Three UMBC students receive Goldwater Scholarships, a national investment in future STEM leaders

Published: Apr 19, 2016

Goldwater Scholars 2016 (Photo by Marlayna Demond '11 for UMBC.)

Three UMBC students in the College of Engineering and Information Technology (COEIT) have been named Barry Goldwater Scholars for the 2016-2017 academic year. The Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program seeks to provide the United States with “a continuing source of highly qualified scientists, mathematicians, and engineers.”

As Goldwater Scholars, Daniel Ocasio ‘17, Naomi Mburu ‘18, and Andreas Seas ‘17, all chemical engineering majors, will receive substantial scholarship funding.

This highly competitive national scholarship has a major impact on each recipient’s educational path. Ocasio shares, “As a first generation college student, I feel extremely fortunate to be pursuing higher education, let alone a career in scientific research. To me, earning the Goldwater Scholarship is recognition of all those who made it possible for me to further my academic development.”

This year, a new initiative coordinated by Mitsue Wiggs, assistant director of the Meyerhoff Scholars Program, allowed UMBC students interested in applying for a Goldwater Scholarship to receive feedback on their applications before formally submitting the materials. Applicants shared early versions with alumni of the Meyerhoff Scholars Program, who reviewed the draft applications and provided advice before the students submitted their official applications to UMBC’s Goldwater Scholarship Selection Committee.

David Eisenmann, associate professor of biological sciences; Lee Blaney, assistant professor of chemical, biochemical and environmental engineering (CBEE) and Simon Stacey, director of UMBC’s Honors College, served on the UMBC Goldwater Scholarship Selection Committee this year. The committee reviewed applications, and provided advice and feedback to nominees on their essays.

At UMBC, Seas is involved with both the Meyerhoff Scholars Program and MARC U*STAR Program. He has also worked closely with faculty mentors at the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s Collaboration for Advanced Surgical and Engineering Applications. After pursuing a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering, he would like to become a professor and do vascular mechanobiology research. “I am honored that my contributions to science have been recognized by the Goldwater Committee,” he said. “My only hope is that I continue to learn from the world around me and contribute to the advancement of human knowledge.”

Ocasio has worked as a student researcher in Lee Blaney’s lab for over a year, and credits Blaney with helping to push him beyond his expectations for his undergraduate experience, and to pursue research as a career. Ocasio would like to pursue a Ph.D. in environmental engineering with the goal of conducting research related to water treatment and quality.

Mburu began research as a high school student with Lasse Lindahl, professor of biological sciences. She says that early exposure to research sparked her interest and encouraged her to join other labs and explore a variety of research areas. As an undergraduate at UMBC, she has worked with Gymama Slaughter, assistant professor of computer science and electrical engineering, who has inspired Mburu to pursue research on energy sources. Mburu also worked with mechanical engineering faculty at Vanderbilt University, producing research that formed the basis of her Goldwater Scholarship application. Mburu’s goal is to pursue a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering, and then teach physics and do nuclear energy development research.

“Being chosen for this prestigious scholarship as a sophomore is such an honor,” says Mburu. “I thank God for this amazing opportunity, and I am incredibly grateful for the wealth of opportunities UMBC had provided for me to make my goal of making an important contribution to the scientific world a reality.”

Image: Andreas Seas, Naomi Mburu and Daniel Ocasio (left-right) have been named Goldwater Scholars for 2016-2017. Photo by Marlayna Demond ’11 for UMBC.

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