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Two KU juniors named as Goldwater Scholars

Fri, 05/03/2019

LAWRENCE — As friends who are both officers of the Chemistry Club and fellow chemistry majors at the University of Kansas, it was fitting that Eleanor Stewart-Jones and Tyler Nguyen would get the news together.

After some rapid inbox refreshing, two emails from the national foundation confirmed it: Stewart-Jones, a junior from Mission, and Nguyen, a junior from Kansas City, Kansas, were KU’s two latest Barry M. Goldwater Scholars.

“There’s so much buildup to it,” Nguyen said, recalling a long application process. “It took me a moment to process it. I thought, ‘Is this really happening?’”

In the basement of KU’s Integrated Science Building, the two were able to congratulate each other, then quickly spread the good news to some friends and mentors in the Department of Chemistry.

The scholarships provide up to $7,500 annually for undergraduate tuition, fees, books, and room and board. Only sophomores and juniors with outstanding academic records, significant research experience and high potential for careers in mathematics, the natural sciences or engineering were eligible for nomination.

This year, the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation awarded scholarships to 496 students across the country from a pool of more than 5,000 applicants.

Stewart-Jones said she appreciated the opportunities that the scholarship would provide for her path forward, hopefully becoming a research scientist in the field of chemistry.

“This really sort of solidifies my plans,” she said. “It would be amazing to be a professor, which would offer the kind of freedom that I like in research while giving me the opportunity to teach.”

Nguyen said that he, too, was interested in a career in research. He recalled developing an interest in science from an early age. Questions as a child about the phases of the moon continued to develop into a fascination about the connections between outer space and chemistry.

“Chemistry is a foundational science and has applications in so many areas, from biology and medicine to physics and engineering,” he said. “What I enjoy about my research is that it is interdisciplinary. I get to work with people from many different fields and see a bunch of ideas working together to solve some of the greatest issues of our time.”

Stewart-Jones said she was drawn to chemistry after learning how the inner logic of the periodic table connects to properties exhibited by the elements in high school, and studying in the lab of her uncle, who has a doctorate in the field.

“I realized that chemistry was a tool to understand the natural world around me,” she said. “And once I saw the possibilities opened up through research, where problems are systematically tackled using science, I knew that was the career path for me. I have always been passionate about the environment and want to use my work to help mitigate the effects of climate change.”

The campus process for applying for the awards is coordinated through KU’s Office of Fellowships. Misha Barybin is a professor of chemistry and chair of the Goldwater Scholarship Campus Nomination Committee. 

“Eleanor and Tyler are not only strong and ambitious students from an academic standpoint, but they are also remarkably insightful and productive undergraduate researchers with genuine scientific curiosity,” Barybin said. “I am delighted that they have been chosen to receive this award, and they certainly deserve this recognition.”

Including these two recent awards, KU students have won 67 Goldwater Scholarships since they were first awarded in 1989.

Additional information about KU’s winners:

Tyler Nguyen is the son of Tung and Huyen Nguyen of Kansas City, Kansas, and he is a graduate of Piper High School. He is majoring in chemistry with a minor in astrobiology. Nguyen is planning a career researching chemical modifications of materials and proteins for nanotechnology and bioengineering applications. He works in the lab of his research mentor, Associate Professor Cindy Berrie in the Department of Chemistry, developing model systems for enzyme-based sensors for disease diagnosis, a biological application of nanotechnology. He has presented his research in several settings locally and regionally, including at the American Chemical Society’s national meeting in Orlando, Florida.

​Eleanor Stewart-Jones is the daughter of Brian Jones and stepdaughter of Loes Niedekker, and daughter of Teresa Stewart and stepdaughter of Scott Leigh. A graduate of Shawnee Mission East, her hometown is Mission. Stewart-Jones is majoring in chemistry with a minor in French and is planning a career in research mimicking the chemistry done in the active sites of proteins that use metals. She works in the lab of her research mentor, Professor Tim Jackson in the Department of Chemistry, researching the reactivity of manganese model systems. Stewart-Jones serves as a research ambassador for the Center for Undergraduate Research and recently presented her research at the Max Planck Matter to Life Conference in Tegernsee, Germany.



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