Kritika Singh Wins Highly Competitive Truman Scholarship
Photo: Kritika Singh, a third-year bioengineering student at Northeastern, has been named a Truman Scholar. The scholarship is a national award and the premiere fellowship in the United States for those pursuing careers as public service leaders. Photo by Adam Glanzman/Northeastern University
Bioengineering student Kritika Singh, E’20, has been named a 2019 Truman Scholar, a United States’ premier graduate fellowship for those who intend to devote their careers to serving the public good.
Student “Change Agents” Named Truman Scholars
April 11, 2019 | by Andrew Karas
Two Northeastern University juniors have been named 2019 Truman Scholars, earning the United States’ premier graduate fellowship for those who intend to devote their careers to serving the public good. Northeastern’s Truman Scholars are Juan Gallego CSSH’20, an advocate for the full representation and participation of Massachusetts’ Latinx community in the political process, and Kritika Singh COE’20, an aspiring physician, scientist, and policymaker committed to fighting emerging infectious diseases. Gallego and Singh are among the 62 Scholars selected from a record pool of 840 candidates nationwide, and Northeastern is one of only four institutions to have multiple Truman Scholars this year.
The Truman Scholarship is a highly competitive, merit-based award that seeks to identify and reward college juniors who are true “change agents,” with the passion, intellect, and leadership potential to improve the ways that public entities—be they governmental bodies, nonprofits, educational institutions, or advocacy organizations—serve the public good. Truman Scholars have a long and distinguished history of public service. Scholars include U.S. Senator Chris Coons; journalists George Stephanopolous and Jeffrey Toobin; Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch; former Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice; former Arizona Governor and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano; New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio; and civil rights advocate and author Michelle Alexander.
We invite you to learn more about Northeastern’s 2019 Truman Scholars.
Juan Gallego’s family fled persecution in Colombia when he was seven years old. Coming to the Boston area as a young refugee was not easy. “I have had to overcome many challenges from an early age,” Gallego writes in his Truman Scholarship application—but then his characteristic optimism and faith in American democratic institutions shines through: “Fortunately, these hardships have positively contributed to the growth of my character. They have instilled in me a sense of optimism, gratitude, and ambition, not for personal success, but rather to repay the people, communities, and institutions that have helped me along the way.”
Time and again, Gallego has purposefully and powerfully done the work of reinvesting in communities and institutions in response to the challenges he has seen. Recognizing that the Latinx community in Massachusetts lags substantially behind other groups in the state on a wide array of social, educational, and financial metrics, Gallego has dedicated himself to amplifying his community’s voice through increased voter turnout and representation in elected office. In one example of his tireless dedication, Gallego served as field director for a Massachusetts House campaign in 2018 and knocked on over 5,000 doors, connecting personally with voters in neighborhoods and districts that often feel overlooked.
After several family members experienced racist behavior in his hometown of Chelsea, Gallego pressed the city to establish a Human Rights Commission and became one of the commission’s inaugural appointed members. His further work has included deep policy research on topics ranging from nuclear non-proliferation in North Korea to the implications of home-sharing services such as Airbnb on the availability of affordable housing in the city of Salem. Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll notes, “Much of Juan’s work became the foundation of a recent city ordinance that was adopted to regulate this new industry in our community.” Meanwhile, Gallego’s commitment to mentoring young people–and strengthening his community at every level–is also visible in his service as a football coach at Bishop Connolly High School and Randolph High School.
Having worked closely with both Mayor Driscoll and Northeastern Distinguished Professor and former Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis, Gallego hopes one day to represent his community and all of the commonwealth by running for elected office.
To deepen his analytic and management skills in preparation for this career, Juan plans to use the Truman Scholarship to pursue joint graduate degrees in law and public policy.
“My goal is to ameliorate public health burdens at the local, state, and federal levels,” Kritika Singh writes in her Truman Scholarship application—and to do this work, she is building expertise at the junction of scientific research, clinical practice, and policy advocacy. Singh’s focus is on infectious diseases that are emerging (due to climate-change-driven vector migration, for instance) and/or neglected—that is, a set of diseases common in low-income populations that receive little attention or research funding because of those they impact and the fact that, though they significantly impair human health, they are often non-lethal.
A highly decorated scientific researcher, recipient of both the Thermo Fisher Scientific Antibody Scholarship and the Goldwater Scholarship, Singh spent a year as a research assistant in a malaria immunology lab at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases while in high school and, with the support of the Summer Scholars Independent Research Fellowship, has worked for over two years on epigenetics and malaria in the Mazitschek Lab at Massachusetts General Hospital. “Kritika is a rising superstar,” says Ralph Mazitschek, the lab’s principal investigator. “Her accomplishments are nothing less than outstanding.” In one project, Singh has developed a high-throughput screening platform that enables comprehensive and quantitative profiling of epigenetic regulators and their inhibitors. Singh has also been working on a project to understand the target of an older antimalarial drug in order to develop pharmaceutical derivates that will be less likely to create drug resistance.
