Submitted by Emanuel Costache

March 6, 2008
Contact: Emanuel Costache '09
Media Relations Intern
Caroline Jenkins Hanna
Director of Media Relations


AMHERST, Mass.—Noah Isserman of Urbana, Ill., Amherst College Class of 2007, has been named a 2008 Gates Cambridge Scholar. Isserman numbers among just 45 students in the country and 100 students worldwide to receive the prestigious award, which will subsidize all of his expenses for a year of study toward a master’s degree in philosophy at the University of Cambridge in England.

At Amherst, Isserman designed his own interdisciplinary course of study in cognitive neuroscience. He described his study of cognitive neuroscience as “focused on the neural and hormonal correlates of human decision-making when emotion or fairness are in conflict with economic optimality.” He will present the findings from his undergraduate thesis at the annual meeting of the Cognitive Neuroscience Society in San Francisco this April.

At Cambridge, Isserman plans to focus on geographical research, which will allow him “to study the massive and ongoing influx of money into socially or environmentally responsible investment vehicles.” Connecting his thesis work to his current interests, Isserman said: “While research into socially and environmentally responsible investment is in some ways an extension of that theme, the closest parallel is probably on a field level—both cognitive neuroscience and economic geography are extremely interdisciplinary in nature, and I find myself most excited in such necessarily collaborative and dynamic environments.” He will study at Gonville and Caius College with university lecturer Mia Gray. He also hopes to take a seminar with Lucasian Chair of Mathematics Stephen Hawking, who is a fellow at Caius.

“Noah is notable for his quick wit, his entrepreneurial spirit and the depth of his engagement with questions of social justice,” said Barry O’Connell, James E. Ostendarp Professor of English. “He can be wonderfully irreverent as well as insistent that at least this teacher engage his toughest questions. He will accomplish great things.” Isserman worked as a course co-leader for O’Connell’s seminar “Democracy and Education.”

While at Amherst, Isserman served as chairman and CEO of MAStorage, a student-run storage solution firm, which is unique among summer storage businesses in that it offers financial aid to college students for whom the cost of storage would otherwise be a significant burden. Isserman was also a co-founder and lead consultant of Occam Partners, a consulting firm for small businesses.

A graduate of the University Laboratory High School in Urbana, Ill., Isserman is the son of Andrew Isserman, Amherst Class of 1968, and Ellen Jacobsen-Isserman. At Amherst, he served as student body vice president as well as a class senator. In addition to playing on the varsity men’s soccer team, Isserman was elected to represent all Amherst’s varsity athletes to the NESCAC Student-Athlete Committee and was subsequently elected chair of the 11 college conference (e.g. Middlebury, Bowdoin, Williams). As chair, Isserman spearheaded an effort encourage student-athletes to support and take part in Habitat for Humanity builds.

 Isserman has been honored with several Amherst awards that have funded his efforts in social entrepreneurship, including a Roger E. Alcaly Public Service Fellowship to support an eight-student group that aided in Sri Lankan tsunami relief, a Tom Gerety Fellowship for Action and various research awards from the Dean of the Faculty to support research in cognitive neuroscience. He is the first Amherst College student to receive a Gates Scholarship.   

The Gates Cambridge Scholarship Program was created in 2000 when the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced a donation of $210 million to the University of Cambridge to establish the Gates Cambridge trust. In the first seven years of the program, 726 students from more than 75 countries have taken up their scholarships at Cambridge, including more than 300 graduates of more than 100 U.S. colleges and universities. The 256 Gates Scholars at Cambridge for 2007-08 come from 60 different countries.

Founded in 1821, Amherst is a highly selective, coeducational liberal arts college with approximately 1,600 students from most of the 50 states and more than 30 other countries. Considered one of the nation’s best educational institutions, Amherst awards the B. A. degree in 34 fields of study.