February 20, 2012

Johns Hopkins senior Hannah Joo wins Churchill Scholarship

Hannah Joo is one of 14 students nationwide to have been named a Churchill Scholar. Photo: Justin R. Porter

Hannah Joo, a Johns Hopkins University senior from Redmond, Wash., has been selected as a Churchill Scholar by the Winston Churchill Foundation of the United States. The Churchill Scholarship is awarded to 14 students nationwide who have demonstrated a capacity to contribute to the advancement of knowledge in the sciences, engineering or mathematics by completing original, creative work at an advanced level.

As a 2012 Churchill Scholar, Joo will spend the next academic year pursuing a master of philosophy degree at the University of Cambridge in England. The foundation will provide full tuition and fees as well as a stipend for living expenses and travel.

Joo, 21, has already completed the required course work for her bachelor’s degree in neuroscience from the Zanvyl Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, which she will receive in May before beginning her studies at Cambridge. She will conduct research in the lab of Angela Roberts, a professor in the Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience, studying emotion regulation in marmosets as a model for human emotion processing. This research is expected to contribute to the development of targeted therapies for anxiety and depressive disorders.

“I feel honored to have been selected as a Churchill Scholar, and I am very excited to go to Cambridge and work with Dr. Roberts,” Joo said. “My application would not have been possible without the opportunities and support of my professors, my research mentors and Dr. Kelly Barry in the scholarships office.”

Joo has been involved in research at Johns Hopkins as the winner of one of the university’s Woodrow Wilson Fellowships, which grant undergraduates up to $10,000 to pursue an independent research project over the course of their undergraduate careers. Since May 2009, she has spent all academic breaks working in the lab of Dennis Dacey, a professor at the University of Washington in Seattle, where she investigated the anatomy of retinal cell types and their respective roles in the early stages of visual processing.

Joo is the first author of a paper describing a novel retinal cell type that was published in Visual Neuroscience in January 2011, and she is co-author of a manuscript in preparation in the Dacey lab. She has presented her research on the visual system at the Johns Hopkins Neuroscience Research Symposium and at five international conferences.

“Hannah is highly intelligent and can work hard, fast and efficiently and is never distracted,” Dacey wrote in his letter of recommendation for the scholarship. “[She] is someone who continually seeks out the biggest and toughest challenges; she is a tenacious goal setter who loves to compete and is destined for leadership in her chosen field.”

At Johns Hopkins, Joo also has been working since September 2010 in the lab of Samer Hattar, an associate professor of biology in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences. Her research in the Hattar lab has focused on the anatomy of a specific class of retinal cell that is critical for setting the body’s circadian rhythm. She is co-author of one manuscript in preparation that is the result of a collaborative project between the Dacey and Hattar labs.

“[Hannah has] the passion and drive for science,” Hattar wrote in his letter of recommendation for the scholarship. “In one sentence: She is the total package. She represents the students that make me proud to be a professor at The Johns Hopkins University.”

During her sophomore year, Joo worked in the lab of Marshall Hussain Shuler, an assistant professor in the Solomon H. Snyder Department of Neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, investigating neurological reward systems. In fall 2011, she participated in the Johns Hopkins Pre-Professional Advising Office’s clinical tutorial program under the supervision of Kathryn Wagner, director of the Kennedy Krieger Institute’s Center for Genetic Muscle Disorders. Joo is a member of the Johns Hopkins Neuroscience Honor Society, Nu Rho Psi, and a mentor for underclassmen in the Woodrow Wilson program. In 2011, she was awarded a Goldwater Scholarship, which recognizes and supports outstanding achievement in science, math or engineering.

As part of her Woodrow Wilson project, Joo is writing a series of essays mentored by William Evans, a senior lecturer in the Johns Hopkins Expository Writing Program. She has had three articles published in a Johns Hopkins literary magazine, Thoroughfare.

After the conclusion of her Churchill Scholarship, Joo expects to enroll in an MD/PhD program. She plans to complete her medical specialization in neurology and earn a doctorate in neuroscience. She is the daughter of Leslie R. Schenck and Tae H. Joo, and she graduated from Inglemoor High School in Kenmore, Wash.

Johns Hopkins students interested in applying for nationally competitive scholarships should contact Kelly Barry, director of Fellowships and Scholarships, at kbarry@jhu.edu or visit the scholarships website at www.jhu.edu/scholarships. General information sessions will take place on Thursday, March 8, and Wednesday, March 28. There is a special session on the Churchill Scholarship planned for Thursday, April 19.


Related website

The Winston Churchill Foundation of the United States