Two Stanford seniors awarded 2015 Rhodes Scholarships

The prestigious scholarships provide all expenses for two or three years of study at the University of Oxford.

Stanford seniors Maya I. Krishnan, a philosophy major, and Emily E. Witt, a human biology major, have won 2015 Rhodes Scholarships.

They are among the 32 American women and men chosen for the prestigious scholarship, according to a weekend announcement by the Rhodes Trust. Krishnan and Witt bring to 114 the number of Rhodes Scholars from Stanford.

"I am very grateful to Stanford and the faculty who have been my mentors," said Krishnan, who is writing an honors thesis on the relationship between mathematics, meaning and history in Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason. "They have been amazingly supportive and generous throughout my time here."

"I am honored and humbled to be a part of the Rhodes tradition at Stanford and deeply appreciative of all the exceptional opportunities I have had here," said Witt, who is writing an honors thesis on the immunomodulatory mechanisms of vitamin D in multiple sclerosis. "I cannot thank my friends, mentors and professors enough for their wonderful support and guidance."

The Rhodes Scholarships, which are the oldest and most celebrated international fellowship awards in the world, provide all expenses for two or three years of study at Oxford. Rhodes Scholars are chosen for their outstanding scholarly achievements as well as their character, commitment to others and to the common good, and for their potential for leadership in whatever careers they choose.

Maya I. Krishnan portrait

Maya Krishnan

Maya Krishnan

Krishnan, 22, of Rockville, Md., is majoring in philosophy, and minoring in computer science and in classics.

As a Rhodes Scholar, she hopes to earn a one-year master's degree in theology and a one-year master's degree in Internet studies at the University of Oxford.

"Technology-driven changes in the way we access information provide new possibilities for conceiving of knowledge and personhood," Krishnan wrote in her Rhodes application.

"My academic goal is to acquire the training to understand these possibilities and their implications. To do so, I plan to study Christian theology and its intersection with modern philosophical notions of knowledge and personhood. I will then study new technologies to directly apply what I learn in theology to contemporary problems that arise from new tools in information management."

At Stanford, Krishnan was the lead technical developer for the POLIS project. This website allows scholars and students of classical Greek  – and to some extent Roman –  history to visualize data about places, especially archaic and classical Greek city-states, and people from two large data sets, and to generate maps and simple statistical information from them.

Krishnan was the first author of "POLIS: Designing a Visualization Tool for the Research of Complex Sociopolitical Landscapes, published in Parson's Journal for Information Mapping in the Vol. VI, Issue 2, Spring 2014.

Last spring, she was one of 10 students who received a 2014 Deans' Award for Academic Achievement, which are given to extraordinary Stanford undergraduates for their intellectual accomplishments.

The Deans' Award honored Krishnan for her academic excellence and rigorous scholarship, including Modern Illuminations, a collection of 10 essays on the relationship between the theory of knowledge and theology, which were described as "intellectually probing, profoundly challenging and skillfully written."

She is an oboist who has performed with the Stanford Symphony Orchestra.

Krishnan's honors thesis focuses on Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, which was first published in 1781 and is considered one of the most influential works in the history of philosophy.

Emily Witt portrait

Emily Witt

Emily Witt

Witt, 21, of Greenwood Village, Colo., is majoring in human biology, with a concentration in neuropathology, and minoring in psychology.

As a Rhodes Scholar, she hopes to pursue a master's degree in neuroscience, followed by a master's degree in research in experimental psychology at the University of Oxford – studies that would enable her to solidify her theoretical understanding of neuroscience and the methodologies of brain research.

Witt's primary interest is identifying the genetic and neural factors that influence how people respond to life's difficulties, and to discover novel therapeutic interventions for disabling mental disorders such as depression and anxiety.

"Professionally, I aim to bridge the gap between neuroscience and medicine by working to enhance translational neuroscience within the area of psychiatric disorders," Witt wrote in her Rhodes application.

"These programs would prepare me to pursue a career as a physician scientist who strives to discover novel therapies grounded in empirical findings from neuroscience and psychology."

At Stanford, Witt works in the Steinman Laboratory in the School of Medicine, which is dedicated to understanding the pathogenesis of autoimmune diseases, including multiple sclerosis, and at the Center for Interdisciplinary Brain Sciences Research.

She is the president of the Stanford University chapter of Amnesty International, which is committed to raising awareness about human rights issues around the world.

In June 2014, Witt, who is fluent in Spanish, investigated the social determinants of chronic malnutrition and overall health outcomes in the indigenous populations of Guatemala as a Stanford Global Student Fellow, a program of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies.

In May 2014, she received a Kirsten Frohnmayer Research Prize, which honors juniors majoring in human biology who exhibit "academic excellence, true altruism, and the potential to make a difference in society through research."

In the fall of 2013, Witt served as an intern at the Neurology Clinic at Hospital Clínico San Carlos de Madrid in Spain. She trained with three Spanish neurologists who specialize in multiple sclerosis, as they conducted patient visits, neurological exams and clinical research studies.

Currently, Witt is writing an honors thesis, Investigating the Immunomodulatory Mechanisms of Vitamin D in Multiple Sclerosis.