Rhodes Times Two

January 31, 2003
Foster: his second time at Oxford

Foster: his second time at Oxford. Photo: Jim Wallace

Chokshi: his fourth named scholarship

 Chokshi: his fourth named scholarship. Photo: Les Todd


Two Duke seniors were among the thirty-two recipients recently selected for the prestigious Rhodes Scholarships. Dave Chokshi of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Jacob Foster of Winchester, Virginia, were chosen from among 981 applicants at 341 colleges and universities throughout the country.

Rhodes Scholarships, created in 1902 by the will of British philanthropist Cecil Rhodes, provide two or three years of study at Oxford University in England. Overall, Duke has had thirty-five Rhodes winners.

Chokshi and Foster are recipients of A.B. Duke Scholarships, which provide four years of tuition based strictly on merit. Both were recently named winners of the Faculty Scholar Award, the highest honor that the Duke faculty can bestow upon its undergraduates.

Chokshi is a double major in chemistry and public-policy studies whose interests include bioethics and the complexities of fostering equitable health care based upon strong science. At Oxford, he plans to pursue a degree in philosophy, politics, and economics; he says he will later head to medical school.

Because he is interested in going into health policy and bioethics, he wants to study at Oxford's highly regarded philosophy department. The "applied philosophy" degree he plans to pursue will give him a strong background in ethics and philosophy that he will later combine with medicine, he says. "I wanted to get some coursework done before I went to medical school." Studying at such an internationally-oriented university, he can learn more about different health-care systems and perspectives on medical ethics.

Chokshi has done AIDS-prevention work in India. Because he speaks Gujarati, an Indian language, he was able to work with the administrators of a day-care center for children born to prostitutes. He developed a basic health program for the children and wrote a pamphlet to combat misinformation about AIDS that circulated among adults.

Chokshi has several scientific publications to his credit, and has been a Howard Hughes Research Fellow in the department of immunology, exploring issues related to the immune system and aging. He has been recognized for his work by being named both a Truman and a Goldwater Scholar. He has also been active in university issues, as the student representative (voting member) to the Academic Affairs Committee of Duke's board of trustees and as chair of the Duke Honor Council while it was implementing a stronger honor code.

He's worked as biosciences editor for The Journal of Young Investigators and as editor-in-chief for Vertices, a student science journal at Duke. As a member of Duke's Red Cross Club, Chokshi has organized volunteers to teach first aid in Durham's public schools. He also has been a volunteer tutor for a leukemia patient and a patient advocate in Duke Medical Center's neurology ward.

As a physics major, Foster worked in nonlinear dynamics and high-energy physics and took graduate, as well as undergraduate courses. At Oxford, he plans to pursue a doctorate in mathematical research. On being selected for the Rhodes, he said, "The opportunity to be with this group of people who are so enormously talented and passionate about what they do-- I think this will be a wonderful community to be part of."

Earlier in his Duke career, Foster spent a month at Oxford's Mathematical Institute, where he studied with Professors Philip Candelas and Xenia de la Ossa. He has also been in communication with Sir Roger Penrose at the same institute, and Penrose plans to have Foster work on a "twistor/massive particle project" there starting next year. His particular interest is twistor theory, which is studied almost exclusively at Oxford.

He is also interested in classical studies, and the instructor of a Duke graduate-level class on Medieval Latin literature called Foster "one of the most intelligent and academically promising students I have ever met." Last fall, when he spent a semester in Italy on the Duke-in-Florence program, he wrote a research paper on "The Triumph of St. Thomas" in the Santa Maria Novella that he has been urged to revise for possible publication.

Foster also studied the organ while at Duke, and he participates in Hoof 'n' Horn, the student-run musical theater group. He has performed in several recent Sondheim musicals, including A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. This year, he is the organization's president.

Rhodes Scholars are selected on the basis of high academic achievement, personal integrity, leadership potential, and physical vigor, among other attributes. In 2001-02, Duke had four Rhodes winners, the most in school history. Harvard had four Rhodes Scholars this year, the most of any university. Columbia, Cornell, Yale, and Duke each had two winners.