Alexandra (Kamins) Mannerings ('09C)
Award: Gates Cambridge Scholarship
Award supported: A PhD in Veterinary Medicine from the University of Cambridge
Undergraduate Major: Biology (highest honors)
Currently: Working in healthcare research and innovation in Denver, Colorado
Q: What experiences at Emory prepared you for the Gates Cambridge?
A: My study abroad experiences, my research experience with INSPIRE and my honors research thesis were the most useful experiences at Emory in preparing me for the Gates Cambridge. My lab accepted me at Cambridge largely because I already had field work experience in Africa as well as some laboratory and research training and skills. Studying abroad also helped me develop a more worldly view and desire to contribute and make a difference. Finally, my thesis and study in Africa helped shape my passions and career trajectory, including my discovery of zoonoses (diseases that pass from animals into humans), which because the basis for my doctoral research.
Q: What memorable or interesting things happened during your Gates Cambridge experience?
A: Gates Cambridge changed my life in so many ways, some expected and many unexpected. My research unlocked so many experiences I had never had before: chasing bats and drawing blood from bats and stuffing dead bats in my purse to get to the lab for testing and saving our captured bats from getting eaten for lunch, surviving Ghanaian summers with indeterminate electricity and no running water, and hearing stories of the west African civil wars from my Ghanaian military partners.
Perhaps one of the most surprising things that happened to me was that I learned a lot more about what it means to be an American, and how much actually I am proud of my country. I traveled to entirely new places, from Slovenia to Ghana, seeing whole new sides of the world and of people and cultures. Living in Ghana or Kenya were such extremely different experiences from home, while England was similar enough to give me a much more fine-grained comparison. I didn't really expect to see what I saw, sort of like a fish seeing and understanding the water she grew up in her whole life for the first time.
I also learned to row, having never set foot in a boat before, and in my last year represented Cambridge University in the Lightweight Women's Race against Oxford; the sisters I made through the pain and glory and striving were ones I never expected to make (and I now love rowing).
Q: How did the Gates Cambridge impact your academic/ career path?
A: Gates Cambridge introduced me to such incredible people and fellow scholars that I could not help but be inspired to pursue a meaningful career--that was where I first heard about the idea that careers should let you both do well AND do good. My training in research, public health, project management, and just general world experience helped me get the job I have now, and help me daily in my work.
Q: What advice would give current Gates Cambridge applicants?
A: Have a good long look at all the things you’ve done so far and try to see how they fit together. You may not have seen the story arc before, but understanding at the end of the day what really drives you will help you better share your passion and determination. That’s one of the key things that Gates Cambridge looks for—commitment to making a difference in our world, through whatever avenue is most special and important to you. Know your field and what you’d like to do in it in the future.