UNH Students Shine in 2013 Goldwater Competition

Two University of New Hampshire students are recipients of the prestigious Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, with a third student being recognized with an Honorable Mention. The Goldwater Scholarship is the premier undergraduate award for science, technology and mathematics (STEM) majors; almost all Goldwater Scholars go on to pursue Ph.D.s in their fields. Goldwater scholars receive up to $7500 to offset the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board.


The 2013-2014 Goldwater Scholars from UNH are Odin Achorn, a chemistry major from Newfields, NH and Madelyn Ball, a Chemical Engineering student from Potsdam, NY; sophomore Timothy Marquis, a biomedical science major from Nashua, NH, is the Honorable Mention recipient. All three students are members of the Honors program and recipients of donor-funded awards from the Hamel Center for Undergraduate Research.


“The Hamel Center’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program is in its 26th year at UNH, helping students to learn the research process – from writing competitive research proposals, to practicing and developing skills that allow them to apply their in-class knowledge to practical, real-world issues,” says Dr. Paul Tsang, director of the Hamel Center. “This is the kind of high-impact experience that we’re proud to be able to offer to undergraduates in all majors, and we believe this kind of experience has helped these three hard-working students to be recognized by the Goldwater scholarship committee. We’re very pleased for their success—it’s well deserved.”


Odin Achorn aspires to a PhD program in chemistry and a career conducting research in alternative energy and/or sustainable materials by studying “reversible crosslinks in polymeric materials.” When asked for a layperson’s translation, Achorn explained that “crosslinks are extra chemical bonds that can be made between the molecules in a material. These bonds can change some of the properties of the material, such as strength. Reversible crosslinks are bonds that can be formed and broken in response to an external stimulus, such as heat. This makes it possible to strategically tune the properties of the material back and forth between two different states.”


Achorn has been working in Dr. Erik Berda’s lab since the summer of 2011, when he conducted research on atom transfer radical polymerization. Achorn says, “I am very pleased with the research opportunities that I have in Dr. Berda's group at UNH. I feel like I will already have a lot of research experience similar to graduate school by the time I start in a PhD program.”


In 2012, Achorn received a Hamel Center Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF), which allowed him to experiment with synthesizing nanoparticles in the hopes of finding ways to fold polymers into more well-defined shapes. He will be presenting the results of this research in New Orleans in April before embarking for a summer at the Adolphe Merkle Institute in Fribourg, Switzerland on an International Research Opportunities Program (IROP) grant from the Hamel Center.


Madelyn Ball (who was a 2012 Goldwater Honorable Mention recipient) has extensive research experience in the area of energy and biofuel production. She has participated in two Research Experience for Undergraduate (REU) summer programs, one at Stony Brook University and another at Washington University in St. Louis, and will do a third REU this summer through the

Colorado Center for Biorefining and Biofuels, during which she will conduct research at the National Renewable Energy Lab. Ball used a Hamel Center Research Presentation grant to travel to the Biomedical Engineering Society Annual Meeting in October of 2011 to do a poster presentation of her biomedical engineering research at Stony Brook.


Her UNH mentor, Dr. P.T. Vasudevan, calls Ball “an outstanding Chemical Engineering junior with an incredible string of achievements in less than three years.” In Dr. Vasudevan’s lab, Ball has used genetic engineering techniques to improve lipase production; lipase is often used as an alternative to acid in biodiesel fuel research. Vasudevan, Professor of Chemical Engineering and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences, notes that “the Goldwater award is a fitting recognition of Ball’s talents and her passion for the environment combined with her interest in energy issues."


Ball has taken steps to internationalize her education: she traveled to Brazil as part of a Research Experience for Undergraduate (REU) program in Summer 2012 and conducted research on the effects of xylose and glucose on microbial production of xylitol while studying abroad at the Budapest University of Technology and Economics last semester.


“I’m honored to have received this scholarship,” Ball says, “and am very grateful for all the research opportunities I’ve had, both at UNH and elsewhere. Through my research in the lab of Dr. Vasudevan, I’ve been able to explore the area of bioenergy and develop and focus my research interests.”

Honorable Mention recipient Tim Marquis is a sophomore biomedical science major aiming to do a combined MD/PhD in Oncology in preparation for a career conducting research through applied clinical studies at a cancer institution. His research in Dr. Stacia Sower’s lab has been funded by Research Experience and Apprenticeship Program (REAP) and Undergraduate Research Award (URA) funding from the Hamel Center for Undergraduate Research. Marquis has been working in the Sower lab with sea lampreys and his current research examines techniques for the RNA preservation of lamprey tissue samples.

Dr. Sower describes Marquis as “an extraordinary sophomore who is well deserving of the Honorable Mention of the Barry Goldwater Scholarship,” adding that Marquis’ “future development as an independent, productive biomedical researcher is incredibly bright.”

Marquis was the university’s only sophomore nominee this year for the Goldwater. He says, “It is a tremendous privilege to have been nominated by the University of New Hampshire for the Goldwater Scholarship, and subsequently to be named a 2013 Goldwater Honorable Mention. In particular, I want to thank my undergraduate research mentor and role model, Dr. Stacia Sower, for her unwavering support and dedication throughout my time at UNH and also during the Goldwater application process.”

University of New Hampshire students have consistently experienced success in the Goldwater competition, which was established in 1986, but this year’s results represent the university’s best showing in the competition to date. According to Goldwater rules, each university is able to nominate up to four students annually. In previous years, UNH has regularly had a winner and/or an honorable mention. This year is the first in which two UNH students have won the scholarship. Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Lisa MacFarlane says, ““I’m thrilled for the students, and delighted for the University.  The Goldwater is a prestigious and extraordinarily competitive award for outstanding undergraduates interested in careers in mathematics, the natural sciences and engineering.  This is a testament to the students’ talent and hard work, to the terrific faculty who support and mentor them, and to the quality of UHN’s superb programs in science and engineering.”


About the Goldwater Scholarship: Established by Congress in 1986 to foster and encourage excellence in science and mathematics, the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation operates an educational scholarship program designed to provide opportunities for American undergraduate students with excellent academic records and outstanding potential. Goldwater Scholarships support study in the fields of mathematics, engineering and the natural sciences as preparation for careers in these areas.  Awards are made on the basis of merit.  Goldwater Scholars are eligible for one or two years of support. For more information, go to www.act.org/goldwater/.