Senior Grant Rigney has joined an elite class since being named a Rhodes Scholar. Only the eighth student in UT history to receive the scholarship, he will begin two years of all-expenses-paid graduate study at the University of Oxford in England next fall.
Rigney, a native of Normandy, Tennessee, and a graduate of Tullahoma High School, is a Haslam Scholar and Neyland Scholar majoring in chemical and biomolecular engineering. He aspires to be a surgeon—possibly a transplant surgeon— and wants to do public health research with an overarching goal of helping to improve health services to elderly, poor, and otherwise vulnerable patients.
He’s already an accomplished researcher, involved in patent-pending research at UT Medical Center on phase transfer catalysts as a way to measure the toxicity of imaging agents used in PET and CT scans.
As a Haslam Scholar, he’s writing his undergraduate thesis on medical research he did during an internship at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital this past summer. He has a myriad of interests outside the classroom and laboratory. He’s a certified nursing assistant, a community volunteer, a licensed private pilot, a triathlete, and an accomplished musician who plays the fiddle and mandolin.
Here he answers a few questions about himself and his plans for the future:
WHAT’S IT LIKE BEING PART OF THE ELITE GROUP KNOWN AS RHODES SCHOLARS?
“It’s nice to see some fruits of my labor and of my hard work. I feel like it’s time to be grateful to people who have supported me . . . because I would not have been able to do it without a lot of help.”
HOW WILL BEING A RHODES SCHOLAR IMPACT YOUR FUTURE?
“I certainly think it will open doors that perhaps wouldn’t have been opened otherwise. Even more than that, it gives me the opportunity to have a platform to do work from and to speak from that just wouldn’t have been there otherwise.”
WHY IS HELPING OTHERS SO IMPORTANT?
“I think it’s something that my parents and my family fostered in my growing up—trying to be humble and having humility in the things you do and, even more importantly, doing things for the sake of them being good and helpful to others.”
WHY DID YOU WANT TO BECOME A PRIVATE PILOT?
“My dad loved airplanes and specifically fighter jets. He would take me to a lot of air shows when I was growing up. I developed a love for aviation and airplanes in general.
“I knew I wanted to learn how to fly but did not have the funds to do so. I ended up saving up some money from playing music [with his family’s bluegrass band] and also working as a nurse assistant. I got my license the summer between my senior year of high school and my freshman year of college.”
WHAT’S THE FIRST THING YOU TELL PEOPLE ABOUT UT?
Rigney said he chose UT because of the Haslam Scholars program.
“It offered me opportunities I couldn’t get elsewhere and gave me the chance to be part of a group of motivated and driven people.
“I’ve loved UT. It’s given me so many opportunities, experiences, and friends. It’s a place that has all the resources you may need to pursue whatever field you’re interested in.”
Read a fuller version of this article on the UT News website.