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Olyha, Shearer win Marshall Scholarships

Samantha Olyha
Emily Shearer

Two graduating seniors with records of excellence in undergraduate research, athletics and community service – and who hope to attend medical school – will take two-year career “detours” to Oxford University as Cornell’s 2014 Marshall Scholarship recipients.

Samantha Olyha, a College of Agriculture and Life Sciences biological sciences major from Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and Emily Shearer, a College of Arts and Sciences major in biology and government from Lafayette, Calif., are among about three dozen American students this year to win Marshall Scholarships.

“I hope to pursue an M.D./Ph.D. degree where I could treat patients while staying on the forefront of discovery, fostering better communication between clinicians and medical researchers,” says Olyha. She is writing an honors thesis from her undergraduate research: “The Effects of Stem Cell Differentiation Defects on Muscular Dystrophy and on Dilated Cardiomyopathy Disease Progression.”

Olyha is a pentathlete and heptathlete on Cornell’s track and field team; editor of the undergraduate neuroscience journal, Synapse; a student adviser in biology; and a three-year leader of the comparative physiology study group on campus. She plans to undertake a two-year master’s degree in oncology at Oxford.

With undergraduate nutritional sciences research into the biochemical mechanism associated with folate metabolism, Shearer says she has aspirations “to obtain a medical degree with a residency in primary care or pediatrics – then a career that combines clinical practice as a physician with work in health policy, at the local or national level.”

At Cornell, Shearer is captain of the cross-country and track-and-field teams – she holds numerous Cornell, Ivy and NCAA titles – and serves on the Cornell Emergency Medical Services squad, is a study group leader and student adviser in biology, and conducts health policy research for Cornell’s student-run think tank, the Roosevelt Institute. With her Marshall Scholarship, Shearer intends to pursue a one-year master’s degree in public policy at Cambridge University and a second master’s degree in medical anthropology at Oxford.

Marshall Scholarships, funded by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office to commemorate the humane ideals of the post-World War II European Recovery Program (the Marshall Plan), provide for two years of study at universities in the United Kingdom by intellectually distinguished young Americans. Olyha and Shearer are the 13th and 14th Cornellians to win the prestigious scholarships since 1997.


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John Carberry