Four Pitt Graduating Seniors Receive Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarships to Study Abroad

Issue Date: 
May 1, 2011
Aaron CantorAaron Cantor
David GauDavid Gau
Nina WeaverNina Weaver
Liz Van LoonLiz Van Loon

Rotary International has selected four University of Pittsburgh graduating seniors to receive Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarships to study abroad for the 2011-12 academic year. The students are among more than 400 recipients from 40 countries selected for the award. Three of the four recipients hail from Pennsylvania.

Pitt ties for second place in the U.S. in terms of the number of Rotary scholars it will be sending abroad. Also claiming four Rotary scholars were Chapman University, the United States Naval Academy, and Vanderbilt University.

Pitt’s Rotary scholars are Aaron Cantor of Coatesville, Pa., who will receive today a BS in microbiology and history and philosophy of science and will study at the University of Queensland in Australia; David Gau of Kennett Square, Pa., who receives a BPhil in bioengineering and a BS in mathematics and economics and will study at the University of New England in Australia; Nina Weaver of Plum Borough, a suburb of Pittsburgh, Pa., who receives a BPhil in international and area studies and a BA in history and will study at the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania; and Liz Van Loon of Simsbury, Conn., who receives a BS in nursing and will study at the University of Nairobi in Kenya.

As one of the world’s largest privately sponsored international scholarship programs, Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarships focus on humanitarian service, personal diplomacy, and academic excellence. Since 1947, approximately 40,000 students from 130 countries have received scholarships from the program at a cost of more than $532 million through the Rotary Foundation of Rotary International.

Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarships provide undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to study at universities in the 200 countries and geographical areas where Rotary clubs are active. While abroad, scholars participate in community service projects and speak at local Rotary club meetings and conferences, schools, civic organizations, and other forums where they serve as “goodwill ambassadors” for their home countries.

Cantor will use the Rotary award to work on a research project that aims to determine how an anticancer compound isolated from an Australian plant works and its efficacy against several human cancer types. He also will volunteer for community skin-cancer awareness and patient care programs through the Queensland Cancer Council and help with remaining efforts to repair damage caused by January 2011 flooding.

Cantor, who also earned a certificate in Conceptual Foundations of Medicine, has had numerous medical internships and fellowships, including a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Undergraduate Research Fellowship. As a project assistant and Chancellor’s Undergraduate Research Fellow in UPMC’s Department of Dermatopathology and Histology, Cantor authored a case report that was published in a July 2010 issue of Dermatology Online Journal. He was an autopsy pathology intern in UPMC’s Autopsy Service and a mentee and volunteer at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute.

Cantor’s leadership activities include serving as the volunteer coordinator and activities chair of Pitt’s Chapter of the American Medical Student Association. He is also a member of the Pittsburgh Undergraduate Review Editorial Board, C. F. Reynolds Medical History Society, National Society of Collegiate Scholars, Sigma Alpha Lambda, and Golden Key, as well as the Hillel Jewish University Center. After completing his Rotary study in Australia, Cantor plans to enter Penn State College of Medicine.

Gau will use the Rotary award to continue his research on breast cancer and to encourage minorities in Australia to participate in science and engineering via outreach programming to various local schools.

At Pitt, Gau worked as an undergraduate researcher in the Center for Biotechnology, studying cell migration in breast cancer. He has coauthored several papers and posters and presented his work at conferences and symposiums. Gau traveled to Vietnam and Taiwan through Pitt’s INNOVATE program to study the effects of globalization on those countries. He also spent time in China, gaining exposure to Chinese engineering and business practices.

Gau is founder of the Pitt Association for Leadership and Success, a leadership development organization that works to improve the University in sustainability, technology, residence life, and campus life. He is president of Tau Beta Pi, an engineering honor society, and president pro tempore of Pitt’s Student Government Board. Gau also has served as an undergraduate teaching assistant at Pitt. A Pitt Pathfinder, Gau has  conducted tours of the University and city for potential Pitt students and their families.

Among Gau’s many honors are being named Pitt’s 2011 Omicron Delta Kappa Senior of the Year. He has received an Alma Newlin Education Fund award given to students from southern Chester County, a Wellington C. Carl Pittsburgh Foundation Scholarship from Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering, and the George and Stella Seewald Scholarship, a merit-based scholarship given annually to a student serving as a Pitt ambassador through Pathfinders.

Weaver will use her Rotary award to continue her study of educational systems in developing countries. She said she looks  forward to learning from Tanzanian professors and working with Tanzanian students. She also plans to work with nonprofit agencies in the African nation.

At Pitt, Weaver worked in the Global Studies Office, served as a Nationality Rooms Program tour guide, and was a student library assistant in the GSPIA and business school libraries. Weaver also was a member of Pitt’s Panther Equestrian Club, having served as its vice president for two years. As a volunteer through Pitt’s “Keep it Real,” an after-school tutoring program, Weaver has been tutoring a Somali-Bantu refugee family—with seven children ranging in age from 1 to 21—since she was a sophomore.

Fluent in French and Swahili, Weaver studied Swahili during summer study abroad last year in Karagwe, Tanzania. In addition, Weaver traveled to London in 2009 on a Savina S. Skewis Pitt Nationality Rooms Study Abroad Scholarship. While there, she studied British literature and popular culture and was an intern at The Baytree Centre, assisting with its Youth Program and working as a public relations liaison.

Weaver’s honors include a Foreign Language and Area Studies Undergraduate Fellowship, a Study Abroad Office Scholarship, and service as an Undergraduate Class Marshal for the School of Arts and Sciences at today’s commencement.

Van Loon will enroll in the Master of Public Health program in the University of Nairobi’s School of Medicine with her Rotary award. Her goal is to become involved in infectious disease research and to volunteer in the health field using her skills as a registered nurse.

Van Loon has served as a patient care technician in UPMC’s Neuro/Ortho/Trauma Unit 8G. She also served as a Pitt Pathfinder. A recipient of a 2009 summer Brackenridge Research Fellowship, Van Loon organized and trained a student research team traveling to Lilongwe, Malawi. Her extracurricular activities include serving as president of Student Leaders in International Medicine, as both a participant and group leader for Project Malawi on two separate occasions, and as a member of the Pitt Chapter of Phi Sigma Pi National Honor Fraternity’s Service Committee.

Van Loon took a ‘gap year’ from school to volunteer at the Alejandro Magno Children’s Home in Bolivia, caring for underprivileged children. She also shadowed Bolivian social workers during weekly visits to impoverished villages.

Van Loon is the recipient of the Ann M. J. Reed Memorial Scholarship from Pitt’s School of Nursing for leadership in the nursing field.

Rotary Ambassador Scholarships Alumni include former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker Jr., former U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom Philip Lader, Goucher College President Sanford Ungar, former U.S. Ambassador to India David Mulford, and Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic Roger Ebert.

Rotary Ambassador Scholarship International is the world’s first service club organization, with more than 1.2 million members in 33,000 clubs worldwide. Rotary members are volunteers who work locally, regionally, and internationally to combat hunger, improve health and sanitation, provide education and job training, promote peace, and eradicate polio under the motto Service Above Self.