Undergraduate researchers nominated by university for national Goldwater Scholarship

January 26, 2015

Four undergraduate researchers studying STEM-related fields have been nominated by Michigan State University for the nationally competitive Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship.

The Goldwater Foundation seeks scholars committed to a career in science, mathematics, or engineering who display intellectual intensity and who have the potential for significant future contribution in their chosen field.  The Goldwater Scholarship provides funding for undergraduate tuition and living expenses for students who are planning careers in research.

The four nominees are: Rebecca Carlson, an Honors College sophomore majoring in chemical engineering in the College of Engineering and Chinese in the College of Arts and Letters; Christine Isaguirre, an Honors College sophomore majoring in biosystems engineering in the College of Engineering; Megan Kechner, an Honors College junior majoring in neuroscience in Lyman Briggs College and psychology in the College of Social Science; and Aaron Oom, an Honors College junior majoring in biochemistry and molecular biology in Lyman Briggs College.

Michigan State University has produced 40 Goldwater Scholars since the scholarship program was established by Congress in 1986.

“Our students chose to take an active role in research as undergraduates, helping to prepare them for their chosen careers in science and engineering,” said Cynthia Jackson-Elmoore, dean of the MSU Honors College. “We are proud to nominate these four students for this nationally competitive scholarship and wish them all the best.”

Carlson hails from Rockford, Michigan, graduating as valedictorian of Rockford High School. Prior to that, she lived in Italy for 14 years.

Carlson is on the student editorial board of the Red Cedar Undergraduate Research Journal (ReCUR); she is a research assistant in Professor S. Patrick Walton’s Applied Biomolecular Engineering Laboratory; she tutors in the College of Engineering Residential Experience (CoRe); and she is also a member of Women in Engineering and Bridges International. She earned a first place award at MSU’s University Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum (UURAF).

She is also the recipient of an MSU Alumni Distinguished Scholarship.

 “I hope to help students develop an awareness of research in different areas of the world through exchange programs so that they can become effective international leaders,” Carlson said. “I also plan on leveraging these collaborations to enhance research on genetic diseases in ways that would be impossible otherwise.”

Isaguirre is from Grand Rapids, Michigan, graduating from Forest Hills Northern High School.

She is a research assistant in Professor Wei Lia’s bioenergy lab, and took the semester off to work for Supply Chain Co-op in Raeford, North Carolina, which is part of the Unilever Home and Personal Care Plant.

Isaguirre is a member of the Society of Women Engineers and MSU’s Biosystem Engineering Club.

“Throughout my career I hope to be involved in bioenergy research. I strongly believe that reducing our dependence on fossil fuels, to the point where we eliminate our usage completely, is critical to continuing our current standard of living into the future,” she said. “To this end, I am excited to be working in a bioenergy lab on campus, assisting in research on biofuel production.”

Kechner is from Davison, Michigan and a graduate of Davison High School.

She is a research assistant, working in Professor Michelle Mazei-Robison’s lab determining the specific signaling changes in the human brain that contribute to addiction and mood disorders. Kechner also interned at the Silvio O. Conte Neuroscience Research Center at Vanderbilt University.

She’s is a member of the Society for Neuroscience, MSU’s Neuroscience Club, and the MSU Student Health Advisory Council.

Kechner is a recipient of the Lyman Briggs College Undergraduate Research Award.

“My long-term goal is to pursue a doctoral degree in a neuroscience program, as it will allow me to investigate how the disruption of normal brain circuitry contributes to human mental illness,” Kechner said. “I am interested in molecular mechanisms underlying psychiatric illnesses and would like to investigate specific signaling changes in areas of the brain that are responsible for behavioral changes induced in mental illnesses of humans.”

Oom hails from Grand Rapids, Michigan and graduated from Northview High School.

He is a research assistant to Professor Chengfeng Yang, studying the role of a ribonucleic acid molecule in triple-negative breast cancer – the most aggressive form. He previously interned at the Van Andel Institute in Grand Rapids, Michigan exploring the role of the androgen receptor in prostate cancer under the direction of Cindy Miranti.

Oom is the recipient of an MSU Alumni Distinguished Scholarship. He’s presented at UURAF and is a member of the MSU Italian Club.

 “I plan to attend graduate school for a degree in cellular biology or virology,” he said. “After graduate school I hope to work with a national health organization, such as the NIH or the CDC, as the head of a lab focusing on communicable diseases.”

The National and International Fellowship and Scholarship (NIFS) Office at Michigan State University, administered by the Honors College, helps interested undergraduate and graduate students to pursue major national and international opportunities by providing information and direct support throughout the competitive application processes. The Honors College serves academically talented, committed students who wish to pursue and achieve academic excellence.