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Gabrielle Mills’ interest in global health was sparked in high school when she read The Hot Zone: A Terrifying True Story, a best-selling book about the spread of a highly contagious deadly virus.
“I read The Hot Zone during biology class my freshman year. It was really fascinating and I decided then that I wanted to learn more about global health and disease,” said Mills, who attended Arcadia High School in Phoenix.
Now a senior in Barrett Honors College majoring in biomedical engineering with a minor in global health, Mills is set to graduate in May and attend the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom as the recipient of the Gates Cambridge Scholarship. She will pursue a PhD in chemical engineering.
She is one of 34 Americans chosen this year for the Gates Cambridge Scholarship, which was established in October 2000 by a $210 million donation from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to the University of Cambridge.
The scholarship, awarded to outstanding applicants from countries outside the UK, fully funds postgraduate study and research in any subject at the University of Cambridge. The selection criteria are outstanding intellectual ability, leadership potential, and a commitment to improving the lives of others.
Mills is the fourth Gates Cambridge Scholar from ASU in the past five years. In the 2018 competition year, then-Barrett senior Charity Bhebhe was selected as a Gates Cambridge Scholar, and in the 2016 competition year, ASU alum Michael Meaney was selected. Other recent Gates Cambridge Scholars from ASU include Blake Thomson (2015), Nicole Person-Rennell (2011), and Ben Strauber (2010).
“The Gates Cambridge Scholarship is among the most prestigious postgraduate fellowships in the world. One feature that distinguishes the Gates Cambridge Scholarship program from other major graduate fellowships is its emphasis on “social leadership.” The program seeks to create a network of future global leaders who will work together to solve big problems. One of the main factors in Gabby’s selection was her commitment to combatting lethal infectious diseases,” said Kyle Mox, director of the Office of National Scholarship Advisement, located in the Barrett Honors College Tempe complex.
“The continued success of ASU students in this fellowship competition is no fluke – ASU and the Gates Cambridge Scholarship program have similar priorities. Both are focused on building thought leaders who are committed to improving the lives of others,” he added.
Mills said she wants to work at the crossroads of chemical engineering and epidemiology to research and develop modes of treatment for infectious bacterial diseases, such as tuberculosis and cholera.
“My ultimate goal is to be a principal researcher and oversee research focused on alleviating disease. No matter how much work has been done in the last, say 100 years, solutions to disease still elude us. It’s such a complex problem and that’s what draws me to it. I like a challenge,” she said.
Since 2016, Mills has been working toward her goal by interning at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) in Phoenix, where she conducted research on pediatric disorders and created a model that allows researchers to determine the optimal anti-epileptic drug for young patients without the need for testing on the children themselves.
After completing her PhD, Mills said she may opt to stay in the UK or move to the East Coast of the U.S.
“I want to be in a location where I can travel more easily because my work will be worldwide,” she said.