Inside Rensselaer
* Christian Schenkelberg (right) with his adviser, Chris Bystroff

Christian Schenkelberg (right) with his adviser, Chris Bystroff

Jonathan Cho (right) with his adviser, Blanca Barquera. Photos by Travis Cano

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Two Awarded Prestigious Goldwater Scholarships

Two Department of Biology students — Jonathan Cho and Christian Schenkelberg — have been named 2011 Barry M. Goldwater Scholars, one of the most prestigious distinctions conferred upon undergraduates who are studying in the fields of science or engineering.

Goldwater Scholarships are awarded to select sophomores and juniors who must be nominated by their college or university. U.S. institutions nominated 1,095 students for the 2011-2012 academic year. Of those, 275 were selected to receive scholarships for their junior and senior years.

“This scholarship is extremely competitive and is meant to encourage some of the nation’s most outstanding students to pursue careers in science, mathematics, and engineering,” said Professor Susan Gilbert, who heads the Department of Biology. “To have two of our students chosen is an incredible honor, and we are very proud of their accomplishments.”

Gilbert also views the Goldwater awards as an affirmation of the Institute’s emergence as a leader in the biological sciences and in providing opportunities for undergraduate research, two factors cited by Cho and Schenkelberg as reasons for attending Rensselaer.

Cho, a sophomore in the Accelerated Physician-Scientist Program, has been involved in research at
Rensselaer since his first semester in September 2009. He is part of a team, led by Blanca Barquera, associate professor of biology, that is investigating adaptive methods of bacterial pathogens. The team’s findings could shed light on how to counter antibiotic resistance and develop drugs that can kill bacteria without harming humans.

Barquera serves as Cho’s mentor and encouraged him to apply for the Goldwater Scholarship.

Schenkelberg, a junior majoring in bioinformatics and molecular biology, is in the School of Science’s Accelerated B.S./Ph.D. Program. He is involved in research on protein design, a project led by his mentor, Chris Bystroff, associate professor of biology and computer science. Bystroff’s team is experimenting with developing a green fluorescent protein that could be used as a biosensor to identify viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens. The team’s work could lead to faster, less expensive ways of detecting disease and, therefore, could have applications in Third World countries.

The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program was established by Congress in 1986 to honor Senator Barry M. Goldwater. The one- and two-year scholarships provide up to $7,500 per year.

The first Goldwater Scholars were named in 1989. Since then, about $50 million in scholarships has been awarded to 6,600 promising undergraduates.

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Inside Rensselaer, Strategic Communications and External Relations
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Inside Rensselaer
Volume 5, Number 8, April 29, 2011
©2010 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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