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News Release

December 7, 2007


Kathleen J. Sullivan, News Service: (650) 724-5708,

Two Stanford students, both musicians, nab prestigious Marshall Scholarships

Two Stanford students—a jazz saxophonist/clarinetist majoring in economics and biological sciences, and a violinist majoring in chemistry—have won Marshall Scholarships.

Sean Arenson and Priyanka Narayan, who are both set to graduate in 2008, are among 37 Americans selected this year for the scholarships, which are financed by a British government and allow U.S. students to continue their studies for two years at the British university of their choice. Each scholarship covers tuition, research, living and travel expenses.

Sean Arenson, 21, who performed with the Stanford Jazz Orchestra as a freshman, plans to study health economics at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

A senior from Sacramento, Arenson is currently working on an honors thesis on the relationship between agricultural policy and obesity in developed countries.

When he arrived at Stanford in 2004, Arenson was almost certain he would follow in his father's footsteps and become a doctor, he wrote in his application for the Marshall Scholarship.

However, as he immersed himself in his studies, Arenson began to wonder how the United States could lag so far behind most other developed countries in international comparisons of healthcare quality, given its intellectual, technological and economic wealth.

"My passion for biological science and medicine remained strong, but I realized that I would need to work at the level of the health care system rather than with individual patients to meaningfully address the issues that I now view as most critical to the health of the U.S. and the rest of the developed world," he wrote.

Arenson spent winter quarter of 2007 studying the economics of Britain's National Health Service at the University of Oxford through Stanford's Bing Overseas Studies Program.

"Studying a foreign health care system broadened my perspective and exposed my America-centric biases, as my tutor frequently challenged the assumptions that I had taken for granted while studying the U.S. system," he wrote.

As a Marshall Scholar, Arenson plans to pursue a master's degree in international health policy.

Priyanka Narayan, 20, who has played in the first violin section of the Stanford Symphony Orchestra for four years, plans to study chemistry at the University of Cambridge.

A senior from Arcadia, Calif., Narayan said she was raised as a scientist by her father, who would spend time on Saturday mornings during her elementary school years exploring how nature worked—allowing her to question her way through phenomena ranging from magnetism to photosynthesis.

"I developed a scientist's most important characteristic: an insatiable desire to understand the world on a fundamental level," she wrote in her application.

During a childhood visit to India, she witnessed people lying by the side of the road suffering from leprosy and resolved to improve the lives of those suffering with the disease.

It was during her sophomore year at Stanford that Narayan found a way to merge her desire for scientific understanding and social responsibility by studying the molecular structure of a receptor protein involved in the pathogenesis of celiac sprue, an intestinal affliction resulting in an inability to digest cereal grains, otherwise known as gluten intolerance.

"When I presented this work at a poster session, I met three people who shared with me their sufferings from gluten intolerance," she wrote. "Upon seeing my research, they told me that they hoped I could develop a therapy so that they could eat bread again. Only then did I realize the direct impact that my fundamental scientific research could have on people's lives."

As a Marshall Scholar, Narayan will pursue a PhD in chemistry, using the tools of single-molecule spectroscopy and computational modeling to examine protein folding, one of the most fundamental processes in biochemistry.

The Marshall Scholarships were established by the British government in 1953 as a gesture of thanks to the people of the United States for the assistance received under the Marshall Plan following World War II.



John Pearson, director, Bechtel International Center: (650) 725-0889,

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