University of Virginia Student Receives Goldwater Scholarship

April 6, 2012 — University of Virginia undergraduate David Wu has received a research scholarship from the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation for 2012.

Wu is among 282 students nationwide 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 provide up to $7,500 a year to help cover the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board.

"I am very honored to be recognized by the Goldwater Foundation," Wu said. "However, it is the combined efforts and support of my parents, friends and mentors throughout the years that made this possible. I could not have achieved this without the help of many others."

Wu, 21, is a third-year double major in biology and cognitive science, with a concentration in philosophy, in the College of Arts & Sciences. He is researching Cdt2, a protein that degrades other proteins involved in cell cycle regulation and genetic stability.

"Many cancers exhibit abnormally high levels of Cdt2, so we are interested in discovering the proteins that it degrades and understanding why this would benefit the cancer," he said.

U.Va. undergraduates Jessleen Kanwal, Ryan Alexander Loomis and Ellen Dee Zhong received honorable mentions from the Goldwater Foundation.

"These four students were selected from an outstanding applicant pool in a University-wide competition and each represents what we at the University of Virginia believe demonstrates the qualities of an undergraduate research-scholar," Michael Timko, a biology professor, said.

The son of Michael Wu and Phyllis Zhang of Arlington, David Wu is an Echols Scholar, a College Science Scholar and a member of the Raven Society. He has received a College Science Scholar Summer Research Award, an InGrassia Echols Scholar Research Grant, a College Council Research Grant, Intermediate Honors, a Harrison Undergraduate Research Award and a Small College Research Grant.

He is senior editor of The Oculus: The Virginia Journal of Undergraduate Research, workshops committee chair and a member of the research advising program for the Undergraduate Research Network, a Madison House student volunteer, a member of the Chinese Student Association and served as a "peer teacher" for the Introductory Biology Laboratory course, assisting the teaching assistants and helping students. He is a graduate of the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria.

Wu plans to pursue a combined Ph.D. and medical degree, blending medical training with scientific research.

"The goal of such programs is to produce physician-scientists who can bring basic scientific discoveries from the laboratory bench to hospital bedsides," Wu said. "Ultimately, I hope to lead a career in academia that synergizes medicine and science to benefit patients."

Biology professor W. Otto Friesen said Wu stands out from his peers for his thoughtfulness and insight.

"He has a deep interest in science and how the world works," Friesen said. "His grades and activities on Grounds reflect a gifted student who has deep knowledge of biology and a broad knowledge of science as well as non-academic topics."

He said he enjoys talking through ideas with Wu.

"One reason that I have enjoyed our conversations is because he brings so much to a serious discussion," Friesen said. "He is remarkably smart and well-informed, interested and willing to seriously discuss big topics: What are the implications of increasing lifespan? What is the relationship between our knowledge of neurobiology and high-level cognitive functions?"

Associate biology professor Deborah Roach said Wu is one of her top students.

"His love of science is motivated by his desire to find his place so that he can make contribution through research," she said. "He is driven and he is serious, but at the same time he is very humble and appreciative of the opportunities that he sees in front of him as a student at U.Va.

"He has the fundamental interest and intellectual ability to make a major contribution to science," she said. "I am fully confident that he will be a star."

"David Wu is a natural scientist," said Anindya Dutta, the Byrd Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics. "He is curious, creative and highly determined. I have been impressed by his dedication to science. He spends long hours in the lab, far more than most other undergraduates I have encountered, reads more extensively than some graduate students and does not hesitate to repeat experiments until he gets clearly defined results that test his hypothesis."

The Goldwater Foundation is a federally endowed agency established in 1986. The Scholarship Program honoring Sen. Barry M. Goldwater was designed to 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.