John Mikhael awarded Rhodes

2013 MIT alumnus and BCS researcher is 46th MIT alum to win prestigious scholarship to study at Oxford

John G. Mikhael ’13 has received a Rhodes Scholarship to study at Oxford University next year, the Rhodes Trust announced Saturday. Mikhael is one of 32 U.S. students and the only MIT student this year to receive the prestigious scholarship.

According to the MIT News Office, Mikhael is the 46th recipient of the Rhodes from MIT since the Rhodes Trust began offering the award to American students in 1904.

Mikhael finished his undergraduate studies in three years with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics with a minor in chemistry. According to the MIT News Office, he began conducting research in Brain and Cognitive Sciences professor Nancy Kanwisher’s lab in 2011, and has since been continuing that research full-time. Mikhael plans to pursue graduate studies in neuroscience and eventually attain an MD/PhD.

He saw a unifying theme behind his diverse academic interests, Mikhael wrote in an email to The Tech. “Math, neuroscience, and medicine are all different but very complementary ways of seeking to better understand how the brain works,” he wrote, “and I think this is exactly the type of deeply integrated approach that Oxford’s especially good at.”

Mikhael’s involvement in neuroscience research began after personal interest in the subject. “I read an interesting article on the MIT website about new research on how our brains process certain visual stimuli, so I emailed the authors of the paper and asked if we could meet to talk about it. We did, and I ended up joining the lab.”

The Rhodes Scholarship program requires schools to endorse their applicants for consideration. Mikhael said that he received significant guidance from MIT throughout his application process. “It’s basically one big learning experience. From the day you decide to go forward with the application, you start to meet with different members of the Distinguished Fellowships team pretty regularly,” wrote Mikhael. “They teach you about how the application works, but they spend most of their time getting you to really think about your research and career goals and your different experiences. Then they put you in touch with MIT professors, alumni, and current graduate students, each of whom has their own perspective on this whole process — or on your research — and has something new to teach you.”

Mikhael was born in Dallas but spent a decade living in Lebanon before returning to the U.S. to attend MIT, according to an essay for which he won the 2013 Isabelle de Courtivron Prize from the Center for Bilingual/Bicultural Studies. During his time at MIT, he was also a Habitat for Humanity volunteer, a Medlink, and an Addir Interfaith Fellow during his time as an undergraduate.

Mikhael said he hopes to go to Oxford some time during the upcoming summer.