Kritika Singh, a bioengineering and chemistry student at Northeastern who has dedicated herself to tackling global health issues, has been named a 2020 Rhodes Scholar, considered the most prestigious academic honor for U.S. college students.
Singh is one of 32 Rhodes Scholars from the United States, who were selected from 963 students endorsed by 298 different colleges. The scholarship provides full financial support for students to pursue a degree at Oxford University where Singh hopes to complete a doctorate in biomedical sciences.
“Kritika embodies what is best about Northeastern. She has absorbed everything our university has to offer, through experience, global learning, and entrepreneurial thinking, and created her own unique path to excellence,” said Northeastern President Joseph E. Aoun. “The achievements that have earned her the Rhodes scholarship illustrate humanics in action. Kritika has integrated her data, technological, and human literacies to bring us closer to solving some of the most daunting public health issues of our time.”
Singh said Sunday that she will continue combining her scientific research and her interests in treating preventable diseases.
“I want to be a physician-scientist-advocate,” she said, “and work at the intersection of biomedical research, clinical practice, and health policy in order to address critical emerging diseases.”
Since high school, Singh has dedicated her time to researching treatments and educating at-risk communities about diseases, such as malaria, that have cures but still kill hundreds of thousands of people each year.
In 2014, Singh took an internship at a biotechnology startup, compiling data and building a presentation on malaria and the unmet medical needs of individuals in areas still affected by it. One of the co-founders of the startup, Ralph Mazitschek, was impressed by Singh and has been a mentor for her ever since.
“He believed in me as a high-school student, gave me the opportunity to work in his lab, and has mentored me through every up and down since we met,” Singh said. “He has always listened to my ideas and been supportive of so many out-of-the-box discussions that have led me to not just become a better scientist, but a more understanding person.”
After her internship, at the age of 16, Singh started Malaria Free World, a nonprofit organization that raises awareness about the mosquito-transmitted disease. She traveled to India to speak with students and faculty in regions affected by malaria, and met with researchers and scientists at the National Institute of Malaria Research.
“She has consistently demonstrated passion for understanding the cellular and chemical biology of malaria, as well as finding ways to support education, treatment, and, indeed, supporting work towards eradication,” said Michael Pollastri, interim dean of Northeastern’s College of Science.
By the time she started her studies at Northeastern, Singh knew she wanted to pursue a doctoral degree that would train her in both research and medicine.
“Very few students at her age have such a strong vision for their path forward,” Pollastri said.
Singh expanded the scope of her work as a research assistant in Mazitschek’s lab at Massachusetts General Hospital, and by organizing Northeastern’s Global Health Initiative Conference, the nation’s largest undergraduate conference in that field. The conference provides an opportunity for students to connect with experts in a wide variety of fields and cultivate skills in research, economics, policy development, and education to tackle global health issues. She plans to host the same conference this year with guest speakers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“There is no ‘I’ in her work, only ‘we,’” Jonna Iacono, who directs the Scholars Program and the Office of Undergraduate Research and Fellowships, and who has advised Singh for four years. “She is really focused on elevating her peers, and we’re so grateful for the community she has built at Northeastern.”
Singh credited her success to the support of her mentors, advisors, and classmates, who pushed and encouraged her to do her best.
“I am truly humbled to have been given this opportunity to pursue my passion with like-minded scholars and mentors at Oxford,” she said. “More than anything, the recognition solidifies my belief that with grit, determination, and proper support structure, anyone who pursues their passion can succeed.”
In addition to the Rhodes scholarship, Singh has also received the Truman Scholarship, a fellowship for people who are pursuing careers in public service, and the Goldwater Scholarship, an award based on academic merit for students interested in natural sciences, mathematics, and engineering.
“She’s so energetic. Her capacity to do things is amazing. She’s even a Bollywood instructor in her free time,” Iacono said.“She’s ambitious, but she’s humble. That’s part of her charm.”