Students receive prestigious research science scholarships
Persons of the Week
This year’s winners of the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship include a student researching high-energy collisions at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland and a student working to improve liver transplantation.
University students David Kolchmeyer and Josh Yarmush have been recognized as two of this year’s Goldwater scholars for their individual successes in academia and scientific research.
“Being named a Goldwater scholar is a singular and significant benchmark in the career of any young scientist, mathematician, or engineer,” said Arthur Casciato, director of the University’s Office of Distinguished Fellowships.
The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship awards 278 scholarships of up to $7,500 to qualified students in scientific fields. Only four students can be presented for consideration from any university, Casciato said.
Among the awards he administers for the University, the Goldwater award places the highest premium on grade point average, he said. The average GPA of a Goldwater scholar is 3.95.
A high GPA is relevant but not the deciding factor in selection, he said.
“Goldwater is all about research at the bench, and both David and Josh have sterling records of accomplishment in their respective fields,” he said.
The application included a lot of short-answer questions, said Kolchmeyer, a School of Arts and Sciences junior.
“They just asked about my research experience … and why I wanted to pursue a career in science,” he said.
Kolchemeyer said one essay required applicants to identify a problem they had encountered in their research.
He said he works on his research with the University’s high-energy experimental physics group.
“We get data from the Large Hadron Collider … to look for new physics,” Kolchmeyer said.
The Large Hadron Collider is a 27-kilometer-long accelerator located underground on the border between Switzerland and France which smashes protons together at high energies.
“Hopefully at these very high energies, new kinds of physical interactions can happen that we don’t know of,” he said.
The whole purpose of physics is to observe try to explain and predict natural phenomena.
“There are still a lot of unanswered questions about physics at the fundamental level,” he said.
Kolchmeyer said his 10th grade chemistry class inspired his love of science.
“I was fascinated by the fact that there could be more fundamental order in nature that’s waiting to be discovered,” he said.
Kolchmeyer will be traveling to Switzerland this summer to work on-location with the Large Hadron Collider he retrieves data from at his laboratory at the University.
“Its not just about me, but it’s the fact that Rutgers offers so many opportunities for undergraduates to get involved and then maybe be able to get something like the Goldwater scholarship,” he said.
Yarmush, a School of Engineering junior, said he works in the Department of Biomedical Engineering under Professor Francois Berthiaume on liver transplantation.
“There are about 2000 livers thrown out every year that could be eligible for transplantation,” he said.
Those livers are thrown away because of their high fat content, something that would lead to a negative physiological response after transplantation, he said.
Yarmush said his research contributes to a project that seeks to remove the liver from a donor’s body and defat it, allowing for successful transplantation.
Yarmush has worked on building a mathematical model of a liver metabolism, he said, as well as developing the methodology for introducing a defatting substance into the liver.
Without a mathematical model, he would have to test hundreds of thousands of chemical compounds to determine what substances could potentially defat the liver, Yarmush said.
“A mathematical model [allows] you to run all of these different simulations in a very short [amount of time],” he said.
Yarmush said he has always liked science and math more than humanities.
He found satisfaction in a field where there was an objective right answer, he said, and where drugs can be created that can cure diseases.
Yarmush began his research experience in high school in Shriners Hospital in Boston, an affiliate of Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he said.
“The boundless opportunity for discovery and innovation was just like nothing I’d experienced before,” he said.
Yarmush said he will spend this summer continuing his research at the University’s biomedical engineering department.
“I’m so thankful to so many people … I won the award, but I feel like other people deserve it more,” he said.