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Juniors Gabriella Heller, Kyle Metcalfe & Constance Wu Win Goldwater Scholarships; William Reilly Receives Honorable Mention

Gabriella Heller '14, winner of Goldwater scholarship

Gabriella Heller '14

Kyle Metcalf '14, winner of Goldwater scholarship

Kyle Metcalf '14

Constance Wu '14, winner of Goldwater scholarship

Constance Wu '14

Gabriella Heller '14, Kyle Metcalfe '14 and Constance Wu
 '14 have each 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. William Reilly '14, a molecular biology major, received an honorable mention.

The Goldwater Foundation seeks students who display intellectual curiosity and intensity, and possess the potential for significant future contributions in their chosen field. For 2013-14, the Foundation awarded 272 scholarships from a field of 1,107 students, from the United States.

Gabriella Heller, a chemistry and mathematics double major, is particularly fascinated with the study of disease. Since arriving on campus, she has worked with Prof. Malkiat Johal, Prof. Matthew Sazinsky and Prof. Ami Radunskaya on a wide range of collaborative projects in biophysical chemistry with a focus on protein-protein and protein-ligand interactions.

“My main project explores the link between diabetes and infection,” explains Heller. “I hope to understand how different sugars affect protein structure and function by examining consequences of serum protein glycation on ligand binding. I find the prospect of probing intricate, life-threatening systems invigorating. Biochemistry appeals to me because I can combine my greatest interest with the opportunity to improve the quality of life for others.”

A resident of Highland Park, IL, Heller credits the support of the Chemistry Department with motivating her to pursue a career in research. Following a Ph.D. program, she plans a career in biochemistry, teaching at the university level and leading her own research group. She is currently studying abroad on the Budapest Semester in Mathematics.

Kyle Metcalfe, a geology major from Santa Rosa, CA, is inspired by “the meshing of creativity and exploration in science” as well as the challenge of framing a scientific question and attempting to answer it. He is currently focused on research involving interactions between the biosphere and the geosphere and their role in governing many vital processes.

The summer after his freshman year, Metcalfe worked with Prof. Eric Grosfils and other students, studying the effects of lithospheric flexure on magma chamber rupture on Venusian volcanoes using modeling software. Since last summer, he has worked with Prof. Robert Gaines on “the potential for iron liberated from the crystal lattice of clay minerals by microbes to play a significant role in global carbon cycles.” He has also conducted fieldwork in Colorado, with Gaines and Rachel Havranek '14, on the leaching of iron from Precambrian granites, which led to changes in ocean chemistry during the rise of complex life. He is currently studying abroad in Christchurch, New Zealand, with the Frontiers Abroad program and conducting research on the geochemistry of volcanism on nearby Banks Peninsula.

Metcalfe future plans include a Ph.D. in geobiology and then teaching at the university level while contributing to research that “has potential to remediate heavy-metal pollution, reduce carbon emissions, and provide insight useful in the search for life beyond Earth.”

Constance Wu, a chemistry major from Palo Alto, plans to pursue an MD/PhD in biochemistry followed by a career conducting disease-oriented laboratory research, teaching at the university level, and providing patient care.

“I can’t really pinpoint just one class that sparked my interest in chemistry,” says Wu, “because every class I've taken has shown me a very different dimension of chemistry and another way that chemistry can be applied to solve important questions. I love how chemistry is so interconnected with so many fields. For example, my current project not only requires me to study the chemical properties of molecules, but also requires me to work with optics and study how bacteria grow and thrive.  

Since last summer, Wu has worked with Prof. Charles Taylor on the development of “a portable diagnostic system which employs evanescent-wave Raman scattering in order to identify infectious diseases using the profiles of volatile organic compounds (VOCs)…. While the goal is to produce a practical diagnostic system for TB and ventilator associated pneumonia (VAP) in order to address current diagnostic shortcomings and aid in the treatment of these diseases, the methods for VOC analysis we research will be applicable to other diseases that produce unique VOC biomarker profiles, such as lung and breast cancer,” explains Wu.

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.

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