University of Wisconsin-Madison seniors Qianyun (Lexi) Luo and Hawra Aljawad have reached the final stage of this year’s competition for the Rhodes Scholarship, one of the world’s most prestigious and selective undergraduate honors.
The 32 Americans chosen as Rhodes Scholars were announced on November 20. 203 additional US students were finalists for the coveted awards, including Luo. Aljawad was a finalist in his native Saudi Arabia. (Scholarships are awarded by country or groups of countries.)
Luo, of Bloomington, Illinois, specializes in biochemistry and statistics. Aljawad graduated in chemical engineering and biochemistry.
“Reaching the finalist stage is a huge honor – only the most elite students can claim this achievement,” said Rector Karl Scholz. “We are so proud of Hawra and Lexi and all they have accomplished during their time with us. I know they will continue to do remarkable things in their careers.
Luo has conducted cancer research for more than three years in two laboratories, obtaining the co-author of three publications. Since her first year, she has worked with Professor Randall Kimple, director of cancer biology and translational medicine in the Department of Human Oncology at UW-Madison, to research a possible mechanical pathway to induce a sensitivity to radiation in head and neck cancer. Luo is also conducting research in immunology at the MD Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas under the direction of Assistant Professor Alexandre Reuben.
Due to her strong research skills and leadership abilities, Luo was selected to serve as an undergraduate teaching assistant for the Introductory Biochemistry course and as a peer group leader for the advanced course in biochemical methods. She is a tutor with the Greater University Tutoring Service, a facilitator with the student-run Peer Learning Association, and an academic mentor with the Center for Academic Excellence.
“Lexi and Hawra have taken advantage of a rich set of learning opportunities here at UW-Madison, pursuing cutting-edge research and community service.”
Early in his freshman year, Aljawad worked in several health research-focused labs, including those dedicated to understanding Alzheimer’s disease and the influenza virus. She is currently an undergraduate researcher in the Department of Neurology.
While on campus, Aljawad served as a volunteer troop leader for the Girl Scouts of Wisconsin-Badgerland, a Peer Learning Association facilitator at UW-Madison, and a SCIENCountERS volunteer at the Boys & Girls Club of Dane County. She is a member of the Society of Women in Engineering and the Wisconsin Engineering Student Council.
Luo and Aljawad have both won numerous prestigious awards. In 2021, Luo was named a Goldwater National Researcher and Astronaut Researcher. Both awards support American students who promise to be part of the next generation of leaders in STEM research. Aljawad is the recipient of the KAUST Gifted Student Program scholarship. It is awarded by the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia to 100 senior high school students pursuing their bachelor’s degree in the United States.
“Lexi and Hawra have enjoyed a rich set of learning opportunities here at UW-Madison, pursuing cutting-edge research and community service,” said Julie Stubbs, director of the Office of Undergraduate Academic Awards , who helped both students through the application process. “They are determined to pursue careers in biomedical research and have the potential to become leaders in their field. We were proud that they represented the university at the Rhodes competition.
The Rhodes Scholarships cover all the costs of multiple years of study at the University of Oxford in England. Applicants are judged on a proven track record of intellectual and academic achievement, integrity of character, concern and respect for others, capacity for leadership and energy to fully utilize their talents.