Three University of Oklahoma honors students have been named 2014 Goldwater Scholars, bringing 46 the number of OU students named Goldwater Scholars since the competition began in 1991 and placing OU in the top ranks of university nationally. Sydney Bader of Richland, Washington, Laura Figueroa of Bogota, Colombia, and Yuan Rui of Norman were awarded the prestigious scholarships on the basis of potential and intent to pursue careers in mathematics, the natural sciences or engineering.
“It is exciting to see these three outstanding students honored as Goldwater Scholars,” said OU President David L. Boren. “It is further evidence of the university’s national leadership in science and mathematics.”
Bader, a junior majoring in biochemistry is working with Susan Schroeder, OU associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry, as a research assistant investigating the structure and function of viral RNA. She began research at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory her senior year of high school as a Young Women in Science intern. For the past two summers she worked with Lizabeth Alexander, senior research scientist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, where she participated in several projects, exploring how the molecular composition of soil could affect climate change. Upon graduation from OU, she plans to pursue a Ph.D. in virology and structural biology and work toward disease prevention.
Bader holds a 4.0 grade-point average and is a member of the OU Honors College, a member of the University Symphony Orchestra where she plays the violin, and serves as the international student outreach leader for the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. A National Merit Scholar, Bader’s honors and awards include an Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program research grant, the Chris T. Memorial Undergraduate Research Fellowship, the Elks National Foundation Scholarship, the President’s and the Dean’s honors rolls. This summer she will study in Ireland and plans to volunteer with a youth mentoring organization in her hometown.
Figueroa, originally from Bogota, Colombia, is a junior whose family lives in Claremore, Okla. She maintains a 3.96 grade-point average and is pursuing a degree in biology. She has worked extensively with Elizabeth Bergey, associate professor of biology and associate heritage biologist with the Oklahoma Biological Survey. Since last year, she has assessed the current state of Oklahoma bumble bee species as part of her honors thesis, and since 2012, she has participated in the Urban Snail Survey Project, which evaluated the status of non-native snail species in lawns. She continues to assess the impact of controlled burning on snail populations. Part of her research on snails was published last year in a scientific article for which she was listed as a co-author. This summer she will be an intern with the Harvard Forest. Her future plans include obtaining a Ph.D. in ecology and evolutionary biology and conducting research on conservation.
Figueroa has received the OU Scholars award, the M. Blanche Adams and M. Frances Scholarship, The Herbert and Lela Mitchell Berlin Scholarship, the David C. Steed Arts and Sciences Scholarship, the Rita H. Lottinville Prize for Outstanding Achievement, the R. Boyd Gunning Scholarship, the Robert E. and Mary B. Sturgis Scholarship, and the Colombian Student Association Scholarship, among several other honors. A member of the Biology Department student advisory committee, Figueroa has also participated in BioBlitz, a group that inventories Oklahoma’s biodiversity, and has been a member of Science Outreach, the Sierra Club, OUr Earth, and the Colombian Student Association.
Rui is a junior from Norman majoring in chemical engineering with a 4.0 grade-point average. She began research her freshman year with Brian Grady, Conoco-Dupont professor of chemical engineering and Director of the Institute for Applied Surfactant Research, investigating the crystallization of kinetics of an ionized polymer. She is first author on two articles, one that is published and another under review, and she has presented the final results of her work with Grady at the 245th American Chemical Society national meeting and exposition. Currently working with Grady and Jeff Harwell, Asahi Glass Chair in chemical engineering, and in conjunction with Asahi Glass Company in Japan, Rui is researching the electrical and mechanical properties of fluoropolymer and carbon nanotube composite materials. Her research plans for the summer are to continue the carbon nanotube-fluoropolymer project with Grady and Harwell. With a career goal to conduct research in materials engineering and in particular nanotechnology, Rui will first obtain a Ph.D. in chemical or materials engineering.
A member of the OU Engineers Club, Rui has also served as an orientation volunteer for new international students. A National Merit Scholar, she has also received the Sooner Opportunity Scholarship, and the 2011 Oklahoma Academic All-State Scholarship. This year, she will represent OU at Research Day at the Capitol, a poster competition held at the State Capitol.
The national scholarship competition is conducted by the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program. This year, 1,166 college sophomores and juniors across the country competed for the 283 scholarships. The one- and two-year scholarships will cover the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board up to a maximum of $7,500 per year.