Campus News

UK senior named prestigious Gates Cambridge Scholar

Kayli Bolton headshot
Kayla Horne photo seated

LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 6, 2023)  Two University of Kentucky seniors — Kayli Bolton and Kayla Horne — interviewed this year for the Gates Cambridge Scholarship, and Bolton was awarded one of only 23 Gates Cambridge Scholarships presented nationally to students hoping to pursue postgraduate study at the University of Cambridge in England. Bolton, a University of Kentucky biology and Lewis Honors College senior, is the third Wildcat to receive this prestigious international honor, and this is her third major scholarship — she is a previous recipient of the Astronaut Scholarship and the Goldwater Scholarship.

“Kayli Bolton exemplifies all that is wildly possible with an education at UK,” said Provost Robert DiPaola. “We are proud of her many achievements, including the prestigious Gates Cambridge Scholarship. Her commitment to the prevention and early detection of cancer in future patients is remarkable and will be key to helping the world conquer cancer. I wish Kayli all the best as she continues her education at the University of Cambridge.”

Bolton and her fellow U.S. Gates Cambridge Scholars were recognized for their intellectual ability, field of study, commitment to improving lives of others, and leadership potential. The U.S. students will join scholars selected from around the world to pursue studies in a diverse selection of topics including astrophysics, climate change, disability studies, earth sciences, engineering, education, heritage studies, oncology, sociology and zoology. The scholarship will cover the cost of attendance to Cambridge and a living allowance of up to $24,000 a year.

Bolton will use her scholarship to Cambridge to pursue a master's degree in medical science in the university’s Department of Oncology.

“These scholars, who have been selected by our expert Selection Panels, reflect the mission of the Gates Cambridge Trust established through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s generous and historic gift to the University of Cambridge. Like their predecessors, they are both intellectually outstanding and demonstrate the kind of leadership qualities needed to tackle the complex global challenges we face today,” said Eilis Ferran, provost of the Gates Cambridge Trust.

Bolton is excited to put her new scholarship to work.

“The Gates Cambridge Scholarship will allow me to focus on research in cancer prevention and early detection with Dr. Rebecca Fitzgerald, the director of the Early Cancer Institute at Cambridge," she said. "This experience will strengthen my scientific skills and network which will be invaluable as I pursue entrance into MD/PhD programs and throughout my career as a physician-scientist in oncology.”

Bolton is the granddaughter of Linda Mays, of Corbin, Kentucky, and the spouse of Phillip Brown, of London, Kentucky. A family medical diagnosis sparked Bolton’s interest in oncology as a teenager.

“An experience that has been a driving force in my desire to pursue research in the biomedical sciences, and more specifically cancer, was seeing my mom live with stage 4 breast cancer and how that affected my whole family,” Bolton said. “While losing my parents has been the most difficult and tragic time in my life, it is also what drives me the most to build upon the foundation of cancer therapeutics, which are life-changing for so many.”

Since the beginning of her freshman year at UK, Bolton has been actively pursuing that desire to prevent cancer and help care for those with the disease. Her undergraduate research working in a laboratory in the UK College of Medicine Department of Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry focused on the role of glycogen and glycogen metabolism in cancers such as glioblastoma and Ewing’s sarcoma.

Bolton was also part of the Markey STRONG Scholars Program, working with Professor Kathleen O’Connor, Ph.D., Cancer Education Coordinator Erin Oakley and postdoctoral fellow Brittany Rice, who she credits with introducing her to the vast amount of opportunity in cancer research and oncology. Most recently, she worked with Clifton Fuller, M.D., Ph.D., in the Department of Radiation Oncology at MD Anderson Cancer Center. Her summer projects were centered around improving the treatment of head and neck cancer patients by utilizing bioinformatics.

Additionally, Bolton has served as an undergraduate research ambassador under Chad Risko, Ph.D., and Jesi Bowman in the Office of Undergraduate Research, where she shares her passion for research with other Wildcats. “The Office of Undergraduate Research does an amazing job at creating and sharing opportunities to get involved in research, and I am overjoyed to have the opportunity to contribute to their work,” Bolton said.

Bolton credits her success to the mentors above and more. “I am immensely grateful for the research opportunities that I have been granted with Dr. Matthew Gentry and Dr. Clifton Fuller as well as the endless support from my research mentors including Dr. Lyndsay Young, Dr. Jessica Macedo, and Dr. Zoe Simmons from the University of Kentucky, and Dr. Vivian Salama, Dr. Abdallah Mohamed, and Dr. Moamen Abobakr from MD Anderson Cancer Center. These individuals have served as extraordinary role models for me as scientists, physicians and people.

“Also, the faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences, especially the biology department, and the Lewis Honors College have helped to create a wonderful environment to learn and grow in,” Bolton said. “And I must share my utmost gratitude to Dr. Pat Whitlow, Emily Sallee, and Lynn Hiler in the Office of Nationally Competitive Awards and Chellgren Center. Their support has been invaluable to me while applying to awards through the university.”

The Gates Cambridge Scholarship program was set up in 2000 and funded by a $210 million donation to the University of Cambridge by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It enables academically outstanding students from outside the United Kingdom who have a strong interest in social leadership and responsibility to pursue graduate study at Cambridge.

In addition to Bolton, UK had another student compete in the final stages for the Gates Cambridge Scholarship. Kayla Horne, a human health sciences and Lewis Honors College senior from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, was a finalist and accepted to Cambridge to pursue the Masters of Philosophy in Genomic Medicine in the university’s Department of Medical Genetics. At UK, Horne was involved with the Luke Bradley Laboratory in the College of Medicine. The research she worked on focused on studying different genetic diseases, those caused by single-base-pair mutations. Horne plans to be a pediatrician who specializes in genetics.

About the UK Office of Nationally Competitive Awards

The UK Office of Nationally Competitive Awards assists current undergraduate and graduate students and recent alumni in applying for external fellowships scholarships funded by sources (such as a nongovernment foundation or government agency) outside the university. These major awards honor exceptional students across the nation. Students who are interested in these opportunities are encouraged to begin work with the office's director, Pat Whitlow, well in advance of the scholarship deadline.

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

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