Vivian Chou '13 and Benjamin Murphy '13 Win Goldwater Scholarships; Naomi Wagner '13 Receives Honorable Mention
Vivian Tsai-Wei Chou ’13 and Benjamin Scott Murphy ’13 have been awarded a Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, which provides up to $7,500 per year for educational expenses to college sophomores and juniors who intend to pursue careers in mathematics, the natural sciences or engineering. Naomi Wagner ’13 received an honorable mention. The Goldwater Foundation seeks students who display intellectual curiosity and intensity, and possess potential for significant future contributions in their chosen field.
The Foundation awarded 282 scholarships for the 2012–2013 academic year to undergraduate sophomores and juniors from the United States, from a field of 1,123 students.
Junior Vivian Tsai-Wei Chou, a molecular biology major, is particularly interested in the fundamental mechanisms of biological processes. “In doing molecular biology research,” says Chou, “I’m always amazed by the intricate systems that organisms have developed to stay alive. It’s remarkable that such elegant, complex adaptations originated from randomness.”
Chou began working in Prof. Clarissa Cheney’s lab in spring 2010 as a second semester freshmen and has continued her work in the lab every semester she’s been on campus. “Professor Cheney has had a tremendous impact on my interest in science and my desire to pursue academic research as a career,” says Chou. “Most importantly, Professor Cheney makes it fun and exciting to do challenging research work.”
Chou has also worked with Prof. Robert Lewis in the Eppley Cancer Institute at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, NE; Prof. Trisha Davis in the Department of Biochemistry at University of Washington, Seattle; and in the lab of Dr. Richard Hayward in the Department of Structural & Molecular Biology, at University College in London, studying the biochemistry/molecular cell biology of the bacterial pathogen responsible for chlamydial disease.
Following her graduation from Pomona, Chou plans to begin study leading to a Ph.D. in biochemistry/molecular cell biology and in the long-term conduct basic biomedical research and teach at the university level. A resident of Fremont, CA, she is the daughter of Nan-chi Chou and Yuan-Fen Chou. She has a brother, Wesley Chou.
Benjamin Scott Murphy, a double major in geology and physics, has also been an active researcher since his freshman spring semester. He first worked with Physics Prof. Richard Mawhorter on microwave spectroscopy of the lead-fluoride (PbF) molecule, traveling that summer to Germany with him to work with their collaborator's experimental apparatus. He then moved to the Geology Department to work with Prof. Jade Star Lackey on his long-term research project on Sierra Nevadan arc magmatism and with Prof. Eric Grosfils on computer modeling of magma reservoir failure in a Venusian volcanic system. He presented his work from the Grosfils team, along with two peers, at the 43rd Lunar and Planetary Science Conference last March.
Murphy is especially interested in exploration geophysics because it combines his interest in physics with geology fieldwork. “There has been a lot of really interesting research on non-seismic earthquake phenomena, specifically electromagnetic effects, and since I really enjoy the EM part of physics I'm very intrigued by all of the work in that field. Such research could lead to the development of earthquake prediction schemes, so it certainly has significant implications for us.”
After graduating from Pomona, he plans on completing a Master’s in mining geophysics, which implements mainly electromagnetic geophysics, and then working on a Ph.D. in geophysics, focusing on electromagnetic effects associated with earthquakes. Ultimately, he plans to conduct research in either near-surface geophysics or non-seismic earthquake phenomena and teach at the university level. Murphy is a resident of Paradise Valley, AZ, and the son of Kevin and Kathryn Murphy.
Naomi Wagner, who received the honorable mention, is a biology major. She is particularly interested in cellular and molecular biology, with a focus on biomedical applications. Currently studying abroad in Salamanca, Spain, she plans to return to her work in Prof. Karl Johnson's lab this summer researching the protein binding properties of a proteoglycan that is important in Drosophila nervous system development.
Asked about a favorite experience studying biology at Pomona, Wagner cites her Advanced Cell Biology class. “In the laboratory section of the course, we had the opportunity to work with breast cancer cells and design our own experiments aimed at inhibiting cancer cell migration and proliferation. It was exciting to be working on a project that could someday have implications for human health.”
Following graduation from Pomona, Wagner currently hopes to spend a year conducting research abroad, attend graduate school for a Ph.D. in biomedical sciences and ultimately embark on a career using research to help improve knowledge and treatment of disease. A resident of La Jolla, Calif., she is the daughter of Greg and Karen Wagner.
The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program was established by Congress in 1986 to honor Senator Barry M. Goldwater, who served his country for 56 years as a soldier and statesman, including 30 years of service in the U.S. Senate.