Two Stanford students named 2015 Gates Cambridge Scholars

The two Stanford students are among the 40 Americans awarded 2015 scholarships to pursue full-time graduate studies at the University of Cambridge in England.

Gates-Cambridge winners

Karen Hong, a third-year medical student at Stanford Medical School, and Geo Saba, a senior majoring in political science, have been awarded Gates Cambridge Scholarships. (Image credit: L.A. Cicero)

Two Stanford students have been awarded 2015 Gates Cambridge Scholarships for graduate studies at the University of Cambridge in England.

Geo Saba, a senior majoring in political science with honors in international security studies, and Karen Hong, a third-year student at Stanford Medical School, are among the 40 American students awarded scholarships, the Gates Cambridge Trust announced Wednesday.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation established the Gates Cambridge Scholarships in 2000 with a $210 million endowment to enable outstanding graduate students from outside the United Kingdom to pursue full-time graduate studies in any subject at Cambridge University. The scholarships cover the full cost of studying at the storied university.

Geo Saba, 22, of San Mateo, Calif., is a senior majoring in political science with honors in international security studies.

At Cambridge, he plans to pursue a master’s degree in international relations and politics.

“Receiving the Gates Cambridge scholarship could not have occurred without the many faculty and fellow students who have shaped my interests, challenged my thinking, opened doors of opportunity and supported me as I embark on a career in public service,” Saba said.       

Saba is a member of the Class of 2015 Interschool Honors Program in International Security Studies at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford. His honors thesis is entitled, The Power of the National Security Advisor in Presidential Decision-Making.

Currently, Saba is serving as a research assistant to former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who is a professor of political economy at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, a professor of political science and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.

Saba is serving  as a teaching assistant for Michael Tubbs, a fellow at the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford, more commonly known as the d. School. Tubbs, a Stanford alumnus, is a city councilmember in Stockton, Calif.

Saba also is chair of the Constitutional Council, the judicial branch of the Associated Students of Stanford University; a member of Pi Sigma Alpha, the national political science honor society; and vice president of the Stanford Pre-Law Society. In addition, he is a committee member of Stanford in Government, a non-partisan, student-run affiliate of the Haas Center for Public Service that is dedicated to increasing political awareness at Stanford and connecting students with opportunities in public service.

Saba has held internships in the White House Office of Management and Administration as well as the San Francisco Mayor’s Office, in the Office of Neighborhood Services.

He also was a first baseman and designated hitter for the Stanford varsity baseball team.

Karen Hong, 26, of Santa Rosa, Calif., is a third-year student at Stanford Medical School.

Hong, who plans to enroll in Cambridge in the fall of 2015, hopes to pursue a master’s degree in public health, so she can develop the statistical foundation necessary to become a leading glaucoma public health scientist.

“Winning this scholarship would not have been possible without the support of my family and medical school classmates, Dr. Charles G. Prober, who is the dean of medical education at Stanford Medical School, and the Stanford Medical Student Association,” she said.

In 2014, Hong received an Albert Schweitzer Fellowship, which supports health-focused graduate students in yearlong projects working with vulnerable communities to address health disparities locally.

As an Albert Schweitzer Fellow, Hong worked with Prevent Blindness Northern California, a community-based nonprofit that screens preschool children for vision problems that could lead to severe vision loss if not caught early. Her project was designed to detect these problems early in an effort to ensure school readiness.

“I drove four hours every week in between my medical school classes to help Prevent Blindness screen over 300 preschool children aged five-year-and-under for conditions such as refractive error, lazy eye and eye misalignment – all of which could seriously debilitate a child’s future learning trajectory without early intervention,” Hong wrote in her application for the Gates Cambridge Scholarship.

“Each child took less than one minute to screen, and it felt good to know that we could alter the trajectory of that child’s life.”

Hong said the group has established a sustainable community presence and is set to screen 770 new preschoolers in 2014-2015 for the San Francisco South Bay region alone.

With Stanford’s glaucoma specialists, Dr. Kuldev Singh, professor of ophthalmology, and Dr. Robert Chang, assistant professor of ophthalmology, Hong is examining the characteristics of corneal biomechanical properties for patients with normal-tension glaucoma, which is prevalent in Asian populations. In the summer between her first and second year of medical school, Hong spent eight weeks in a Hong Kong hospital running her own clinical research project, which was focused on biomechanical corneal differences between normal-tension glaucoma patients and normal patients.

In 2011-2012, Hong served as a post-baccalaureate Intramural Research Training Award Fellow at the National Institutes of Health, where she did research in herpes vaccination development.

Hong earned a bachelor’s degree in public health in 2011 from Johns Hopkins University, which named her the Most Outstanding Senior in Public Health. In 2011, she also accepted the Most Outstanding Undergraduate Student Organization of the Year Award for her efforts in sexual and reproductive health education with boys ages 14-18 living in Baltimore.

Stanford students, postdoctoral scholars and recent alumni interested in pursuing scholarship for study and research abroad should contact the Overseas Resource Center, which is part of the Bechtel International Center at Stanford.