Five University of Kansas juniors are up for a prestigious scholarship that recognizes their academic excellence and involvement in undergraduate research.
The students are competing for the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, the “premier undergraduate award to encourage excellence in science, engineering and mathematics,” according to a KU news release. The scholarships cover eligible expenses up to $7,500 annually, and approximately 450 scholarships are awarded each year.
The five students are Bryce Gaskins, majoring in biochemistry and Spanish; Jessica Miears, majoring in physics and astronomy; Sarah Noga, majoring in biochemistry; Mary Sevart, majoring in chemical engineering; and Kade Townsend, majoring in microbiology.
To be nominated for the award, students must have significant research experience, outstanding academic records, and high potential for careers in mathematics, the natural sciences, or engineering, according to a news release from KU.
All five students have future hopes to achieve their doctoral degrees and continue researching, with three aspiring to teach at the university level. Some of the students have also presented their research at regional and national levels, earning various internships and other awards along the way.
Here’s more about each of the five candidates from KU’s news release:
Bryce Gaskins, of Springfield, Virginia, works with Zarko Boskovic, a KU assistant professor of medicinal chemistry, in developing novel pathways to access structurally complex and possibly biologically active molecules. He has presented the research both regionally and nationally. Gaskins is planning to earn his doctorate in organic chemistry and teach at a university in the future.
Jess Miears, of Fort Worth, Texas, currently conducts research with David Besson, a KU physics professor who served on a national panel earlier this year, to find the effects of high-energy particles on organic matter in order to support missions to Mars. Miears aspires to become a university professor with a research focus in astroparticle physics.
Sarah Noga, of Des Moines, Iowa, is a part of the Slusky Lab, which is led by KU associate professor of molecular biosciences Joanna Slusky. Noga works to explore how outer membrane proteins fold in order to develop therapeutics for antibiotic resistance and novel methods of environmental remediation. Noga has given multiple presentations on their findings. After her research-intensive study abroad program in Denmark this fall, Noga plans to become a university professor and conduct drug development research.
Mary Sevart, of Wichita, has been a part of the KU Biodiesel Initiative lab since her freshman year, and currently works with founding faculty member Susan Williams. She participates in research initiatives with a focus on creating a potential fuel source from thermochemical processing of hemp biomass after CBD oil extraction. Sevart is planning to pursue a doctorate in chemical engineering and, through a research career, employ solutions to the world’s dependence on fossil fuels.
Kade Townsend, of Topeka, joined associate professor of molecular biosciences Josephine Chandler’s lab as a freshman and is an important contributor to the lab’s research on antibiotic-resistant pathogens. He has participated in several national presentations for this work, and received an award for one of his poster presentations. Townsend hopes to earn a doctorate, focusing on bacterial genetics research.
The five nominees submitted applications including essays about their future goals and three faculty recommendations. The Goldwater Foundation trustees will announce the winners in late March.
Seventy-one KU students have received Goldwater scholarships since they were first awarded in 1989, according to KU. Students interested in applying next year should contact Erin Wolfram, education program manager for the Office of Fellowships, according to KU’s release.
Read more about this year’s nominees and their many accomplishments at this link.
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Emma Bascom (she/her) reported for The Lawrence Times from December 2021 through May 2022. Read more of her work for the Times here.