysis tools in the laboratory of Mark Gerstein, the Albert L. Williams Professor of Biomedical Informatics at Yale School of Medicine,  and he performed with the Yale Ballroom Dance Team. He was also a peer counselor for the undergraduate-run Walden Peer Counseling. Diao’s research has been published in the New England Journal of Medicine and JAMA, profiled in Nature and Science, and cited in national recommendations for kidney care.

He is a 2021 Paul and Daisy Soros Fellow and was named to the 2022 Forbes “30 Under 30” list in the category of healthcare. As a Kanders Churchill Scholar, he will pursue a master’s degree in public policy at Cambridge University.

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