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Meet The New Class Of George J. Mitchell Scholars – Forbes

The prestigious George J. Mitchell Scholars Program is named after the late Senator George Mitchell … [+] for his crucial role in the 1990’s Northern Island peace process. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
The 12 George J. Mitchell Scholars for the Class of 2024 have been selected. The announcement of the new cohort was made by the US-Ireland Alliance, which conducts the selection process. The Scholars will begin their studies in September 2023.
Despite its relatively short history (the first class was named in 2001), the Mitchell Scholarship has become one of the country’s most competitive and prestigious postgraduate awards. It covers educational expenses for a year of graduate study – including all tuition, room and board and a monthly stipend to cover living expenses – at one of eleven participating universities in Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Named in honor of former U.S. Senator George Mitchell for his crucial contributions to the Northern Ireland peace process, the scholarship is “designed to introduce and connect generations of future American leaders to the island of Ireland, while recognizing and fostering intellectual achievement, leadership, and a commitment to community and public service.”
The program was founded in 1998 by Trina Vargo, who continues as the president of the US-Ireland Alliance. Vargo had been employed by Senator Edward M. Kennedy and served as his foreign policy adviser during the critical years of the Northern Ireland peace process.
Eligible candidates must be U.S. citizens between the ages of 18 and 30 and have completed or be completing their undergraduate degree. Scholars are selected on the basis of academic merit, demonstrated leadership and a commitment to community and public service. Applicants go through a lengthy review process before their final selection by a committee, many members of which are Mitchell alumni.
The Class of 2024
This year, 306 individuals applied for the 12 scholarships. Three universities — William & Mary, the University of Pittsburgh, and Emory University – had their first Mitchell Scholars. Full biographies of the winners can be found here.
Vikram Balasubramanian is a senior at the University of Pennsylvania, where he’s studying philosophy and statistics. A Benjamin Franklin Scholar and Joseph Wharton Scholar, Vikram is a member of the Penn Debate Society and the Philomathean Society, America’s oldest continuously existing literary society. He’s also a cellist in the Penn Baroque Ensemble, a research assistant at Penn Medicine and a co-author of several medical publications. He plans to study philosophy at Trinity College Dublin.
Alexandra Bennion is a biology major at Duke University, where she’s conducted research on inflammatory breast cancer. She has already co-authored several papers and presented at numerous professional conferences. She leads the student chapter of the American Medical Women’s Association and is the President and Co-Founder of the Student Coalition for Rare Diseases. Alexandra will study translational oncology at Trinity College Dublin.
Alexander Firestine is a senior at the University of Pittsburgh where he studies finance, accounting, and business information systems. He’s interested in food insecurity and how data analytics can be used to alleviate it. Alex served as Corporate Relations Manager of Enactus, a national organization that promotes social entrepreneurship. He also designed a university-accredited extracurricular institute that now teaches analytics to 300+ students as a core class. Alexander will attend the University of Galway where he plans to study climate change, agriculture, and food security.
Michael Frim is a senior at Harvard, focusing on archaeology and physics. A student board member of Harvard Hillel and a participant in Harvard’s Doyle Lab, he’s conducted research in the field of atomic, molecular, and optical physics. He’s co-authored a paper in Nature Chemistry. Last summer, he participated in an excavation in County Meath, Ireland, home to some of the most significant prehistoric monuments on the island. Michael will study Celtic civilization at University College Cork.
Teresa Gao is a senior at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), studying computer science and engineering as well as brain and cognitive sciences. Teresa has conducted research in psycholinguistics, the use of social robots for mental health, and machine learning applied to biological imaging. She’s also a member of the MIT Chamber Music Society and co-president of Ribotones, a student group that plays music as service throughout the Boston community. Teresa will study augmented and virtual reality at Trinity College Dublin.
Vivek Kanpa, a senior at Northeastern University, studies data science and biology. He’s interested in linking gene expression patterns and machine learning to oncology. His research has been published in the Journal of Brain Sciences. Vivek is a Resident Assistant for his dormitory at Northeastern, a competitive distance runner and a teaching assistant in the Computer Science, Biology and Engineering Departments at Northeastern. He will study artificial intelligence for medicine and medical research at University College Dublin.
Macken Keefe is a senior at Michigan State University, majoring in political science and global and international studies. With an interest in Northern Ireland, he’s researched Gordon Allport’s intergroup contact theory, which suggests that negative biases between groups can be mitigated by positive contact between members of those groups. He also conducted a research project on the portrayal of drug users by NBC Nightly News during the crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980’s and the opioid epidemic of the 2010’s, which has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Law, Medicine, and Ethics. He plans to study conflict resolution and reconciliation at Trinity College Dublin, Belfast.
Rabhya Mehrotra is a senior at Yale, studying computer science and political science. In 2021, Rabhya lived in Iceland as part of the Program in Grand Strategy, studying the country’s 2010 constitutional reform process. Rabhya served as Co-Opinion Editor at the Yale Daily News and as Co-Director of the Yale Politics Initiative. Rabhya will study political communication at Dublin City University.
Alexa Mohsenzadeh is a senior at Emory University studying neuroscience and behavioral biology and ethics. A recipient of Emory’s prestigious Robert W. Woodruff Scholarship, she co-founded and is the CEO of the nonprofit Her Drive, which has distributed 1.1 million period and hygiene products globally since 2020. Alexa has also conducted research in neuroethics, compassion-based ethics, and feminist neuroscience. The principal percussionist in the Emory University Symphony Orchestra, Alexa plans to study gender, globalization, and rights at the University of Galway.
Neelesh Mupparapu is a recent graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park, where he studied biomedical engineering. A Banneker/Key Scholar, Neel is interested in medicine with an emphasis on equity and social advocacy. He’s pursuing a post-baccalaureate program at NIH/NIA, investigating mechanisms of cardiovascular aging. Neel has won multiple awards for developing low-cost medical devices, including a neonatal glucose fiber-optic biosensor. He is co-founder of the Brain Exercise initiative chapter at UMD, organized a volunteer program with Maryland Senior Citizen Homes, and on weekends serves as an automotive mechanic at a repair shop. Neel will study for the MPH at University College Cork.
Zoha Siddiqui is a senior at William & Mary, studying international relations and transitional justice. As Co-Director of the Exodus Project, Zoha studied challenges faced by vulnerable groups in displacement crises. She is the co-founder and co-director of HER, a non-profit organization that’s helped create 13 libraries for over 20,000 students attending underfunded girls’ schools in Pakistan and Morocco. Zoha has co-authored several articles, including for Foreign Policy, on the role of international justice institutions in the war in Ukraine. Zoha will study conflict transformation and social justice at Queen’s University Belfast.
Zachary Yahn is a senior at the University of Virginia, with a double major in computer science and computer engineering. He’s interested in how to commercialize artificial intelligence in an equitable and safe manner to address society’s challenges. He’s worked at at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Chosen as a NSF REU Fellow at Duke University, Zach developed a method for predicting injuries in U.S. Navy aircraft carriers and has researched safety and self-driving cars. He will study computer science (negotiated learning) at University College Dublin.
George Mitchell Program Funding
For the program’s first ten years or so, the U.S. State Department provided $485,000 in annual funding. After that ended around 2012, Ireland’s Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science picked up the ball and continues to provide yearly support.
Over the years, a number of individuals and foundations have also provided additional funding, including Morgan Stanley Pfizer, the O’Sullivan Foundation, the Pritzker Foundation, Michael Hackman of The MBS Group and Hackman Capital, and Strong Roots. Almost 80% of program alumni make financial contributions as well.


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