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 2023 nominees:
- Sivani Badrivenkata, junior in pharmacy
- Thresa Kelly, a junior in engineering physics – digital electronic systems with a minor in astronomy
- Brandon Nguyen, a sophomore in chemistry and with a minor in mathematics
- Audrey-Rips Goodwin, a junior in chemistry and mathematics with a minor in psychology
- Kate Wienke, a junior in physics.
Seventy-six 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 2023 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 research experience and three faculty recommendations. Students interested in applying next year should contact the Office of Fellowships via email.
Brief descriptions of the nominees’ research experience, organizational involvement and career plans follow.
Sivani Badrivenkata, from Lawrence, is the daughter of Dayakar Badri and Haarisa Valasa and a graduate of Free State High School. Badrivenkata is majoring in pharmacy and plans to pursue a doctorate in pharmaceutical chemistry to teach and conduct translational research in academia with a focus on integrating biologics in formulations to address global health needs. She currently conducts research in Michael Hageman’s pharmaceutical chemistry lab to assess the viability/efficacy of lactoferrin to treat vaginal E. coli infections in pregnant patients to prevent neonatal sepsis. Badrivenkata is a recipient of a spring 2023 Undergraduate Research Award, presented at the 2022 Kansas Pharmacists Association’s annual meeting and tradeshow and participated in the 2022 summer Undergraduate Research Program within the KU Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry. She currently works as a speech and debate assistant coach at Free State High School, and in summer 2021, she was a research intern for a prostate clinical research project through KU Medical Center. Badrivenkata is a KU Global Scholar and a member of the University Honors Program, for which she serves as a program ambassador and previously served as an honors seminar assistant. Additionally, she hosted an art exhibition at the Kansas Union Gallery in fall 2021 and currently has five paintings displayed in KU campus libraries through spring 2023.
Thresa Kelly, from Kansas City, Missouri, is the daughter of Cassy Kelly and Scott Bergman and a graduate of Lincoln College Preparatory Academy. Kelly is majoring in engineering physics – digital electronic systems and minoring in astronomy. She aspires to earn a doctorate in astronomy and become a professional scientist researching active galactic nuclei. Kelly spent summer 2022 in David Sander’s lab at the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy researching the multiwavelength properties of X-ray and midinfrared identified active galactic nuclei which resulted in both oral and poster presentations, and she is currently writing a first-author paper for submission to an academic journal. Currently, under the direction of Allison Kirkpatrick, KU Department of Physics & Astronomy, Kelly is researching the use of a James Webb Space Telescope to analyze active galactic nucleus host galaxies. She and Kirkpatrick presented this research at the 241st Meeting of the American Astronomical Society in January 2023. Kelly is a member of the University Honors Program, Tau Beta Pi National Honor Society, Out in STEM and the Society of Physics Students. She also formerly served as the treasurer and DJ for KU’s Swing Society. Additionally, Kelly is the recipient of multiple scholarships and awards, including the Tau Beta Pi Engineering Scholarship for academic achievements in engineering, Gene E. Feaster Award for academic and research excellence in physics and astronomy, Underclassman Achievement Award for academic superiority and Patricia Frist Memorial Scholarship (four consecutive years) for academic success and character.
Brandon Nguyen, from Liberal, is the son of Joe and Nguyen Nguyen and a graduate of Liberal High School. Nguyen is majoring in chemistry and minoring in mathematics. He plans to pursue a doctorate in chemistry and conduct research in inorganic or organic chemistry and teach at a university. As a freshman, Nguyen joined Timothy Jackson’s research lab, where he measured the reactivity of manganese(III)-hydroxo complexes with phenols. Through this research experience, he performed kinetic studies on an inorganic complex by analyzing the change in absorbance in a reaction and determined the rate of the reaction through kinetics. He presented a poster presentation on this research at the American Chemical Society Midwest Regional Meeting in 2022. Nguyen also serves as the development chair of KU’s Chemistry Club and is the recipient of the Drs. Bijan and Mary Taylor Amini Scholarship for demonstrating exceptionality as a chemistry student, a KU Center for Undergraduate Research Travel Award, Bricker ChemScholars Program Award for academic and research achievement and an Honors Opportunity Award.
Audrey Rips-Goodwin, from Overland Park, is the daughter of Cheryl Rips and Stanley Goodwin and a graduate of Blue Valley Southwest High School. She is majoring in mathematics and chemistry and minoring in psychology with plans to pursue a doctorate in neuroscience and conduct research in neuroscience/neuroeconomics of addictions, eating disorders and obesity. In 2021, Rips-Goodwin contributed to a large series of studies examining how age-related increases in Phosphodiesterase 11A4 contribute to age-related cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease with Michy Kelly at the University of South Carolina. Rips-Goodwin is a co-author of a paper based on this research which is currently in review. In 2022, after transferring to KU, she joined Tera Fazzino’s lab and determined the accuracy of reported energy content of hyper-palatable foods combining her research interests in both chemistry and psychology and leading to two presentations. In 2022, she was named a Kansas Idea Network for Biomedical Research Excellence program scholar to conduct independent research. Rips-Goodwin is also a student ambassador for the KU College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, a Green Scholar for her sustainability efforts, a Bricker ChemScholar and a Frances H. Gayetta Lensor Scholarship recipient awarded to an exceptional female student majoring in chemistry. Outside of research and academics, she serves as a weekend volunteer at Children’s Mercy Hospital.
Kate Wienke, from St. Louis, is the daughter of Libby Clabaugh and Steve Wienke and is a graduate of Webster Groves High School. Majoring in physics, Wienke aspires to earn a doctorate in astrophysics and lead a team conducting research on astrobiology or exoplanets. She also plans to teach at the university level and start a mentorship program for young gender and racial minorities in physics. In 2021, within Ian Crossfield’s KU ExoLab, she compared the densities of exoplanets with the elemental abundances of their stars. She presented on this research at the KU 2022 spring Undergraduate Research Symposium. Currently, Wienke is conducting research with Jessie Christiansen, California Institute of Technology, on using Spitzer Phase Curve Analysis to detect an atmosphere on the Super Earth-HD within the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute. In September 2022, she was one of 36 students invited to participate in Caltech’s FUTURE of Physics for junior and senior undergraduate gender minorities in physics. Wienke is an Honors Ambassador and University Scholar and served as the project leader on a team examining diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging within the KU Department of Physics & Astronomy. She also serves as the social chair for the Women’s Rugby Club and was a member of the KU rowing team her freshman year. Wienke has received numerous accolades, including the KU Gene R. Feaster Physics Scholarship and KU Francis W. Prosser Physics Scholarship and was on the 2021 Academic All-Big 12 Rookie Team for achieving a 4.0 GPA while participating as a Big 12 athlete.