Stanford senior Meghan Shea, a former fellow in the Stanford Woods Institute's Mentoring Undergraduates in Interdisciplinary Research (MUIR) program, has been named one of 32 American Rhodes Scholars for 2017.

As part of MUIR, which provides summer stipends for undergraduate student researchers to support interdisciplinary environmental research by Stanford faculty, Shea worked with Rob Dunbar, professor in the School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences, and doctoral candidate Heidi Hirsh analyzing how seagrass communities off the Pacific island of Palau help buffer nearby corals against ocean acidification (read more).

Shea, who is from West Chester, Pennsylvania, is majoring in environmental systems engineering and, according to the Rhodes Trust announcement, is “interested in biological oceanography, with a focus on environmental DNA and microbial source tracking.”

The Rhodes Scholarships, considered one of the oldest and most celebrated international fellowship awards in the world, provide all expenses for two or three years of study at England’s University of Oxford. Rhodes Scholars are chosen for their scholarly achievements, character, commitment to others and to the common good, and for their leadership potential.

At Oxford, Shea will pursue a master’s degree in Nature, Society and Environmental Governance beginning in October. She hopes to eventually earn a doctorate in biological/chemical oceanography and pursue a career in research.

“It still hasn’t sunk in that I’m a recipient of this incredible scholarship,” said Shea, “but I am so grateful for my extraordinary system of family, friends, teachers and mentors at Stanford and beyond who helped make this opportunity possible.”

Record of achievement

Shea has already achieved much in her area of interest as a scholar and researcher. She has conducted oceanographic research throughout the Pacific, has analyzed carbonate chemistry data from a shellfish hatchery near Seattle with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and has reported on climate change resiliency in small-island developing states.

“Meghan has that wide-eyed brilliance and boundless energy for doing things that excite you and inspire you as a colleague, teacher and mentor,” said Jeff Koseff, professor of civil and environmental engineering and former director of Woods.

Koseff, who was among the Stanford faculty members who recommended Shea for the Rhodes Scholarship, added, “She is never still for a moment, always seeking, questioning, innovating and thinking about the ocean that she loves so passionately. The very extensive set of activities that she has undertaken while at Stanford – from the coursework to the research to the leadership activities – are all focused strongly on Meghan’s overarching professional and social goals of making a lasting and meaningful impact in environmental stewardship, particularly in the ocean realm.”

Alexandria Boehm, professor of civil and environmental engineering, worked with Shea on research the summer after her freshman year.

“Even that early in her undergraduate career, I knew she was special,” Boehm said. “She proved herself to be the best undergraduate researcher I have ever worked with.”

At Stanford, Shea is a member of Cardinal Calypso, the university’s steel pan drumming group. She also has been active with Students for a Sustainable Stanford and helped plan the 2016 Stephen H. Schneider Memorial Lecture.

Rhodes Scholarships

Rhodes Scholars are chosen in a two-stage process. First, applicants must be endorsed by their college or university. This year approximately 2,500 students sought their institution’s endorsement; 882 were endorsed by 311 different colleges and universities, according to the Rhodes Trust press release.

Applicants are chosen on the basis of academic excellence, great personal energy, ambition for impact, an ability to work with others to achieve one’s goals, a commitment to make a strong difference for good in the world, a concern for the welfare of others, an awareness of inequities and the promise for leadership.

The 32 Rhodes Scholars chosen from the United States will join an international group of Scholars chosen from 18 other jurisdictions around the world.

If Stanford students are interested in learning more about the Rhodes—or if Stanford faculty and staff wish to nominate students—they should contact Diane Murk, manager of the Overseas Resource Center, at dmurk@stanford.edu; or John Pearson, director emeritus of the Bechtel International Center, at john.pearson@stanford.edu.