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UW–Madison senior was a finalist this year for a Rhodes Scholarship

November 22, 2022 By Doug Erickson

University of Wisconsin–Madison senior Sarah Almutawa was a finalist this year for a Rhodes Scholarship, one of the most prestigious and selective undergraduate academic honors in the world.

By the end of this year’s awards process, more than 100 Rhodes Scholars will have been selected from countries across the globe, including 32 from the United States announced earlier this month. Almutawa was a finalist in Saudi Arabia, her home country.

A head shot of Sarah Almutawa

Sarah Almutawa

“Sarah should be very proud of all she’s accomplished — it is an immense honor to make it to the finalist stage for the Rhodes Scholarship,” says Julie Stubbs, director of undergraduate academic awards at UW–Madison. “Through research, service, and mentoring, she’s developing the knowledge and skills to address critical problems in the world. She is committed to the common good and we are all better for her efforts. I look forward to following Sarah’s career.”

Almutawa is majoring in biology with certificates in global health and Biocore, the university’s biology core curriculum honors program.

She currently conducts research in Professor Junsu Kang’s lab in the Department of Cell and Regenerative Biology at the School of Medicine and Public Health. Her independent research project involves using the genome editing tool known as CRISPR to study blood oxidation and fin regeneration in zebrafish. The Identification of novel genes could provide more insight into tissue regeneration post-injury in humans.

“I have always had a passion for learning about new biological concepts and discoveries,” Almutawa wrote in her Rhodes application. “Investigating a research question in a methodical way is something I enjoy and look forward to doing for the rest of my academic journey. I especially aspire to conduct translational research with results that could benefit human health.”

Almutawa is an undergraduate teaching assistant for Biocore and conducts diversity, equity and inclusion research for the program. During her time on campus, she has been a student ambassador for the Reach program in International Student Services and a volunteer for Second Harvest Food Bank through Badger Volunteers. She is a member of the Muslim Student Association and the Muslim-interest sorority Alpha Lambda Rho.

In 2019, she was awarded a KAUST Gifted Student Program Scholarship. The honor, given to a select group of Saudi students, fully funds an undergraduate degree in a STEM field at a top U.S. university.

Rhodes Scholarships provide all expenses for several years of study at the University of Oxford in England. Candidates are judged on a proven record of intellectual and academic achievement, integrity of character, interest in and respect for others, leadership ability, and the energy to fully utilize their talents.