Three students at UNT were named 2010 Barry M. Goldwater scholars, more than any other public university in Texas, for groundbreaking research with wide-ranging applications in medicine and technology.
Goldwaters are considered to be among the country's most prestigious scholarships awarded to students planning careers in mathematics, science and engineering. All college sophomores and juniors are eligible to compete for the scholarships, which will provide a maximum of $7,500 each year for one or two years to cover tuition, fees, books and room and board.
Universities may nominate up to four students for the award, and students are chosen on the basis of their scientific research, grade point averages and other achievements.
This year's scholars from UNT — Anupria Gangal, Katheryn Shi and Kathy Wang — are all students at the Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science, a two-year residential program at UNT that allows talented students to complete their freshman and sophomore years of college while earning their high school diplomas.
The students were among 278 nationwide awardees and were chosen from a field of 1,111 mathematics, science and engineering students. In Texas, only Rice University in Houston had more scholars than UNT. Nationally, UNT had the same number of scholars as Harvard University and Princeton University.
Richard Sinclair, dean of TAMS, says the "accomplishments of these brilliant students is the result of a wonderful cooperation with UNT's outstanding research faculty."
James Duban, director of UNT's Office for Nationally Competitive Scholarships and chair of the Goldwater Faculty Nominating and Mentoring Committee, says the success of the students reflects well upon UNT.
"I join my colleagues at UNT in being extremely proud of these extraordinary students," he says. "They have excelled in research-based undergraduate education at UNT, and they are each destined to make significant contributions to the scientific community."
Gangal explored developing oligodendrocyte progenitors, which are myelin-forming glial cells that insulate axons in the central nervous system. Using a technique called immunohistochemistry, a way of staining or dyeing certain organelles in the cells different colors, Gangal found that the progenitors have primary cilia, which are akin to antennae that sense the chemistry of the cell's environment.
This research could have implications for treating and preventing diseases, such as multiple sclerosis and transverse myelitis, a neurological disorder caused by inflammation of the spinal cord.
Gangal worked with Jannon Fuchs, UNT professor of biology. Before coming to TAMS, she attended Jasper High School in Plano.
Using quantum mechanics, Shi predicted the stability of two new rare gas molecules, the first step in identifying new species with potential applications in medicine and industry. Known rare gas compounds are found in lasers used in eye surgery and semiconductor manufacturing, as well as anti-tumor agents used in cancer treatments.
In addition, Shi is developing a cutting-edge method for reducing the time, computer memory and disk space necessary for modeling molecules.
Shi worked with Angela Wilson, UNT professor of chemistry and co-director of the Center for Advanced Scientific Computation and Modeling. Before coming to TAMS, Shi attended Dulles High School in Sugar Land.
Mutations in the protein myosin lead to an inherited heart disease called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which is the leading cause of sudden cardiac death in young people. Wang used computational molecular modeling techniques to investigate how the structure of myosin and its mutations respond differently to stress, which could help scientists understand how mutations lead to the disease.
Wang found new evidence that point mutations in myosin could have long-range effects on the structure of myosin as it uncoils, and these may be the basis for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
Wang worked with Douglas Root, UNT associate professor of biology. She is from Argyle and attended Guyer High School before coming to TAMS.
Goldwater scholars have impressive academic qualifications that have earned the attention of prestigious post-graduate fellowship programs. Recent Goldwater scholars have been awarded 73 Rhodes Scholarships, 105 Marshall Awards, 91 Churchill Scholarships and numerous other distinguished fellowships.
The Goldwater Scholarship Program honoring Senator Barry M. Goldwater was designed to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, natural sciences and engineering. The scholarship is the premier undergraduate award of its type in these fields.
Members of UNT's Goldwater Scholarship Nominating and Mentoring Committee are Jannon Fuchs, professor of biology; Sushama Dandekar, lecturer of chemistry; Sam Matteson, professor of physics; and Tom Scharf, assistant professor of materials science and engineering.
TAMS is a two-year residential program at UNT that allows exceptionally talented students to complete their freshman and sophomore years of college while receiving the equivalent of high school diplomas. Students enroll in the academy following their sophomore year in high school, live in a UNT residence hall and attend UNT classes with college students. After two years, they enroll at UNT or another university to finish their bachelor's degrees.
Sarah Bahari with UNT News Service can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.