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Goldwater scholarship winners announced by University of Illinois

5/4/2015 | David Schug, director, National and International Scholarships Program | 217-333-4710; topscholars@illinois.edu

[ Email | Share ] CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — University of Illinois juniors Luis Real Hernandez and Patrick Slade have been awarded Barry M. Goldwater scholarships for the 2015-16 academic year for demonstrating leadership and academic promise in science or engineering. Juniors Joseph Chapman and Nhan Huynh earned honorable mention in the national competition.

The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program was established by Congress in 1986 to honor Barry M. Goldwater, who served 30 years in the U.S. Senate. The program provides a continuing source of highly qualified scientists, mathematicians and engineers by awarding scholarships to sophomores and juniors from the United States who intend to pursue doctorates in these fields.

The 260 Goldwater Scholars for 2015-16 were selected on the basis of academic merit from a field of 1,206 mathematics, science and engineering students nominated by the faculties of colleges and universities nationwide. The Goldwater Scholarship is the premier undergraduate award of its type in these fields. The one- and two-year scholarships cover the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board up to a maximum of $7,500 per year.

“The research opportunities and mentorship provided to our undergraduate population by prominent faculty members at Illinois are key to the University’s national success in the Goldwater competition,” said David Schug, the director of the National and International Scholarships Program at Illinois. “Moreover, these four students have certainly proved to be worthy of these investments, and we look forward to their further scientific contributions as they progress in their fields.”

Slade, of Libertyville, Illinois, is majoring in mechanical engineering and participating in the James Scholar honor program. Within the first two months of his freshman year, Slade started working in a robotics and neuro-mechanics lab headed by Illinois professor Timothy Bretl. In the lab, Slade created a 3-D printed, low-cost ($100) prosthetic hand that uses electrical impulses generated by forearm muscles to perform multiple grasping movements. His work has been tested by amputees in Ecuador and recently was recognized for entrepreneurial promise by winning the University of Illinois Cozad New Venture Competition. Slade plans to graduate in three years before pursuing a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering.  His ultimate goal is to continue as a university professor in his investigations in robotics and prosthetics.

Real Hernandez, of Melrose Park, Illinois, is majoring in chemistry with a keen interest in the biological activity of natural compounds from foods. He has been conducting research with Illinois food science professor Elvira de Mejia since the end of his freshman year at Illinois and has co-written peer-reviewed journal articles in the field of food bioactives. Real Hernandez was awarded an NSF-sponsored undergraduate research fellowship under the Mentoring in New Biology program at Illinois and as a sophomore took a graduate level course in applied bioinformatics. In 2013, Real Hernandez was named a United States Department of Agriculture Multicultural Advocate in Nutrition Needs and Agriculture Scholar. His long-term goal is to find cures or preventative measures to combat metabolic disorders, such as Type 2 diabetes, by understanding how compounds naturally found in foods interact with proteins associated with these disorders.

Chapman, of Champaign, Illinois, is majoring in physics, with an interest in experimental quantum physics. Upon graduating high school, Chapman began research work with University of Illinois professors Gary Eden and Sung-jin Park building microplasma devices. He continued to work with them while a student at Parkland College before transferring to Illinois in spring 2014.  At Illinois, Chapman moved to the lab of physics professor Paul Kwiat, where he has worked designing and constructing various components for quantum key distribution and other experiments. He plans a career exploring quantum optics, the study of how light and matter interact under extreme conditions.

Huynh, of Palatine, Illinois, is majoring in molecular and cellular biology with a minor in electrical and computer engineering. He plans to combine these disciplinary approaches to bridge humans and machines by engineering devices that integrate with properties of the nervous system, which would be particularly useful in developing neuroprostheses for amputees. For the past two years, Huynh has served as a research assistant to professor Timothy Bretl working on brain-computer interfaces and signal processing. He also has spent the last year working with Illinois physiology professor Daniel Llano studying how complex sounds are processed by the auditory system. After graduating from Illinois, Huynh plans to pursue an M.D./Ph.D. in neuroscience to further his research goals of developing neural devices that seamlessly integrate with the brain.

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