Pitt Honors College’s Katherine MacCord Wins Gates Cambridge Scholarship

Issue Date: 
February 16, 2009
maccord_img_5405.jpgKatherine M. MacCord

University of Pittsburgh Honors College senior Katherine M. MacCord, a School of Arts and Sciences student majoring in anthropology with a minor in German, has been named a Gates Cambridge Scholar for her exceptional ability and outstanding academic achievement. MacCord, who also is pursuing a certificate in Conceptual Foundations of Medicine through Pitt’s Department of History and Philosophy of Science, is the first Pitt student to receive the Gates Cambridge Scholarship since it was established in 2000 through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

MacCord was one of only 37 U.S. students selected by the Gates Cambridge Trust to receive the award. This year, 752 U.S. students applied for a Gates Cambridge Scholarship and 101 were short-listed and attended interviews on Feb. 6 and 7 in Annapolis, Md.

“The Gates Cambridge Scholarship promotes the values of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that include a commitment to reducing inequities and improving lives around the word,” said Pitt Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg. “Created to enable student scholars of outstanding academic merit and leadership potential to make unique contributions to their discipline and to those most in need, the prestigious award publicly recognizes extraordinary students, such as Katherine, whose high academic achievement, innovative thinking, and creative problem solving deserve special recognition. We congratulate her and also applaud Pitt’s Honors College for supporting and advancing individual student success.”

“From time to time, one encounters a student like Kate for whom the formal academic record along with faculty comments suggest that admission and study at the most selective schools is especially appropriate,” said Alec Stewart, Pitt’s Honors College dean. “Her intellectual passion is the juvenile skeletal structure and function, about which she has taught me a good deal. Kate also retains a serious interest in travel, films, and music, interests that make her a delightful conversationalist.”

MacCord is completing the Bachelor of Philosophy degree in Pitt’s Honors College. She has been accepted into the Department of Biological Anthropology at the University of Cambridge’s Churchill College, where she will pursue a Master of Philosophy degree in human evolutionary studies. Her two main areas of interest are environmental influences on growth and development as well as evolutionary theory, mechanisms, and process. In addition to pursuing future work in human evolution, MacCord plans to continue her previous research in juvenile osteology in the Duckworth Laboratory at Cambridge, where she plans to work on the complex effects of disease, malnutrition, and environment on skeletal growth.

“Ms. MacCord has blossomed into one of the brightest and most inquisitive students—undergraduate or graduate—I have had the pleasure of teaching and advising in my 35 years at the University,” said Jeffrey Schwartz, Pitt professor in the Departments of Anthropology and History and Philosophy of Science and president of the World Academy of Art and Science.

Under Schwartz’s guidance, MacCord has conducted independent research on the human skeleton, questioning anthropologists’ long-held tenet that the presence of disease and malnutrition in children retards their skeletal growth. In her research, MacCord has explored the effects of environment and disease on bone growth to determine the exact nature of a connection, and she has conducted an analysis of renowned osteological collections at three natural history museums on three separate continents. Her research shows that disease and malnutrition do not significantly retard growth.

MacCord served as a teaching assistant (TA) in Schwartz’s human skeletal course, a position she held for two years; she was the only undergraduate to ever have been a TA in the anthropology department. She received the Chancellor’s Undergraduate Research Fellowship, a Brackenridge Fellowship, the Chancellor’s Undergraduate Teaching Fellowship, and a University Honors College Research Grant, all in 2007; a United States Steel Foundation, Inc. Undergraduate Research Award, a Berner Fellowship, and an International Studies Fund Grant, all in the summer of 2008; and a Berner Fellowship for the 2008-09 school year.

A member of Pitt’s undergraduate Anthropology Club, MacCord has helped to organize field trips to local archeological sites. She has been a speaker and member of the undergraduate teaching panel at Pitt’s Experiential Learning Fair, a program of the Office of Experiential Learning in Arts and Sciences held to stimulate undergraduate interest in teaching and research. MacCord also lectures for Pitt’s High School Apprenticeship Program.

Not only interested in academia, MacCord calls herself “a confirmed film nut.” She regularly attends the opera and musical theater, writes humorous poetry, and enjoys completing daily crossword puzzles, knitting, and baking.

The Gates Foundation, of Seattle, Wash., donated $210 million to the University of Cambridge to establish the Gates Cambridge Trust, creating in perpetuity an international scholarship program, covering all expenses, to enable outstanding graduate students from outside the United Kingdom to study at the University of Cambridge. Scholarships are awarded on the basis of a person’s intellectual ability, leadership capacity, and desire to use his or her knowledge to make contributions to society worldwide by providing service to communities and applying individual talents and knowledge to improve the lives of others.