The Rhodes to Reproductive Health

Spring 2019

Alaleh Azhir
Image courtesy of Alaleh Azhir

Fourth-year student Alaleh Azhir is one of 32 American students to be awarded a Rhodes Scholarship in 2019, which enables her to pursue a graduate degree at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom.

Azhir, the Marci Kenney Scholar, who came to the United States at age 14 from Iran, has pursued a triple major at the Whiting School—in biomedical engineering, computer science, and applied mathematics and statistics.

Since the beginning of her second year, she has worked in the lab of Johns Hopkins pathologist David Nauen, helping design and build a tool to visualize and compare changes in gene expression that the lab uses to investigate the development of epilepsy. She also has conducted research in labs at Harvard, the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland, and the National Institutes of Health.

At Oxford, she will work toward her master’s degree in women’s and reproductive health—a field that combines her love of math, data, and statistics with her interests in health, biology, and the human genome. She will use data collected by the United Kingdom’s National Health Service to understand how difficult pregnancies contribute to heart problems for women in later life. She hopes to use NHS data to create models that help predict—and prevent—these health outcomes.

Studying data from the NHS is a unique opportunity for Azhir because a national, uniform health coding system does not exist in the U.S.

“Conditions common to men and women may present differently in women—for example, women often get misdiagnosed for heart attacks,” she says. “I want to dedicate my career to understanding those health disparities.”