Penn McNair Scholar Awarded Gates Cambridge Scholarship

Posted by on Monday, March 15, 2010 20:55 - 0 Comments

Donielle Johnson, a McNair Scholar at the University of Pennsylvania, was recently named a recipient of a Gates Cambridge Scholarship to study at the University of Cambridge in England.  This international scholarship program was established with a donation from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to enable exceptionally talented graduate students from outside the United Kingdom to study at the University of Cambridge, the second oldest university in England, which is generally regarded as one of the preeminent research universities in the world.

The trustees of the Gates Cambridge Trust awarded a scholarship to Donnie Johnson on the basis of her intellect, her leadership capacity and her desire to use her talents and knowledge to improve the lives of others throughout the world. This aptly describes Donnie, an active participant in Penn’s McNair Scholars Program since 2008 and a Dean’s List honoree her entire college career. Donnie will be graduating this May with a major in Psychology and a minor in the Biological Basis of Behavior. Her particular area of interest is neuropsychology, which focuses on the relationship between brain and behavior. She brings her interest and expanding knowledge in this area to her work with children who exhibit autism spectrum disorders (ASD), characterized by pervasive abnormalities in social interactions and communication as well as severely limited interests and very repetitive behavior. Donnie began as an intern in 2008 and now serves as a research assistant under Dr. David Mandell in the Center for Autism Research at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. During the summer of 2009, Donnie gained an international perspective on how autism is viewed and treated in other countries by participating in the Minority Health and Health Disparities International Research Training Program (MHIRT) funded through the National Institutes of Health. Donnie spent twelve weeks in Romania conducting public health research on the experiences of parents with autistic children especially among the minority Roma people also known as Gypsies.

The Gates Cambridge Scholarship Program is very competitive. Citizens from any country outside the United Kingdom may apply. The trust seeks to award approximately 100 scholarships annually with fewer than half awarded to US applicants. Donnie was among the 29 American students awarded scholarships in 2010. All recipients must first be admitted to Cambridge in accordance with the University’s regular admissions policies and procedures. The Trust does not admit students. The scholarship covers the full cost of studying at Cambridge including all tuition and fees, a maintenance allowance and airfare to and from Great Britain. Once in residence, Gates Scholars may apply for additional financial assistance to help cover the costs of attending conferences, undertaking fieldwork and other activities.

There are approximately 250 Gates Scholars in residence at Cambridge at any one time. Donnie is one of three Penn students awarded a scholarship this year. The students may apply to study any subject offered at the University and upon admission engage in full-time intensive graduate study while becoming fully integrated into the University and its Colleges. Since 2001, there have been more than 800 Gates Cambridge Scholarships awarded to students from 85 different countries. Upon graduation, Scholars join Cambridge’s widespread and influential alumni network. There are over 550 Gates Alumni spread throughout the world, all of whom are members of and are represented by the Gates Scholars’ Alumni Association.

Donnie was admitted to the MPhil degree program in Medical Sciences (psychiatry) at Cambridge, and she intends to continue her study of autism at the University’s Autism Research Centre. Her principal focus will be the prevalence of synesthesia in individuals with autism. After completing Master’s degree, Donnie plans to earn a PhD in clinical psychology and continue to do research and provide behavioral therapy to children. Donnie Johnson is a one of many outstanding McNair Scholars that the entire McNair Scholars and TRiO communities may point to with pride.