Distinctive Excellence: Our 2020 Rhodes Scholar

photo of Kritika Singh

Kritika Singh, E’20, has achieved a rare distinction by being named a Rhodes Scholar, a Truman Scholar, and a Goldwater Scholar. 

Most candidates for the Rhodes Scholarship, widely viewed as the most prestigious academic honor for U.S. college students, are likely overwhelmed by the process of writing a personal essay, submitting the application, undergoing an interview, and awaiting the results. But for bioengineering major and healthcare advocate Kritika Singh, E’20, it was a process that had become routine.

When Singh was announced as one of 32 Rhodes Scholars for 2020, she achieved the rare distinction of being named a Rhodes Scholar, Truman Scholar, and Goldwater Scholar (see “Three Honors, One Outstanding COE Student.”)

Singh, a member of the University Scholars and Honors Programs at Northeastern, will leverage full financial support from the Rhodes Scholarship to pursue a doctorate in biomedical sciences at Oxford University. Following her studies in the UK, Singh hopes to return to the U.S. and attend medical school. Her ultimate goal is to become a true “triple threat” by addressing critical emerging diseases as a physician, scientist, and advocate.

“In order to conquer the world’s most pressing health challenges, we need to bring together biomedical research, clinical practice, and health policy. By being at the intersection of those fields, I hope to assume a leadership role and encourage professionals to collaborate more freely, across disciplines and national boundaries,” she explains.

“We’re incredibly proud of Kritika for winning these three major awards in three years―but even more proud of the person she is,” says Jacqueline Isaacs, interim dean of Northeastern’s College of Engineering. “With an infectious passion to make a difference in people’s lives, Kritika has continuously forged ahead, embracing all that Northeastern has to offer to reach her bold and admirable ambitions. She embodies our mission of developing the next generation of engineering leaders to solve global challenges, and we are so excited to see where her career path will take her.”

Making an early impact

Although just 22 years old, Singh has already made an extraordinary impact. After becoming aware of the continuing prevalence of malaria in India―despite the availability of affordable prevention―Singh started a nonprofit organization called Malaria Free World as a high school sophomore in Virginia. She traveled to India to speak with students and faculty in regions affected by malaria, and met with researchers and scientists at the National Institute of Malaria Research. This organization is still actively raising awareness and funds today.

With support from the Office of Undergraduate Research and Fellowships and the cooperative education program, Singh has continued to focus on the science behind malaria while expanding her scope to conduct research at the intersection of chemical biology and bioengineering at Massachusetts General Hospital, under the direction of Ralph Mazitschek. Singh’s research there has focused on studying patients’ resistance to antimalarial drugs in order to develop new pharmaceuticals, as well as investigating the role of genetics in determining malaria outcomes.

At Northeastern, Singh has founded the NU Global Health Initiative (NUGHI), which fosters interdisciplinary collaboration among students, medical practitioners, and public policy experts. Leveraging a Service/Research Project Award from the University, Singh organized the Northeastern Global Health Initiative Conference in October 2018. The largest student-led undergraduate global health conference in the nation, this event focused on wide-ranging topics such as tropical disease prevention, innovative surgery procedures, HIV prevention, the environment’s effects on human health and the role of robots in tracking epidemics. An overarching theme was the role of government and public policy in fostering better health care.

“Kritika is a unique individual because she innately understands that public health issues cannot be addressed via science alone,” notes Lee Makowski, professor and chair of the Department of Bioengineering at Northeastern. “Her skills in public policy, advocacy, and leadership have distinguished her from a young age. She truly embodies the multidisciplinary mindset of the College of Engineering at Northeastern.”

A process of discovery

According to Singh, the process of applying to three award programs, in three consecutive years, had a surprising benefit. “As I wrote the personal essays for these awards, my vision of my future began to get clearer and clearer,” she notes. “I had to articulate who I am as a human being, what I plan to accomplish, and how I can personally contribute to society. It was an incredibly helpful exercise, and my mentors in bioengineering and across Northeastern supported me in defining a clear path for myself post-graduation.”

“The COE and University communities have been like family to me for the past four years, and have helped me find my place in the world,” she adds. “When I received the news about the Rhodes Scholarship, I called Dr. Makowski and others at Northeastern immediately. I yelled, ‘We won the Rhodes!’―because it really took a team effort to bring me to this place.”


Related Faculty: Lee Makowski

Related Departments:Bioengineering