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Three seniors receive prestigious honors

Photo: Claire Celestin, a fifth-year behavioral neuroscience major, received a Marshall Scholarship. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

Three Northeastern seniors have received prestigious scholarships or fellowships that will support their graduate studies and advance their professional careers, in the fields of women’s health, bioengineering, and diplomacy. The awards recognize students who have strong academic records, leadership skills, and a commitment to public service.

Claire Celestin, who is studying behavioral neuroscience, said that on her global co-op last year in Peru she saw a dramatic difference in women’s healthcare between her work with a midwife and the poor treatment of pregnant women at a public hospital. The experience, she said, inspired her to better understand the injustices in women’s health that exist in the United States.

Minhal Ahmed, a fifth-year bioengineering major, recently received a Mitchell Scholarship. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

Last week Celestin received a Marshall Scholarship, through which she hopes to earn two master’s degrees in the United Kingdom—one in women’s health and the other in reproductive health. Then, she will return to the United States to become an OBG-YN and a leader in working toward eliminating racial disparities in the United States, where black women are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

She said that studying in the U.K. and building relationships with top physicians, scientists, and educators in the field “will provide a complete and unique perspective into the U.K.’s success in areas where the United States is failing.”

Minhal Ahmed, who is a bioengineering major, is the first Northeastern student to receive a Mitchell Scholarship, through which he will pursue a master’s degree in Ireland. Ahmed has studied the gut microbiome—which refers to the bacteria, viruses, and fungi in the intestines—while working in assistant professor Abigail Koppes’ research lab. He developed a microfluidic device—a plastic chip that has small channels in which to culture cells—that can be used to mimic how sensory cells in the gut communicate with the brain, which is a connection that has become an emerging area of study in recent years.

Erin Bourque. Photo by Vytas Neviera.

Ahmed hopes to attend the University College Cork in Ireland to enroll in a master’s program in applied psychology and work in a world-renowned research lab that studies the gut microbiome. He said combining his engineering experience with a foundation in psychology will allow him to tackle his future research from an interdisciplinary perspective.

“Psychology is something that’s really missing in my engineering training,” said Ahmed, whose career goal is to become a physician-scientist. “I want to complement my knowledge gap.”

Erin Bourque, who is a combined major in international affairs and political science, received a Pickering Fellowship, which will support a two-year master’s program in the United States. The goal of the fellowship program is to prepare students for careers in the Foreign Service, and Bourque is already well on her way down that path.

Bourque has amassed 20 months of experience in post-Soviet countries while studying at Northeastern. She has earned scholarships to study Russian in both Russia and in Kazakhstan and traveled to the Baltic countries for a summer semester in 2015 to study the region’s history and culture. She currently works on co-op at the U.S. embassy in Lithuania, where her many responsibilities include helping coordinate an international human rights forum on Dec. 10.

Through her Pickering Fellowship, Bourque will complete two summer internships with the U.S. Department of State—one in the United States and the other abroad. “There are a lot of ways you can serve your country, and this is my way,” she said of becoming a foreign service officer.

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