Alabama students named Goldwater Scholars

Honorees include Tom Ludwig, a junior majoring in chemical engineering from Brunswick, Ohio; Sarah McFann, a junior majoring in chemical engineering from Arlington, Tennessee; Courtney Rentas, a junior majoring in biology and psychology from Naperville, Illinois; and Samantha Tilson, a junior majoring in chemical engineering from Littleton, Colorado.

According to The Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program, the purpose of the foundation is to provide a continuing source of highly qualified scientists, mathematicians and engineers by awarding scholarships to college students who intend to pursue research careers in these fields.

Rentas is an undergraduate researcher in the Caldwell Lab and is one of the 2015 UA recipients of the Goldwater Scholarship studying 
neurodegenerative disorders.

“I feel so incredibly grateful to be named a Goldwater Scholar. I feel really lucky to have had the opportunity to get involved with research so young and I am really thankful for the Caldwells, Dr. Berkowitz and everyone else in the lab that has helped me achieve so much over the past three years,” she said. “I never would have thought that my research would be as productive as it has been, and I just appreciate all of the opportunities that I have been given because of the lab. The lab has really defined my experience at [the University] and I am just forever thankful.”

The scholarships will cover the cost of tuition, fees, books and room and board up to $7,500 a year. This year, 260 Goldwater Scholars were selected from a field of over 1,200.

Other honorees have completed research across multiple platforms. Ludwig’s research focused on using molecular simulations to guide the synthesis of high-performance thermoelectric materials. He said he plans on earning a doctorate in 
chemical engineering.

Tilson conducted research in biochemical engineering on cancer stem cells. She said she plans to obtain a doctorate in 
biomedical engineering.

McFann develops computational models of bacteria to optimize them for biofuel production. She said she is seeking a research career in systems biology and mathematical modeling and plans to pursue a 
doctorate in bioengineering.

Margaret Liu, assistant professor of biological and chemical engineering, worked with McFann on her research.

“Sarah is the best undergraduate researcher that I have supervised at [the University] and I am incredibly impressed by her progress. In only a few short months she built the biochemical reaction matrix, defined biofuel production targets and generated the overall carbon, energy and redox balances necessary to optimize biofuel production,” Liu said. “Her contributions to my research project have provided both her peers and me with valuable insight into the inner workings of our organism 
of interest.”

Since its founding, the Goldwater program has bestowed 7,428 scholarships worth approximately $48 million.

Heath Turner, associate professor of chemical and biological engineering, oversaw 
Ludwig’s research.

“I have learned a lot from Tom over the last couple of years, so I was overwhelmed with joy when I heard that he won the Goldwater Scholarship,” he said. “He is a true rock star in the lab.”

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