Department News

MCB student Alan Yang earns Rhodes Scholarship

MCB student Alan Yang earns Rhodes Scholarship

MCB Concentrator Alan Yang has been selected as a 2018 Rhodes Scholar. The prestigious and highly selective Rhodes Scholarship will support Yang as he pursues a master’s in Integrated Immunology at University of Oxford. He is one of just 32 students in the U.S. to receive this honor.

“Given Alan’s stellar record as an MCB concentrator, I was not surprised (but still extremely pleased) to hear this news,” says MCB professor and head tutor Vlad Denic. “This is a fantastic opportunity for Alan and I hope Alan’s remarkable academic achievements continue to bring joy to his family in the future.”

“I feel incredibly humbled and grateful to all the people who nurtured my learning and growth–my family, professors, friends, mentors, and Quincy House community,” he says. “I will use my education at Oxford to help me contribute to humanity’s fight against disease and suffering.”

Yang, who is pursuing a Secondary Field in Social Anthropology in addition to his MCB concentration, hopes to apply interdisciplinary thinking to the knotty problem of epidemiology. Specifically, he hopes to use immunology and human migration studies to enhance understanding of drug-resistant disease transmission.

“The twenty-first century presents a number of challenges in the fight against infectious diseases, including the rise of drug-resistant pathogens and the increasing mobility of human populations, which makes disease transmission easier than ever before,” Yang says. “Therefore, we not only need novel therapeutic approaches for treating drug-resistant diseases, but we also need to understand what communities are most at risk during an infectious outbreak based on how people are moving in order to mobilize our treatments to contain that outbreak most effectively.”

During his time at Harvard, Yang’s dedication and talent for science have made an impression on faculty and staff alike. “In September of his freshman year, Alan contacted me for advice on how to get involved in laboratory research in biochemistry and molecular biology at Harvard,” Associate Director of Science Education Margaret A. Lynch recalls  “Later that year he started research in Professor Dan Kahne’s laboratory. At the beginning of his sophomore year, Alan volunteered to help staff a life sciences research informational table for incoming freshman. That epitomizes Alan’s enthusiasm for research and generosity in sharing his knowledge and experiences. I am thrilled that Alan has been elected as a Rhodes Scholar!”

Former MCB concentration advisor Martin Samuels echoed the sentiment. “I was thrilled, and not at all surprised, to learn that Alan Yang was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship,” he says. I probably should have figured as much the summer after his freshman year when he presented his research at NCRC, for which he earned the “Award of Excellence in Life Sciences” for having already made crystallized a protein he was studying. (This took me about 5 years of grad school!).”

“Alan excelled as both a student and facilitator in LS 1a, and has always been a complete joy to work with as a student and advisee,” Samuels adds.

In addition to crystallizing proteins and  maintaining a perfect academic record during his time at Harvard, Yang also runs track, edits Harvard’s student-run science journal Brevia, and coordinates a community service project that arranges for musicians to visit nursing homes. His work on the latter earned him a Harvard College Innovation Award for outstanding extracurricular project. He has been a co-author on four peer-reviewed studies and worked in four different Harvard research groups during his time as an undergrad. His accolades outside of science include Harvard’s Sargent Prize for a Latin Translation and a Gold Medal in the Young Artist’s Division of the World Piano Competition in Cincinnati.

by Diana Crow

Alan Yang

Alan Yang