LAWRENCE — Five University of Kansas students who have been actively involved in undergraduate research during their university careers are competing for Barry M. Goldwater Scholarships, regarded as the premier undergraduate award to encourage excellence in science, engineering and mathematics.
The students’ applications are coordinated by the Office of Fellowships in Academic Success.
KU’s 2022 nominees:
- Bryce Gaskins, a junior majoring in biochemistry and Spanish
- Jessica Miears, a junior majoring in physics and astronomy
- Sarah Noga, a junior majoring in biochemistry
- Mary Sevart, a junior majoring in chemical engineering
- Kade Townsend, a junior majoring in microbiology
Seventy-one KU students have received Goldwater scholarships since they first were awarded in 1989. Congress established the program in 1986 in tribute to the retired U.S. senator from Arizona and to ensure a continuing source of highly qualified scientists, mathematicians and engineers.
The Goldwater Foundation trustees will announce the 2022 winners in late March. The scholarships cover eligible expenses for undergraduate tuition, fees, books, and room and board, up to $7,500 annually. Each year the trustees award approximately 450 scholarships.
Only sophomore- and junior-level students with outstanding academic records, significant research experience and high potential for careers in mathematics, the natural sciences or engineering are eligible for nomination. Nominees submitted applications that included essays related to their career goals and three faculty recommendations. Students interested in applying next year should contact Erin Wolfram, education program manager for the Office of Fellowships.
Brief descriptions of the nominees’ research experience, organizational involvement and career plans follow.
Bryce Gaskins, from Springfield, Virginia, is the son of Heather and Elliott Gaskins and a graduate of West Springfield High School. Gaskins is majoring in biochemistry and Spanish and plans to pursue a doctorate in organic chemistry to teach at a university, focusing on research in organic and synthetic chemistry. Gaskins currently conducts research under Zarko Boskovic, KU assistant professor of medicinal chemistry, developing novel pathways to access structurally complex and possibly biologically active molecules. He has presented on this research both regionally and nationally in both oral and poster presentations. In summer 2021, Gaskins participated in a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) at the University of California-Irvine within Professor Vy Dong’s research group. The team attempted to use photoredox catalysis to translocate the amino group on an alpha-amino acid to the beta position, using hydrogen atom transfer. He is also a member of the KU McNair Scholars program, a KU Maximizing Access to Research Careers (MARC) scholar and an American Chemical Society (ACS) scholar.
Jessica Miears, from Fort Worth, Texas, is the daughter of Ollie and Sharon Miears and a graduate of Granbury High School. Miears is majoring in physics and astronomy and aspires to obtain a doctorate in physics. She plans to become a university professor with a research focus in astroparticle physics. She currently conducts research with David Besson, KU professor of physics, to find effects of high-energy particles on organic matter to support missions to Mars. In summer 2021, Miears completed an internship in association with the Ice Cube Neutrino Observatory, where she assisted in upgrading the facility to the next generation by gathering data of energy produced from wind turbines at the South Pole. She is also the recipient of the Leader of the Pack Scholarship and Midwest Student Exchange Scholarship.
Sarah Noga, from Des Moines, Iowa, is the daughter of Dave and Gina Noga and a graduate of Waukee High School. Noga is majoring in biochemistry with plans to pursue a doctorate to conduct drug development research and teach at the university level. She was one of two students selected for the 2021 Beckman Scholars Program, a 15-month mentoring opportunity aimed at developing research and communication skills. In fall 2020, Noga joined the Slusky Lab led by Joanna Slusky, associate professor of molecular biosciences, exploring how outer membrane proteins fold for the purpose of developing therapeutics for antibiotic resistance and novel methods of environmental remediation. As a key researcher in projects aiming to inhibit an outer membrane protein critical for antibiotic resistance, Noga has given multiple presentations on these findings. In summer 2021, she participated in the KU REU Program among 20 of her peers and is looking forward to a research-intensive study abroad program in Denmark during fall 2022. Noga is also active in Christian Challenge and has worked as a certified pharmacy technician.
Mary Sevart, from Wichita, is the daughter of Eric and Karen Sevart and a graduate of Maize High School. Sevart is majoring in chemical engineering with plans to pursue a doctorate in the same field. She aspires to employ solutions to the world’s dependence on fossil fuels through a research career. As a freshman, she joined the KU Biodiesel Initiative lab of founding faculty member Susan Williams, Charles E. & Mary Jane Spahr Professor of Engineering, and currently serves as the testing lab manager. Specifically, Sevart participates in research initiatives under the guidance of Williams with a focus on creating a potential fuel source from thermochemical processing of hemp biomass after CBD oil extraction. She also is the recruitment chair of KU's Society of Women Engineers and serves as an ambassador for the KU School of Engineering. This spring, Sevart was awarded the NOAA Ernest F. Hollings Scholarship and earned an Undergraduate Research Award through the KU Center for Undergraduate Research. In fall 2021, she won first place in the poster competition at the national conference for Society of Women Engineers and received a scholarship from the Next Generation Scientists for Biodiesel in fall 2020. This past summer, Sevart completed an internship at Spirit AeroSystems, and she looks forward to participating in an internship at the National Weather Service in summer 2022 through the NOAA Ernest F. Hollings Scholarship program.
Kade Townsend, from Topeka, is the son of Hollee and Ryan Townsend and a graduate of Seaman High School. Townsend is majoring in microbiology and plans to pursue a doctorate, focusing on bacterial genetics research. As a freshman Emerging Scholar, Townsend joined the Chandler Lab, led by Josephine Chandler, associate professor of molecular biosciences, and has continued to be an important contributor to the lab’s research on antibiotic-resistant pathogens. He has participated in oral and poster presentations alongside the research team at national conferences, as a Maximizing Access to Research Career Scholar and McNair Scholar. He was the 2021 SACNAS Outstanding Presentation Award recipient for his poster presentation titled “Adaptive mutation which alters tobramycin susceptibility in Pseudomonas aeruginosa,” and he earned the Courtwright Award for outstanding research among other Undergraduate Research Award winners.