Seniors Kushal Kadakia, Claire Wang and Ariel Kantor win Rhodes scholarship

Special to the Chronicle
Special to the Chronicle

Seniors Kushal Kadakia, Claire Wang and Ariel Kantor have been named 2019 Rhodes scholars.

The trio become Duke's 47th, 48th and 49th winners of the honor, which fully funds a degree at Oxford University. Kadakia, Wang and Kantor confirmed the honor to The Chronicle Saturday night.

The Rhodes scholarship, founded in 1903, is the oldest and arguably most prestigious international scholarship award. Only 32 students from the United States were chosen out of 880 applicants. 

Duke is tied with Princeton and Yale for three scholars each, which tops the charts for the 2019 Rhodes scholar class. This is the third time Duke has had three Rhodes scholars in one year, after three Duke students received the honor in the Rhodes scholarship Class of 2002 and Class of 2006.

Last year, Gabrielle Stewart, Trinity '18 and a classical languages major, won the award. The previous year, Timur Ohloff—a student who visited Duke from Germany—was awarded a Rhodes scholarship, and two Duke students were named as part of the 2016 class of Rhodes scholars—Laura Roberts and Jay Ruckelhaus, both Trinity '16. 

Kushal Kadakia

"I am beyond humbled have been elected a 2019 Rhodes scholar. I am forever thankful to my village of friends and mentor at Duke who have challenged and inspired me over these past three years," Kadakia wrote in a message to The Chronicle Saturday night. "I look forward to embracing the Rhodes Scholarship's mission to 'fight the world's fight' through scholarship and service in health policy."

Kadakia studies biology and public policy.

The senior is an A.B. Duke Scholar who served as the executive vice president of Duke Student Government last year. He has worked to make Duke a smoke-free campus, and was chairman of the Duke Honor Council. Kadakia has also interned at the North Carolina's governor's office to work on Medicaid policy.

“Beyond university service, I’m really active on research on campus,” Kadakia told The Chronicle when he won the Truman scholarship. “I work in the department of radiation oncology in the Kirsch Lab in the School of Medicine. I’ve also done significant amounts of healthcare policy research working at the Duke Margolis Center for Health Policy, as well as through Bass Connections. I’ve done two separate Bass Connections, first on access to medicine and the second on North Carolina Medicaid.”

Kadakia has also served on the Board of Trustees for three years, and is currently serving on the undergraduate education committee. 

Claire Wang

Wang is the president of Duke's Climate Coalition and is pursuing the Bachelor of Arts track in environmental science and policy, along with minors in economics and Asian and Middle Eastern studies.

"I'm over the moon," she wrote to The Chronicle in a message. "I can't wait to start on this new journey!"

She has been involved with multiple student campaigns around energy and the environment while at Duke, such as Duke Seize the Grid and Duke Renewable Energy Action. Additionally, the A.B. Duke Scholar has served on the Campus Sustainability Committee for multiple years. 

Aside from winning the Truman scholarship in April, Wang was also awarded the Morris K. and Stewart L. Udall undergraduate scholarship that same week. The Udall Scholarship focuses on students whose career interests are related to Native American nations or the environment.

“Climate change and clean energy are my biggest passions,” she said after winning the Truman in April. “Advocacy on any issue is important to me as a principle—each of us has the potential and, I would argue, the responsibility to create positive change. I've been lucky to work with so many students at Duke dedicated to making progress, and I'm excited to see how students continue to push for a better future both on campus and beyond."

Ariel Kantor

Kantor is a Program II major, focusing on bioengineering, policy and the business of biotechnology, according to a draft of his Rhodes scholarship press release. At Duke, he has worked in the lab of Susanne Haga, associate professor of medicine, where his work has produced four publications and one first authorship.

“I cannot articulate how honored and humbled to have been selected as a Rhodes Scholar,” he said in the release. "I am so thankful for my family, friends, mentors, advisers and everyone who made this possible.”  

Hoping to pursue a career in gene engineering and translational medicine, Kantor has also worked with genome editing using CRISPR in the lab of Charles Gersbach—Rooney Family associate professor of biomedical engineering—and tutors students at the Emily Krzyzewski Center.

Kantor is also affiliated with the Duke Human Rights Center, where his work has been influenced by his family's emigration history in Israel and Eastern Europe. 

Editor's note: This article was updated Saturday night to include an additional winner. The Chronicle regrets the error. This article was also updated Sunday morning with additional information about Kantor.

Bre Bradham

Bre is a senior political science major from South Carolina, and she is the current video editor, special projects editor and recruitment chair for The Chronicle. She is also an associate photography editor and an investigations editor. Previously, she was the editor-in-chief and local and national news department head. 

Twitter: @brebradham



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