CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Three University of Illinois students have been nationally recognized for their potential to contribute to the advancement of research in the natural sciences, mathematics or engineering. University of Illinois sophomores Elijah Karvelis and Boris Xu were awarded Barry M. Goldwater scholarships for the 2016-17 and 2017-18 academic years, and junior Pariyamon Thaprawat earned honorable mention for demonstrating leadership and academic promise in the fields of science or engineering.
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 252 Goldwater Scholars for 2016-17 were selected on the basis of academic merit from a field of 1,150 mathematics, science and engineering students nominated by the faculties of colleges and universities nationwide. Additionally, 256 honorable mentions were named. The Goldwater Scholarship is the premier undergraduate award of its type in these fields. For Karvelis and Xu, the scholarships cover the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board for up to a maximum of $7,500 for each of the next two years.
According to David Schug, the director of the National and International Scholarships Program at Illinois, “Nationally, only 20 percent of Goldwater Scholarships are awarded to sophomores, so it speaks volumes that two of our second-year students have found such success at this early stage of their education. These flourishing scientists have seized the research opportunities presented to undergraduates at Illinois.”
Karvelis, of Pecatonica, Illinois, is a sophomore studying chemical and biomolecular engineering. He is a member of both the Campus Honors and James Scholar programs at Illinois and is attending Illinois with the aid of a Stamps Leadership Scholarship. Karvelis plans to pursue a Ph.D. in chemical or biological engineering and conduct research in biotechnology to advance health sciences. His initial introduction to research was at Highland Community College, where Karvelis took classes during his last two years of high school.
As a first-semester freshman at Illinois, Karvelis worked with chemical and biomolecular engineering professor Charles Schroeder to synthesize structurally defined polymers. Last summer, he participated in a National Science Foundation-sponsored Research Experience for Undergraduates at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, before returning to the Schroeder Lab last fall.
Xu, of Hartsburg, Missouri, is a sophomore in mathematics working in algebraic geometry and algebraic number theory. His work at Illinois includes research on representation theory with mathematics professor Thomas Nevins and on enumerative geometry with mathematics professor Sheldon Katz. In summer 2015, Xu studied at the Park City Mathematics Institute and in a Research Experience for Undergraduates at the University of Chicago, where he worked on counting polynomials over finite fields with specified root multiplicities. He was the only freshman accepted to this National Science Foundation-sponsored program. After earning a Ph.D. in mathematics, Xu plans to conduct research in geometry, topology and number theory, and to teach mathematics at the university level.
Thaprawat, of Des Plaines, Illinois, is a junior in the honors concentration of molecular and cellular biology with an interest in studying molecular mechanisms of bacterial infectious diseases. She moved to the U.S. from Thailand at age 8. Now a James Scholar honors student, Thaprawat has been an engaged student leader, serving as an organizer for the University’s Global Health Initiative and as an MCB leader, guiding prospective molecular and cellular biology students. She has spent the last year working with microbiology professor James Slauch to conduct research on protein interactions and post-translational regulation of salmonella's type III secretion system. Thaprawat plans to earn an M.D. /Ph.D. in microbiology and to conduct research at a university or a hospital.