Goldwater Scholar Profiles: Maryland Honors College

Editor’s Note:  This is one in a series of profiles of 2014 Goldwater scholars who are undergraduates in public university honors colleges or programs.  The following piece is by Abby Robinson of the University of Maryland….

Three University of Maryland students have been awarded scholarships by the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation, which encourages students to pursue advanced study and careers in the sciences, engineering and mathematics. A fourth student received honorable mention.

UMD juniors Geoffrey Ji, Michael Mandler and Rafael Setra were among the 283 Barry Goldwater Scholars selected from 1,166 students nominated nationally this year. Junior Daniel Farias received honorable mention. The four students, who are all members of the UMD Honors College, plan to pursue doctoral degrees in their areas of study and to become university professors.

2014 University of Maryland Goldwater Scholars (l-r): Geoffrey Ji, Michael Mandler and Rafael Setra

2014 University of Maryland Goldwater Scholars (l-r): Geoffrey Ji, Michael Mandler and Rafael Setra

Ji—who is majoring in physics, mathematics, economics and computer science—has been conducting quantum science research for two years in the laboratory of Chris Monroe, Bice Zorn Professor of Physics.

“Geoffrey has almost single-handedly outfitted advanced digital and analog electronic control circuits, in addition to writing impressive computer code that will soon be adopted by most of our other projects,” said Monroe.

Ji also conducted theoretical nuclear physics research with Paulo Bedaque, associate professor of physics, which resulted in co-authorship of a peer-reviewed publication in the journal Physical Review D.

Mandler, a double major in chemistry and biological sciences, published a first-author peer-reviewed paper in the journal Organic Letters in January 2014. This paper joins three other peer-reviewed publications on which Mandler is a co-author. For his research, Mandler develops novel synthesis pathways for organic catalysts that may reduce the time and/or cost of their commercial production for drug development and other applications.

“Michael is one of the most talented undergraduate students that I have mentored in my 46-year career, and that would place him among past undergraduate students who are now internationally known professors at top-ranked universities and colleges, as well as those who are prominent executives in industry,” said Chemistry and Biochemistry Professor Michael Doyle, who is Mandler’s mentor.

Setra, a double major in mathematics and electrical engineering, conducts research with Thomas Murphy, electrical and computer engineering professor and director of the Institute for Research in Electronics and Applied Physics; Rajarshi Roy, physics professor and director of the Institute for Physical Science and Technology; and Wojciech Czaja, mathematics professor.  Setra placed second nationally in the Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technology in 2010.

“The project we gave to Rafael was related to overcoming a nonlinear signal scattering problem that is pervasive in optical fibers, and the project was in a research direction that had never been previously tested or initiated,” said Murphy. “In the span of just 10 weeks, Rafael taught himself about fiber optic instrumentation, measurement automation, splicing, and spectrometry, and he designed, purchased and constructed an experiment to test his hypotheses.”

2014 University of Maryland Goldwater honorable mention recipient Daniel Farias

2014 University of Maryland Goldwater honorable mention recipient Daniel Farias

Honorable mention recipient Farias is a triple major in computer science, electrical engineering, and mathematics. He has conducted research projects with Daniel Butts, assistant professor of biology, and Neil Spring, associate professor in computer science with an appointment in the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies. With Butts, Farias adapted a model that was developed to describe neural signal processing in the visual midbrain to work in the auditory midbrain.

The Goldwater Scholarship program was created in 1986 to identify students of outstanding ability and promise in science, engineering and mathematics, and to encourage their pursuit of advanced study and research careers. The Goldwater Foundation has honored 47 University of Maryland winners since the program’s first award was given in 1989. Prior Goldwater scholars and nominees from UMD have continued their impressive academic and research pursuits at leading institutions around the world and have garnered additional recognition as:

    • National Science Foundation graduate research fellows
    • Gates Cambridge and Churchill Scholars (University of Cambridge, United Kingdom)
    • A Clarendon Fund Scholar (University of Oxford, United Kingdom)

Colleges and universities may submit up to four nominations annually for these awards. Goldwater scholars receive one- or two-year scholarships that cover the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board up to $7,500 per year. These scholarships are a stepping-stone to future support for their research careers.