Alli Roshni, a fourth-year biology and economics major from Delhi, India, has been named the winner of Oberlin’s 2023 Nexial Prize, which is presented to an outstanding science student with aspirations for interdisciplinary research.
The prize includes a $50,000 cash award to be used in any way the recipient wishes.
Beginning this summer, Roshni will devote a year to working with patients, practitioners, researchers, and grassroots organizations in South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Indonesia in the battle against pediatric HIV and AIDS. The experience was made possible by a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship earned by Roshni this spring.
“I have been passionate about social justice for as long as I can remember, but it was at Oberlin that I learned how impossible it is to address the problems of our world without unwrapping the underlying socioeconomic and cultural contexts that have caused them,” Roshni wrote in an essay for the Nexial Prize. “I went to college to eventually become a doctor, and at Oberlin I have marveled at the pinball machine-like nature of biological mechanisms, written about how pathogens hijack natural immune processes, and studied how air pollution enhances the antibiotic resistance of pneumonia bacteria.
“But here I have also studied the joys and failures of society: translating a beloved short story from Hindi to English and writing about colonialism and race for literature and history courses; gaining intermediate fluency in Spanish; learning about music as a tool for resilience through the Gospel Choir and about the fallibility of human behavior in Social Psychology.”
At Oberlin, Roshni completed research on the effects of epidemic obesity on heart disease; racial disparities in heart transplant and homeownership rates, remittance payments, and tuberculosis infections among migrant workers in India and the U.S.; environmentally derived cancers; measuring and anticipating climate patterns; learning outcomes among low-income students; and food insecurity. She volunteered at pediatric COVID-19 vaccination clinics, founded a campus organization dedicated to increasing student engagement with public health, and collaborated with the local health department to organize a sexual-health community clinic and mental health hotline, among numerous other initiatives.
One of her mentors was Associate Professor of Biology Laura Romberg.
“Alli’s work in my upper-level class on bacterial pathogens demonstrated how skilled she is at understanding and designing health-related research,” says Romberg. “Her work also revealed that she is an excellent communicator, takes ownership of any project that she takes on, and is motivated to learn beyond what is required for school assignments.
“Alli never lets personal or global obstacles stop her from reaching her goals. She’s intellectually talented and driven and is passionate about working to relieve public health inequities. I look forward to seeing what she will achieve in the future.”
Roshni intends to pursue graduate studies in cardiovascular medicine and eyes a career with Médecins Sans Frontières or in medical research.
Presented annually, the Nexial Prize honors a member of the graduating class whose science studies are complemented by a profound interest in the study of culture and who demonstrates excellence in the pursuit of interdisciplinary research. The prize was created by an alumnus to recognize the influence of Oberlin’s liberal arts education on his successful career as a scientist and manager and his intellectual and cultural growth. The winner is determined by a faculty panel.
The first Nexial Prize was presented in 2017. Following is a complete list of past winners:
Adam Chazin-Gray ’17 (biology)
Emilie Lozier ’18 (chemistry and French)
Jane Sedlak ’19 (chemistry)
Monica Dix ’20 (geology and politics)
Janet Wu ’21 (neuroscience, biology, and piano performance)
Marwan Ghanem ’22 (biology and neuroscience)
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