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Engineering Student Becomes Second UT Austin Rhodes Scholar for 2015

sai gourisankar

University of Texas at Austin student Sai Gourisankar, a senior majoring in the Plan II Honors program and chemical engineering, has been awarded a 2015 Rhodes Scholarship, one of the most distinguished graduate scholarships in the world. The honors student from Fort Worth becomes the 30th UT Austin student to receive the award and the second this year.

Established in 1903 under the will of Cecil Rhodes, Rhodes Scholarships are postgraduate awards supporting outstanding students for two years of study at the University of Oxford in England. Approximately 83 scholarships are awarded to exceptional students across the world each year. This year, 32 scholarships were awarded to American students.

“We are incredibly proud of Sai and excited about what he will accomplish over the next two years at Oxford,” said Sharon L. Wood, dean of the Cockrell School of Engineering. “He is one of the Cockrell School’s most outstanding students, and he has exemplified the value of a multidisciplinary engineering education.”

As a Rhodes scholar, Gourisankar will focus on mathematical modeling, scientific computing and theoretical physics. After completing his two years at Oxford, Gourisankar plans to return to the United States to pursue a Ph.D. in chemical engineering. He is particularly interested in understanding and solving global problems at the intersection of chemical engineering and mathematics.

“On behalf of everyone at our university, I congratulate Sai on this tremendous international honor,” said UT Austin President Bill Powers. “He is a highly accomplished and talented young man, and I’m excited to see how he will use this opportunity to lead future advancements in computing and mathematical modeling.”

During his time as an engineering student at UT Austin, Gourisankar has worked as an undergraduate researcher with a focus on cancer therapeutics, and he has been celebrated and published for his work in nanotechnology.

As a student researcher, Gourisankar has worked with Tom Truskett, chair of the McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering, and chemical engineering professor Keith Johnston to design gold nanoclusters for biomedical therapy and imaging. His research could one day help identify malignant cell clusters within a healthy body and allow for more effective treatment.

“Imagine the ability to localize therapy to a small number of malignant cells, with minimal impact on surrounding healthy tissue,” Gourisankar said.

With the goal of attaining a doctorate in engineering, Gourisankar plans to leverage the skills and perspective his liberal arts education in the prestigious Plan II program has provided.

“A liberal arts degree provides links between the realm of science and engineering and the ‘real world’,” Gourisankar said. “Liberal arts courses such as philosophy train me in distinct ways to approach a problem from multiple perspectives.”

Gourisankar is a past recipient of the Astronaut Scholarship and the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship. He is also a Virginia and Ernest Cockrell, Jr. Scholar in Engineering, a Dedman Distinguished Scholar in the College of Liberal Arts and a Texas Interscholastic League Foundation Scholar.

Gourisankar joins Jessica Glennie as the second UT Austin student to be awarded a Rhodes Scholarship for 2015. Glennie, a senior in the School of Architecture, will focus on environmental policy and change.