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Out of the 30 Gates Cambridge Scholarships awarded to Americans this year, three were given to Penn students.

Next fall, College seniors Donielle Johnson and Jill Portnoy, along with Penn Law graduate Amanda Marzullo, will begin studying at the University of Cambridge. Their studies will be funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for up to three years, with a possible extension to four years.

This year, two students from Yale University, four from Harvard University and one from Princeton University received Gates Scholarships.

Penn students have not had this much success since 2005, when the University had five recipients. Last year, the Gates Scholarship only funded one Penn student, 2009 College alumnus Alexander Jacobs.

Johnson said she applied for the scholarship so she could pursue her interest in autism research.

As a psychology major and a biological basis of behavior minor, she volunteered at the Center for Autism Research at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia throughout her undergraduate years.

Johnson will continue the study of autism under Simon Baron-Cohen, whose lab is in Cambridge’s Autism Research Center.

“I thought it would be a really great experience for me to study under him, especially since I want a career that relates to autism,” Johnson said.

She will spend one year in the United Kingdom, researching to receive a Masters in Philosophy in Medical Sciences, in the Psychiatry Department.

Portnoy hopes to get a Masters in Philosophy as well, but hers will focus on criminological research.

After studying abroad in Seville, Spain during her junior fall, Portnoy looked for another international experience.

“I knew I wanted to go abroad to get my master’s degree,” she said. “And Cambridge has a great Criminology Department.”

Portnoy will stay at Cambridge for one year as well, and then hopes to return to the Unites States to begin working toward a doctorate.

Marzullo, who currently works as a policy analyst in Texas, hopes to obtain a Masters of Law degree, according to the Gates Cambridge Scholarships web site.

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