Gates Scholarship Paves Road to Cambridge for Pomona Seniors

Anisha Bhat PO ‘15 and Dakota Spear PO ‘15 have been awarded Gates Cambridge Scholarships for graduate study at Cambridge University. 

“I am really thrilled and happy that the Gates Cambridge saw potential in me as a leader in my field,” Bhat said.

Established in 2001 with fundings from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Gates Cambridge program “aims to build a global network of future leaders committed to improving the lives of others.” The scholarship covers the full cost of pursuing graduate study at the University of Cambridge for one year.

Bhat, a history major, will earn her M.Phil in world history at Cambridge in the next academic year. During her year at Cambridge, she will extend her undergraduate thesis into a masters dissertation. She also intends to take Persian language courses.

Bhat’s research focuses on cross-cultural exchange and identity formation within the African diaspora in India. She is researching a group of African diasporas called Siddi and their cross-cultural interactions in modern India to understand what they reflect about diaspora, cosmopolitanism and early modern periods of India.

Spear, a biology major, intends to study the impact of different agricultural practices on spider diversity and pest control potential in oil palm plantations of Sumatra, Indonesia, during her time at Cambridge to earn her M.Phil in zoology. She will also spend roughly two months in Indonesia for her research.

For Spear’s thesis research in Pomona, she researches citizen science, where biologists enlist non-science participants to collect scientific datas. Her research compares multiple citizen science projects to examine how such projects can be effective in collecting data sets while also engaging as many participants as possible.

Bhat became interested in the links between Africa, Asia and the Middle East through classes with Pomona history professors Arash Khazeni and Sidney Lemelle.

“Anisha is a thoughtful, independent and gracious young scholar, who has done unparalleled work in the field of history at Pomona during the last four years,” Khazeni, who has known Bhat since her first year at Pomona, wrote in an email to TSL.

Bhat said that one of the main influences in applying for the Gates Cambridge Scholarship came from her summer experience at the British Library in the United Kingdom through the Summer Undergraduate Research Program. 

“After my SURP experience, I realized that UK would be an amazing place to study my field with [the] UK’s history of British colonialism and with many people working in this field,” Bhat said.

After a year at Cambridge, Bhat hopes to eventually get a Ph.D. degree and become a history professor in order to give her students the same mentorship she received from her professors.

Growing up in small town in Connecticut, Spear was interested in environmental analysis and biology. Her passion for this field grew in college while participating in Pomona’s Organic Farm and Roof Top Gardening Project through the Draper Center. She currently works with the Organic Farm as an education coordinator, organizing field trips and tours for students around Claremont.

“I think that the things that stretch you and things that continue to inspire you are important to take advantage of,” said Jennifer Locke, Assistant Director for Fellowships & Career Advising at the Pomona Career Development Office, who advised both Gates Scholars with their applications.

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