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Phillip Kieval Named First Ever Gates Cambridge Scholar From UH

By Ben Rayder, Ph.D.
Feb. 8, 2021

Phillip KievalPhillip Kieval, a second year graduate student in philosophy in the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Houston, has been named a recipient of the 2021 Gates Cambridge Scholarship. Kieval is the first UH student to receive this honor and is one of 25 students to be chosen out of 638 candidates for the current application round. He will join approximately 80 scholars selected to start their studies at the University of Cambridge in fall 2021.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation established the Gates Cambridge Scholars in 2000 "to create a network of future leaders from around the world who will bring new vision and commitment to improving the life circumstances of citizens in their respective countries.” It is offered to intellectually outstanding postgraduate students with a capacity for leadership and a commitment to improving the lives of others.

As a 2021 Gates Cambridge scholar, Kieval will receive the full cost of studying at Cambridge and discretionary funding for things like fieldwork and academic development. He will also be part of a vibrant scholar community. There are at least 225 Scholars from about 50 countries studying in Cambridge at any one time who pursue the full range of subjects available.

The Gates Cambridge Scholarship is widely regarded as one of the most prestigious national fellowships. After completing his master’s in philosophy this spring, Kieval intends to pursue a doctorate in the Department of History and Philosophy Science at Cambridge. “My research attempts to understand how we can use philosophical as well as formal mathematical tools to analyze the structure and content of abstract representations encoded in artificial intelligence systems in order to better understand and harness the capacities of this technology. I am interested in exploring important questions concerning the widespread implementation of AI.”

At UH, Kieval was a member of the Honors College and participated in several programs administered by the Office of Undergraduate Research and Major Awards, including the Mellon Research Scholars Program and the Senior Honors Thesis. “I’m especially indebted to the Mellon Scholars Fellowship for giving me a taste of what full-time research in the humanities is like. The preparation that program provided cemented my desire to pursue a career as a scholar,” said Kieval. 

The application for the Gates Cambridge Scholarship is intensive and potential candidates are required to apply to the University of Cambridge, as well as the actual fellowship. It is also not a given that applicants will be considered for selection. A candidate’s proposed department at Cambridge must first rank the applicants it would like to nominate for consideration by the Gates Cambridge Trust.

Kieval is excited to represent UH at Cambridge. “UH occupies a very special place in my heart. This university has cultivated such a lively, diverse, and intellectually stimulating environment. I never would have received this prestigious award if it weren’t for the opportunities to develop as both a scholar and as a person that I found here at UH.”

In addition to his parents, faculty, and fellow graduate students in the UH Department of Philosophy, Kieval is especially thankful to the following individuals who supported his application: David Phillips, Justin Coates, Christy Mag Uidhir, Cameron Buckner, James Garson, Luis Oliveira, and Bobbie Sue Schindler.

More information on the Gates Cambridge Scholarship and a complete list of the 2021 scholars can be found here.