Recipients chosen from 1,000-strong field of math, engineering and science students
ATHENS, Ohio (April 9, 2007) -- Students who receive the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship are among the very best science scholars in the country. This year, Ohio University has three. Sophomore Marie Braasch and juniors Christine Schultz and Ben Wegenhart are among the 317 Goldwater Scholars for 2007.
Recipients were chosen based on their outstanding academic achievements from a field of 1,110 students majoring in mathematics, engineering and other science-related fields. Awardees receive a one- or two-year scholarship for a maximum of $7,500 per year to assist with academic costs.
At only 16 years old, Braasch is an Honors Tutorial College student majoring in biological sciences who hopes to pursue a doctoral degree in molecular and cellular biology. This summer she will travel to Singapore to research changing adult stem cells into neural cells, which scientists believe can be used to cure Parkinson's disease.
"I thought I had a pretty good chance of winning, but I was still surprised when I found out I won," she said, adding that she knew her vast research experience would make her a strong candidate.
Braasch, who as a sophomore will receive her Goldwater award for two years, won second place at the 2006 Student Research and Creative Activity Fair in the undergraduate biological sciences category for a poster she made about applying a cellular model of learning and memory to behavioral learning, the result of her research in Assistant Professor Yang Li's neuroscience lab.
"It never came to my mind that (she) is a teenager. She behaved very professionally," said Li of the first time he met Braasch, not knowing that she was just shy of her 15th birthday. "She's doing very well in the lab and working very hard."
Last summer, Braasch studied the demographics of populations of diamondback terrapin turtles in creeks of the Chesapeake Bay with Associate Professor of Biological Sciences Willem Roosenburg, and this year she is working in Professor Anne Loucks' biological science lab.
A chemistry major from the Honors Tutorial College, Schultz plans to earn a doctoral degree in inorganic chemistry and hopes to eventually become a professor. For the past two years, Shultz has conducted extensive research on the magnetic properties of iron complexes with Assistant Professor Jeffery Rack and received a Provost's Undergraduate Research Fund grant to support her own research in transition metal chemistry.
"I was surprised," she said, recalling being notified she had been selected as a Goldwater Scholar. "I wasn't expecting it."
Schultz said that encouragement from Rack was the reason she applied for the scholarship.
"I have found Christine to be a student of uncommon ability, intelligence and creativity," Rack said. "She is a determined student and worker who is unafraid of overcoming obstacles or difficulties. I am proud to have had her work in my laboratory, and I predict great success for her in the future."
Wegenhart is a double major in chemistry and mathematics. He has received several awards, including the Jesse Day Outstanding Chemist Award, which is given to one student from the freshman, sophomore and junior classes who demonstrates outstanding potential as a chemist. Wegenhart, who said he felt confident with his application, didn't stress about his chances for receiving the award.
"I think it was my experience in research and the fact that I already have a publication that made me stand out the most," he said, referring to a paper he wrote about proteins in plant cell walls with faculty members for the publication Nanoscale Research Letters.
Wegenhart has been involved in scientific studies with several professors, including Assistant Professor Klaus Himmeldirk, who taught two of Wegenhart's organic chemistry classes. Himmeldirk said he was his top student in two consecutive classes.
"He is really exceptional," Himmeldirk said. "He has a natural ability as a chemist."
Wegenhart hopes to work as a research scientist in analytical, inorganic or environmental chemistry for a government institution.
As evidenced by their collaboration with winning students, faculty help make these awards possible. Additional faculty involvement included Karen Eichstadt, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry, who serves as Ohio University's Goldwater Scholarship faculty representative and coordinates the award. Each university could only nominate four students for the award, which was established in 1986 by Congress to honor U.S. Sen. Barry M. Goldwater.
Winning such competitive and prestigious awards is the academic equivalent of making the Olympic team. Ohio University students compete for some of the most sought-after awards in the country -- such as the Truman and the Marshall. In 2005-06 they won 45 nationally competitive honors, including 13 U.S. Student Fulbright grants. The university led the state for the fourth straight year for its number of Fulbright grantees and is ranked nationally among schools such as Princeton and Boston College.
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