UIC senior awarded a Gates Cambridge Scholarship

Anis Barmada
UIC student and Gates Cambridge scholar Anis Barmada. Photo: Joshua Clark.

University of Illinois at Chicago senior Anis Barmada is one of 49 international students to win the prestigious Gates Cambridge Scholarship for graduate studies at the University of Cambridge.

Barmada, a UIC Honors College member majoring in biological sciences and chemistry in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, was selected in the highly competitive selection process, which emphasizes outstanding academic achievement and social leadership. The newly elected international cohort joins more than two dozen scholars from the U.S., who were announced in February, to complete the Gates Cambridge class of 2020.

The prestigious scholarship, which aims to build a global network of future leaders committed to improving the lives of others, is funded by the Gates Cambridge Trust established by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Barmada, who grew up in Damascus, Syria, and immigrated to the U.S. in 2015, will pursue a master’s degree in genomic medicine in the department of medical genetics in the School of Clinical Medicine at Cambridge.

“I hope to visualize the molecular, analytical, statistical, social and clinical challenges facing the use of omics-based personalized medicine across everyday clinics,” he said. “Professionally, I intend to pursue an MD/Ph.D. advancing biochemical and computational technologies to address currently incurable diseases and contributing to the crafting of a new era of health care without disparities.”

Barmada, who is minoring in mathematics, is part of the President’s Award Program STEM Initiative at UIC, which is a selective peer and faculty network for students in STEM disciplines to do research, develop professional connections and prepare for graduate education.

Since his first year at UIC, he has conducted research on diabetic eye disease in the laboratory of Scott Shippy, UIC associate professor of chemistry and bioengineering, while also volunteering at an ophthalmology clinic that serves patients of the same life-changing, blindness-causing disease conditions.

“Through these experiences, I found an articulation of my interests in patient-driven research that considers both the biochemical and socioeconomic lenses,” he said.

Shippy considers Barmada “nothing short of remarkable” and, as an example, noted his key role in the lab’s project to collect tears from mice to look for markers of disease that resulted in two first-author publications from the young researcher.

“He has grown tremendously from those first days learning the basic lab techniques to the present day with a research-oriented opinion article under review in an ophthalmology journal,” Shippy said. “With his intellect and astounding work ethic, I predict he will have a large impact on the future of health care as a scientist-physician.”

The Gates Cambridge Scholarship is the latest honor for Barmada, who earned a prestigious Goldwater scholarship in 2019 and was among the U.S. finalists for a 2020 Rhodes Scholarship.

He is the recipient of several scholarships and awards, in addition to research support via Honors College research grants, the Liberal Arts and Sciences Undergraduate Research Initiative and the chemistry department’s Herbert E. Paaren Summer Research Stipend.

Barmada, a resident of Mount Prospect and 2016 graduate of Wheeling High School, is the fifth UIC student to win a Gates Cambridge Scholarship since the program was established through a $210 million donation from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000.

UIC’s Office of External Fellowships provides advising and assistance to current undergraduate and professional school students in finding and applying for a range of nationally and internationally competitive fellowships, scholarships and grants.

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