CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) — Harvard University senior Elizabeth Byrne said she truly was shocked when she learned she was one of 32 Americans named as 2014 Rhodes Scholars this weekend.
Byrne, 22, of Cambridge, the only Massachusetts resident to receive the honor this year, said she got to know many of her fellow nominees Friday night and Saturday and was impressed by them during the interviewing process in Boston.
“I was just speechless, completely shocked, because the chances of getting this are amazingly small,” Byrne told The Associated Press on Sunday, the day the scholars were announced. “Everybody (nominated) is clearly incredibly intelligent. I was just amazed and really so honored to be chosen in that pool.”
The 2014 Rhodes Scholars were selected from 857 applicants endorsed by 327 universities and colleges. The scholarships provide all expenses for two to three years of study at Oxford University in England.
Eight of the other new Rhodes Scholars attend college in Massachusetts and grew up in other states. Five are from Harvard, one is from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, one is from Smith College in Northampton and one is from Williams College in Williamstown.
Byrne was born in New Haven, Conn., and attended St. Thomas’s Day School for preschool through sixth grade in New Haven before moving to Cambridge. She’s a 2010 graduate of The Winsor School all-girls high school in Boston.
She is majoring in human developmental and regenerative biology and plans to study applied statistics at Oxford. Her main area of interest is infectious diseases.
“I want to understand statistics and, in particular, how they can be used to understand problems of biology and problems of disease, which enables you to cope with very, very large biological data sets and make meaning out of them,” Byrne said.
Byrne has done research and clinical work at Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital and the Center for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa. She went to South Africa the past two summers to research hormonal contraceptive use in the Durban area, which has a high rate of HIV.
She plans to attend medical school and continue researching infectious diseases.
Byrne credited many groups and people for helping her to become a Rhodes Scholar, including The Ragon Institute in Boston, the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program, Harvard and The Winsor School.
“I think it’s a really great time to reflect on the organizations that have motivated me in my life and really helped me to get here,” she said.
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