On November 17th UC Berkeley senior Namrata Ramesh was selected as a 2020 Rhodes Scholar. Namrata, an international student majoring in Physics, was selected as one of five Rhodes Scholars from India. One of the oldest and most prestigious scholarships of its kind, just under 100 Rhodes Scholars are selected each year from eligible regions around throughout the world to attend Oxford University. The Rhodes is well known for its extremely competitive and rigorous selection process.
Namrata will graduate with Honors in spring 2020 with a B.A. in Physics. Namrata is Berkeley’s first Rhodes Scholar in five years. Her senior thesis, supervised by Professor Naomi Ginsberg, involves understanding the dynamics of self assembly of gold nanocrystal superlattices using optical and x-ray scattering techniques. She has also worked on studying the trajectories of electrons in manganese doped halide perovskites using Monte Carlo simulations. At Oxford, she hopes to continue investigating the origins of intriguing phenomena in promising photovoltaic materials by being at the interface of experimental and computational physics. Namrata is also very passionate about diversity in STEM fields and multimedia storytelling. She combined both interests by starting The STEMinist Chronicles (www.steministchronicles.com), an organization that currently uses photoessays to tell the stories of women in STEM.
Namrata credits her involvement as an undergraduate researcher at Berkeley as setting the direction of her future endeavors. She says, “Berkeley has prepared me for a research degree at Oxford through my two years with the Ginsberg Group. I feel fortunate to have had an immersive research experience, and to work with incredibly talented scientists and mentors.” As a recipient of the OURS Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) and the NSF Center STROBEs Summer Undergraduate Research Scholars program, Namrata was able to deepen her work the Ginsberg Group through the summers.
Namrata’s time at Berkeley has also been distinguished by opportunities outside of the lab and the classroom. Namrata attributes the advising and mentorship and breadth requirement of the College of Letters & Science as compelling her to pursue the Rhodes. She says, “The Letters & Science breadth requirement, for which I took the class Art and Activism inspired me to use my photography to make a difference in my community. The crucial advice and support that I received from advisors and mentors in the Physics Department, my research group, and my community of friends all made a big difference in my Cal experience.These amazing individuals gave me the strength to believe in my dream and make The STEMinist Chronicles what it is today – a student organization that aims to make STEM department climates more inclusive by sharing the stories of women in STEM. I look forward to meeting my fellow Rhodes Scholars, to be inspired and to learn from them to grow my initiative.”
Namrata is excited about the research being done in her field at Oxford. “I find Oxford particularly compelling as there are several researchers working closely together to answer questions about similar systems, but with different techniques. I believe I can learn a lot about these materials by putting myself in conversation with their differing vantage points.”
Namrata is also excited to go to Oxford as, she says, “Oxford allows me to experience a different country and culture while training to be a serious researcher. As an international student at Berkeley, I have truly appreciated learning about a completely new country while getting an education, and I am excited to be able to do this again.” She also adds that she is drawn to being a part of the College system (made up of small, multidisciplinary residential communities) and the Rhodes community, saying, “Not only is being a part of both communities compelling to me from a personal standpoint, I also hope to potentially collaborate and learn from these individuals.”
Although Namrata is extremely accomplished, she almost did not apply for the Rhodes Scholarship because she did not believe that she fit the mythical archetype of the perfect Rhodes applicant. Speaking on that experience, she says, “I am so grateful for my supportive family and community in Berkeley for helping me believe in myself and encouraging me to apply anyway.” Namrata hopes to pay it forward by inspiring minorities in STEM to believe in themselves and work towards their highest career aspirations. “I am determined to show, throughout my career, that one’s race or gender need not be a barrier to becoming a physicist – that the only requirement to be a scientist is a deep love for science.”
Berkeley students interested in learning more about the Rhodes Scholarship should visit https://scholarships.berkeley.edu/rhodes.