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.

Goldwater Scholar Profiles: LSU Honors College

Editor’s Note: This is another in a series about 2014 Goldwater scholars who are also undergraduates in public university honors colleges or programs.  The following post is from LSU news….

Two LSU Honors College students, Brandon Oubre and Paxton Turner, have been named 2014 Barry M. Goldwater Scholars. Two other LSU Honors students, Rachael Keller and Paul Koenig, were selected as Honorable Mentions by the prestigious scholarship competition.

“The Honors College is exceptionally proud of these students for earning such impressive recognition on a national stage,” said LSU Honors College Dean Nancy Clark. “Their outstanding scholastic achievements in science, math and engineering are a credit to themselves and the university as a whole, and this is further proof of the academic excellence of LSU.”

LSU Honors Students Receive 2014 Goldwater Scholarships

From left to right, Brandon Oubre, Paul Koenig, Paxton Turner, and Rachael Keller

Honors College junior Brandon Oubre, a LaSTEM scholar, is pursuing a double major in Computer Science and Mathematics. He is currently working in LSU’s Robotics Research Lab on the creation of a low-cost robot that can be used in the classroom to provide students with hands-on electronics and programming experience. He is also working on a collaboration between Microsoft and LSU to develop a geometry tutoring web application system. He plans to obtain a Ph.D. in Computer Science and is interested in conducting research on robotics for an academic or government organization.

Paxton Turner is also an Honors College junior and is pursuing a major in Mathematics. He is currently researching an Honors Thesis on cluster algebras with Dr. Milen Yakimov in LSU’s Department of Mathematics. Paxton has previously received National Science Foundation funding (through the Research Experience for Undergraduates program) to research cluster algebras and graph theory at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. He intends to pursue a Ph.D. in Pure Mathematics and ultimately hopes to conduct research in number theory and combinatorics, and teach at the university level.

Rachael Keller is a junior in the Honors College and is pursuing a major in Mathematical Sciences. She plans to research coal-combustion processes with a goal of producing pollutant-dispersal models that can be used to inform policy makers on the environmental impact of various energy-extraction methods. She hopes to pursue a Ph.D. in Atmospheric Studies with a Masters in Public Policy.

Paul Koenig is a sophomore at the Honors College and is pursuing a major in Chemistry. His research interests include experimental organic chemistry—specifically the synthesis of novel, useful molecules—and to that end plans to pursue a Ph.D. in organic chemistry. He hopes to teach chemistry at the university level.

This is the third year in a row that all of LSU’s candidates nominated to the competition were recognized by the Goldwater Foundation. All of the nominees worked closely with their faculty research mentors and the LSU Honors College Office of Fellowship Advising throughout the application process.

“We are incredibly proud of Brandon, Paxton, Rachael, and Paul,” said Dr. Drew Lamonica Arms, Director of Fellowship Advising at the Honors College. “This national recognition is a testament to the students’ initiative and to the outstanding undergraduate research that is happening at LSU. We hope their success encourages other students to pursue national fellowships and awards. Congratulations to all four!”

The Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program was established by Congress in 1986 to honor Senator Barry Goldwater, who served his country for 56 years as a soldier and statesmen, including 30 years of service in the US Senate. The Foundation’s mission is to assist undergraduate students in becoming professional scientists, mathematicians, and engineers. To that end, its scholarships provide one and two-year $7500 stipends to sophomore and junior undergraduate students pursuing research in these fields. Goldwater Scholarships are widely considered one of the most prestigious undergraduate awards available to students of the sciences.

Honors Programs+STEM Majors=Goldwater Scholars

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of posts on the value of Goldwater scholarships for undergraduates.  Future posts will include profiles of honors students from many universities, all of whom earned Goldwater scholarships in 2014.

Our interest in Goldwater scholars “stems,” so to speak, from the conviction that public university honors students who win the awards affirm that their typically large institutions can nevertheless provide excellent, individualized instruction and research opportunities for undergraduates, while serving the national need for outstanding STEM graduates.

Goldwater scholars earn a $7,500 scholarship to help them complete their undergraduate education.  The Goldwater award is undoubtedly the most prestigious undergraduate award.  Public university students earned more than half of the 281 awards in 2014.  Many Goldwater Scholars go on to earn Rhodes, Marshall, Gates Cambridge, Churchill, or Truman awards when they graduate.  Those and others also compete strongly for National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research fellowships to further their studies for advanced degrees.

Our view that public honors colleges and programs enjoy a significant relationship with Goldwater achievement is based on our analysis of Goldwater winners who attend one of the public universities we have reviewed, or will review in a new book to be published later this year.

A total of 90 students from these universities won Goldwater scholarships in 2014, and 71 of those students (79%) were in honors colleges or programs.  What is remarkable about this is that some STEM students, especially those in engineering, might be tempted to shy away from honors programs because the basic requirements of their majors are so rigorous to begin with.  But, increasingly, honors colleges and programs are emphasizing undergraduate research and mentoring that can give honors students more access to top researchers.

Notably, scholars from nineteen universities with multiple winners were all honors students: Alabama, ASU, Clemson, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa State, LSU, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, Rutgers, South Carolina, U at Buffalo, and Vermont.  Delaware, NC State, and Oklahoma each had two winners, with three total apiece.



Goldwater Scholars 2014: Iowa State, Purdue, UW Madison Lead Banner Year for Public Universities

Each year, we provide an update of Goldwater scholarships won by public university students, and 2014 was a banner year: 149 of the 283 scholarships awarded this year went to outstanding scholars from 84 public universities.

We provide this update because Goldwater scholars are all still undergraduates, and their selection is an indication of the undergraduate research opportunities at their universities.

Iowa State, Purdue, and UW Madison led all public institutions with four Goldwater scholars each.  Another sixteen public universities had three scholars: Arizona State, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts Amherst, Montana State, New Hampshire, NC State, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Rutgers, South Florida, Western Kentucky, and West Virginia.  Since 2008, Western Kentucky students have won 18 Goldwater scholarships.

“The Goldwater Scholars were selected on the basis of academic merit from a field of 1,166 mathematics, science, and engineering students who were nominated by the faculties of colleges and universities nationwide. One hundred seventy-two of the Scholars are men, 111 are women, and virtually all intend to obtain a Ph.D. as their degree objective. Twenty-two Scholars are mathematics majors, 191 are science and related majors, 63 are majoring in engineering, and 7 are computer science majors. Many of the Scholars have dual majors in a variety of mathematics, science, engineering, and computer disciplines.

“The one and two year scholarships will cover the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board up to a maximum of $7,500 per year.

“Goldwater Scholars have very impressive academic qualifications that have garnered the attention of prestigious post-graduate fellowship programs. Recent Goldwater Scholars have been awarded 80 Rhodes Scholarships, 117 Marshall Awards, 112 Churchill Scholarships, and numerous other distinguished fellowships such as the National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowships.”