Two materials science students at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire have been awarded prestigious Goldwater Scholarships, two of only nine awarded in Wisconsin and 283 awarded in the United States for 2014.
Max Dylla, a junior materials science major from Rochester, Minn., and Tayo Sanders II, a junior materials science major from Kaukauna, have received the scholarships, which are awarded to students pursuing careers in science, mathematics or engineering.
The Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program was established by Congress in 1986 to provide a continuing source of highly qualified scientists, mathematicians and engineers. College students who intend to pursue careers in these fields receive scholarships to cover the cost of undergraduate tuition, fees, and room and board up to $7,500 for one or two years.
Dylla and Sanders also have been selected to participate in the National Science Foundation's Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) summer research program.
"Max and Tayo embody the qualities that have made UW-Eau Claire the Center of Excellence for Faculty and Undergraduate Student Research Collaboration within the University of Wisconsin System," said Dr. Karen Havholm, assistant vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs. "They started their research careers through the Blugold Fellows program, which is available to incoming freshmen. Max and Tayo have also been active in presenting their faculty-mentored research at our annual Celebration of Excellence in Research and Creative Activity event."
Students who receive Goldwater Scholarships have strong academic qualifications, in-depth research experience and a commitment to a career in science.
During the Goldwater Scholarship year, Dylla will continue conducting research with Dr. Matt Jewell, an assistant professor in materials science, on the superconducting material Bi2Sr2CaCu2Ox. Superconductors are used in electromagnet systems for high energy particle physics colliders, MRI machines and an experimental fusion reactor being built in France, Dylla said.
"We are transitioning to projects on this material from the superconducting material Nb3Sn, which we are working on currently," Dylla said. "We will likely be exploring the mechanical properties of this material. I may also continue my research with Dr. Chris Ahrendt, an assistant professor of mathematics, on the solution behavior of the two dynamic Riccati equations over time scales."
As a junior, Dylla received the Kell Container Corp. Scholarship and worked with Jewell on a project titled "Fracture Statistics of Individual Nb3Sn Filaments."
"I think Max may not fully realize the research project he has been working on is really a graduate-level project with a number of very tricky experimental variables to optimize," Jewell said. "He has essentially developed a new technique to test the fracture properties of brittle superconductors, which could easily be a component of someone's Ph.D. thesis. The Goldwater Scholarship is going to open a significant number of doors for Max as he considers what kind of graduate school experience is right for him."
After he graduates in May 2015, Dylla plans to pursue a Ph.D. in materials science and said he attributes receiving the Goldwater Scholarship and REU opportunity to the quality research experiences he has had at UW-Eau Claire.
"These awards mean a lot to me," Dylla said. "When I apply for graduate schools it will help set me apart from other candidates. This opens up many opportunities for continuing my education."
The Goldwater Scholarship is a reflection on Max's abilities and achievements as a student, Jewell said.
"From my point of view, it is an indication of Max's maturity, independence and perseverance in both the classroom and the research lab," Jewell said. "As a program we are eager to see where Max goes next."
During the Goldwater Scholarship year, Sanders, a McNair Scholar and participant in the University Honors Program, will continue his collaboration with Dr. Jennifer Dahl, an assistant professor in materials science, to assess the capability of cross-linked gold nanoparticle films to increase the efficiency of photovoltaic devices.
"Receiving this scholarship is an incredible honor and the ultimate validation for the work I've completed over the past three years," Sanders said. "However, I did not obtain the Goldwater by myself. It was the earnest support and guidance from my mentor and numerous faculty that allowed me to have a real chance at winning this award, and I feel nothing but deep gratitude for everyone who has helped me along the way."
The significance of this scholarship extends far beyond its monetary value, Sanders said.
"The recognition it provides will allow me to competitively pursue prestigious fellowships nationally and abroad, and I intend to take full advantage of the new opportunities granted by this award," he said.
The Goldwater Scholarship recognizes the top science students in the nation, validating all of their hard work in the classroom, in the research lab and in the university community, Dahl said.
"Tayo is one of the most independent, hardest-working research students I have ever met," Dahl said. "I expect that he will lead his own lab in the future with a career punctuated by breakthroughs that are beyond my own imagination. He is truly an outstanding student, and it is an honor for me to cross paths with this young scientist at the beginning of his career."
As a freshman, Sanders participated in a summer research program as part of a grant sponsored by the Wisconsin Alliance for Minority Participation (WiscAMP). Sanders returned to the program as a sophomore, this time as a peer mentor.
"The WiscAMP program had a really good impact on my research experience, and I was able to see what research was like," Sanders said. "To be able to mentor and guide other students and help them through any troubles or questions they have was something that really appealed to me."
After he graduates in May 2015, Sanders plans to apply the principles of chemistry and physics toward the development of sustainable and economical energy solutions.
"I aim to attain a Ph.D. in materials science and supplement this with a postdoctoral experience to diversify my fields of expertise," Sanders said. "Ultimately, my aspiration is to become a professor at an institution where I can continue my research while instructing the next generation of scientists."
The UW-Eau Claire Office of Research and Sponsored Programs and the College of Arts and Sciences coordinated the nominations at the suggestion of the provost. For more information, contact Dr. Karen Havholm at firstname.lastname@example.org or 715-836-3405.