But Singh, who is a member of the University Scholars and Honors Programs, understands that science alone will not eradicate disease, and in parallel with her research, she has also developed skills in policy and advocacy to turn knowledge into leadership. “Kritika is not only a future scientific leader,” reflects interim dean of the College of Science Michael Pollastri. “In a lot of ways, she already is a scientific leader.” She founded and directs a nonprofit organization, Malaria Free World, which engages in peer-to-peer education, fundraising, and political lobbying. This work was the basis of her keynote speech at the 2019 Leadership Summit of the United Nations Foundation’s “Nothing But Nets” malaria eradication campaign.
Singh has also worked to empower her peers through the Northeastern University Global Health Initiative (NUGHI), which she also founded. She and the NUGHI team earned a Service/Research Project Award to produce one of the largest student-led undergraduate global health conferences in the nation, bringing together a broad interdisciplinary range of students, practitioners, and experts who embodied her collaborative vision for making change.
Singh plans to earn a master’s degree in Global Health Science and Epidemiology or Medical Anthropology before pursuing an MD/PhD to prepare her for a career at the intersection of cutting-edge bioscience, translational care, and public health advocacy.
Source: News @ Northeastern
by Khalida Sarwari, April 24, 2019
At a boarding school in Hissar, India, where malaria was once common, Kritika Singh found herself frustrated. She was there to give a presentation about the importance of prevention against the disease, a message that the school’s teachers had been unsuccessful in getting across. The students grumbled about “nasty” malaria pills and stuffy bed nets.
Singh turned off her PowerPoint and tried again.
“As I talked to them like a peer and shared their grief, they became more interested,” she says. “We spoke about the simple steps the girls could take to help themselves.”
This time, they listened. The girls worked together to make sure that they took their pills and slept under nets, and one year later, their school was malaria-free.
That was in 2015, and soon thereafter, Singh returned to the United States with a smattering of new Facebook friends and newfound knowledge about the power of peer-to-peer advocacy.
For Singh, who is now studying bioengineering at Northeastern, the problem is personal. In 1992, her parents immigrated with a small amount of money from India to Clemson, South Carolina, to pursue a better education, putting themselves through graduate school by working in the school cafeteria.
“I am so proud of my family and of what my parents and grandparents have accomplished,” she says. “Their success stories have inspired my brother and me to value everything we have, especially our education and academic opportunities.”
But not everyone has had those opportunities. In 2017, malaria, which is transmitted by mosquitoes, killed more than 400,000 people around the world.
In India, the disease is easily preventable, Singh says, but persists because of a lack of political will to eradicate it.
In 2014 she started a nonprofit, Malaria Free World, to promote research and education about the epidemic. In addition, with help from faculty advisors, in 2017 she founded Northeastern’s Global Health Initiative, a student-led conference that seeks to inspire their peers to care about health around the world. Some of the topics discussed at the last conference, in October, were HIV prevention, the environment’s effects on human health, and the role of robots in tracking epidemics.
“I want to get the student body at Northeastern interested in global health so that people interested in these careers can get more involved,” she says.
Singh has been named a Truman Scholar. The scholarship is a national award and the premiere fellowship in the U.S. for people who are pursuing careers as public service leaders.
The award recognizes exemplary academic abilities, as well as demonstrated leadership and the drive to serve the public. It provides funding for graduate study, mentoring, and connection to a national network of public service leaders. Former Truman Scholars include Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York; former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams; and current Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch.
“Simply put, Kritika is a gem, a person whose sterling qualities of character and intellect are rare in the extreme,” Iacono says. “She is an enormously gifted scientist, a principled leader of people, and likely one of the most energetic and effective problem solvers any of us are likely to encounter in our lifetimes.”
Last year, Singh received the Goldwater Scholarship, a prestigious national award based on academic merit, which is given to undergraduate sophomores and juniors who intend to pursue research careers in the natural sciences, mathematics, and engineering.
With a passion for monitoring and controlling emerging infectious diseases in the United States, Singh hopes to work with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Washington, D.C., in order to help shape public health policy.
She says that when she got a call from President Joseph E. Aoun informing her she’d won the Truman Scholarship, she was in between presentations with her Malaria Free World team at various schools and libraries in New Hampshire.
“The whole [application] process really helped me to reflect on my past journey since founding Malaria Free World in 2014 and move forward by helping me to reflect on my goals for the future,” she says. “I specifically want to focus on ending emerging diseases and on equipping the United States with the best tools we need to fight diseases that arise in this ever-changing world.”
Singh was one of two Truman scholars from Northeastern who were celebrated at the Academic Honors Convocation last week. The annual ceremony recognizes students and faculty who have received prestigious awards for scholarship, research, or teaching over the past year.