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Three Undergraduates Selected as 2018 Goldwater Scholars

Three Undergraduates Selected as 2018 Goldwater Scholars
Juniors Logan Pearce, Griffin Glenn and Jenna McGuffey were awarded the prestigious 2018 Goldwater Scholarship. Photo credit: Vivian Abagiu.

Three College of Natural Sciences undergraduates have been selected as 2018 Goldwater Scholars. Griffin Glenn, Logan Pearce and Jenna McGuffey are among 208 college students nationwide who received the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, the most prestigious undergraduate scholarship given in the natural sciences, engineering and mathematics.

Scholars are selected for their commitment to a research career in the natural sciences, effective display of intellectual intensity in STEM and potential for a significant future contribution to research in their chosen field.

Glenn, a junior Dean's Scholars Honors physics and Plan II major, was selected for his research in high energy density science, which explores what happens when matter is subjected to conditions of extraordinarily high pressure, temperature or density.

"Most of my work so far has used the Texas Petawatt Laser to irradiate materials with pulses of extremely intense laser light," Glenn said. "Over the last year, I designed and built an instrument that measures the energies of electrons, positrons, and protons generated when the laser irradiates a target, and have begun preliminary data analysis."

After graduation, Glenn hopes to pursue a career in physics at an academic institution or at a national laboratory.

Pearce, a junior pursuing a second bachelor's degree in astronomy and physics, is exploring what makes the boundary between the biggest giant planets and the smallest substellar objects, called brown dwarfs. Defining this difference has implications for improving understanding of the formation mechanism in extreme cases.

"My contribution to this question has been to study the orbit of one particular planetary mass object on a wide orbit from its host star, to look for clues in the orbit to how it formed." Pearce said. "I developed an algorithm for very precisely measuring the motion of the object relative to the star it's orbiting in images spanning a 10 year period, and have found an object that likely represents the low mass end of brown dwarfs."

Pearce received her first bachelor's degree in chemistry from Purdue University in 2003, and was commissioned as an officer in the US Navy through Purdue's ROTC program, where she served for two years as a bridge and combat systems officer and then three more years as a nuclear reactor operator. Pearce also taught middle school science for six years prior to attending UT Austin. After graduation, she plans to pursue a career conducting research in observational astronomy studying exoplanets and low mass stars.

McGuffey, a biochemistry junior in the Health Science Scholars Honors program, conducts research at the intersection of synthetic biology and evolution. 

"For the past two years, I have worked alongside inspiring researchers in the Barrick lab to use directed evolution to surmount obstacles in synthetic biology," McGuffey said. "Engineering yeast to produce pharmaceuticals and biofuels has become a prominent area of research, but evolution naturally leads to the inactivation of these genetic devices by the host. My goal is to evolve a strain of yeast that will maintain the function of engineered biological systems for longer periods of time, ultimately increasing the production of potentially life-saving drugs and biofuels."

She plans to pursue a Ph.D. after graduation and hopes to conduct research in molecular genetics or biochemistry at a research university or academic medical center.

Glenn, McGuffey and Pearce will each be awarded $7,500 a year to help cover costs associated with tuition, mandatory fees, books, room and board. They bring to nine the total number of Goldwater Scholars in the College of Natural Sciences since 2010. 

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Thursday, 26 April 2018

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