Five juniors win the Barry Goldwater scholarship

The scholarship supports students interested in research related to the natural sciences, engineering and mathematics.

by Arizbeth Rojas | 04/21/22 05:00

This year, the five Dartmouth juniors who applied for the prestigious Barry Goldwater scholarship have been accepted, the College announced on April 11.

According to the press release, the five juniors will join a cohort of 417 students selected from an applicant pool of more than 5,000 college students across the country interested in research fields related to the natural sciences, engineering and to mathematics. After completing an internal application and interview at Dartmouth, Chance Bowman ’23, Amanda Calhoun ’23, Katherine Lasonde ’23, Nicholas Sugiarto ’23 and Maxwell Teszler ’23 submitted their applications nationally.

According to the scholarship website, the program was established in 1986 and honors the lifelong work of the late Senator Barry Goldwater. The scholarship awards up to $7,500 per academic year to support student scientific research.

“I don’t think anyone really expects to win scholarships like this,” Lasonde said. “I’m really grateful and really lucky to have had all the help I’ve given.”

Calhoun wrote in an emailed statement to The Dartmouth that she was “thrilled” and “incredulous” to hear the news of the scholarship. Calhoun’s research involves studying biomarker proxies that measure carbon isotopes of lipids in certain marine archaea – a type of bacteria – allowing researchers to “reconstruct” the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

“I was first drawn to the field of geobiology by an introductory course given by Professor [Justin] Strauss,” she wrote. “In my work on stromatolites, I started thinking about biofilm communities, past environments, fluid mechanics, sediment transport, and ocean chemistry.”

According to the College’s announcement, Teszler’s research will aim to fight “worldwide” hunger and make edible plants more resilient and nutritious. Working alongside biology professor Mary Lou Guerinot, Teszler studies how plants absorb iron.

Bowman wrote in an emailed statement to The Dartmouth that his research focuses on a protein found in Staphylococcus Aureus, a bacterium that causes methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus infection. He wrote that his goal was to determine the protein’s structure and figure out how to interfere with its function to diminish the bacteria’s ability to defend against the human immune system.

“The human immune system uses small peptides, called defensins, to attack bacteria. Staph. Aureus is able to sense and evade these defensins, and the protein I’m looking for is implicated in this response,” he wrote.

Bowman added that he was “surprised and delighted” to be the recipient of the Goldwater Fellowship.

Sugiarto said his research involves understanding mutations in a series of proteins called SWI/SNF and their relationship to tumor formation and color cancer. While he said that SWI/SNF is mutated in 25% of all human cancers, its mechanisms are not yet fully understood.

Sugiarto said it “never occurred to him” to apply until he read an email about the scholarship. According to Sugiarto, the “long and drawn out” process involved letters of recommendation, a research essay and personal essays.

According to his research director, Xiaofeng Wang, Sugiarto has been working in the lab for just under two years. In 2020, Wang said Sugiarto contacted him via email, seeking research opportunities that could be conducted remotely. In the lab, Sugiarto manages computer components through coding and analyzes data generated by graduate student Luke Deary’s benchtop experiments.

Sugiarto said he started researching on a “whim” from his freshman summer, but since then the process has become a “driving force” in his life.

Similarly, Lasonde said she began her research journey in her freshman year through the Women in Science project. In fall 2019, Lasonde said she was paired to complete research with physics professor James Whitfield, during which she discovered quantum computing. As Lasonde grew increasingly interested in the hardware side of quantum computing, she moved on to working with engineering professor Eric Fossum, who specialized in image sensors.

Lasonde said his research focuses on building a quantum computer that uses “nitrogen vacancy defects” in diamonds, which demonstrate a series of “interesting properties”. She added that she works closely with magnets, microwaves and cameras to determine the “energy level”, magnetic and thermal properties of defects.

In the future, Lasonde said she hopes to earn a master’s degree related to environmental science and possibly a doctorate. According to Lasonde, quantum computers are well equipped to stimulate natural phenomena, which makes them useful for optimizing energy consumption to combat climate change. She added that over the next five to ten years the industry would “explode”.

Lasonde reflected positively on her formative experiences with the Women in Science Project, Undergraduate Research and Advising and the Stamps Scholars program which she says led to her Goldwater Fellowship.

“If I went to another school, I probably wouldn’t be a Barry Goldwater Scholar,” Lasonde said, noting Dartmouth’s “sufficient” research funding.

Maxwell Teszler is an opinion staffer at The Dartmouth.

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