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Goldwater Scholarship Program recognizes three U. of I. students

4/27/2012 | Mare Payne, News Bureau | 217-333-0567;

[ Email | Share ] CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — University of Illinois juniors Jacob Becraft and Bryan Plummer have been awarded Barry M. Goldwater scholarships for the 2012–13 academic year. Shyam Saladi, a sophomore in electrical and computer engineering, won honorable mention.

jacob Becraft

Bryan Plummer
Jacob Becraft, top, and Bryan Plummer have been awarded Barry M. Goldwater Scholarships for 2012-2013.

The 282 Goldwater Scholars for 2012-13 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. The Goldwater Scholarship is the premier undergraduate award of its type in these fields.

Becraft, of Peoria, Ill., is majoring in chemical engineering. Since 2009, he has been researching gene and drug delivery in the laboratory of professor Daniel Pack in the department of chemical and biomolecular engineering.

Becraft also is the leader of a research-design project to create a point-of-use water filter that uses cattle bones to effectively and affordably remove arsenic and uranium from groundwater in financially limited regions. The project won a P3 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in its annual national student design competition for sustainability focusing on people, prosperity and the planet. The project’s adviser is civil and environmental engineering professor Charlie Werth. In 2011, the project received second prize in the National Design Competition of the Water Environment Federation’s Technical Exhibition and Conference.

Becraft also recently was awarded the Udall Undergraduate Scholarship for his commitment to a career in the environment, leadership potential and academic achievement. He intends to pursue a doctorate in bioengineering and conduct research in medical and bioengineering applications on tissue engineering and regenerative medicine.

Plummer, of Wrightwood, Calif., is majoring in computer science and specializing in artificial intelligence and robotics. Plummer, who intends to pursue a doctorate in robotics, hopes to contribute to NASA’s Intelligent Systems Division, helping to guide the future of robotics and space exploration.

Last summer, Plummer worked at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in the Simulation Integration and Visualization Office, exploring a snowflake crystal growth model. In August, he began working with computer science professor Derek Hoiem investigating the use of shadows to infer scene geometry in an image. This spring he is conducting research with electrical and computer engineering professor Seth Hutchinson, on Simultaneous Localization and Mapping-based robot navigation systems. Plummer also works as an intern for Aqueous Solutions LLC, a Champaign company that develops The Geochemist’s Workbench, a geochemical modeling program.

This summer, Plummer will work at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in the Processing Algorithms and Calibration Engineering group investigating and developing automated in-flight geometric calibration, image registration, image compression, and mapping algorithms for a Multiangle SpectroPolarimetric Imager.

Plummer has won numerous leadership and service awards, including the 2011 Coca Cola Gold Scholar and the 2010 Leaders of Promise awards.

The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program was established by Congress in 1986 to honor Sen. Barry M. Goldwater, who served in the U.S. Senate for 30 years. 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 careers 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.

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