Stanford senior named 2019-20 Churchill Scholar

The Churchill Scholarship promotes scientific exchange between the United States and the United Kingdom, with the goal of advancing science and technology on both sides of the Atlantic.  

Stanford senior Cindy Liu, a biomedical computation major, has been awarded a Churchill Scholarship, which provides funding to American students for one year of master’s study in a field of science, mathematics or engineering at the University of Cambridge in England.

Cindy Liu

Stanford senior Cindy Liu will study at the University of Cambridge on a Churchill Scholarship. (Image credit: Courtesy of Cindy Liu)

Liu, of San Jose, California, was one of 16 students awarded scholarships by the Winston Churchill Foundation of the United States.

“I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to study at Cambridge next year and would like to thank all of my advisers, as well as Diane Murk, Shalini Bhutani and John Pearson of Stanford’s Bechtel International Center, for their support and guidance,” Liu said.

“I’ve also always wanted to visit England and study abroad, so I’m looking forward to a new cultural experience and to meeting new people.”

The scholarships were established at the request of Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965) in order to fulfill his vision of scientific exchange between the United States and the United Kingdom, with the goal of advancing science and technology on both sides of the Atlantic and helping ensure the prosperity and security of both nations.

Graduate study at Cambridge

At Cambridge, Liu, 21, plans to pursue a Master of Philosophy – a research degree – in advanced computer science. Eventually, she hopes to become a physician scientist, using research and innovation to improve clinical outcomes for patients.

“Through my academic coursework, research internships and interactions with researchers and clinicians in the field, I have realized the tremendous impact that bioengineering can have on improving health care,” Liu wrote in her Churchill application.

“There is a growing need to understand both the clinical and engineering aspects of health technology – as a clinician, to identify medical needs and be a reliable judge of whether potential solutions could actually be implemented in a clinical setting, and as an engineer, to draw from experience creating devices and solving problems and providing the technical basis of these technological innovations.”

At Cambridge, Liu hopes to conduct research as part of PROPAG-AGEING, a European Union project aimed at identifying new molecular signatures for early diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease, a neurodegenerative disorder.

Activities on the Farm

As a biomedical computation major, Liu has taken courses in chemistry, biology, physics, computer science, medicine and engineering. Throughout her undergraduate years, she has served as a research intern in two laboratories affiliated with the School of Medicine.

During her first year, Liu joined the Skirboll Lab, where she performed experiments on the effect of antibody markers on colony growth/formation to identify cancer stem cells.

As a junior, she joined the Deisseroth Lab, where she worked on improving techniques for mapping gene expression in three-dimensional tissue samples. Liu, who continues to work in the lab, is a co-author of “Three-dimensional intact-tissue sequencing of single-cell transcriptional states,” which was published in Science in July 2018.

At Stanford, Liu served as co-president of the student group, Stanford Health Innovations in Future Technologies (SHIFT), and currently serves on its board of directors. In 2017, she co-led its health++ initiative, a two-day hackathon that brings together hundreds of engineering and medical students, designers, physicians and other health care professionals to tackle challenges in health care affordability.

Since 2017, she has served as an editor-in-chief of Intersect: The Stanford Journal of Science, Technology and Society, an academic research journal run by undergraduate students.

Currently, Liu is co-president of the Biomedical Engineering Society, a student organization in the School of Engineering. From 2015 to 2017, she served as public relations coordinator of the Asian Pacific American Medical Student Association, which focuses on health issues that affect the Asian-American community.

As a student, Liu has also been engaged in public service programs, including tutoring 7th-graders at the East Palo Alto Stanford Academy, visiting military service veterans in a long-term care facility in Menlo Park, California, and working as a clinical volunteer at the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center Emergency Department.

International scholarships

Stanford students interested in overseas scholarships and Stanford faculty interested in nominating students for such awards should contact Diane Murk, manager of the Overseas Resource Center at, or John Pearson, director emeritus of the Bechtel International Center, at