Vidal M. Arroyo (’19)

Chapman University’s first ever Rhodes Scholar, PepsiCo Cesar Chavez Latino Scholar, and Cecil F. Cheverton Award are just a few of the many accolades that Vidal Arroyo has received over the years. As of today, we are thrilled to announce that Arroyo has been named Chapman University’s first ever Knight-Hennessy Scholar for a PhD in Biophysics from the School of Humanities and Sciences at Stanford University! The Knight-Hennessy Scholarship develops a community of future global leaders to address complex challenges through collaboration and innovation. Every year, up to 100 high-achieving students from around the world will receive full funding to pursue any graduate degree at Stanford, including the JD, MA, MBA, MD, MFA, MS, and PhD programs. 

Photo of Oxford University taken by Arroyo

Arroyo graduated from Chapman University with a Bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and earned a master’s degree in Statistics from the University of Oxford. As a humanitarian-scientist, Vidal aspires to pioneer new scientific frontiers in order to bring joy and healing to others. At Chapman, he is known by his community as a natural born leader, as well as someone with an infectious smile and laughter.

Arroyo with peers from Rhodes

When asked his current state of mind after being named a Knight-Hennessy Scholar, Arroyo responds, “I think this whole process for me was a reinforcement of how much tenacity and perseverance pays off. For context, last year I applied to some MD/PhD programs, ended up getting waitlisted for Stanford and was a finalist for the Knight-Hennessy but ultimately was not selected.” Adversity is nothing new for Arroyo, a first-generation college student who tirelessly worked multiple on-campus jobs as an undergraduate to help fund his tuition. Despite getting accepted into a few other prestigious MD/PhD programs, Arroyo knew that those paths weren’t what he was called into, his wish was to persist and continue to pursue the dream that was in his heart. 

Photo of Stanford taken during Arroyo’s visit

Arroyo also mentioned when contemplating whether to apply again, “something that really hit home for me was when I interviewed there, they really put forward this idea that they are able to integrate this humanitarian framework with the classical discipline that you become an expert in.” As mentioned initially, Arroyo hopes to utilize his passions for scientific research in order to soothe the human condition. The humanitarian aspect that the scholarship offers really resonated with him and was ultimately what pushed Arroyo to want to be in the Knight-Hennessy community as a PhD student. 

Arroyo and his little brother during Stanford visit

Although students in his program are required to do rotations with many labs prior to choosing one, Arroyo has already shown interest in two labs that are a part of his department. One of the professors is a quantum experimental physicist who develops tools that will allow people to measure information in the natural world at the limit that quantum mechanics allows. This group has been working in collaboration with various labs to develop the world’s first quantum electron microscope. The second professor he is interested in working with comes from a completely different background of biology, who tries to understand what molecules are involved in trying to wire the brain as it grows and these cells divide. Arroyo mentions “we have some running ideas but they’re too up in the air right now so I can’t say anything firm, but I am interested in both of these areas and I’m trying to find a way to merge the two.” 

Looking back on his experience applying to Rhodes and now Knight-Hennessy, Arroyo believes Center for Undergraduate Director, Dr. Julye Bidmead acted as an “enzyme” to get from Chapman to Oxford, to Stanford. “If Chapman is the reactant and Knight-Hennesy is the product, that activation energy was extremely high and that was not something that I would have been able to get through if I didn’t have Julye to catalyze that reaction.” Further mentioning, “the way I look at mentorship now, most mentors are hands-off, good mentors are hands-on, but great mentors can be both as the student requires it. Julye is a great mentor.” 


Lastly, Arroyo leaves a message to those who may be interested in applying to some of these prestigious scholarships and fellowships in the future. “When you make the decision to apply or reapply, don’t make the decision on external feedback, it needs to be an internal decision. Oftentimes, the decisions you make in life are not the ones you make with your head, but the ones you make with your heart. Coming from a data scientist who has a big tool set to tell you otherwise, when it comes to subjective experiences, definitely make the decision that comes from your inner ethos.”

Check out the complete list of the 2022 Knight-Hennesy Cohort.

Are you interested in applying to the Knight-Hennessy Scholarship? Contact for more information, and to get you connected to Vidal Arroyo!

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