University of Virginia Quartet Receives Goldwater Scholarships

April 12, 2010 — Four University of Virginia undergraduates have received research scholarships from the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation for 2010.

This year's recipients – all third-year students – are: Stuart Charles Keech, 20, of Penfield, N.Y., an aerospace engineering major; Matthew Taylor Aronson, 21, of Midlothian, a chemical engineering major; Ruffin Eley Evans, 20, of Charlottesville, a physics and chemistry double major; and Jeneva Anne Laib, 21, of Lorton, a biomedical engineering major.

The four are among 278 students who received scholarships, given by the Goldwater Foundation to second- and third-year students who intend to pursue careers in mathematics, the natural sciences or engineering. The one- and two-year scholarships will cover the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board up to a maximum of $7,500 per year.

"It's a real feather in U.Va.'s cap to have all of its nominees selected as scholars," said Michael Timko, a biology professor in the College of Arts & Sciences and U.Va.'s representative to the Goldwater program. "It is a credit to these students and to the institution and demonstrates the fact that our undergraduate research-scholars are among the very best nationwide."

Keech is researching laser diagnostics of hypersonic combustion flows, seeking to optically reconstruct a contour map of water concentration inside of a hypersonic propulsion system called a SCRAMJET (Supersonic Combustion RAMJET).

A Rodman Scholar, he also belongs to the Golden Key International Honor Society, Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society, Sigma Gamma Tau Aerospace Engineering Honor Society, as well as appearing on the dean's list and receiving Intermediate Honors. He is a member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, the U.Va. water polo club and the International Fraternity of Phi Gamma Delta. He plans to attend graduate school for systems engineering with an aerospace emphasis.

Aronson is researching novel solid acid catalysts for the extraction and transesterfication of algae oil to produce biodiesel. He is a member of the International Fraternity of Phi Gamma Delta, Greek InterVarsity and Tau Beta Pi, and SOCA Hot Shots. He has received a Rodman Scholars sustainability grant and will be a Lawn resident next year. He plans to pursue a Ph.D. in chemical engineering.

Evans is researching the design and synthesis of luminescent nanoparticles that show oxygen sensitivity. These nanoparticles can be used under a variety of conditions, from aerodynamics research to imaging oxygen distributions in tumors. Evans is a GlaxoSmithKline Summer Fellow, has received a Harrison Undergraduate Research Award and an Echols Research Grant. He is a counselor in the University Judiciary Committee, the scholarship chair of the Echols Council and treasurer of the Society of Physics Students.

Laib is researching the regulation of molecular motors involved in intracellular transport and cell motility. Problems with molecular motors may cause diabetes, memory problems, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and fatal impairments to embryos, among other diseases. She is a member of the Alpha Delta Pi sorority, U.Va.'s ski and snowboard team and is a past coach of a YMCA girls' lacrosse team. She is a member of the Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society and the Society of Women Engineers. She plans to pursue a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering and teach at a research university.

"Each of these individuals has demonstrated the capability of framing interesting basic and applied scientific research questions and performing studies that in many cases led to published results in quality journals," Timko said.

The Goldwater Foundation is a federally endowed agency established in 1986. The Scholarship Program honoring Sen. Barry M. Goldwater was designed to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences and engineering. The Goldwater Scholarship is the premier undergraduate award of its type in these fields.

— By Matt Kelly