The Rhodes Scholarship Trust announced 32 U.S. winners
this past Saturday. Winners of the prestigious scholarship
were chosen from among 981 applicants from 341 colleges
and universities nationwide.
As a freshman, Luthra began tutoring high school students
in computer skills when he noticed a troubling digital divide.
As a result, he founded the Berkeley non-profit Computer
Literacy 4 Kids in 2001 to help underprivileged youth receive
computers, software and training.
"I believe it is important to make a difference where you
can," said Luthra, 21. "It's great to have a global impact,
but you can't forget about problems close to home. Computer
Literacy 4 Kids is a way I can help locally."
"This is fantastic and a great honor for Ankur Luthra and
his parents," said Chancellor Robert M. Berdahl. "The Rhodes
Scholarship is widely recognized as one of the most competitive
scholarships available and one of the most prestigious because
so many Rhodes scholars have gone on to positions of great
distinction and leadership."
Luthra is the 21st Rhodes Scholarship winner from UC Berkeley.
He was preceded by Tomasz Malinowski, a 1989 winner.
Of the 21 winners from UC Berkeley, one student resigned
the scholarship in 1928 for unknown reasons.
The scholarship was created in 1902 through the will of
Cecil Rhodes, a British philanthropist. It is the oldest
international study award available to American students,
providing them with two to three years of study at the University
of Oxford in England. The U.S. scholars will join a group
of international scholars from 18 other jurisdictions around
Scholarship recipients are chosen for their high academic
achievement, integrity of character, a spirit of unselfishness,
respect for others, potential for leadership and physical
vigor. Past U.S. Rhodes Scholars include Bill Clinton and
In just the past three years, Luthra has been awarded 14
scholarships and awards. Among those honors are the Regents',
Barry M. Goldwater and Donald A. Strauss scholarships. He
is a member of several honor societies, including Phi Beta
Kappa and MENSA.
Luthra's parents, Ravi and Tripta, immigrated to the United
States from Punjab, India. An only child, Luthra was born
in San Jose, and the family moved to Saratoga when he was
Luthra, who maintains a 4.0 grade point average, is editor-in-chief
and founder of the Berkeley EECS Research Journal.
In 1999, he founded the music portal, YourMP3Guide.com.
Although the company became one of many victims of the dot-com
meltdown one year later, Luthra looks upon the experience
"You learn from your failures as well as your successes,"
he said. "You have to be able to take risks in life if you're
going to succeed, and you can't do that if you're afraid
to fail once in a while. It also proves I'm human."
Jitendra Malik, professor and chair of the Division of
Computer Science in UC Berkeley's College of Engineering,
recommended Luthra to UC Berkeley's selection committee
early in the competition.
"Luthra is one of the brightest students to have passed
through my class in years," said Malik. "He steps up to
challenging problems in class and is often there to act
as a mentor to his peers. He excels intellectually, but
he also has a drive to succeed that is important for Rhodes
In engineering, Luthra has worked on game-theory models
of the Internet - applying the Nash equilibrium principle
to Web traffic - and on artificial intelligence projects
designed to improve robots' throwing skills. Luthra is also
studying the business of non-profit organizations.
"In the long term, I want to work on assistive robotics
and technology that solves societal problems," said Luthra.
"My inspiration, my parents, are very selfless, and they
instilled those values in me. I've been very fortunate in
my life, so it's important for me to give back to society."
Students chosen this year will be entering the University
of Oxford 100 years after the first class of Rhodes Scholars
did in 1903. Luthra said he intends to pursue a master's
degree in computer science there.