Princeton Class of 2021 graduate Taishi Nakase named Knight-Hennessy Scholar

Taishi Nakase, the Princeton Class of 2021 valedictorian, has been named a Knight-Hennessy Scholar to pursue a medical degree at Stanford University School of Medicine.


Taishi Nakase

Nakase is among 70 students from around the world to receive full funding to pursue any graduate degree at Stanford, including master’s and doctoral programs. Established in 2016, the Knight-Hennessy Scholars prepare students to take leadership roles in finding creative solutions to complex global issues.

“I aspire to join the community of physicians and scientists who work to eliminate vaccine-preventable diseases from the developing world,” he said.

Nakase, from Melbourne, Australia, earned an undergraduate degree in operations research and financial engineering (ORFE) and a certificate in applications of computing. He was the first in his family to attend college.

He spent this past year studying at the University of Oxford for a master’s degree in modeling for global health, conducting research related to mosquito-borne viruses and how climate influences their epidemiological dynamics. He is also involved in a research project for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) focused on the mathematical modeling of the introduction of rubella vaccination in Nigeria.  

As an undergraduate, Nakase interned for the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit in Vietnam through Princeton’s Global Health Program. He helped develop mathematical models for the deployment of vaccination campaigns in developing countries. His Princeton senior thesis examined the modern challenges of measles control in Vietnam, modeling vaccination campaigns under limited health care resources in the country.

He also worked with Bryan Grenfell, the Kathryn Briger and Sarah Fenton Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and Jessica Metcalf, associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and public affairs. He worked on two research problems: the influence of non-pharmaceutical interventions on infectious disease dynamics in metapopulations, and the estimation of the transmission potential of rubella in Nigeria.

“As a student of infectious disease, I have defined for myself a goal that I regard as worthy of all of my energies,” Nakase said in his 2021 valedictory remarks during Princeton’s Commencement. “I hope to join the community of men and women who devote their lives to studying and eliminating the biological scourges that continue to threaten human life.”

Nakase’s experience also includes time as a trauma surgery research intern at the Wake Forest School of Medicine and a summer analyst at Rogers Investment Advisors in Tokyo.

While at Princeton, Nakase received the Class of 1939 Princeton Scholar Award and was twice awarded the Shapiro Prize for Academic Excellence. He was the recipient of the James Hayes-Edgar Palmer Prize in Engineering and the Frank Castellana Prize in Operations Research and Financial Engineering. He is a member of the Phi Beta Kappa society and the Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society.

Nakase was a member of Mathey College, a teaching assistant for courses in ORFE, computer science and chemistry, and a served as a mentor to incoming engineering students.