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Goldwater scholarship winners announced by University of Illinois

4/9/2014 | David Schug, director, National and International Scholarships Program | 217-333-4710;

[ Email | Share ] CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — University of Illinois juniors Jacob Calvert, Sean McLaughlin and Sheryl Wang have been awarded Barry M. Goldwater scholarships for the 2014-15 academic year for demonstrating leadership and academic promise in science or engineering. Samuel Mo, of Wheeling, Ill., a junior in materials science and engineering, 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 283 Goldwater Scholars for 2014-15 were selected on the basis of academic merit from a field of 1,166 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.

“Each university is restricted to nominating only four students for the Goldwater, so it says a lot about the strength of University of Illinois STEM programs to have all four of our candidates receive national recognition,” said David Schug, the director of the National and International Scholarships Program at Illinois. (STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.)

Calvert, of Washington, Mo., is majoring in bioengineering, with a minor in mathematics. Within his major, his custom track in complex systems allows him to take graduate-level courses in physics and electrical and computer engineering. His research experience includes writing software for professor Jian Ma’s computational genomics group, the development of an experimental protocol for testing aspects of DNA in the natural prevention of cancer in professor Sua Myong’s biophysics laboratory, and mathematical modeling and prediction of DNA structures with professor Saurabh Sinha. With physics professor Alfred Hübler, Calvert is studying the physical principles that cause sandcastles to fall.

Calvert plans to pursue a doctorate in applied mathematics and conduct research in computational biology and statistical mechanics and teach at the university level.

A James Scholar at Illinois, Calvert is the recipient of the Helen Lohmeyer Memorial Scholarship, and his work has been supported by a grant from the Center for Physics of Living Cells. He has presented his research at local and national conferences and has a paper accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

As part of the Engineering Ambassadors Program, Calvert presents engineering concepts to middle and high school students. For three years he has been the information director for the Biomedical Engineering Society, and he has served in bioengineering courses as a grader, guest-lecturer and host of exam review sessions. Calvert is a student consultant on teaching with the Association for Excellence in Engineering Education, sharing a student perspective on teaching and learning in the College of Engineering. He also serves on the Dean's Student Advisory Committee for Engineering Council, hosting events that connect students with the deans of the college to facilitate student feedback and improve the student experience.

McLaughlin, of Hickory Hills, Ill., is majoring in engineering physics. His research experience at Illinois includes computational analysis and the development of a successful model for measuring quantum qubits in the laboratory of professor Alexey Bezryadin and big data computational astronomy in the laboratory of professor Robert Brunner, where McLaughlin has been developing an automated technique for finding gravitational lenses in telescope data. Gravitational lenses are useful in the study of dark matter and the early universe. McLaughlin has also had experience working at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, where he designed and programmed a new measurement interface for spintronics experiments.

McLaughlin plans to pursue a doctorate in computational astrophysics and conduct research in astronomy and teach at the university level.

McLaughlin, a James Scholar, is in the Campus Honors Program and a member of the Honors Student Council. He earned the Pilchard Scholarship for outstanding freshmen, the Department of Physics Richard Cook Scholarship, and recognition for excellence in undergraduate engineering from the Chicago Engineering Council. He spent the fall semester studying at University College London.

McLaughlin is an active member of the Physics Society and has assisted in teaching courses in computer science and physics at the U. of I. He also has been a tutor for Netmath and has played euphonium in the U. of I. Concert Band.

Wang, of Naperville, Ill., is majoring in bioengineering. Her research experience includes helping professor Aron Barbey establish his neuroscience lab group focused on cognitive processes and decision-making, and working in professor Amy Wagoner Johnson’s bone tissue engineering laboratory, where Wang is evaluating the osteoconductivity of certain materials and cell viability in porous calcium phosphate substrates for bone substitute fabrication. Wang also has experience as an intern in tissue engineering at Tatung University in Taiwan and in product safety testing and process engineering for Kimberly-Clark Corp.

Wang plans to pursue a doctorate in biomedical or materials engineering and a medical degree with a specialty in orthopedic surgery. She plans to apply biomedical engineering to researching musculoskeletal disease treatments.

She is a National Merit Scholar and a U.S. Department of Education Presidential Scholar nominee. At Illinois she is a Chancellor’s Scholar, a James Scholar and on the Dean’s List. Wang is the recipient of the College of Engineering Premier Scholarship and of scholarships from Phi Tau Phi Honors Society and the Society of Women Engineers. She received a Mayo Clinic summer undergraduate research fellowship and has presented her research at the GEM4 Bionanotechnology Summer Institute and has been involved with multiple student projects for the U. of I. Engineering Open House.

Wang’s other activities include outreach internationally with Engineers Without Borders and locally to promote science among middle school girls. She also has organized events to inform and prepare engineering students for graduate school or future careers, played violin with the U. of I. Philharmonia, volunteered with Carle Hospital in Urbana and played club badminton at Illinois.
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