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Michigan State University senior named Marshall Scholar

East Lansing, Mich. – Michigan State University senior Dorothy Zhao is the institution’s 20th Marshall Scholar.

The Marshall Scholarship provides support for outstanding undergraduates in the United States to study any academic subject at United Kingdom universities of their choice for up to three years. This year over 1,000 candidates applied, producing 51 Marshall Scholars – the largest class in the program’s 70-year history. It includes students from 34 U.S. universities and 21 states and the District of Columbia. 

“I am so incredibly honored to be selected as a Marshall scholar and beyond grateful for this opportunity to pursue a DPhil in Surgical Sciences at the University of Oxford,” Zhao said.

Headshot of Rhodes and Marshall Scholarship finalist Dorothy Zhao

“I join all Spartans in celebrating MSU’s newest Marshall Scholar,” said MSU Interim President Teresa K. Woodruff, Ph.D. “Dorothy Zhao’s multiple research activities, campus leadership, community service, and her ambitious plans for graduate study make her a most deserving recipient of this recognition by this prestigious scholarship organization.”

Zhao is an Honors College senior completing three Bachelor of Science degrees in just three years. The first degree is in Neuroscience in the College of Natural Science with a concentration in Cognitive and Computational Neuroscience; the second degree is in Psychology in the College of Social Science with a minor in Human Behavior and Social Services; and the third degree is in Human Biology in the College of Natural Science. Dorothy was a member of the Wielenga Scholars Program, a selective research-focused cohort program within the Honors College.

“Dorothy embodies the best of the Honors College commitment to community engagement and transdisciplinary research. She holds multiple research assistantships and leadership roles in student organizations, and she is dedicated to serving children at a homeless shelter less than two miles from Michigan State’s campus,” said Christopher P. Long, Dean of the MSU Honors College and of the College of Arts & Letters. “The care and creativity Dorothy brings to her work makes our local community and our world better. I join her mentors, family, and friends in congratulating Dorothy on becoming a Marshall Scholar.”

“I want to sincerely thank my research supervisors, mentors, and professors, including Dr. Laura Symonds, Dr. Erin Purcell, Dr. Cort Thompson, Dr. Lisa Linnenbrink-Garcia, Dr. Sharlyn Ferguson-Johnson, Dr. Alexandra Lee, Dr. Alex Green, and Dr. John Eraifej,” Zhao said. “I would also like to express my deepest gratitude to my family and friends for all of their ongoing support and encouragement. I look forward to meeting the Marshall cohort and spending the next three years in the UK!”

Zhao is a research assistant in three different research laboratories. At the University of Oxford, she is research assistant to Professor Alex Green on a project that focuses on neuropsychiatric side effects following deep brain stimulation implantation in Parkinson’s patients as a continuation of her summer research internship. She is a research assistant for Professor Erin Purcell in the Regenerative Electrode Interface Laboratory at MSU on a project that examines the structural and functional plasticity at the neural electrode interface. She is also a research assistant for Professor Lisa Linnenbrink-Garcia in the College of Education on a research project that examines the development of achievement motivation in school settings.

Zhao’s research mentor Professor Erin Purcell, said: “Dorothy is an exemplary student who has a bright future as a researcher and scholar in the field of neural engineering.”

“Since joining my lab, she has made substantive contributions to our ongoing studies exploring the interface between brain tissue and implanted electrodes,” Purcell said. “She brings extraordinary drive, intelligence, and work ethic to our research program. It is remarkable that she effectively balances her research work with an outstanding academic record and numerous service contributions to our broader community. She is a most deserving recipient of this prestigious award.”

In addition to her research, Zhao has leadership roles with eight organizations. At MSU she is founder and president of the Biomedical Engineering Society; president of the Associated Students of MSU Senior Class Council; teaching assistant for the Department of Psychology and Department of General Chemistry; and president of the Psi Chi International Honor Society in Psychology.

In the local community, Zhao is a Child Activity Leader at Haven House, a homeless shelter in East Lansing, Michigan. In her free time she enjoys playing the violin. Zhao attended Okemos High School in Okemos, Michigan.

The Distinguished Student Awards Office (formerly National/International Fellowships and Scholarships) administered by the Honors College, is dedicated to supporting undergraduate and graduate students pursuing prestigious awards by providing information and direct support throughout the application process.

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