The University of Iowa

Spotlight: UI student wins Rhodes Scholarship

November 29th, 2010

By Nina Earnest, The Daily Iowan

Bill Clinton. Edwin Hubble. George Stephanopoulos.

A 20-year-old University of Iowa senior is joining their ranks.

Renugan Raidoo is now a Rhodes Scholar.

The Rhodes Scholarship enables students to study for two or three years at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom on a full-ride scholarship.

Raidoo, who will use the scholarship to study anthropology, was one of 32 American students selected for the prestigious award; he is the first UI student to win the honor since 1993.

Sitting on a couch in the Blank Honors Center, he leaned forward as he related his extensive Rhodes interview experience.

“It was such a long shot,” he said. “I didn’t even bother getting nervous.”

The final interview in Colorado Springs, Colo., leading to the scholarship was a long time coming.

Raidoo was born and raised in Durban, South Africa. He moved with his family from the city of 3 million to the much smaller Vermillion, S.D. when he was 11.

Now, he serves as the director for Intersection, the UI a cappella group. As a Presidential Scholar at the UI, he took leadership positions in groups such as the Global Health Club, Amnesty International, and the Honors Program, and interned with the Barack Obama campaign.

Raidoo said he wishes he had a strategy to keep all his interests straight in his busy schedule.

“I don’t really know,” he said. “I take it one day at a time.”

Raidoo, who is majoring in chemistry and anthropology, said he has found that a doctor working in the developing world needs to have an “anthropological sensibility” to better relate to the people’s understanding of technology.

“Often, when [new technologies are] taken abroad, they’re not communicated well,” he said. “Which is where anthropology comes into play.”

He pursued his undergraduate research, involving nanoparticles in diagnostic imaging, both at the UI and abroad. Researching in Germany helped him improve his skills in German — which he speaks, along with Afrikaans and French.

Raidoo took an interest in applying for the Rhodes Scholarship this summer, perfecting his one-and-a-half page personal statement and compiling eight letters of recommendation.

And on Nov. 20, the day of his interview, he learned he won.

His sister, Shandhini Raidoo, a fourth-year medical student at the UI, said her brother always worked hard to complete his goals.

“He does fall asleep in the living room with all the lights on with his computer,” his sister said.

Though their parents are a little apprehensive about their son studying in the United Kingdom, Shandhini Raidoo said her parents understood the incredible opportunity offered to their son.

UI senior Jacqueline Cieslak, who met Raidoo during freshman year, said he is “incredibly deserving” of the scholarship.

“He works very, very hard,” she said. “He doesn’t sleep much.”

Cieslak, a former Daily Iowan employee, said she was glad Raidoo could pursue anthropology — a subject he probably would not have explored more if he had gone to medical school after graduating in May.

“He’ll get to do something he has knack for,” Cieslak said.

Raidoo still plans on completing a medical degree and doctorate.

But he said his future could be subject to change.

“We’ll see what happens after three years in Oxford,” he said and laughed.