Two Undergraduate Researchers Win Goldwater Scholarships
Two undergraduate researchers from The University of Texas at Dallas have been recognized with awards from the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program.
Rachel Meade, a molecular biology junior in the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, and Sydney Sherman, a biomedical engineering junior in the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science, each received full scholarships. Both are McDermott Scholars and National Merit Scholars.
They join the ranks of 16 other UT Dallas students who have been recognized by the Goldwater Foundation. Last year's scholarship recipients were biology student Karthik Hullahalli, chemistry student Gino Occhialini and biochemistry student Justin Raman; mechanical engineering student Jeanie Aird received an honorable mention.
“Rachel and Sydney are so richly deserving of this honor. I have known each of them since they started at UT Dallas, and from the beginning, they exemplified the creativity and drive expected of future research leaders,” said Dr. Douglas Dow, associate dean of the Hobson Wildenthal Honors College and clinical professor of political science.
The Goldwater Scholarships recognize college sophomores and juniors who want to pursue research careers in the natural sciences, mathematics and engineering. Winners receive a scholarship of up to $7,500 a year to help cover costs associated with tuition, fees, books, room and board.
Over the Goldwater program’s 30-year history, many scholarship recipients have gone on to win prestigious awards such as the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Fellowship, the Rhodes Scholarship, the Churchill Scholarship, and the National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship.
Rachel Meade is spending the summer as an intern at the Pasteur Institute in Paris.
Meade, who is from Plano, researches genetics as it relates to pathology and virology. Before her freshman year at UT Dallas, she began working in the lab of Dr. Nikki Delk, assistant professor of biological sciences and Fellow, Cecil H. and Ida Green Professor in Systems Biology Science, who investigates survival mechanisms in breast and prostate cancers.
Delk described Meade as “driven, proactive and enthusiastic about research.”
“It has been a joy to watch Rachel mature as an undergraduate researcher over the past several years,” Delk said. “She is a leader among the undergraduate researchers in the lab, training students, working independently, being dependable, and thoughtfully contributing to scientific discussions in the lab. She truly is deserving of the Goldwater Scholarship.”
Meade also has spent eight months researching at institutions abroad. In Dublin, Ireland, she worked at the Trinity College Dublin Translational Medicine Institute as an intern for the Rare Kidney Disease BioBank and Registry, researching ANCA-associated vasculitis and running clinical days at St. James and Tallaght hospitals.
In Marburg, Germany, she was a research assistant at the University Hospital of Giessen and Marburg, which studies RNA biomarkers in the blood of prostate cancer patients.
This summer, Meade is an intern at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, researching the genetic susceptibility of mice to the Zika virus and salmonella.
“This research is explicitly focused on genetics, and I will be able to work with viruses for the first time,” Meade said. “I have been cramming French for the past semester, so I am ready to get to work.”
Meade plans to pursue a PhD in genetics with a focus on virology and pathology, in hopes of becoming a research professor at a university.
Sherman, who is from Wrightstown, Pennsylvania, became interested in research while still in high school when she participated in a neuro-electrophysiology project at the Pennsylvania Governor’s School for the Sciences hosted by Carnegie Mellon University.
This summer, Sydney Sherman, seen with her dog, Sassy, is conducting research at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne.
“I was introduced to both lab research and neurophysiology for the first time. I enjoyed both, and knew I wanted to continue with research,” Sherman said.
At UT Dallas, she asked to join the Advanced Polymer Research Lab of Dr. Walter Voit BS’05, MS’06 after she heard him talk about his projects. Voit suggested she work on a project developing a softening spinal cord stimulation array. Spinal cord stimulation is used for pain management, but also is being researched for use in promoting motor recovery after paralysis from a spinal cord injury.
“The softening stimulator is designed to be minimally invasive, close in modulus to neural tissue and easy to implant,” Sherman said. “The device is fabricated from a substrate polymer that is stiff at room temperature, allowing for easy handling, and then transitions to a softer more flexible phase at physiological conditions for safer chronic use for implantation against the spinal cord.”
Sherman also worked in Dr. Joseph Pancrazio’s Neuronal Networks and Interfaces Lab, where she was introduced to neuroscience research using cells rather than devices to study neurodegenerative disease progression.
“Sydney quickly became adept at measuring and analyzing bioelectrical activity from neuronal networks, including those derived from mice with genetic defects,” said Pancrazio, who is vice president for research. “Sydney is the kind of student who is a treasure for any serious scientist. She is as bright and enthusiastic as she is committed to pursuing new ideas and scientific opportunities.”
Sherman has also worked at Dr. Jason Carmel’s Motor Recovery Lab at Burke Medical Research Institute, an academic affiliate of Weill Cornell Medicine. Carmel is collaborating with Voit to evaluate the softening spinal cord stimulators.
This summer, Sherman is researching neuromodulation therapies to augment recovery after spinal cord injury at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne.
“I have been reading publications from this lab since my freshman year to learn about spinal cord stimulation and stimulator development, and am very excited to have the opportunity to work with them this summer,” Sherman said.
She plans to pursue a PhD in biomedical engineering and continue to explore how the central nervous system can recover after disease or injury through a combination of implantable devices and nervous tissue regeneration.
UT Dallas' Goldwater Scholarship Recipients
Since 2005, 18 UT Dallas students have received nationally competitive scholarships from the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program, and nine have received honorable mention:
Jeanie Aird, honorable mention
Muhammad Akram, honorable mention
Sheridan Cavalier, honorable mention
Karthik Hullahalli, honorable mention
Michael Lee Jr.
Michael Lau, honorable mention
Melanie Maurer, honorable mention
Michael Lau, honorable mention
Elizabeth Hanacik, honorable mention
Truc Do, honorable mention
Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].