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Two U. of I. undergraduates named Goldwater scholarship winners


Melissa Mitchell, News Editor
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Two University of Illinois undergraduate students have won prestigious Barry M. Goldwater scholarships for the 2008–2009 academic year. 

Trent Michael Graham, Hamilton, Ill., and Timothy Kevin O’Connor, Chicago, will receive scholarships to finish their undergraduate studies at Illinois before attending graduate school.

The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program was established by Congress in 1986 to honor Barry M. Goldwater, who served his country for 56 years as a soldier and statesman, including 30 years in the U.S. Senate. The foundation’s purpose is to ensure a continuing source of highly qualified scientists, mathematicians and engineers by awarding scholarships to sophomore- and junior-level college students from the United States who intend to pursue careers in these fields.

The 321 Goldwater Scholars for 2008-09 were selected on the basis of academic merit from a field of 1,035 mathematics, science and engineering students who were 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.

Graham, a junior majoring in physics, plans to study optics and quantum information science in graduate school. He has been working in a research group led by Paul Kwiat, the U. of I.’s Bardeen Professor of Physics, since the fall of 2006, and is collaborating with Paul Scott Carney, a professor of electrical and computer engineering, on a new approach to vector aberration theory.

O’Connor, a junior in ecology, evolution and behavioral biology, has explored the evolutionary history and cryptic biodiversity of social wasps in the lab of entomology professor Sydney Cameron since February 2006, and plans to pursue his research in graduate school on the evolution of social behavior. During the spring 2008 semester, he has been studying with the Organization for Tropical Studies in Costa Rica, with support of a Michael Aiken Scholarship and the School of Integrative Biology Enhancement Fund.