April 23, 2012 — Coral Gables — Four University of Miami students have been recognized in the 2012 Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program. The program is highly competitive, allowing only four sophomore or junior nominees per university and awarding only 282 total scholarships of up to $7,500. All four of UM's nominees were honored, three as Goldwater Scholars and one as an honorable mention. It is the first time since 2004 that UM students have been selected as Goldwater scholarship recipients.
UM Students Juan Pablo Ruiz (’13), Ian Ergui (’14) and Christopher Sanchez (’14) – all permanent residents of Florida - were named 2012 Goldwater Scholars, and Christine Chesley (’14) of Virginia received honorable mention. The 2012 Goldwater Scholars were selected on the basis of academic merit from a field of 1,123 mathematics, science, and engineering students who were nominated by the faculties of colleges and universities nationwide. One hundred seventy-four of the Scholars are men, 108 are women, and virtually all intend to obtain a Ph.D. as theirdegree objective.
Juan Pablo Ruiz, a Foote Fellow and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Undergraduate Research Scholar, is majoring in Biomedical Engineering and English with a concentration in Creative Writing. Since his freshman year, Juan has been conducting research on the effects of aging and smoking on adult human stem cells at the UM Tissue Engineering Lab under the guidance of Dr. Herman S. Cheung. Over the 2011 summer break, he participated in a highly selective research internship at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute. His research has been accepted for publication in the journals Blood and Cell Health and Cytoskeleton. Juan plans to obtain a Ph.D in Biomedical Engineering and continue research in the field of stem cells and tissue engineering. "When the class is 'stuck on an issue' all eyes turn to Juan for guidance," Biology professor Michael Gaines said. "He is a real renaissance man, with a variety of interests."
Ian Ergui, also an HHMI Scholar, has been exploring the intersection of business and science and plans to one day start a company dedicated to creating genetically modified organisms for use in medicine and industry. Since January 2011, he has been researching the epigenetic effects of cocaine use in mouse striatum cells at the Hussman Institute for Human Genomics at the Miller School of Medicine under the mentorship of Dr. Juan Young. Ian recently won an ACC-IAC Creativity and Innovation Grant to conduct a student-led project to genetically modify one strain of archaea for industrial bioleaching, a process by which miningbyproducts are converted into usable copper. His team will enter the project in the 2013 International Genetically Engineered Machine (IGEM) Competition. Biology professor Isaac Skromne said, "[Ian] has an inquisitive mind and the potential of becoming a great scientist …"
Christopher Sanchez, a double major in Ecosystem Science and Policy and Anthropology, has been conducting research on the complex ecological linkages between people and the environment in cities. In high school, Chris began his research endeavors in a lab at Florida International University in the Florida Coastal Everglades Longterm Ecological Research (FCE LTER) program. His work associating fossils of novel organisms with hydrolic conditions in the Everglades led to a greater understanding of the environmental history of the FCE LTER research sites. Chris’ success in this project earned him four state, national and international Science Fair awards and the honor ofhaving a minor planet named after him. He was also able to publish his research as a high school student in the Journal of Paleolimnology. His mentor on the project, Dr. Evelyn Gaiser, describesChris as having a “level of tenacity rare even to established scientists.” Chris spent this past summer in Phoenix at Arizona State University with NSF support through the Central Arizona-Phoenix LTER Program studying the hydrology of a novel wastewater treatment wetlandoutside of Phoenix. Professor Daniel L. Childers, director of the program in Phoenix, says of Chris, "He is focused, ambitious, and very passionate in his research and the scientific endeavor, particularly in the fields of wetland ecology, urban systems research, and sustainability science."
Christine Chesley, a Ronald A. Hammond Scholar, is pursuing a double major in Geological Science and Marine Science. Over the 2011 summer break, she participated in the Research Experience in Solid Earth Sciences for Students (RESESS) where she assisted with the installation of a new continuous Global Positioning System in Panama. She is the recipient of the American Meteorology Society Industry Association for Women Geoscientists scholarships. Christine has long been fascinated by the science of volcanoes and magma tectonics. She plans to pursue a Ph.D. in Marine Geology and Geophysics and focus on the role of earthquakes in volcanic eruptions. "[Christine] does not simply accept a quick explanation, but will dig into the foundations," said Physics professor James Nearing. "… I expect to hear about her accomplishments in a decade or two."
The Scholarship Program honoring Senator Barry M. Goldwater was designed to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences, and engineering. The Goldwater Scholarship is the premier undergraduate award of its type in these fields.
— By Kefryn Reese, Director of Prestigious Awards and Fellowships, Office of Academic Enhancement
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