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K-State Today

November 9, 2017



Two Kansas State University students named finalists for prestigious national scholarships

By Division of Communications and Marketing

Two Kansas State University students are in the running for prestigious national scholarships. 

Vaithish Velazhahan, senior in microbiology, biochemistry and pre-medicine, Manhattan, and Garrett Wilkinson, senior in nutritional sciences, microbiology and pre-medicine, Hutchinson, have been named finalists for the Marshall scholarship. Wilkinson also is a finalist for the Rhodes scholarship.

Marshall scholarships provide full funding for one or two years of study in the United Kingdom and are awarded to as many as 40 students each year. Rhodes scholarships provide full funding for one or two years of study at Oxford University in England and are awarded to 32 students each year. 

Velazhahan and Wilkinson will interview for the Marshall scholarship on Nov. 13 in Chicago, and Wilkinson will return to Chicago to interview for the Rhodes on Nov. 18.

"The level of competition for both the Marshall and Rhodes is intense, so being invited to interview is an impressive affirmation of their respective accomplishments," said Jim Hohenbary, director of Kansas State University's Office of Nationally Competitive Scholarships. "Both Vaithish and Garrett will be great representatives of K-State at the national level."

Velazhahan, a 2017 Goldwater scholar and member of the University Honors Program, is working with Kathrin Schrick, associate professor of biology, to research how dietary flavonoids in plants inhibit some human cancers. He also is researching the genetic factors that caused land plant evolution. Velazhahan is one of five students who represented Kansas State University at the Undergraduate Research Day at the Kansas Capitol in addition to multiple meetings and symposia.

Velazhahan also is the founder and president of We Save, a global nonprofit organization, and vice president for the College of Arts and Sciences Ambassadors. He also has served as vice president for service of Chimes Junior Honorary Society; vice president of Medicine Education and Development for Low Income Families Everywhere, or MEDLIFE, at K-State; ambassador for WellCAT and Lafene Health Center; social chair and selections committee member of Silver Key Sophomore Honorary Society; ambassador for the University Honors program; and student representative for Sigma Xi, the scientific research honor society. Velazhahan has volunteered for HandsOn Kansas State's alternative spring break, American Red Cross and the Flint Hills Breadbasket, and he is a certified emergency medical technician.

Velazhahan's awards and honors include the K-State Academic Honors Scholarship; National Science Foundation Undergraduate Research Mentoring in Ecological Genomics Scholarship; National Institutes of Health Kansas IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence Scholarship; Johnson Cancer Center cancer research award; an Asian and Pacific Islander American/United Health Foundation Scholarship; Sigma Xi GIAR (Grants-in-aid of research) National Research Grant; Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Inquiry Scholarship; Outstanding Student Award from Mortar Board Senior Honorary; Joey Lee Garmon Scholarship for Social Justice; Most Promising Student Award from the Division of Biology; Blue Key Walter Martin Memorial Scholarship for Leadership, Service and Citizenship; and a Diverse Scholars Initiative Scholarship from United Health Foundation.

A graduate of Lisieux Matriculation Higher Secondary School in India, Velazhahan is the son of Rethinasamy Velazhahan and Subramanian Kalaivani, India.

Wilkinson is director of special projects for Open World Causes, an organization that helps support educators in Nepal and Kenya, and provides school nutrition programs and access to purified water for the community. He is a teaching assistant for Introduction to Cultural Anthropology and a member of the University Honors Program. In the 2015-2016 academic year, he founded and was president of RESULTS K-State, an organization that teaches others how to lobby and advocate for domestic and international antipoverty policies. He also has worked with the Food Recovery Network at K-State and been a guitarist for the choral program.

Wilkinson is currently researching the micronutrient bioavailability and protein quality of food aid products with Brian Lindshield, associate professor of food, nutrition, dietetics and health. He has researched malnutrition in Nepal, school lunch programs and food availability in Kenya and nutrient quality of fortified-blended foods. He has interned with Partners in Health and Safe Motherhood 360+.

Wilkinson, who was also a 2017 Truman Scholarship finalist, has received the College of Human Ecology Hannah Bluemont Scholarship; Marjorie J. and Richard L. D. Morse Family and Community Public Policy Scholarship; Mark Chapman Scholarship; Kansas State University Civic Leadership Scholarship; and the Nancy Landon Kassebaum Scholarship. He won Kansas State University's SPARK Tank Undergraduate Research Competition. A 2014 graduate of Buhler High School, he is the son of Victor and Angela Wilkinson, Hutchinson.

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