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Chemical Engineering Sophomore Wins Goldwater Scholarship

Sai P. Gourisankar, a chemical engineering sophomore, has received the Goldwater Scholarship, the premier undergraduate award of its type in mathematics, natural sciences and engineering.

Gourisankar is one of three students from The University of Texas at Austin to receive the award this year. Goldwater Scholarships were also awarded to College of Natural Sciences students Bonnie Cole and Victor A. Rodriguez.

The one- and two-year scholarships, awarded annually to outstanding second- and third-year college students, will cover the cost of tuition, fees, books and room and board up to a maximum of $7,500 per year. The United States Congress established The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program in 1986 to honor Sen. Barry M. Goldwater, who served the country for 56 years as a soldier and statesman.

Gourisankar is an honors chemical engineering and Plan II double major from Fort Worth, Texas. He was recognized for the innovative biomedical research he’s conducting under the guidance of chemical engineering professor Keith P. Johnston.

Gourisankar is helping Johnston’s lab design gold nanoclusters for biomedical therapy and imaging. Molecular and cellular imaging techniques can reveal real-time changes of various biomolecules associated with cancer and other diseases.

“Imagine the ability to localize therapy to a small number of malignant cells, with minimal impact on surrounding healthy tissue,” Gourisankar said.

He said his long-term goal is to pursue a Ph.D. in materials science.

Victor Rodriguez, an honors physics and mathematics senior from El Paso, Texas, was recognized for his work in experimental high-energy physics, and in particular for his participation in the global effort to find the Higgs boson particle.

In the summer of 2011, Rodriguez interned at the Frascati National Laboratory in Frascati, Italy, helping to test algorithms that were being used to interpret data from the Large Hadron Collider at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Switzerland.

The following summer he was at CERN itself, working in one of the subgroups searching for the Higgs boson. Rodriguez was present in the auditorium on the morning of July 4, 2012, when it was announced to the world that the Higgs boson had been observed.

“I had to get in line at four in the morning to get a seat,” he said, “but it was worth it. It was really exciting.”

Bonnie Cole is a Dean’s Scholars Honors biology senior from Bastrop, Texas. She was recognized for her work in the molecular biology lab of professor Alan Lloyd. The goal of her research was to better characterize a regulator that plays a key role in the development of “trichomes,” which are small, single-celled branched plant hairs that are natural insect deterrents.

“I am honored to receive the Goldwater,” said Cole. “Being awarded with this further inspires me to pursue a successful and beneficial research career.”

This semester Cole has been working the lab of biology professor John Wallingford, studying early thyroid gland development in the African clawed frog. She plans to pursue a Ph.D. in biology.

The 275 Goldwater Scholars were selected on the basis of academic merit from 1,095 mathematics, science and engineering students who were nominated by the faculties of colleges and universities nationwide. The Goldwater Foundation is a federally endowed agency established by Public Law in 1986. The scholarship program honoring Senator Barry M. Goldwater was designed to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences and engineering.

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