MIT researchers calculate river networks’ movement across a landscape.
For the second consecutive year, three MIT students have been awarded Marshall scholarships for study in Great Britain. The scholarship recipients are Stephanie N. McGuire of Ithaca, NY, a senior in biology (MIT's first African-American Marshall winner), and Ciamac C. Moallemi of Bayside, NY, and Ben Y. Reis of Princeton, NJ, both graduate students in electrical engineering and computer science.
Ms. McGuire plans to pursue a three-year doctorate in neurobiology at Oxford University. Though her interest in biology is long-standing, her choice of specialty in preparation for a career in neuropharmacological research stemmed from an MIT class which received a visit from a man suffering from Alzheimer's disease. Her professor explained that the man was willing to demonstrate his disability to a roomful of students "because you are the people who will discover new treatments, and maybe cures, for Alzheimer's and other diseases," Ms. McGuire explained in her scholarship application. The experience "caused me to think seriously of pursuing a career studying neurodegenerative disease, conducting basic research with immediate relevance to suffering people."
Ms. McGuire, who minored in French and will begin studying German in the spring, spent part of last summer in Montpellier, France. "I hope to travel the world over the course of my life, learning how to communicate with its peoples," she wrote. After growing up in a mostly white city, she spent her freshman year at Howard University before transferring to MIT, noting that "my sense of responsibility toward the black American community was shamefully underdeveloped. at Howard, I gained a very real sense of responsibility for African Americans and humanity everywhere." A longtime singer in gospel choirs and leader of MIT's Gospel Choir, she added, "I hope that my research career will also sing triumphantly of the gospel message, bringing hope and healing to those in need."
A 1994 graduate of MIT in mathematics with a concentration in economics, Mr. Moallemi plans to pursue an MPhil degree in economics at Cambridge University. His SB and MEng studies at MIT have focused on probability theory from an engineering standpoint, as well as computer science areas such as artificial intelligence, the theory of algorithms, signal processing and optimization.
In his research, Mr. Moallemi hopes to model individual economic agents in a probabilistic fashion and allow them to interact to determine the dynamics of the entire economic system, he said in his application. Though governments have "tremendous influence over the gears and sprockets of the economic system. the relationship between cause and effect in this realm is not well understood," he noted. "My interest [in financial economics] lies in applying the elegance of mathematical models to solving problems in a very relevant discipline. Economic decisions are made every day, and in this domain decisions impact all of our lives."
During his MIT career, Mr. Moallemi developed techniques to solve image-processing problems at the Media Laboratory. He has also done software development work at several companies. Working at Delta Global Trading L.P. "has given me opportunity to understand the workings of the global financial system in a practical sense, and to get a very real feeling for where the standard economic models fail," he wrote. Mr. Moallemi has been a photographer for Technique and president of Senior House.
Mr. Reis expects to receive the MEng in February after receiving the SB in computer science and electrical engineering with a minor in music last June. He intends to undertake a two-year project at Cambridge University combining music theory, experimental psychology, cognitive neuroscience and computer science in a computer-aided study of music cognition and learning in preparation for a career in medicine and/or research.
As an undergraduate, Mr. Reis developed a computerized system to enable non-sighted musicians to use a sophisticated music synthesizer, converting the machines' intricate text-based interface into speech. During the project, he worked closely with a nonsighted musician "and experienced first-hand the fulfillment that could be gained from meeting people's needs in such a direct way. I knew I wanted to do something with technology to improve people's lives directly," he wrote in his scholarship application.
His master's thesis project in conjunction with AT&T Bell Laboratories involves developing and testing a neural network model of the part of the brain that maintains the stability of eye movements. "In studying the brain, I do not believe one should attempt to reduce the mind to a deterministic, rule-based machine. Rather, one should strive to gain a greater appreciation for the wonders of the human mind," he wrote.
Mr. Reis founded the Jewish vocal group Techiya in 1994 and has been active in Hillel. He has also written for The Tech, taught Athena classes, sung in the Concert Choir, and started a program for visiting patients at Massachusetts General Hospital.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on August 30, 1995.