Buffalo Grove resident named Rhodes Scholar

By Associated Press
Chicago Daily Herald

Northwestern University student Anna Yermakova was shocked to be named a Rhodes scholar on Sunday - especially since the Russian immigrant hadn't fully understood just what a Rhodes scholarship was when she first submitted her application.

Yermakova, a biochemistry major, was one of two Northwestern students named Rhodes Scholars Sunday; she and Mallory A. Dwinal will travel to England to study at Oxford University along with 30 other Americans who the Rhodes Trust chose as scholars.

"I didn't really understand how big of a deal it was, especially because my family isn't from this country," said Yermakova, a 22-year-old senior who lives in Buffalo Grove. "The more I learned about it, the more I thought - 'I don't have a chance."'

Yermakova, who also majors in piano and in the history and philosophy of science and logic, has done research in chemical engineering, nanotechnology, neuroscience and biomedical engineering at the University of Washington, the University of Chicago and Northwestern.

Her talents extend beyond academia: She's won national awards as a pianist, and has competed as a ballroom, salsa and flamenco dancer.

At Oxford, Yermakova plans to complete a doctorate in mathematical biology.

Yermakova's parents, Vladimir and Meri Yermakov, were engineers in the Moscow region before the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Six years later, the family joined relatives in the Chicago suburbs. Eleven-year-old Anna spoke little English when she arrived.

"I never really had this 'I must prove myself as a Russian immigrant' attitude," she said. "It was just working hard and doing everything that my brain can do and my hands can do, and I still have a lot of work to do - this is just a step."

She also believes in modesty.

"I don't think one should ever be too amazed with their accomplishments because that will stunt what they do in the future," she said.

This year's 32 Rhodes Scholars were picked from 769 applicants endorsed by 207 colleges and universities nationwide.

The scholarships, the oldest of the international study awards available to American students, provide two or three years of study. They include tuition, fees, and a stipend for living expenses and travel. The students will enter Oxford University in England next October.