Penn State senior selected as Marshall Scholar

Sean Yoder
December 07, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State senior A’dryanna Jenkins earned a 2021 Marshall Scholarship, allowing her to pursue graduate studies in pathology at Cambridge University for one year.

Jenkins, of Easton, Pennsylvania, is an immunology and infectious diseases major in the College of Agricultural Sciences and a Schreyer Scholar. After graduating, she plans to pursue a combined MD/PhD degree and work as a physician-scientist in academia and government. She will use the Marshall Scholarship to join the Roychoudhuri Laboratory in Cambridge University’s Department of Pathology.

The Marshall Scholarship is considered among the most competitive U.K. scholarships for U.S. students. Students must be recommended by their university, and each year roughly 1,000 high-achieving students are considered by the Marshall Aid Commemoration Commission and fewer than 50 are ultimately selected to study at the graduate level in the U.K.

It was a thrilling day for Jenkins, she said, when she found out she had been selected as a Marshall Scholar, having just interviewed two hours prior.

“Once I found out that I actually received the scholarship I was really, really excited,” she said. “I’m really thankful for all of the people in the fellowships office [Undergraduate Research and Fellowships Mentoring] who helped me, all of my friends and colleagues who helped me do my essays and tolerated me asking them to mock interview with me.”

Headshot photograph of student A'dryanna Jenkins

A'dryanna Jenkins is a Penn State senior.

IMAGE: Provided

Jenkins had an indirect path to Penn State and first started her education at West Chester University. She then transferred to Penn State Lehigh Valley and later changed campuses to University Park. The first-generation college student distinguished herself academically and socially, earning awards for her consistently high GPA, becoming a Schreyer Scholar and participating in the BioMed Amgen Scholars Program at Yale University. Her contributions to improving the atmosphere of diversity and inclusion at Penn State include helping to implement anti-racist training into orientation programming for incoming honors students.

Penn State President Eric Barron praised Jenkins for both her academic achievements and contributions to campus culture.

“A’dryanna is the embodiment of the accomplished scholar who also possesses noble values and character,” Barron said. “We are proud that she will be representing Penn State, and the United States, as she pursues a path that will improve the lives of others.”

Jenkins studied paramyxovirus budding in the Schmitt Laboratory at Penn State for her undergraduate thesis. She first became interested in virology during a microbiology course that had a section on viruses.

“It kind of bothered me that there was no clear answer at the time for how something that’s nonliving can go into your cells and do all of these complicated things and mutate itself and invade your immune system,” she said. “I wanted to learn more about viruses and how they manipulate our cells, given that they’re so simple. They’re just a little bundle of protein and genetic information.”

But Jenkins also said she is interested in the effects that medical treatments have on patients and hopes to improve the lives of others through research contributions.

Jenkins’ other college activities include membership in Gamma Sigma Delta, an honor society for agricultural sciences; a role as membership director for the Multicultural Association of Schreyer Scholars; and work as a peer research consultant and coordinator at the Search Bar, a part of University Libraries.

While studying in the U.K., Jenkins said she plans to also explore the many art history and historic sites in Europe. She is especially eager to visit Pompeii and the ruins preserved by the ash from the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, a place she has wanted to visit most of her life, she said.

About the Marshall Scholarship

The Marshall Scholarship began in the early 1950s when the U.K. Foreign Office decided to deepen ties to the U.S. through a scholarship program to benefit American students. It is named for the Marshall Plan, which — through an act of Congress — supplied $12 billion in aid for postwar recovery in the late 1940s and early 1950s throughout western Europe. Seven hundred students applied in the first year for one of the 12 slots.  

Similar to other competitive scholarships and fellowships, students must be recommended by their university to apply for the Marshall Scholarship. At Penn State, Undergraduate Research and Fellowship Mentoring (URFM) works with students to determine which scholarships they are most competitive for and helps to refine applications and prepare for interviewing. The Marshall Scholarship requires students to hold a GPA of at least 3.7 and further assessment is based on academic merit, leadership potential and ambassadorial potential.

Jenkins put together her initial application and interviewed with URFM in early 2020 and learned she would be a good candidate for the Marshall Scholarship. She was one of five recommended by Penn State to the scholarship board. Throughout the rest of 2020, Jenkins refined her essays for her application specifically to Marshall. Meanwhile, URFM worked to gather letters of recommendation on her behalf and assembled a panel of former Marshall Scholars to help prepare Jenkins for her interview.

Caitlin Ting, URFM director, said the process of earning competitive scholarships starts early in a student’s academic career and she encourages students to begin thinking their goals for college, like applying for a fellowship, in their first and second years.

“The processes for many of these opportunities can be long, and we want students to dig deep and reflect on their interests and future,” Ting said. “But this isn't a process for students to go through alone. We enjoy seeing students return semester after semester to update us on their activities and we bring people into the process who have been there and can bring out the best in them.”

Jenkins said she was especially thankful for the help she received from others in preparing for the scholarship, including Julie Ealy, associate professor of chemistry at Penn State Lehigh Valley; Lynette Yarger, associate professor in the College of Information Sciences and Technology and assistant dean for equity and inclusion in the Schreyer Honors College; Anthony Schmitt, professor of molecular biology in the College of Agricultural Sciences; Jacob Bourjaily, associate professor of physics in the Eberly College of Science and Marshall Scholar; Song Tan, Verne M. Willaman Professor of Molecular Biology in the Eberly College of Science and Marshall Scholar. Jenkins also gave her thanks to the Undergraduate Research and Fellowships Mentoring office; her boyfriend, Marquis McMillan, who is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in physics at Penn State; and her family and friends for their support and enthusiasm.

The next URFM deadline for University Park campus students interested in being nominated for the Rhodes, Marshall, Mitchell and Churchill Scholarships will be Sunday, March 21, 2021, at 11:59 p.m. Applications will be submitted using InfoReady.

During the first week of February URFM will host a series of events on post-graduate opportunities, including the Marshall, Rhodes, Churchill, Mitchell and Gates Cambridge scholarships. This will be followed by the campus deadline, which kick-starts the nomination process.

Undergraduate Research and Fellowships Mentoring is part of the Penn State Office of Undergraduate Education, the academic administrative unit that provides leadership and coordination for University-wide programs and initiatives in support of undergraduate teaching and learning at Penn State. Learn more about Undergraduate Education at


Last Updated December 07, 2020