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Updated: Mastroianni '14, McGinnis '13 win Rhodes Scholarships

Adam Mastroianni ’14 and Timothy McGinnis ’13 were selected as recipients of the U.S. Rhodes Scholarship on Saturday. The Rhodes Scholarship awards selected students the opportunity to study at University of Oxford. The program selects 83 recipients worldwide, including 32 from the United States.


Mastroianni, a senior in the psychology departmentfrom Monroeville, Ohio, and a former co-president of improv comedy group Quipfire!, has conducted extensive research on the social psychology of humor. His research includes how the presence of others affects laughter and how laughter influences people’s perception of each other. Mastroianni summarized the results of his research in a simple sentence: “Basically, it’s good to laugh.”

Mastroianni is one of the first people to research this specific topic, according to psychology professor Susan Fiske, who is advising him on his senior thesis and advised him on both of his junior papers. She noted that she was impressed by his persistence and mature attitude toward research.

Mastroianni is a senior cartoonist for The Daily Princetonian.

Mastroianni said he has been interested in the topic since high school, where he participated in stand-up comedy. His government teacher, who used to provide feedback on his practices after classes, didn’t laugh aloud at the puns even though he found them amusing, and Mastroianni took note of how audience members are not likely to laugh when they watch alone.

Mastroianni plans to complete a Master of Philosophy in evidence-based social intervention at Oxford, focusing on how people’s behaviors are affected by other people’s behaviora.

“What I’m working on, basically, is how can we structure interventions to help people live better lives, and one of the ways is to change their perception of what other people are doing,” Mastroianni said. “I don’t think I’ll be doing studies forcing people to listen to pun after pun anymore, which is sad, but it’s time to move on.”


Mastroianni said he hopes to pursue a career in social psychology for the public good after Oxford. He plans to conduct research on how to understand human mind and behavior in order to make people’s lives better. “And I think humor always will play a large part in that,” Mastroianni added.

Among his peers, Mastroianni is known for his sense of humor. Alex Moss ’14, who is a co-coordinator of the Triangle Club’s writing team along with Mastroianni, said that Mastroianni actually made puns during his Rhodes interview, to the delight of the interviewers. David Drew ’14, a member of Quipfire!, said that he believes Mastroianni would be “either the most intelligent comedian or the funniest professor.”

McGinnis, an anthropology concentrator who graduated summa cum laude in June, has special interests in the colonial and postcolonial history of medicine and health care systems.

From 2009 to 2011 he took a two-year leave to attend Deep Springs College in California, a school with student body of 26 that focuses on students’ autonomy and independence. A school devoted to the idea of alternative education, Deep Springs requires that its students run the ranch and farm attached to the college. McGinnis said he became interested in medicine during his time at Deep Springs, where he was one of the two emergency medical technicians for the secluded school.

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He described the experience of attending Deep Springs as very influential on his personal outlook. “It has really shaped a lot of my beliefs about working with and for other people," McGinnis said. "It's developed an invaluable sense of appreciation for both friendship and collective problem-solving."

McGinnis continued to work in health care during his time at Princeton, working as an EMT and volunteering at a clinic in the Democratic Republic of the Congo over one summer. Since graduation, he has been working for the Wellbody Alliance, an organization that provides health care in rural Sierra Leone.

Raphael Frankfurter ’13, executive director of Wellbody Alliance and long-time friend of McGinnis, commented that he was very excited about McGinnis’ achievement.

“I think that what makes him unique is not only his commitment to being a moral person but also his humility and thoughtfulness, and the ability to make things happen,” Frankfurter said.

Frankfurter and McGinnis havewritten for the 'Prince'as guest columnists.

McGinnis is planning to pursue a Master of Science in the history of science, medicine and technology during his time at Oxford. Regarding his studies after Oxford, he said he is torn between pursuing a further degree in global health policy with a focus on health care system management and attending medical school to practice medicine himself.

The Rhodes Trust selects a class of scholars from 14 regions, including Australia, Bermuda, Canada, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Jamaica and the Commonwealth Caribbean, Kenya, New Zealand, Pakistan, Southern Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe and the United States. Scholars from the other districts will be announced in the coming weeks, and could include Princeton students.