Duke seniors Yasa Baig and James Marek were selected in a class of 41 students from across the country to receive the prestigious Marshall Scholarship.
The Marshall Scholarship is a full-ride program covering the tuition and living expenses for American students pursuing graduate study in the United Kingdom. The admissions process is highly selective, as approximately 40 Marshall Scholarships are awarded out of every 1,000 university-endorsed applicants annually.
Meet James Marek
Marek, from Yardley, Pa., will attend the University of Edinburgh to study operations research. At Duke, he is majoring in civil engineering with a minor in economics.
Outside of class, he worked with Duke Engineers for International Development, where he enjoyed intellectually meaningful and philanthropic experiences on campus. The summer after his first year at Duke, Marek traveled to Uganda with DukeEngage to oversee the construction of vehicular bridges and engage with the local community. As a Bass Connections fellow, he also helped build early warning systems for earthquakes in Kathmandu, Nepal.
In his work as an engineer, Marek finds himself motivated by “the big, interesting, hard to answer questions … and trying to find an answer,” he said. He attributes his success in research work to his drive to find answers.
Marek was drawn to the Marshall program because it offered an opportunity to travel internationally, he said. The pandemic’s curtailing of study abroad inspired him to experience something he had missed out on. He was also attracted to the community, which he found exciting because of the “diverse skill set of where all the Marshalls come from,” Marek said.
Marek enjoys spending time with his friends and expressing his creativity in his free time, especially through videography. His work in class making iMovie projects helped him develop skills that led him to make a film of his road trip through the Great Smoky Mountains. He hopes to continue exploring videography in the spring semester.
Meet Yasa Baig
Baig, from Foxborough, Mass., will attend the University of Cambridge to study biological physics for his first year. He will then attend Imperial College London to study theoretical biological engineering for his second year, he told The Chronicle. At Duke, Baig is majoring in physics and computer science, with a minor in mathematics. He is also an A.B. Duke Scholar and received the Goldwater Scholarship last year for his research.
Baig’s research in biological physics has sought to understand why biological matter and non-biological matter function so differently.
“Biological systems, uniquely from all other matter in the universe, can generate complexity and structure and scales that no other object can,” he said.
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He hopes to understand how that complexity works using theoretical and mathematical tools, which could have long-term impacts on the bio-medicine and bio-industry fields.
Baig spends time working with Duke Applied Machine Learning outside of class, a club he co-founded in his sophomore year.
“I learned how to program and a ton of computer science just through working on cool projects and first picked up machine learning through just building stuff in my free time,” Baig said. “When I came to Duke, I realized project-based and self-driven learning by doing is something I thought that other people might enjoy.”
DAML has over 200 members today and collaborates with industry partners to help students solve problems.
Baig’s desire to study in the U.K. drew him to the Marshall Scholars program. He wanted to study in the country that, along with the United States, is, “driving the vast majority of innovation [in the Western world]” in the biophysics and bioengineering space.
Millie Caughey is a Trinity first-year and a staff reporter for the news department.