Ohio State honors student named 2021 Rhodes Scholar

The Ohio State University senior and Dublin native Daniel Lesman has been named a 2021 Rhodes Scholar.

Lesman is Ohio State’s ninth Rhodes Scholar, and the third Buckeye to be honored in three years — an unprecedented feat in university history. Ohio State’s previous recipients were Henry Wu (2020) and Laila Ujayli (2019).

The Rhodes Scholarship was founded in 1902 and supports graduate study at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. Thirty-two scholarships are awarded annually to outstanding seniors and recent graduates across the United States.

Daniel Lesman

“On behalf of Ohio State, we congratulate Daniel Lesman on this outstanding accomplishment. His commitment to research and service beyond self reflects the values of our university community and we are thrilled to see Daniel receive this well-deserved honor,” said President Kristina M. Johnson.

The Rhodes Trust selected Lesman for his work founding a non-profit organization that provides educational resources to homeless and at-risk students, as well as his biomedical research on Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), Huntington’s disease, and COVID-19.

“The Rhodes Scholarship is an exceptional achievement, and we are so proud to see Daniel Lesman honored with this award,” said Executive Vice President and Provost Bruce A. McPheron. “Congratulations to Daniel, his family and his academic mentors at Ohio State.”

Lesman is pursuing a major in biomedical science with research distinction in the College of Medicine, and he has maintained a perfect academic record while studying subjects like chemistry, biology, and genetics. He is a Goldwater Scholar, Astronaut Scholar, university honors student and Maximus Scholar.

As a senior in high school, Lesman joined Dr. Nicolas Wein’s genetic therapy lab at Nationwide Children’s Hospital so he could aid in research developing a cure for DMD, which leads to progressive muscle degeneration. Inspired by a friend who has DMD, Lesman continued researching genetic therapy at this lab throughout the course of his undergraduate career, designing and testing small modified RNA molecules to correct the mutations that cause DMD. Lesman is currently leading a project aiming to restore DMD patients’ missing dystrophin protein. Additionally, Lesman researched how therapies mitigating DMD may be applied to Huntington’s disease.

During summer 2019, and again remotely during summer 2020, Lesman conducted research with the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, conducting biomedical and genomics research in Dr. Fei Chen’s lab, which develops tools for basic science research. During his first summer at the Broad Institute, Lesman researched how engineering principles could be used to combat disease. When Lesman rejoined this lab remotely during the summer of 2020, he led a project assisting the global battle against COVID-19 in which he developed a better understanding of the evolution of SARS-CoV-2 by discovering mutations in the virus and determining their functional outcomes.

Lesman was awarded Goldwater and Astronaut scholarships during his junior year in recognition of these research endeavors. Lesman’s research has been published in Nature Biotechnology.

During Lesman’s freshman year at Ohio State, he volunteered at Star House, a center for youth experiencing homelessness. Lesman realized that there was an unmet need for academic tutoring among Star House residents, and he eventually founded Pass the Class, a nonprofit organization that has served over 100 homeless and at-risk youth. The organization is currently expanding to other universities across the country.

“As our students go on to attend institutions of higher education and achieve other important milestones, the value of education has never been more apparent to me,” he said.

As a Rhodes Scholar, Lesman plans to pursue Master of Science (MSc) degrees in evidence-based social intervention and policy evaluation and physiology, anatomy and genetics. This multidisciplinary course of study will enable Lesman to examine the ways in which policy choices, including educational policies, can impact students of various backgrounds, while also continuing his research on rare genetic disorders. After earning these degrees at Oxford, Lesman will return to the United States to earn an MD/PhD.

Lesman intends to dedicate his career as a physician-scientist to working with patients while continuing his research on genetic disorders, all while removing barriers to education. As a Rhodes Scholar, Lesman will utilize his experiences studying in the U.K. to learn new perspectives on research, health care, and educational policies.

Ohio State University students interested in pursuing the Rhodes Scholarship or other national fellowship opportunities should contact the Undergraduate Fellowship Office located within the University Honors & Scholars Center, fellowships.osu.edu. More information on the Rhodes Scholarship can be found through the Rhodes Trust, rhodesscholar.org