Undergraduate Profile: Jarrad Aguirre, DC ’09, Rhodes Scholar: “Dissecting Medical Anthropology at Oxford”

Jarrad Aguirre ’09 found himself drawn to the sciences from an early age, always seeking to “explore the world” around him and find his relationship with it. A Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology major, Aguirre was one of thirty-two American winners to be awarded the Rhodes Scholarship, the oldest and most prestigious fellowship that brings students from all over the world to study at the University of Oxford in England.

Throughout his college career, Aguirre has conducted research that has allowed him to “find an outlet” for his interests in neuroscience and the disparities in global health care.

As an intern at Stanford University in 2006, he studied the formation of neuro­muscular junctions – the location where motor nerves connect to muscles (and a common site of muscular disorders). Specifically, he investigated the role of receptor formation and its effect on the neuromuscular junctions in zebrafish embryos by developing new staining and imaging procedures. For this work, Aguirre won the “Poster Presentation Award” at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students.

The summer before his junior year, Aguirre conducted independent research on indigenous medical practices in Peru, aiming to see how each community prac­ticed medicine. “I conducted interviews with the medicine men and women, com­munity leaders, and local politicians to investigate the Peruvian healthcare system,” he explained. After returning from his trip, he arranged a photo exhibit at Yale showing the struggles of the indigenous cultures to maintain their cultural and medical practices.

Then, in the summer of 2008, Agu­irre pursued quite a different line of work, researching the diseases that trigger memory loss. As an intern at the Memory Disorders Clinic in Buenos Aires, Argen­tina, he examined the “delivery of care to patients with dementia in a resource-poor neighborhood” while running tests that check the severity of the dementia and disease progression.

In addition to working in Argentina, Aguirre researched Alzheimer’s disease at the Massachusetts Institute of Technol­ogy under the guidance of Li-Huei Tsai at the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory. He examined the binding interac­tions of a molecule called cyclin-dependent kinase 5 (Cdk5) in synaptic plasticity and memory processes.

With an extensive history of research and interactions with the global health community, Aguirre was an ideal Rhodes Scholar candidate. His many contribu­tions, however, have not excluded Yale’s own campus. As a sophomore, Aguirre founded MAS (Math and Science) Familias, a mentorship program that supports Latino undergraduate students interested in math and science by introducing them to upper­classmen peers.

“Many of my friends were struggling and dropping science and math courses; by creating a network and organizing talks and panels, these students had support behind their endeavors,” Aguirre said.

He is also the co-founder and president of YNepal, a service organization that organizes trips to orphanages in Kath­mandu and holds events on campus to raise awareness about these orphanages. He is the former captain of the Yale Club Hockey Team, and he has spent his senior year as a freshman counselor in Davenport College.

At Oxford, Aguirre will complete an MSc in Medical Anthropology, after which he plans to attend medical school. He looks forward to an opportunity to “broaden [his] interests and gain compelling experiences.”

And we look forward to saying we knew him when.