Danielle Grey-Stewart, a Hicksville native who grew up enamored with science and how it shapes the world around her, was selected for the 2021 Rhodes scholarship program, one of just 32 recipients in the United States to receive the prestigious distinction.
A senior at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Grey-Stewart, 20, will begin her postgraduate studies at Oxford University in the United Kingdom in the fall.
Grey-Stewart, who will graduate MIT in February with a major in materials science and engineering, learned of the scholarship on Saturday following a marathon of interviews — all conducted on Zoom because of the pandemic. She is one of two recipients from the New York South region and one of two MIT students.
She describes the process as a "whirlwind" and said the announcement left her "speechless. I feel really honored and excited for this next path."
As a Rhodes scholar, Grey-Stewart will pursue a 2-year master's degree in nature, society and environmental governance at Oxford University’s School of Geography and the Environment.
"It will allow me to study how environmental policy is formed from the context of how we look at society and nature," she said.
Another MIT student, Ghadah Alshalan, was awarded a Rhodes scholarship for Saudi Arabia.
"We could not be more proud of our candidates," said Prof. Tamar Schapiro, who co-chairs MIT's Presidential Committee on Distinguished Fellowship, which mentored the two winners. "This year in particular, we are so impressed not only with their accomplishments but also with their resilience. Being interviewed for a Rhodes scholarship is intimidating enough as it is. Doing so remotely is even more challenging."
A 2017 graduate of Hicksville High School, Grey-Stewart said she was always fascinated by chemistry but initially envisioned a career in cosmetic chemistry, making hair and skin products
Grey-Stewart chairs MIT's Undergraduate Association Committee on COVID-19, is a member of the Student Advisory Group for Engineering and the MIT School of Engineering’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee. She recently traveled to the Navajo Nation to study "environmental racism" and how issues such as climate change disproportionately affect certain communities based on race, gender and socio-economic status.
"It's really important that when finding engineering solutions you can connect with communities and really engage them and uplift them as equal thought partners in finding solutions to really pervasive problems," she said.
Grey-Stewart said she also hopes that her work opens new avenues for scientists of color.
"It is really important to encourage scientists of color to really continue in the field and become engineers …" she said, "so we can really shape policy that is able to consider all walks of life and not just ones that are typically represented in science and engineering."