Pitt Alumna Lia Petrose Named 2019 Rhodes Scholar

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PITTSBURGH—Lia Petrose (A&S ’17), who earned degrees in neuroscience and economics at the University of Pittsburgh, has been named a 2019 Rhodes Scholarship winner. 

Petrose, of Laurel, Maryland, is the eighth winner of the esteemed scholarship to have received a Pitt undergraduate education. She is among 32 American scholars to receive the prestigious award according to the Rhodes Trust, which announced the winners Sunday.

“As the eighth Rhodes Scholar from the University of Pittsburgh, Lisa is part of an elite group,” said Pitt Chancellor Patrick Gallagher. “At the same time, her success is rooted in the everyday practice of rolling up her sleeves, stepping out of her comfort zone and daring to innovate. I have no doubt she’s bound for a bright future, and I wish her the very best.” 

The Rhodes Scholarship, one of the oldest international study awards available to U.S. students, provides two or three years of study at the University of Oxford in England. Rhodes winners are chosen on the basis of high academic achievement, personal integrity and leadership potential, among other attributes. 

Born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Petrose immigrated to the United States at the age of 12. She arrived at Pitt in the fall of 2013 under the support of the University's Helen S. Faison Scholarship. A 2016 Harry S. Truman Scholarship recipient, Petrose received bachelor of science degrees in neuroscience and economics with a minor in chemistry from the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences in 2017. She served in a number of leadership roles during her time at Pitt, including as a member of the Student Government Board, a University Honors College student advisor to the dean and as a representative to the committees of the Board of Trustees, the provost and the University Senate Council. 

She plans to pursue a second bachelor’s degree in computer science and philosophy at the University of Oxford.

Petrose is currently a research assistant at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to Professor Heidi Williams with whom she investigates pharmaceutical research development and innovation. Prior to that, she worked as a data scientist at the Harvard Laboratory for Systems Medicine exploring the use of machine learning algorithms to glean insights from electronic medical records.

“I am absolutely thrilled for Lia,” said Honors College Dean Brian Primack. “When I first met her last year, I knew that she would do remarkable things and would undoubtedly succeed in her goal of optimizing healthcare systems for the underserved. Her enthusiasm for her work was absolutely infectious. I was also struck by her remarkable character; for someone so accomplished she was extremely humble. I am more pleased than I can say that the Rhodes Committee bestowed upon her this honor.”

Petrose applied for the Rhodes Scholarship with assistance from Pitt's Honors College, which advises Pitt undergraduates and alumni who are interested in pursuing national and international awards.  

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