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All 5 nominated KU juniors win Goldwater scholarships, a university record

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Five University of Kansas juniors have been awarded a prestigious scholarship that recognizes their academic excellence and involvement in undergraduate research. 

The five students, nominated in February, 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. 

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Five is the most any one school can receive, and it’s a record for the university, according to a Friday news release from KU.

“We’re absolutely thrilled this year to receive five Goldwater Scholarships, and I’m happy to be able to celebrate with our outstanding recipients. Each of them has demonstrated a remarkable capacity to come up with new ways to tackle some of our planet’s greatest challenges,” Chancellor Douglas Girod said in the release. “I congratulate all of them on achieving this recognition, and I’m proud of the members of our university community who helped them along the way, allowing them to continue on to even greater heights.”

Here’s more about each of the five candidates from KU’s previous news release announcing their nominations:

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.

With these five, 76 KU students have received the prestigious scholarship since it was first awarded in 1989, according to KU.

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