Matt Gethers Receives Rhodes Scholarship

Dec. 2, 2008

By MIT News Office

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Senior fencer Matt Gethers was one of two MIT students selected for the 2009 Rhodes Scholarships to study next year at Oxford University in Britain. He is the second fencer and 13th student-athlete to be tabbed for this honor. Leslie Dirks, the fencing team captain, won this prestigious award in 1958.

Gethers is a two-time Northeast Fencing Conference (NFC) Epee All-Star and has competed at the NCAA Northeast Regional Championship the past two years. The Engineers have captured a pair of New England Championships during his career while he was a runner-up at The Big One Invitational last season.

A biological engineering major and political science concentration, Gethers has been involved in multiple research opportunities during his time at MIT.

Soon after arriving at the Institute, Gethers joined the laboratory of Drew Endy, now an assistant professor of bioengineering at Stanford. While in Endy's lab, he conducted research aimed at enabling engineers to encode memory systems genetically to assist in the study and treatment of diseases.

This past summer, Gethers sought a way to continue research after his mentor left for California, so he approached John Essigmann, the William R. (1956) and Betsy P. Leitch Professor in Residence of Chemistry in the Department of Chemistry and a professor of toxicology in the Department of Biological Engineering, to lead an IROP in Thailand.

"Matt was so enthusiastic to gain international research experience that he raised enough money to bring not only himself and both Drs. Essigmann [Prof. Essigmann and his research scientist wife], but also six other MIT students to conduct research at the Chulabhorn Research Institute in Bangkok," said Linn Hobbs, chair of the Presidential Committee on Distinguished Fellowships and professor of Materials Science & Engineering and Nuclear Science & Engineering. "It is a role that becomes Matt, because he is not only a brilliant young scientist, but also an articulate young man so clearly dedicated to public service."

Gethers has engaged in a variety of public service work throughout his undergraduate career. After successful training by the MIT Emergency Medical Service, Gethers became a third rider for the MIT ambulance, logging more than 50 hours per semester. For four years, he has weekly visited local Cambridge schools to tutor students in a variety of subjects. Simultaneously, he has served as the vice president for the MIT chapter of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, a group that honors academic success while encouraging students to participate in community service.

Gethers will now travel to Oxford University to read for a degree in the Philosophy, Politics, and Economics Programme.

Kimberly Benard, program advisor for Distinguished Fellowships said, "It seems to us an unexpected but inspired choice for an articulate young scientist who values engagement with his communities." After earning a degree from Oxford, Matt plans to return to the United States to pursue a PhD in biological engineering.