Shruti Sharma first encountered victims of landmines on a visit to India when she was about 10. Back home in
America, her concern continued growing as
she read more on the subject.
Even as a school student she became
involved with the International Campaign to
Ban Landmines. And she learnt that you are
never too young to be an activist.
She went on to receive international honors
from Toshiba for designing an unmanned aerial vehicle for detecting landmines in war-torn regions.
Sharma, one of the 40 Gates Cambridge
Scholars chosen this year across America, says
her advocacy for amputees has influenced her
research at MIT and elsewhere. In the laboratory of Hugh Herr, an associate professor of
media arts and sciences, she has helped
design multimaterial prosthetic sockets.
Sharma has conducted research on using 3-
D printing to produce low-cost prosthetics,
for which she received a National Science
Foundation grant to work with Professor
Jennifer Lewis at Harvard. With Lewis, she
produced epoxy-based silicon-carbide and
carbon-fiber inks that were used to 3-D print
nacreous architecture for high-strength, lightweight applications. This led to a publication
in a peer-reviewed journal of which she was
the first author.
She also presented her work at the Merck
Technology Symposium and an undergraduate research symposium at Harvard.
Among the Gates Cambridge scholars, she
is one of 13 recipients for the PhD scholarship.
Sharma, who has maintained a perfect
grade point average, represents 4,500 under-
graduates on campus as MIT’s student body
The Gates Cambridge award will allow her
to pursue a PhD in materials and manufacturing engineering, focusing on nanotechnology in the Cavendish Laboratories’ Centre for
She intends to pursue a career in industrial
She is working with Markus Buehler, professor and head of MIT’s Department of Civil
and Environmental Engineering, to print
bone for reconstructive efforts.
‘Shruti exemplifies the best of MIT, and she
has done exceptionally well as a student
leader within and outside of the Institute,
academically, and in getting involved in
hands- on research,’ Buehler told MIT News.
Her work at WHO Global Forum on
Medical Devices has been praised at top level.
‘In my 30 years at the WHO as a mentor to
students and delegates, some of whom have
gone on to impressive careers in global health
and politics,’ Adriana Velazquez Berumen,
director of the WHO’s Department of Medical
Devices was quoted in MIT News as saying, ‘
no one has shown the above qualities as fully
as Shruti Sharma.’
Sharma was nominated as a youth member
to the United Nations’ Committee on the
Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Closer to
home, she established the Girls Leadership
and Mentorship program at Boston’s Shriners
Hospital to promote leadership and confi-
dence in young girls who are burn survivors.
“The program is not just about medical
treatment,” she said. “It is building the self
esteem and confidence of people who have
gone through a great deal of trauma.”
With their distinct Ethiopian look, the insular Siddis in Gujarat are among distinct
marginalized people in India.
“So little is known about Siddis who
were East African military slaves
brought to India as early as the 9th
century AD, but centuries later many
became warriors and even rulers on
the west coast of India,” saied newly
minted Gates Cambridge Scholar
Bhat will continue studying the
Siddis’ history and migration at
Cambridge, a project she has begun at
Pomona College in California.
Established in 2001 and funded by a
$210 million donation from the Bill
and Melinda Gates Foundation, the
Gates Cambridge program ‘aims to
build a global network of future lead-
ers committed to improving the lives
The one-year award covers the full
cost of pursuing graduate study at the
University of Cambridge.
Gujarat-born, Illinois-raised Bhat
says her own immigrant and cross-cultural sensibilities brought her close to
the study of the interaction of
Averring and Indian connections with
the Europeans playing a key role.
‘The overarching objective of my
research is to expand the social discourse surrounding identity and
Diaspora to make room for complexity,’ she told her college publication.
She said she will pursue an MPhil
in world history at Cambridge,
researching cross-cultural exchange
and identity within the African
Diaspora in India and taking lan-
guage courses in Persian.
Through classes with history profes-
sors Arash Khazeni and Sidney
Lemelle, she said she “became fasci-
nated by the connections between East
Africa and India, Islam and Islamic
empires in the Indian Ocean, and
questions of migration and Diaspora.”
One reason little research about peo-
ple like Siddis is carried out, she said,
is due to the emphasis on recent
With her research interest, it is natu-
ral she will turn to writing and teach-
ing, she said. “I am also interested in
holding exhibitions related to my
interest and take history to a wider
Last year she and a fellow history
student organized an exhibition,
Navigating Culture: Islam and
Encounter in the Indian Ocean World,
on the movement of people, culture,
and ideas between East Africa and
Asia particularly the Indian states
through the Indian Ocean, and span-
ning the 7th – 19th centuries.
“We also invited distinguished histo-
rian from other universities,” Bhat
said. “This interest in holding exhibi-
tions and seminars will be part of my
Her interest in African music has
also led her to study how during the
post-colonial period, Moroccan visual
artists belonging to the ‘School of the
Sign’ reformulated traditional symbols
of Moroccan heritage in new and
innovative ways to challenge colonial
conceptions of Moroccan identity.
Achievers, leaders Arthur J Pais profiles this year’s Gates Cambridge Scholars
FIGHTER AGAINST LANDMINES
TRACING ROOTS, AFRICA TO INDIA