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Two Natural Sciences Undergraduates Selected as Goldwater Scholars

Two Natural Sciences Undergraduates Selected as Goldwater Scholars

Two University of Texas at Austin undergraduate students, Briana Syed and Teddy Hsieh, have earned the prestigious Goldwater Scholarship, which honors outstanding students in STEM majors.

The Goldwater Scholarship was awarded to 410 students nationwide for the 2021-22 school year. The recipients were chosen from among a pool of more than 5,000 college undergraduates majoring in science, mathematics and engineering.

Briana Syed. Image courtesy of Briana Syed.

Syed, a junior majoring in neuroscience, studies the genetic components of intellectual disabilities, such as Down Syndrome, in lab of Jonathan Pierce. She became interested in medicine after suddenly losing her father at 13.

"Seeing his passion as a nurse truly inspired me to be on the forefront of change to improve the lives of others," Syed said.

Her interest in neuroscience grew after teaching a course at UT for adults with intellectual disabilities, the only one of its kind in the nation.

"Teaching and getting to know my phenomenal students was eye-opening," she said. "They have extraordinary potential and just need advocates that will support them towards reaching it."

After graduation in 2022, Syed hopes to join a PhD/MD program in neuroscience so that she can use her skills as a researcher and a physician to better understand brains, as well as heal them.

During her time at UT, Syed has also participated in an National Science Foundation program that connects international labs and works with a lab at the University of Cambridge. She also worked with a local neurology clinic to offer seminars for pediatric neurologists on prescribing folic acid to epileptic teen girls because of the risk of certain birth defects associated with some epilepsy medication.

"It was a little intimidating to conduct a seminar for practicing doctors, but a great experience," she said. We tripled their co-prescription rate in two months and ended up publishing a paper about it."

The undergraduate research opportunities offered at UT have left her with a unique perspective going into graduate school, Syed said. "I think it's going to influence the way I conduct research in the future. It's easy to get focused on the molecules in front of you in a lab and forget that this work impacts real people. But classes and labs at UT have helped put a face on this work."

Teddy Hsieh. Image by Cathy Le.

Teddy Hsieh, a junior chemistry and electrical engineering double major, studies novel fabrication techniques for three dimensional nanoelectronic devices such as next-generation lasers and computer components. In 2020, Hsieh was awarded the Astronaut Scholarship, which comes with a monetary prize and mentorship from visionary CEOs, industry experts and even astronauts.

With the Goldwater Scholarship, Hsieh has set his sights on a PhD program that hone his skills in material sciences.

"You can make something that's … a thousandth the width of a hair and make it sing," Hsieh said. "That really is magic. If you think about it, engineering is magic that we understand. And I think there's something elegant in that."

A member of the Dean's Scholars, Hsieh has tried to make the most of his time at UT to get hands on research experience. He was recently named a co-director of the 2021 Engineering Expo, a career fair for UT engineering students. 

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Tuesday, 18 May 2021

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