CHAMPAIGN — A University of Illinois student who launched a project to provide prosthetic arms to amputees in developing countries has won a prestigious scholarship to study in the United Kingdom.
Jonathan Naber, 23, of Waterloo was one of about 40 students in the U.S. selected as Marshall Scholars.
He plans to earn two master's degrees — one in public health in developing countries at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and a second in development management at the London School of Economics and Political Science.
Naber, who is working in Guatemala to develop and test Illini Prosthetic Technologies' prosthetic limbs, said he hopes that after earning those degrees, he can address systemic failures in how amputees are cared for and work to prevent future amputations.
Naber received a bachelor's degree in materials science and engineering from the UI in May 2011. He is the third UI student in the last six years to win a Marshall Scholarship.
While at Illinois, Naber conceived of providing prosthetic arms for amputees who could not afford expensive devices. He experimented and created prototypes, gathered and managed a team, established a nonprofit organization and raised more than $140,000 in start-up funds.
Today that organization — which recently changed its name from IPT to BUMP — provides artificial limbs to amputees in the developing world.
In an email to The News-Gazette, Naber said he decided to pursue postgraduate studies because he needs to know more about public health and development.
"The more of the situation I have seen here in Latin America, the more fronts I want to fight on," Naber said. "To do so, I will have to transform from an engineer to a public health and development expert."
Naber has been working as BUMP's field operative, working with patients and partner organizations and organizing field operations to increase the number of prosthetic arms getting to amputees.
"I have never had more fun in my life, and we have made major progress by simultaneously working in Latin America and the United States in the past 10 months," he said.
In January, several of Naber's partners in BUMP plan to travel to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador for three weeks to supply prosthetic arms to partner organizations, he said.
IPT changed its name to BUMP so that it can eventually provide products besides prosthetic devices, Naber said.
While an undergraduate, Naber won the Lemelson-MIT Illinois Student Prize. He received the Simon Fellowship for Noble Purposes in 2011 and earned a Whitaker International Fellow Grant to help pay for his bioengineering research in Guatemala. He has donated more than $40,000 in prize money to IPT.
Naber said his time in Guatemala has shown him "the overwhelming need for affordable prosthetic care in Latin America" and "how important holistic care and prevention should be."
He said he has witnessed "the heart and toughness with which people survive" and has learned "to take risks, be bold and knock down barriers ... in order to make it happen big."
In a university release, UI President Bob Easter praised Naber as someone who "transformed the university" while on campus, and Chancellor Phyllis Wise called Naber "a person of tremendous character with significant leadership skills."