Princeton University senior Shaffin Siddiqui has been awarded a Gates Cambridge Scholarship. The awards give outstanding students from outside the United Kingdom the opportunity to pursue postgraduate study at the University of Cambridge. The program was established in 2000 by a donation from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to Cambridge to build a global network of future leaders committed to improving the lives of others.
Siddiqui is among 23 U.S. winners of the scholarship. Around 80 scholarships are typically awarded each year, with international winners selected in the spring.
Siddiqui is from Dallas, Texas. He plans to pursue an MPhil in the history and philosophy of science and medicine at Cambridge, focusing on how a key socio-intellectual class in diasporic Muslim communities, the ulama (traditionally educated Islamic scholars), have engaged modern biomedicine and promoted varied paradigms and practices of health within Western Muslim populations.
“I intend to study the history of medicine in the modern Muslim world while deepening my understanding of the key methodologies, concepts and debates in the history and philosophy of science,” Siddiqui wrote in his personal statement for the award. “Specifically, I hope to contribute to the history of anti-vaccine, and, more generally, anti-biomedical sentiment in diasporic Muslim communities, particularly those in the U.S. and U.K.”
For his senior thesis, Siddiqui, a concentrator in history, is investigating how Islamic scholars and intellectuals from the Nation of Islam crafted particular narratives of health and healing as a form of cultural resistance.
“Shaffin has so many talents,” said Keith Wailoo, the Henry Putnam University Professor of History and Public Affairs. “He is a voracious learner with a sharp intellect. He writes beautifully and thinks imaginatively. His senior thesis, which explores the complex history of Black Muslim beliefs about health, disease, vaccines and the body, is daring, smart and adventurous. It has been a true pleasure working with such an astute, mature and promising young scholar.”
Siddiqui worked with Wailoo as a research assistant, investigating social and intellectual responses to 19th- and 20th-century American epidemics using documents from the National Institutes of Health digital archives.
From 2019-21, he executed multiple clinical projects using patient data at Baylor University Medical Center under the supervision of Dr. William C. Roberts. The findings were presented at Baylor and published in various national journals of cardiology with Siddiqui as a coauthor.
A member and peer academic adviser in First College, Siddiqui is a former editor of the Princeton Historical Review and former editor and writer for Princeton Public Heath Review.
Siddiqui received the Stone/Davis Senior Thesis Funding Prize in Princeton’s Department of History, Young Chaplain Recognition from the Muslim Life Program, and the Shapiro Prize for Academic Excellence. He also is a recipient of the Confident Muslim Award from the Islamic Society of North America.
He has served as president of Princeton Muslim Student Association, as vice president and treasurer of Muslim Advocates for Social Justice, and is currently on the Princeton Rose Castle Society. He is a former board member of Students for Prison Education and Reform and a former member of the Religious Life Council.
Siddiqui volunteers as an academic adviser for Paper Airplanes, providing academic and professional advising via Zoom to Syrian refugees pursuing higher education and employment. He is also a volunteer for Princeton Peer Nightline and CONTACT of Mercer County, an emotional-health crisis intervention and suicide prevention hotline.
Siddiqui is a hafiz, having memorized the entire Quran verbatim in the Arabic, and has proficiency in both Arabic and Urdu. He publicly recites Quran for the Muslim Life Program every week before the Friday prayer in Murray-Dodge Hall, his favorite building on campus.