Goldwater Scholar Profiles: University of Connecticut

Editor’s note: This is another in our series featuring public university honors students who won prestigious Goldwater scholarships in 2014.  This post comes from the UConn Honors Program….

Three UConn honors students have each won a 2014 national Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship for Excellence in Education.

The scholarships, honoring Sen. Barry Goldwater, are designed to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences, and engineering. The scholarships cover the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board up to $7,500 per year. Both sophomores and juniors are eligible to apply.

Students are nominated for the award by UConn’s Office of National Scholarships, which supports them through the application process.

Michael Cantara ’16 (ENG) is an honors student from Barrington, R.I. He is a recipient of the Universities Space Research Association Education Scholarship, and a Learning Mentorship Scholarship through the School of Engineering. As a sophomore recipient of the Goldwater Scholarship, he will receive two years of funding.

Cantara has a passion for understanding the universe, and is currently conducting research in particle physics with Peter Schweitzer, assistant professor of physics, calculating “Q-balls, with a focus on their d1 term.” He is also working on a project with professor of physics William Stwalley and his team in the ultracold molecules laboratory.

Although it is early in his research career, Cantara has already participated in a summer research experience at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center in Newport, R.I., and because of this experience now has a Department of Defense security clearance.

Cantara is also an active member of the Society of Physics Students and UConn’s Physics Club, and has spent numerous hours doing community service. A musician, he plays both the electric and acoustic guitar and has taught others how to play. He also enjoys tennis, golf, basketball, cycling, and skiing.

Peter J. Larson Jr. ’15 (CANR), an honors student from New Canaan, Conn., aspires to earn an MD/Ph.D. and become an innovator in the world of virology, viral vectors, or gene therapy. He is currently working in the lab of Paulo Verardi, assistant professor of pathobiology, studying methods to produce recombinant vaccinia viruses. He has presented two posters on his research and is collecting more data for publication.

He has also been a research associate for the Tobacco Cessation Program at St. Vincent’s hospital in Bridgeport, Conn., and conducted field research on water quality in local rivers while still in high school. When he’s home, he is an active firefighter and EMT for the Vista Fire Department in Lewisboro, N.Y. (which is adjacent to New Canaan), and was named Rookie of the Year in 2011.

On campus, he is also busy outside of the lab, as a member of the UConn Ballroom Dance Team, and within the Honors Program, as a student worker and a mentor with the PATH Honors Mentoring Program, among other activities. He has received numerous awards, including the James Dewitt Scholarship, the William H. Allen Scholarship, and an Academic Excellence Scholarship. In 2012, the UConn Residence Hall Association named him President of the Year by for his work on the Buckley-Shippee-Sylvie Area Council.

Patrick J. Lenehan ’15 (CLAS), an honors student from Cheshire, Conn., is currently conducting research with Barbara Mellone, assistant professor of molecular and cell biology, on proteins and the formation of centromeres and kinetochores in Drosophila.

He has also worked in the lab of Rajeswari Kasi, associate professor of chemistry, investigating the use of high-molecular weight poly-acrylic acid to stabilize enzymes, and is contributing to a publication with Dr. Melanie Collins, whom he shadowed in the Pulmonary Department at Central Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, on the treatment of pediatric patients with cystic fibrosis. He was previously a research assistant for Dr. Alireza Shamshirsaz in the Department of Maternal and Fetal Medicine at UConn Health, where he contributed to several publications on obstetrics.

Ultimately, Lenehan plans to earn an MD/Ph.D., become a research oncologist, and advance treatments of the disease. At UConn, his stellar academic record has earned him recognition as a Babbidge Scholar. He is also the recipient of the Presidential Scholars Award Scholarship and the United Technologies Corporation Academic Scholarship.

In addition to his demanding course load and research schedule, Lenehan is a member of UConn’s NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Team.