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2015 Rhodes Scholars: meet Caroline Leps and Moustafa Abdalla

(photos courtesy Caroline Leps and Moustafa Abdalla)

University of Toronto undergrads Moustafa Abdalla and Caroline Leps are heading to Oxford University next year for postgraduate studies – as two of Canada’s 11 students named 2015 Rhodes Scholars.

“On behalf of the U of T community, I congratulate Moustafa Abdalla and Caroline Leps on being selected Rhodes Scholars,” said President Meric Gertler. “I would also like to thank them for their example. Each has an outstanding record of multifaceted excellence, and both are determined to use their talent and learning to benefit individuals and communities, here and around the world. In this they demonstrate brilliantly the highest ideals of the University of Toronto.”

The Rhodes Scholarship program is the oldest – and one of the world’s most prestigious – postgraduate award program supporting outstanding, all-round students at Oxford. According to the Rhodes web site, scholars are selected for their “outstanding intellect, character, leadership, and commitment to service” and leadership. (Read more about the selection process.)

Rhodes Scholars have gone on to become Pulitzer Prize winners, heads of state or government and Nobel Laureates. Among the well-known Rhodes Scholars: Bob Rae; David Naylor; Bill Clinton; and Rachel Maddow. So far, just 69 students from around the world have been awarded Rhodes Scholarships this year; however, a total of 83 scholarships are expected to be announced.

Leps, a Trinity College student, is studying global health and international relations. The co-president of the International Relations Society and of Trinity College’s Women’s Athletic Association, Leps is also co-captain of Trinity’s basketball team, and plays violin in the Hart House Orchestra. She also volunteers at a children’s hospital and a camp for kids with cancer.

“It hasn’t settled in yet. It’s really exciting. I can only imagine the kinds of opportunities I will have [at Oxford],” said Leps.

At Oxford, she will be pursuing a master's degree in comparative social policy, with aspirations to become a paediatrician working in global children’s health in low- and middle-income settings.

“I believe in global children’s health – it’s a field we should all invest in. Ensuring children have a healthy childhood means they can contribute to our community as adults.”

Abdalla, a student of Victoria College at Victoria University at U of T, is studying biochemistry and physiology at the Faculty of Arts and Science. He plans to study computational biology and computational medicine research at Oxford, and hopes to one day contribute to the advancement of medicine through the ethical use of technology and artificial intelligence.

“We are currently developing artificial intelligence that is capable of teaching itself, and teaching other artificial intelligence. The stock exchange is an example of computers teaching other computers how to trade stocks. We don’t realize the implications of this.

“So I guess my ultimate goal is to avoid a Terminator-like scenario,” he jokes. “Ultimately, I want to develop an ethical, compassionate framework for technology, and apply that within the context of medicine.”

Abdalla also works as a youth director at Flemingdon Park Parents Association, his North York community’s charity organization, and tutors chemistry at Victoria College.

Last year, two alumnae from the U of T’s Innis College – Aliyyah Ahad and Chloe Walker – were named Rhodes Scholars. (Read more about Ahad and Walker.) And, in 2012, the university had three Rhodes Scholars:  Joanne Cave, who studied women and gender studies and sociology in the Faculty of Arts and Science, Woodsworth College; Connor Emdin, who studied biochemistry and global health at the Faculty of Arts and Science, Trinity College; and Ayodele Odutayo, who studied medicine in the Faculty of Medicine.

See the full list of Rhodes Scholars: http://www.rhodeshouse.ox.ac.uk/rhodes-scholars-elect-class-of-2015.

Liz Do writes about education for U of T News.