MIT seniors David Darrow and Tara Venkatadri have been selected as 2022 Churchill Fellows and will undertake a year of graduate study in the UK starting next fall. James Diao, a graduate student of the Harvard-MIT Program in Health Sciences and Technology (HST), received the Kanders Churchill Fellowship in Science Policy.
The Churchill Scholarship is a highly competitive scholarship that annually provides 16 U.S. students with the opportunity to pursue funded graduate studies in science, mathematics, or engineering at Churchill College, University of Cambridge. The scholarship, which was established in 1963, honors former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s vision for US-UK science exchange. Since 2017, two additional Kanders Churchill Fellowships have been awarded each year for studies in science policy.
A native of Wallingford, Connecticut, David Darrow majored in mathematics with minors in physics and German. At the University of Cambridge, he will undertake an MPhil in Scientific Computing. Darrow aspires to become a professor of mathematical physics and to work in fluid dynamics or climate modeling.
Darrow began conducting research in fluid dynamics during his final year of high school as one of 17 students selected by the MIT PRIMES USA mentorship program. Since arriving at MIT, he has continued to engage in a wide range of challenging math projects. Among other work, he studied diffusion-limited internal aggregation with Professor David Jerison, symplectic topology with Daniel Alvarez-Gavela, and protein folding with doctoral student George Stepaniants. Last summer, Darrow interned at the National Security Agency and will be interning with UK intelligence and security organization GCHQ this summer.
An accomplished polyglot, as well as an Eagle Scout, Darrow pursued studies in German, French, Spanish and Russian, and made a presentation in Spanish of his work in the Budapest Semesters in Mathematics program. He has received several awards of excellence for his German studies and has been named the Ellen Crocker Distinguished Scholar by the Department of World Studies and Languages at MIT.
Darrow is a committed mentor and tutor dedicated to inspiring and guiding the next generation of mathematics researchers. He is an active mentor for high school students with MIT PRIMES and participates in a mentoring program offered by the MIT Undergraduate Mathematics Association.
Tara Venkatadri, from Ardsley, New York, is majoring in aerospace engineering and specializing in earth, atmospheric and planetary sciences. At the University of Cambridge, she will take an MPhil in Engineering, then plans to enter a PhD program in Aerospace Engineering with a specialization in Materials and Structures. She hopes to pursue a research career by developing new aerospace structures that will allow humanity to venture deeper into the solar system than ever before.
Venkatadri, who was a 2021 Barry Goldwater Fellow, conducted research with Professor Richard Linares in MIT’s Space Systems Lab and is currently working with Professor Tal Cohen in his Nonlinear Solid Mechanics Lab. During an internship at NASA’s Goddard Flight Center, she identified potential moon landing sites for future lunar missions, then presented her work at the 50th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference. At SES Satellites, she has developed programs to forecast the energy consumption of spacecraft in medium earth orbit. Last summer, Venkatadri worked at Boeing as a structural engineering intern to model the forces on the fittings that connect the components of the aircraft.
Since her sophomore year, Venkatadri has mentored freshmen as an associate counselor and served as a teaching assistant for the Experimental Study Group first year learning community. Throughout her college studies, she was a violinist with the MIT Symphony Orchestra and involved in the student group Singing for Service, which aims to connect with isolated communities through music. Venkatadri is a member of the Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society.
James Diao is a third-year graduate student in the Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology Program. Originally from Sugar Land, Texas, Diao graduated from Yale University with degrees in statistics and data science, as well as molecular biophysics and biochemistry. As a Kanders Churchill Fellow at Cambridge University, he will pursue a Masters in Public Policy. Diao’s research aims to use clinical, genetic, and computational tools to improve health equity and outcomes for diverse populations.
Last year, Diao received a PD Soros scholarship for new Americans. Most recently, he was named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list for his work to eliminate the use of breed in kidney function testing. His research was cited by the National Kidney Foundation and the American Society of Nephrology in their updated guidelines released last fall. Previously, Diao had developed algorithms to classify cancer types from histopathological images at PathAI and to predict cardiovascular form from wearable devices at Apple.
Research by Diao’s first author has been published in the New England Journal of Medicine and JAMA and was profiled in Nature and Science. In his spare time, he enjoys making dumplings and ballroom dancing.
MIT students interested in learning more about the Churchill Fellowship should contact Kim Benard, Associate Dean of Distinguished Fellowships in Career Counseling and Professional Development.