Winners of the Tenth Annual University Co–op George H. Mitchell Student Awards for Academic Excellence

Amanda Cayo Awarded for Academic Excellence

Wednesday, the 29th of April was a day to remember for a select group of UT students, parents and faculty. The winners of the Tenth Annual University Co–op George H. Mitchell Awards for Academic Excellence were announced at the Four Seasons Hotel. These awards celebrate and reward undergraduate students who have demonstrated unparalleled dedication and achievement in their fields of study. Chairperson of the University Co–operative Society, Dr. Michael Granof hosted the event. Attendees included UT Systems Regent Janiece Longoria, UT President Bill Powers, Provost Steven Leslie and many Deans and Vice Presidents of the University, as well as past grand prize winners of the award.

“This banquet serves another purpose in addition to honoring the students. It is to remind us all that when we step back from the targets of our day to day issues, the University of Texas is extraordinary. By any reasonable standards it is one of intellectual treasures of our country. And the students that we honor tonight – as well as many of their classmates – will be the scientific, literary, artistic and political leaders of the future. They give us every reason to be optimistic about what lies ahead for Texas, the United States and indeed the world,” said Dr. Michael Granof in his opening speech.

The $20,000 Grand Prize winner of the Undergraduate Student Awards for Academic Excellence was Yuxuan Wang, Biochemistry Senior, who was nominated by Professor Andrew Ellington for her honors thesis “Aptamer Antagonists of Myelin Promote Axon Growth.” Wang’s research has the potential to break new ground in the area of central nervous system repair. During her sophomore year, Yuxuan worked on a project in Ellington’s lab that used aptamers, small pieces of RNA that bind with high specificity, to detect drug–resistant forms of HIV. The results were published in an article in the journal Nucleic Acids Research (Yuxuan is second author). During this time, while also taking a neurobiology course, Yuxuan saw promise in a merger between the usefulness of aptamers and the pathways that inhibit regeneration of nerve cells after injury. This project has such potential for impact, that Yuxuan wrote and was awarded a $100,000 research grant from TI–3D (Texas Institute for Drug and Diagnostics Development) to pursue it. She has been recognized both locally and nationally, winning the prestigious Barry M. Goldwater Award as a sophomore. In the fall, Yuxuan will begin an MD/PhD program, after selecting between full fellowships at Johns Hopkins University and Washington University at St. Louis.

Three other undergraduate students, Matthew Montry, Architecture Senior; Michael Collins, Asian Studies and Plan II Senior; and Robbie Earle, Government and Spanish Senior, won the second prize and received $5,000 each.

The five winners of the $2,000 awards were: Ari Schulman, English and Computer Science Senior; Allison Bullock, Geography Honors and Biology Senior; Charles Beaman, Mechanical Engineering Honors Senior; Jesse Cordes Selbin, Humanities Honors and English Senior; and Amanda Cayo, Theatre and Dance and Plan II Senior.

About University Co–operative Society:
The University Co–op is a not–for–profit corporation owned by the students, faculty and staff of the University of Texas at Austin. Since the year 2000, the University Co–op has given over 25 million dollars to UT in gifts, grants and rebates to students.

Contact: Hulan Swain at 512.322.7071 or E–mail: hswain@universitycoop.com

Posted: Friday, May 1, 2009