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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University December 1, 2003 | Vol. 33 No. 13
JHU Student Named Rhodes Scholar

Wen Shi talks with Sharon Lee of WJZ-TV a few days after he learned he had been named a Rhodes Scholar. The China native is one of 32 recipients nationwide.

Biology major Wen Shi, 20, nets one of highest honors in academia

By Amy Cowles

New Rhodes Scholar Wen Shi looked like a breezy old pro during an on-camera interview last week with WJZ-TV reporter Sharon Lee.

When the interview was over, Shi, 20, said he was able to chat with ease about receiving one of academia's highest honors thanks to hours of behind-the-scenes preparation with Johns Hopkins advisers like John Bader, assistant dean of academic advising at Homewood. In fact, the senior majoring in biology wants everyone to know that he didn't become a Rhodes Scholar all by himself.

"I'm very appreciative to everyone at Hopkins who has helped me," Shi said of the coaching he received in anticipation of his Rhodes interviews. "Many professors wrote recommendation letters and conducted mock interviews with me. And I'm thankful to Mr. Bloomberg, too." Without the need-based aid program created by alumnus Michael Bloomberg, now mayor of New York, Shi said he wouldn't be here at Hopkins today.

Shi, who is from West Bloomfield, Mich., was born in China and came to the United States in April 1999, speaking some English but in need of additional language instruction. On Nov. 22, he became one of 32 Rhodes Scholars chosen nationwide from among 963 applicants at 366 colleges and universities. Shi is the only winner from a Maryland institution among this year's class of scholars.

Shi plans to conduct cancer research at Oxford University's Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine, examining the role of hypoxia inducible factors in endothelial and cancer cell biology. He hopes his research will lead to ways to make cancer a manageable disease like high blood pressure. Shi will study toward a doctorate in molecular oncology.

"My proposed project will allow me to build upon my current research interest in cancer signaling and make discoveries with potential impact," Shi wrote in his Rhodes application essay. "I am determined to dedicate my lifetime, knowledge and skills to humanity's conquest of cancer."

Shi's determination to fight cancer was born after his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. (She's in remission now and lives in China.) His interest in becoming a Rhodes Scholar was sparked in February 2002 during a lecture.

"I first became interested in the Rhodes Scholarship during freshman year after hearing a Voyage & Discovery talk by Dr. James Hildreth from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine," Shi said. "I was really impressed with his story of overcoming numerous adversities and becoming a Rhodes Scholar and now a famous AIDS researcher and administrator at JHSOM. I just told myself that maybe I'll win a Rhodes before I graduate."

Shi, who will be completing his undergraduate education in three years, got involved with research shortly after he came to Johns Hopkins.

"Wen has an incisive intellect and ability to quickly assimilate new information with critical examination," said Kathleen Gabrielson, an assistant professor of comparative medicine at the School of Medicine. Shi has worked in her laboratory since October 2001 and is listed as a co-author on two of Gabrielson's publications. "These qualities have enabled him to adjust and excel so quickly in his new home in the United States."

Shi was born and raised in China, where he grew up in the home of his grandparents. In April 1999, at the age of 15, he immigrated to the United States to join his father, Arthur Shi. He enrolled in English as a second language courses, and by his senior year at Andover High School in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., he was taking Advanced Placement English. Today, he helps other immigrants learn the language.

"From my personal experience, I empathize with my students' hopes and fears, and employ a variety of didactic methods to improve their English skills," Shi wrote in his Rhodes essay. "Moreover, I use my own example to show them that America is truly the land of opportunity: With hard work and perseverance, they too can fulfill their dreams."

In addition to his studies at Johns Hopkins, Shi is a member of several extracurricular organizations. He is the co-founder of Partners in Sexual Health Education, a group of Johns Hopkins undergraduates and medical students who develop and teach sex education and violence prevention classes to incarcerated youth in Baltimore. He has volunteered at The Johns Hopkins Hospital's Moore AIDS Clinic, and he's a member of the Johns Hopkins University Undergraduate Ethics Board, which promotes academic integrity on campus. Among the various campus service and diversity groups in which Shi participates is the Hopkins Emergency Response Unit, a team of undergraduate students who provide 24-hour emergency care to faculty, staff, students and visitors to the Homewood campus.

"I can make my most significant contributions by combining my enthusiasm for studying science and passion for helping others in a medical research career," Shi wrote in his essay. "I had come to Hopkins only wanting to be a medical doctor; however, I changed my mind when I learned that illnesses such as heart disease and cancer afflict millions worldwide."

Johns Hopkins' most recent previous Rhodes Scholar was Westley W. Moore of Pasadena, Md., who was selected in December 2000. Rhodes Scholarships, among the most prestigious in the world, provide winners with two or three years all-expenses-paid graduate study at Oxford University in England.

The Rhodes Scholarships were created by the will of British colonialist and statesman Cecil Rhodes, who died in 1902. His aim was to bring together young students with leadership potential from throughout the English-speaking world for advanced study at Oxford, personal development and exposure to cultures other than their own. He hoped, according to the Rhodes Scholarship Trust, to promote international understanding and peace.

The selection criteria for Rhodes Scholars include intellectual achievement, concern for others, character, leadership potential and "physical vigor." Rhodes Scholars are selected from 19 countries or regions of the world; the U.S. contingent is the largest.

Related Web site
Office of the American Secretary, Rhodes Scholarship Trust


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