Three Princeton seniors, two alumni win Gates Cambridge Scholarships

Gates Scholars Abugaber

David Abugaber

Photo by Denise Applewhite, Office of Communications

Gates Scholars Kasdin

Izzy Kasdin

Photo by Denise Applewhite, Office of Communications

Gates Scholars McMahon

Madeline McMahon

Photo courtesy of Madeline McMahon

Gates Scholars Presser

Elizabeth Presser

Photo by Gideon Irving

Gates Scholars Sane

Simone Sasse

Photo by Denise Applewhite, Office of Communications

Princeton University seniors David Abugaber, Izzy Kasdin and Simone Sasse, as well as alumnae Madeline McMahon and Elizabeth Presser, have been awarded Gates Cambridge Scholarships. The awards give outstanding students from outside the United Kingdom the opportunity to pursue postgraduate study at the University of Cambridge.

The recipients are among the 40 U.S. winners of the Gates Cambridge Scholarships. International winners will be announced this spring. A total of 95 scholarships will be awarded this year.

Abugaber, of San Marco, Texas, is an independent concentrator in linguistics and is pursuing a certificate in Latin American studies. At Cambridge, he will study for a master's degree in theoretical and applied linguistics. Abugaber said his interests in language and identity stem from his experience as a bilingual Mexican American. He hopes to conduct research in the psychology of language, with an emphasis on how to improve the teaching of second languages.

Abugaber was awarded the University's Shapiro Prize for Academic Excellence in 2011 and is a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow.

"David perfectly fits the profile of a Gates Scholar," said Abugaber's senior thesis adviser, Christiane Fellbaum, a senior lecturer in computer science and linguistics. "He is an original thinker who needs to carve out his own path for research, one that marries his academic interests with his deep social engagement."

Abugaber volunteers as an interpreter for Spanish-speaking patients at the University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro and teaches English to Hispanic immigrants at the El Centro program in Trenton. He also is a Spanish language editor and translator for the Princeton University Language Project, and is a coordinator for Pa'delante English as a second language classes in the town of Princeton.

He has taught English in South Korea and Brazil, as well as conducted linguistics research in Guatemala and Germany. He is president of the student Linguistics Club and was an Outdoor Action orientation group leader.

Kasdin, of Princeton, N.J., is a history major pursuing a certificate in American studies. She plans to pursue a master's degree in archaeology at Cambridge in the department's archaeological heritage and museums track. Kasdin ultimately hopes to work as a museum curator in a cultural heritage management role.

Assistant Professor of History Vera Candiani said Kasdin's approach to knowledge and learning is driven by "a need to understand and explain phenomena." She said Kasdin's junior paper about patriotism and segregation in Princeton during World War II was one of the best she ever read "because it did not merely teach me about the town where I live, but more importantly made me think."

Kasdin was awarded the Shapiro Prize for Academic Excellence in 2012. She is president of the Princeton University Players and Princeton University Chapel Choir. She was an Outdoor Action orientation group leader, is an Orange Key tour guide, a major choices adviser in Rockefeller College and serves on the student advisory board of the Program in American Studies.

She spent a semester abroad at University College London and a summer studying archaeological field methods at the College of William and Mary. She also was a museum education intern at Ford's Theatre Society and a volunteer at the Historical Society of Princeton.

McMahon, a Class of 2013 graduate from St. Louis, is earning a post-baccalaureate certificate in classics at Columbia University. She graduated from Princeton with an A.B. degree in history and certificates in European cultural studies, medieval studies, and Roman language and culture.

At Cambridge, McMahon plans to pursue a master's degree in early modern history. Her research interests are in British history and the history of Christianity. She hopes to become a professor of history, with a focus on the intellectual history of the Protestant Reformation and Counter-Reformation.

"Cambridge is the perfect place for Maddy to study next," said her senior thesis adviser, Anthony Grafton, the Henry Putnam University Professor of History. "She has the historical knowledge and empathy, the mastery of Latin and the honed research skills to make the most of her scholarly opportunities. And her love of music, openness and curiosity will win her many new friends in Cambridge."

McMahon is a member of the Phi Beta Kappa honor society. She earned numerous departmental awards at Princeton for her senior thesis and junior paper. She also received the Lawrence Stone and Shelby Cullom Davis Prize to conduct thesis research in England.

Outside of the classroom, McMahon is an accomplished violist and played with the Princeton University Orchestra, serving as co-president her senior year. She was a senior academic adviser in Mathey College, a member of the Department of History's student advisory committee and a tutor at local schools in Princeton.

Presser, of New York City, graduated from Princeton in 2010 with an A.B. degree in classics and a certificate in Hellenic studies. She plans to pursue a master's in public policy at Cambridge, expanding her interests in international journalism and using journalism to effect social change.

Presser works as a research assistant for Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn on their forthcoming book that examines anti-poverty programs and the neuroscience of altruism.

"Elizabeth was an excellent classicist with an excellent ear and the ability to find a productive place for cultural difference," said Constanze Magdalene Güthenke, associate professor of classics and Hellenic studies. "She is ideally suited for the Gates because she knows how to expose herself freely to new materials and ideas and the changes that can entail, yet will always find exactly the right frame for where to put that knowledge."

After graduating from Princeton, Presser spent two years in Thailand. She was a Princeton in Asia fellow teaching English at Khon Kaen University, and later served as a teacher and international relations adviser for the university. While in Thailand, she received a Princeton in Asia Carrie Gordon Tribute Fellowship to co-found a bilingual news website focused on politics and development in the northeastern region of the country.

At Princeton, Presser was a member of the Phi Beta Kappa society. She was the recipient of the Charles A. Steele Prize to conduct research in Rome, the Frank Bourne Prize to attend a conference on Greek drama and the Stanley J. Seeger fellowship to study drama in Greece.

Sasse, of Los Angeles, is an ecology and evolutionary biology major pursuing a certificate in global health and health policy. She plans to pursue a master's degree in pathology at Cambridge. She hopes to become a physician-scientist specializing in infectious disease and focus her research on how to limit the transmission of tropical diseases.

"Simone is incredibly intelligent, hard working and an innovative thinker," said her senior thesis adviser Adel Mahmoud, a lecturer with the rank of professor in molecular biology and public policy.

Sasse's senior thesis stems from her fieldwork in Vietnam. She spent the summer in Ho Chi Minh City with the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit conducting research related to the insect-born disease dengue fever.

"The choice of Simone to study in Cambridge is a natural outcome of her interest in infectious diseases and global health with clear emphasis on understanding basic mechanisms and innovative approaches to deal with these major global challenges," Mahmoud said.

As part of her academic work at Princeton, Sasse spent a semester studying tropical biology in Panama and a summer studying marine biology in Bermuda. She also has conducted research in the chemistry department at the California Institute of Technology.

Outside of the classroom, Sasse is a leader and trainer with the Outdoor Action orientation program; a French language editor with the Princeton University Language Project; a wilderness emergency medical technician; and an actress in French theater troupes, including Princeton's L'Avant-Scéne.