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Scholars Aim to Fight Hunger in Africa, Amplify Marginalized Voices

FEBRUARY 23, 2015 – Two Georgetown graduates Carol Ibe (G’06) and Aya Waller-Bey (C’14) – have won highly competitive, prestigious Gates Cambridge scholarships, which cover a full-time postgraduate degree in any subject at the University of Cambridge.

Of the 800 annual applicants from the U.S., only 40 from are chosen for the scholarships. The Gates Cambridge Trust, established in 2000, has a board of eight distinguished trustees – two appointed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and six by Cambridge.

The scholarships are designed to help build a global network of future leaders dedicated to improving the lives of others.


Carol Ibe stands in front of campuc building.Carol Ibe

Hometown: Upper Marlboro, Maryland; born in the United States, grew up in Nigeria

Georgetown: Master of science degree in molecular biology and biochemistry, 2006.

Other degrees: Undergraduate degree in microbiology from Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Nigeria, 2003.

Master's degree in clinical embryology, University of Oxford, 2009. 

Honors and Awards:

2013: Nervous System Stars, Image of the Day, The Scientist magazine

2009: Annual Nikon Prize in Micromanipulation, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Oxford

2008: Biosensors & Bioelectronics Award for 'Most Outstanding Contribution' Biosensors - 10th World Congress on Biosensors

2005: Intramural Research Training Award, National Institutes of Health

Current Work: Founder and scientific director at JR Biotek, a biotechnology education-based company providing quality biotechnology laboratory products and services, including hands-on molecular biotechnology training to research students, scientists and lab professionals in tertiary institutions in Africa.

Degree sought at Cambridge: Ph.D. in Plant Sciences

What will you do with degree?: “I am very passionate about training a new generation of scientists in Africa who can apply their knowledge and skills in molecular biotechnology to improve agricultural productivity, which is greatly needed to enhance food security and lift millions out of hunger and extreme poverty in African nations.”

First reaction on winning: “It was unbelievable news, and in fact, sometimes I think I am still in a dream, but it's a dream come true. It is a great miracle considering the extremely competitive process of the scholarship, and I am truly humbled and grateful to the Gates Cambridge Trust and all who were involved throughout the selection process.”

Life goals: “My ultimate goal in life is to make a significant impact in the lives of others, especially millions of people living in the continent of Africa … I believe that food is a basic necessity of life and not a privilege, and that everyone should have equal access to safe, affordable and quality food. This is currently not the case in many African nations and is something that I want to change in any way that I can.”

Georgetown Experience: “The quality of education that I received at Georgetown has been a major contributing factor to my academic and career successes. I conceived the idea of setting up JR Biotek because I wanted to take back what I learned and what I saw at Georgetown to universities in Africa because many of them lack standard scientific laboratories, which I believe is greatly hindering scientific research and innovation in the continent.” 

What Do You Do For Fun?: “I love to sing. Singing is my hobby and I have always been a chorister or part of gospel choral groups, some of which I've led, since the age of 7. Singing gives me so much joy.” 

Early Signs of Genius: “I would teach my younger sister and some of her friends different subjects, but especially mathematics, which I loved so much at the time. I would use a chalk and write on our bedroom closet doors (those were our blackboards back in the day) to draw or illustrate things to her and her friends.”


Aya Waller-Bey stands in front of The New York Times buildingAya Waller-Bey

Hometown: Detroit, Michigan

Georgetown: Bachelor’s degree in sociology with social justice concentration, 2014

Current Work: Admissions officer in Georgetown’s Office of Undergraduate Admissions and coordinator of African American recruitment. Works to recruit, support and yield the most diverse and qualified group of future Hoyas. 

Honors and Awards:

2014: Georgetown Corp Coke Scholarship Recipient given to three Georgetown undergraduates for outstanding service to the community.

2014: Georgetown College-Katherine Kraft Medal Recipient to the graduating student who best manifested a spirit of humility, cooperation and commitment as a woman or man for others in all phases of his or her college life.

2014: Georgetown Lena Landegger Scholarship Award Recipient to recognize Georgetown students for exceptional contributions to community service.

2013: Terrance Davis Spirit Award that recognizes an energetic Georgetown student who empowers and uplifts other students, even in the face of adversity.

Degree sought at Cambridge: A master’s of philosophy in education (arts, creativity, education and culture route.)

Post-Cambridge Plans: “I will use my degree as a foundation for my Ph.D. I hope to challenge traditional views of what is worthy of study in the academy through the study of music and hip-hop, to increase opportunities for cultural exchange and to ensure marginalized voices are heard and valued in education.”

First Reaction on Winning: “My first reaction was disbelief, which then evolved into joy, excitement and praise. I grew up with very little in Detroit. Neither of my parents graduated from high school, so as the first person in my family to graduate from a four-year institution and to receive such an opportunity, all I could do was praise God. I’m humbled by the opportunity to learn and share my passion for hip-hop, education and access with the international community at Cambridge. … I do not want stories like mine to be 'an exception' in society, but commonplace. ”

Georgetown Experience: “I’m grateful for all of the professors who challenged me to listen and to understand.”

Life Goals: “Oprah with a Ph.D. or serving as president or provost of a highly selective institution like Georgetown (whichever comes first).”

Georgetown Role in Life Goals: “Georgetown showed me that the needs of the marginal take precedence over the privileges of the prosperous.”

What Do You Do For Fun?: “I love music (I grew up listening to Motown), so I enjoy listening to it and attending concerts. I also enjoy traveling, trying new vegan food and reading. And I love getting dressed up and being in good company.”

Early Signs of Genius: “In Head Start, I began memorizing and reciting Langston Hughes poems. Since then, I’ve developed a love for public speaking, literature and entertaining.”