Jamie Cyr ’16 is Smith’s first-ever Gates Cambridge Scholar.
Established in 2000 by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Gates Cambridge Scholarship is one of the most prestigious international postgraduate awards, presented annually to a select group of “academically exceptional and socially committed people” who the foundation believes “are likely to be transformative leaders across all fields of endeavour.”
Cyr is one of just 55 Gates Cambridge Scholars named this spring, joining 35 who were announced this past fall.
Cyr plans to use her award to pursue a Ph.D. degree at the University of Cambridge, where she has been studying toward an M.Phil. since graduating from Smith in 2015.
Currently working on techniques to improve regenerative medical applications (such as cardiac muscle repair, dermal grafts, nerve regeneration and joint restoration), Cyr will focus her doctoral studies on developing a cardiac patch that will help regenerate damaged heart tissue. Her long-term goal is a career in the field of global medical research and the design of medical devices for the developing world.
Cyr’s interest in public health began when a high school service trip to Senegal opened her eyes to wide disparities in access to medical treatment. “I knew then I wanted to go into medicine to find accessible treatments, especially for those in the developing world,” she said.
Cyr has used the field of biomaterials as a focus for her interdisciplinary interests in math, chemistry and medicine, which all are involved in her current research for novel solutions.
At Smith, Cyr held a Smith Undergraduate Research Fellowship. She pursued research at the Wolfson Centre for Mathematical Biology at Oxford University during her junior year abroad, and through an Amgen Scholarship at UCLA in summer 2015.
A math major with a minor in chemistry, Cyr has always been interested in the connections among different academic disciplines. While at Smith, she found ways to combine her scientific research with her co-curricular interests, including sports. A four-year member of Smith’s soccer team, Cyr studied math during her junior abroad at Oxford, where she played in the forward position for the Oxford Blues Women’s Football team. As a Smith athlete, Cyr was named to the NEWMAC Academic All-Conference team in in 2013 and 2014.
Competition for the Gates Cambridge Scholarships is fierce. This year’s 90 new scholars were selected from a total pool of around 6,000 applicants on the basis of their intellectual ability, commitment to improving the lives of others, leadership potential and academic fit with Cambridge. Departments in Cambridge nominated 424 candidates for the scholarships; of these, 202 were interviewed in the U.S. and Cambridge by four panels of interviewers drawn from across the university.
“Gates Cambridge Scholars come from all over the world, but they have some important things in common: great leadership potential, a commitment to improving the lives of others and an unparalleled passion for learning,” said Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “Melinda and I are pleased to welcome the class of 2017. We have no doubt they will have an incredible impact on topics of global importance.”