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U Grad Student Named 2014 Gates Cambridge Scholar

University of Utah student Annika Pecchia-Bekkum, a Gates Cambridge Scholar for 2014, shown receiving another honor--dropping the puck at a Utah vs. UC Berkeley hockey game.

Feb. 13, 2014 — Annika Pecchia-Bekkum, a 2013 graduate of the University of Utah and current graduate student, has been awarded a prestigious Gates Cambridge Scholarship to pursue a Ph.D. in medical science at the University of Cambridge. She is the second Gates Cambridge Scholar for the University of Utah, and the first to have completed undergraduate degrees at the U.

Pecchia-Bekkum graduated from the University of Utah summa cum laude earning both an honors bachelor’s degree in English in 2012 and an Honors bachelor’s degree in chemistry in 2013. She is currently working on a Ph.D. in chemistry at the U.

Gates Cambridge Scholarships are highly competitive awards for graduate study at the University of Cambridge. Awarded to the “most academically brilliant and socially committed young people in the U.S.,” according to a release from Gates Cambridge, only 40 scholarships are granted each year. The scholarship covers three years of graduate tuition at Cambridge, plus a yearly stipend of $22,000.

Growing up in Salt Lake City, Pecchia-Bekkum found a way to combine her interest in both the humanities and sciences. “I believe the combination of skills involved in my English and chemistry research—studying the context and mechanisms of the natural world and applying them in novel ways—will prove beneficial to future research in any field, especially medicine,” she said.

While at Cambridge beginning this fall, she will be conducting research on therapeutics for autoimmune diseases. Upon completing her work at Cambridge, Pecchia-Bekkum plans to return to the U.S. for medical school and ultimately become a pediatric immunologist working with patients in a clinical setting.

Professor Barry Everitt, provost of the Gates Cambridge Trust, said in a release: “We are delighted to announce our new U.S. scholars. They are an outstanding group of individuals from a very diverse range of backgrounds who are both intellectually exceptional and show a dedication to improving the lives of others. We look to them as future leaders who will change the world for the better.” The entire release, with links to all scholars’ profiles, including Pecchia-Bekkum’s, can be found here.