Meghana Vagwala from the Dzirasa Lab named Marshall Scholar

Tuesday, December 5, 2017
By Keith Lawrence
Meghana Vagwala

Two Duke University students and one Duke graduate are among the 43 recipients of the prestigious Marshall Scholarship.

Seniors Meghana Vagwala of South Grafton, Massachusetts, and John Lu of Whippany, New Jersey, and 2016 Duke graduate Antonio Lopez of East Palo Alto, California, were chosen from among 929 applicants throughout the country. They are the 25th, 26th and 27th Marshall recipients from Duke.

Up to 40 Marshall Scholarship are awarded each year to high-achieving American students to pursue post-graduate studies at any university in the UK in any field. The award covers all university fees, cost-of-living expenses and many other costs.

“I am delighted that two distinguished Duke students and one alumnus have received this prestigious recognition,” said Duke President Vincent E. Price. “In their time on campus, Meghana, John and Antonio have each demonstrated tremendous academic potential and a dedication to service that reflects Duke’s core values. I wish them the very best as they embark on their studies in the United Kingdom.”

Vagwala is the recipient of a four-year, merit-based Angier B. Duke Scholarship

With a self-designed Program II major at the intersection of neuroscience, ethics and anthropology, Vagwala’s research interests led her to pursue grant-funded research on the moral and social dynamics of cognitive enhancement with the Oxford Neuroscience, Ethics, and Society Team. That resulted in a first-author publication in the journal Neuroethics and a top-paper conference prize.

In addition, she is a member of the Nepal Global Mental Health Lab, where she spent three months conducting an ethnographic study of mental health issues in Nepal, which serves as the basis for her senior thesis. She also worked as a research assistant for three years in Dr. Kafui Dzirasa’s Laboratory for Psychiatry Neuroengineering.

Vagwala has spent hundreds of hours assisting victim-survivors of domestic violence at the Compass Center for Women and Families in Chapel Hill. She is president and co-founder of the Compass Center Duke Ambassadors, which partners Duke students with leaders from the Compass Center to engage in hotline advocacy and gender-violence prevention trainings.

Vagwala has volunteered with Best Buddies in Durham, with children at the Duke Hospital and with those in hospice care at the Durham VA Hospital.

As a Marshall Scholar, Vagwala plans for post-graduate studies in medical anthropology at the University of Edinburgh and in global mental health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. She is particularly interested in exploring cultural norms related to brain health in South India.

Upon her return to the U.S., she plans to attend medical school to prepare for a career in both clinical care and global health research. Vagwala hopes to consider neurological and psychiatric issues in a broader cultural context.

“At Duke, I’ve been able to interweave my feminist ethos, love of stories, and curiosity about the workings of the human brain,” Vagwala said. “I am honored and incredibly grateful for the opportunity to dig deeper into these passions as a Marshall Scholar.”

To read more about John Lu and Antionio Lopez, read the full Duke Today story.

A complete list of this year's recipients is online at

Story originally published in Duke Today.