Undergraduate Researcher Honored With Goldwater Scholarship
May 28, 2013
Matthew Krenik is the eighth UT Dallas student since 2005 to win a Goldwater Scholarship. He is also a McDermott Scholar.
Sophomore Matthew Krenik loves playing improvisational jazz piano or playing center in a pick-up game of basketball. But his real passion reflects the more academic side of UT Dallas: working on research that involves electrical engineering.
He discovered his passion early on. Growing up the son of an electrical engineer, Krenik participated the summer after ninth grade in the NanoExplorers program for high school students at UT Dallas, working with Dr. Yves Chabal, materials science and engineering department head, on hydrogen storage using metal organic frameworks.
After placing three times as a regional semifinalist in the Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology, he started out at the University of North Texas, where he was president of the Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science student research organization. Krenik transferred to UT Dallas as a Eugene McDermott Scholar.
Krenik’s accomplishments have now been recognized by the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program. The electrical engineering major is one of 272 students selected to receive the scholarship from a field of 1,107 top students nominated by faculty at universities nationwide.
Krenik is the eighth UT Dallas student since 2005 to win a Goldwater Scholarship, which is awarded to students who intend to pursue careers in science, mathematics and engineering.
The program also gave an honorable mention to another UT Dallas nominee, Michael Lau, a sophomore in the new bioengineering program.
Michael Lau, a sophomore in the bioengineering program, has conducted undergraduate research with Dr. Danieli Rodrigues.
Last spring, Krenik worked with Dr. Bruce Gnade, vice president for research at UT Dallas, on materials science and thermodynamics research. Dr. P.K. Rajasekaran, senior lecturer in electrical engineering, describes Krenik as “very driven and smart.”
“I think the world of him. You give him a criticism, and he takes it well and implements it. I am not surprised that he is receiving this scholarship. I am very proud of him. Any teacher would be proud to call him their student,” said Rajasekaran.
Krenik has been supported over the years by grants from the National Science Foundation’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates (NSF REU) program, including participating in materials science research at Carnegie-Mellon University when he was just 17, investigating new battery technology at Brazil’s Sao Paulo University in summer 2011, and designing a harmonic radar system – partially built using a weed trimmer — to track the migratory patterns of amphibians with a biology team in 2012 at the University of Maine, which is the research he submitted for the Goldwater application.
He plans to earn a PhD in electrical engineering and gain industry experience along the way. Krenik hopes to do research and teach, and maybe become a university administrator someday.
Meanwhile, Lau also has been an undergraduate student researcher at UT Dallas, working with Dr. Danieli Rodrigues, assistant professor of bioengineering, on a drug delivery system for antibiotics for dental applications.
Lau began doing research projects when he was in high school, spending summers in the bioengineering department at The University of Texas at Arlington, where he explored the use of fluorescent biodegradable nerve guides to make a stent for nerve regrowth. While a student there his freshman year, Lau researched microfluidics and the manipulation of cancer cells by using nanoparticles to channel or block their movement as part of an NSF REU project.
“I’ve always had a dream of being part of the cure for cancer. My research for the Goldwater really honed it in for me,” Lau said. “But I see that what I’m doing is a stepping stone now for future generations and what they will accomplish.”
Schools are allowed to nominate four students a year for Goldwater Scholarships. Dr. Douglas Dow, coordinator of the Office of Distinguished Scholarships and associate director of the University’s Collegium V honors program, said this is the third year in a row that either two or three of UT Dallas’ nominated students have won the full award or honorable mention.
“We feel as if we now have institutional momentum with the Goldwater Scholarship,” Dow said. “Every year, the competition gets tighter and the standards get ratcheted up, and our students are really rising to the challenge.”
Designed to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences and engineering, the Goldwater program describes its scholarship as “the premier undergraduate award of its type in these fields.” More than 80 recent Goldwater scholars have gone on to win Rhodes Scholarships for postgraduate study.
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