Wesleyan students Selin Kutlu ’16, Jacob “Jack” Lashner ’16 and Aaron Young ’16 have been chosen for honorable mention by the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program for the 2015-2016 academic year. The award is presented annually to U.S. sophomores and juniors for excellence in mathematics, science and engineering. This year’s recipients were selected from a field of more than 1,200 students nominated by faculty from more than 420 colleges and universities nationwide. Less than half the students nominated each year are selected as a scholar or for honorable mention.
Kutlu, a molecular biology and biochemistry and neuroscience and behavior double major, is interested in understanding not only biological mechanisms at the cellular and molecular level, but also how these mechanisms can alter human health and behavior. Working with Manju Hingorani, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, Kutlu combines her interest in both biochemistry and neuroscience through research on DNA mismatch repair, a process that corrects errors made during DNA replication. “These errors can cause mutations that can have deleterious effects on an organism’s health, including carcinogenesis and neurological disorders such as Huntington’s disease,” said Kutlu. Her career goal is to obtain an MA and PhD in molecular biology in order to teach at the university level and conduct biomedical research.
Lashner, a physics and mathematics double major, is working on research with Brian Stewart, professor of environmental studies, professor of physics, studying the rotational and vibrational energy transfer in the collision between a Lithium diatomic molecule and a non-reactive noble gas—an instance of the three-body problem, which is a study of the trajectories of three interacting objects, each exerting a force on the other two. “My work with Professor Stewart is to see what insight we can pull from simplified models of the problem, such as the collision of a single particle with a hard spheroid shell,” said Lashner. “Working with these models may help us determine how crucial certain features of the collision are in our data, such as multiple impacts.” Lashner plans to obtain a PhD in physics to ultimately conduct research at a national laboratory or university.
Young, a physics and applied physics double major, is studying previously undocumented memory effects in water plasmas. “We generate a plasma in water with a laser, and collect time-resolved spectroscopic and spatial measurements that, after appropriate data processing, give us a snapshot of what is happening inside the plasma. By gathering this data over multiple plasma events we can isolate the effects of hysteresis—memory effects—from the dynamics of a single pulse,” said Young. “The primary applications of the research are plasma mediated medical procedures—we have to understand these systems in water if we hope to even get close to a biological system—and laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy, which is how the Curiosity Mars rover does mineral analysis.” Young’s future plans include obtaining a PhD in applied physics, conducting research on high-energy plasma and teaching at the university level.
The Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education seeks to provide a continuing source of highly qualified scientists, mathematicians, and engineers by awarding scholarships to students who intent to pursue research careers in these fields. Since its first award in 1989, the Foundation has bestowed more than 7,400 scholarships worth approximately $48 million.
Click here to read about past Wesleyan Goldwater scholars and honorable mention students.