Naomi Mburu (University of Maryland, Baltimore County ’18, Chemical Engineering), is the first student in UMBC history to receive the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship. Established in 1902, the Rhodes Scholarship is the oldest and most celebrated international fellowship award in the world.

“As a Rhodes Scholar, I will be completing a Ph.D. in engineering science and likely conducting my research under Dr. Peter Ireland at Oxford University to work on heat transfer applications for nuclear fusion reactors,” says Mburu. “I hope to bring the commercialization of nuclear fusion to fruition in my lifetime, and I also hope to influence the policy realm by working to remove structural barriers to education for historically disadvantaged groups. I believe the Rhodes Scholarship will allow me to foster a strong community amongst my fellow scholars and help me accomplish these goals.”

“As a Goldwater Scholar, I worked with Dr. Leon Bellan at Vanderbilt University on the development of a 3-D printed artery for drug delivery testing. I was able to develop a printed model that produced the proper laminar flow profiles, and my Goldwater proposal suggested methods to improve my model’s ability to mimic both the laminar and turbulent flow patterns present in the body. Receiving the Goldwater scholarship confirmed to me that I could contribute original, meaningful work to the scientific community, which left me just to determine what specific area I wanted to impact most.”

Naomi’s undergraduate research experiences include internships at world-class research institutions such as Johns Hopkins, Vanderbilt University, Intel, and at the European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva, Switzerland. One of only ten Americans selected for the CERN experience from three hundred applicants- and the only African American female in her cohort- Naomi combines great tenacity and drive with a strong sense of self and a deep understanding of others. While she was studying abroad in Geneva, Naomi came to appreciate the benefits of doing research as part of a team of international scientists with diverse viewpoints and ideas. The Rhodes Scholarship will provide Naomi with superb opportunities to develop her talents and deepen her connections to people from around the world who are all working to solve global problems related to nuclear energy.

Mburu is currently working with Dr. Gymama Slaughter, Associate Professor of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering at UMBC, to develop a bioreactor to extend the viability of human organs awaiting transplant. The sensors will track glucose levels, lactic acid, and nitric oxide to ensure that the organ remains healthy as it is transported to the recipient. “As a mentor, I’m fortunate to work with the best and brightest students at UMBC, including Naomi, who have a strong desire to change the world. Naomi’s aspiration is to become an advocate for scientific advancement in renewable energy sources and education equality. The Rhodes scholarship is a well-deserved recognition of the positive impact she will have in the field of nuclear engineering and on the human condition across the world,” says Slaughter.