Two University of Pennsylvania seniors have been awarded Rhodes Scholarships for graduate study at the University of Oxford.
Penn’s 2022 Rhodes Scholars are Raveen Kariyawasam, from Colombo, Sri Lanka, and Nicholas Thomas-Lewis, from Kimball, Nebraska.
Kariyawasam is a double major in bioengineering with concentrations in computational medicine and medical devices in the School of Engineering and Applied Science and in the Wharton School with concentrations in finance and entrepreneurship and innovation.
Thomas-Lewis is a double major in cognitive science with a concentration in cognitive neuroscience, as well as health and societies with a concentration in public health, and a minor in neuroscience, in the College of Arts and Sciences.
“We are so proud of our newest Penn Rhodes Scholars who have been chosen for this tremendous honor and opportunity,” said President Amy Gutmann. “The work Raveen has done in health care innovation and accessibility and Nicholas has done to support student well-being while at Penn is impressive, and pursuing a graduate degree at Oxford will build upon that foundation. We look forward to seeing how they make an impact in the future.”
The Rhodes is highly competitive and one of the most prestigious scholarships in the world. The scholarships provide all expenses for as long as four years of study at Oxford University in England.
According to the Rhodes Trust, about 100 Rhodes Scholars will be selected worldwide this year, chosen from more than 60 countries. Several have attended American colleges and universities but are not U.S. citizens and have applied through their home country, including Kariyawasam in Sri Lanka.
Thomas-Lewis is among the 32 American Rhodes Scholars chosen to represent the United States. According to the Rhodes Trust, this year more than 2,300 American students began the application process, 826 were endorsed by 247 different colleges and universities, and 235 applicants from 76 colleges and universities reached the final stage of the competition.
With an interest in health care innovation and accessibility, Kariyawasam is involved in several research projects, including his Wharton honors thesis that focuses on optimizing a low-cost electronic medical record system in Sri Lanka and the Philippines. He has received several research grants, including the Vagelos Undergraduate Research Grant, the Berkman Opportunity Fund grant, and the National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps grant. At Penn, he is editor-in-chief of Synapse, a student-run health care magazine and is vice president of the Phi Sigma Biological Honor Society. He is a disc jockey for the student-run radio station, WQHS, and an executive board member of the Wharton Undergraduate Healthcare Club. He also is a former student ambassador at the Penn Health-Tech Center for Health Devices and Technology. At Oxford, Kariyawasam plans to pursue a D.Phil. degree.
Thomas-Lewis’s honors thesis is on the dual neurocentric medicalization of adolescence and addiction and its impact on stigma and agency among adolescents with addiction. He is a mentor who supports literacy development and emotional well being in West Philadelphia elementary schools through the Netter Center for Community Partnerships. Thomas-Lewis is captain of Penn’s varsity cheer team. He is a former speech captain for Penn Speech and Debate club. Thomas-Lewis also serves as a campus guide for the Kite & Key Society, is a vocal performer with the Penny Loafers, and is co-chair of the Admissions Dean’s Advisory Board. At Oxford, Thomas-Lewis plans to pursue master’s degrees in evidence-based social intervention and policy evaluation and in medical anthropology.
Kariyawasam and Thomas-Lewis applied for the Rhodes Scholarship with assistance from Penn’s Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships.