Two Natural Sciences Students Named Goldwater Scholars

April 15, 2011

AUSTIN, Texas — Steve Lu and Eileen Martin, undergraduates in the College of Natural Sciences, have been awarded Goldwater Scholarships, the premier undergraduate award of its type in mathematics, natural sciences and engineering.

The one- and two-year scholarships, awarded annually to outstanding second- and third-year college students, will cover the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board up to a maximum of $7,500 per year.

Eileen Martin

Martin, a Dean's Scholars Honors mathematics major from Georgetown, Texas, is being recognized for her work extending methods and theorems in frame theory to the study of differential topology.

"Eileen's ability to see connections between different areas of math is impressive," says Dr. Daniel Freeman, the Bing Instructor of Mathematics. "The first summer that I worked with her, she was able to solve a difficult problem by establishing a connection that neither I nor the other research mentors had ever considered. That kind of creativity will serve her well in the future."

Martin says her recent work in developing coordinate systems that can move across surfaces in higher dimensions appeals to her in part because it's so visual. It also requires her, she says, to push beyond what's familiar.

"I was in a lot of math competitions growing up," says Martin, "and we'd often get problems where we really had to make it up as we went along. We had to go out on a limb and just hope it worked. I got used to making up my own math. The difference now is that I can't go out, afterward, and look up what someone else has done, because no one has done it."

Steve Lu

Lu, a Dean's Scholars Biochemistry and Biology Honors major from Austin, Texas, is being recognized for his research in the lab of pharmacology Professor Karen Vasquez. He's worked with Dr. Vasquez on understanding how alternative DNA structures, which can form at particular genetic sequences, may contribute to the initiation of cancer.

"From the time he started in the lab, Steve showed a talent for research and a fascination with its translation to potential cancer therapeutics," says Vasquez. "He's done a fantastic job working on this project and is a co-first author on the manuscript describing our results, which is currently in preparation for submission."

Lu arrived at the university with ambitions to be a doctor. His horizons expanded, however, after a freshman year experience in the lab of cell biology Professor Arturo De Lozanne, and after two summers with Dr. Vasquez at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. Now, says Lu, he hopes to attend an M.D./Ph.D. program.

"I want to help patients directly, but I also want to use my passion for research to develop innovative therapeutics in the area of oncology," says Lu.

In addition to the two winners, William Berdanier, majoring in physics and mathmatics, was recognized with an honorable mention. The 275 Goldwater Scholars were selected on the basis of academic merit from 1,095 mathematics, science and engineering students who were nominated by the faculties of colleges and universities nationwide. The Goldwater Foundation is a federally endowed agency established by Public Law in 1986. The scholarship program honoring Sen. Barry M. Goldwater was designed to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences and engineering.

For more information, contact: Daniel Oppenheimer, Hogg Foundation, 512 745 3353.