Josh Carter of Watertown, South Dakota has been announced as one of 32 students from around the U.S. to receive the extremely prestigious Rhodes Scholarship. The Rhodes Scholarship is awarded yearly to 32 American students and was established in 1902. This year, the 32 were chosen from 882 applicants who were endorsed by 311 different colleges and universities from around the country. These Americans will be joined by 63 students from other jurisdictions around the world. These students have the opportunity to study at the University of Oxford in England and have all academic expenses covered for two to three years of study. The Rhodes celebrates not only tremendous academic achievement, but also upstanding character, and a commitment to helping others and the betterment of mankind. Carter is the eleventh MSU student to receive a Rhodes and was one of three MSU students to be selected as finalists this year.
Being a Rhodes Scholar is no easy task, then again, Carter is not an average student. Carter will graduate in May with a double degree in mechanical engineering and microbiology. He will also graduate from the MSU Honors College with the highest distinction. Carter has managed to rack up the three degrees over the course of five years of study at MSU, while managing to perform extensive research in the Blake Wiedenheft Lab, volunteer regularly and hold membership in the Sigma Pi Epsilon fraternity. Carter’s work in his lab explores the ways in which bacteria protects itself from infection and has resulted in four major publications, one of which was the cover story of the scientific journal Science. Earlier this year, Carter was one of three MSU students to receive a Goldwater Scholarship, the nation’s premier award for achievement in math and science.
Carter said he is excited about the award, “but it’s a very demure sort of excited because nothing’s happened yet,” and the reality of the award hasn’t quite set in. Right now he’s just trying to get through finals like the rest of his peers. Carter also talked about the honor of the award, “the Rhodes has this whole extra level of value beyond the money and the education but the opportunity to interact with the rest of the Rhodes Scholars and people at Oxford. I think it will be a very broadening experience,” he said. Carter also talked at length about the interviewing process that took place over the weekend of Nov. 20 in Salt Lake City. Carter and the other finalists from his district of Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming each had an 18 minute interview with nine panelists. Carter said, “The goal of the interview is to get you to the point where you have to say ‘I don’t know’.” They could ask questions on string theory, quantum mechanics, or in Carter’s case, how to make a neuron more plastic. He said the interviewers do not expect finalists to know everything but “they expect you to be able to talk, reason and think.” Carter also spoke about the excellence of his competitors, “the other finalists were so incredible, I was so surprised I won, up until the point when they said my name I had zero illusions of winning.”
Carter attributed some of his success and inspiration to mentors and friends across the MSU campus. Carter said he hadn’t heard of any major scholarships before coming to MSU. Carter had praise for Ilse-Mari Lee, the dean of the Honors college. She “has been amazing in pushing me to apply for these things and sort of push my boundaries,” he said. Carter also spoke of Blake Wiedenheft, his research mentor, who he said, “has been instrumental in my development not only as a person but as a scientist.”
Carter plans to study neuroscience after arriving at Oxford. He aspires to pursue a M.D. and a Ph.D. He would like to perform research that will have the ability to change many more lives than he ever could otherwise, working with people one on one. However, he also craves contact with people, and in addition to this research he would like to practice and see patients. He is most passionate about trying to get the current prosthetic technology to those who might not otherwise be able to afford or have access to it.