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College's Cyrus Habib, Jonah Lehrer Named Rhodes Scholars

By Kristin Sterling

Cyrus Habib (right) with U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA)

Columbia College students Cyrus Habib (CC'03) and Jonah Lehrer (CC'03) are among the 32 college students in the United States selected as Rhodes Scholars. The scholarship provides two or three years of study at Oxford University.

Habib, of Bellevue, Wa, is an English major also concentrating in computer science and Middle Eastern and Asian languages and cultures (MEALAC). Last year he was named a Truman Fellow, which is offered to students who display outstanding leadership potential and who plan careers in government or public service.

"I am delighted and surprised to find myself a Rhodes Scholar," says Habib. "I could not have done it without the help of the professors and deans at Columbia with whom it has been my honor to work. Especially, I would like to thank Professors Seidel, Kastan, Robbins and Shapiro in the English department; Professors Dabashi, Saliba, El-Hage, Massad and Nichanian in the MEALAC department; Professor Cannon in the computer science department, and perhaps most importantly, Deans McDermott and Lorch at Columbia College."

A pianist and skier with a black belt in karate, Habib uses his computer skills to foster new opportunities for disabled users. He also works as an advocate for students with disabilities on campus and in the community.

Habib plans to study comparative modern literature at Oxford.

Joining Habib at Oxford next fall will be classmate Jonah Lehrer, a neuroscience major from Los Angeles.

Lehrer's lifelong interest in science and books led him to Columbia and the Kandel Lab, where he is examining the biological process of memory and what happens in the brain on a molecular level when a person remembers or forgets information.

In the lab Lehrer credits Kausik Si, Kandel's post-doctoral research fellow, as a great researcher who has deeply influenced him.

Lehrer asserts that science asks questions so big it has to incorporate other dimensions, such as psychology. As such, he plans to study philosophy, physiology and psychology at Oxford, and hopes to become a science writer.

"Science is too often perceived as cold," he says. "I want to translate science and show how beautiful it can be."

In addition to his work in the lab, Lehrer is a member of Columbia Advocacy, where he volunteers at local church soup kitchens and on other projects to help the homeless. He was the editor of the Columbia Review for two years and enjoys writing poetry.

"It is an incredible honor to be selected a Rhodes Scholar," he says. "It has been a humbling process and an amazing experience."

Habib and Lehrer now join the ranks of Bill Clinton, Bill Bradley, Byron White and Dean Rusk, who are among the nearly 3,000 American recipients of the Rhodes Scholarship. The award was established by the will of British colonialist Cecil Rhodes in 1902.

The two were selected among 981 nominees nationwide. Of the 98 finalists, 7 were from Columbia College. The College also had one finalist for the Canadian Rhodes.

Published: Dec 16, 2002
Last modified: Dec 13, 2002


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