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Feb. 23, 2006
Contact: Sue Lorenz, Honors Program, (785) 864-4225.

Four KU students nominated to compete for national Goldwater scholarships

LAWRENCE — Four University of Kansas students have been nominated to compete for a national Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, regarded as the premier undergraduate award to encourage excellence in science, engineering and mathematics.

Nominees are:

  • Laura Stiles, Prairie Village sophomore in engineering physics (aerospace concentration);
  • Luis C. Vargas, Wichita sophomore in physics, astronomy and mathematics;
  • Daniel P. Hogan, Leawood junior in physics and mathematics; and
  • Andrew J. Olive, Lincoln, Neb., junior in microbiology.

Goldwater scholarships provide up to $7,500 for tuition, fees, books and room and board. Winners will be announced in late March or early April. Winners who will graduate in 2007 receive one year of support; those graduating in 2008 receive two years of support.

A total of 38 KU students have been named Goldwater scholars since the first scholarships were awarded in 1989. Congress established the program in 1986 to pay tribute to the retired U.S. senator from Arizona and to ensure a continuing source of highly qualified scientists, mathematicians and engineers.

Goldwater scholars have impressive academic qualifications that have garnered the attention of prestigious postgraduate fellowship programs. Recent Goldwater scholars have received 58 Rhodes scholarships, 72 Marshall awards (six of the 40 awarded in the United States in 2005) and numerous other distinguished fellowships.

Only sophomores or juniors who plan to graduate in 2007 or 2008 and who were judged to have outstanding academic records, significant research experience and high potential for a career in mathematics, the natural sciences or engineering were eligible for nomination by their universities. Nominees submitted applications that included an essay related to the nominee’s career and faculty recommendations.

Biographical information about KU’s nominees follows:

JOHNSON COUNTY
From Leawood
Daniel P. Hogan, a junior majoring in physics and mathematics, plans a career as a university researcher and teacher in high-energy physics, a subfield that examines the behavior of the most fundamental particles at the most extreme energies. At KU, Hogan worked for two years as an undergraduate research assistant with KU’s astrobiology working group whose research included evaluating how Earth would be affected by a nearby powerful stellar explosion, specifically a gamma-ray burst. Hogan’s work with the group has included creating software to visualize data from a NASA computer model. As a member of the astrobiology group, Hogan is among the authors for each of three published research articles on the impact of a gamma-ray burst near Earth and presented a poster at an American Physics Society meeting. Last summer, through the National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates program, Hogan studied magnetic monopoles, a hypothetical particle, at the State University of New York-Stony Brook. He currently is a research assistant with KU’s high-energy physics group and is working with data from his summer project and from KU’s Radio Ice Cherenkov Experiment to detect relativistic magnetic monopoles. His competition essay discusses his progress with that research directed by David Besson, professor of physics and astronomy. Hogan is a National Merit Scholar and a Chancellors Club Scholar at KU. He is a Blue Valley North High School graduate and is the son of Patrick and Jane Hogan.

From Prairie Village
Laura Stiles, a sophomore majoring in engineering physics with a concentration in aerospace, is planning a career specializing in spacecraft design. Stiles works as a student research assistant with Michael Murray, assistant professor of physics, studying quark chemistry to examine the chemical equilibrium attained in heavy ion collisions, also the topic of her competition essay. She received a summer 2005 undergraduate research award to pursue her quark chemistry project. She has presented the results to the KU nuclear physics group and at the 2005 Conference Experience for Undergraduates at the American Physics Society division of nuclear physics United States-Japan meeting in Maui, Hawaii. Stiles has also written a paper with Murray that has been submitted for publication. She is also active in KU’s Experimental Balloon Satellite Club that is testing parasail units for high altitude environments. She was a Kansas Honors Scholar and is a member of Lambda Sigma honor society. She is a Shawnee Mission East High School graduate and is the daughter of Mark and Brenda Stiles.

SEDGWICK COUNTY
From Wichita
Luis C. Vargas, a sophomore with a triple major in physics, astronomy and mathematics, is preparing for a career researching and teaching stellar or galactic astrophysics. At KU, Vargas has worked with Adrian Melott, physicist, and Bruce Lieberman, geologist, on an astrobiology project examining the possibility that a gamma-ray burst caused the mass extinction at the end of the Ordovician period. Part of the study examines decreases in the acidity of the oceans. Vargas received an undergraduate research grant to help support his analysis of databases of all trilobite genera, a marine animal that lived during the Ordovician period. This year Vargas is working with two KU astronomers, Barbara Anthony-Twarog and Paul Etzel, to examine photometric indices of data from stars to look for abnormalities. In summer 2005, through the Research Experience for Undergraduates program, Vargas did some of this research at San Diego State University. As a teenager, Vargas volunteered at Lake Afton Public Observatory in Wichita where he discovered he liked working with telescopes and teaching people about astronomy. Vargas is a National Hispanic Scholar and an American Physics Society Scholar. Born in Peru, Vargas was in high school when his parents, Luis E. and Rommy Vargas, moved their family to the United States. He graduated Wichita High School Northwest.

NEBRASKA
From Lincoln
Andrew J. Olive, a junior majoring in microbiology, credits his father’s work in the World Health Organization with inspiring his own plans to focus on disease prevention and therapeutic intervention. His long-range goals include establishing his own research team to contribute to improved public health and mentor a new generation of scientists. Under the direction of William D. Picking, associate professor in KU’s molecular biosciences department, Olive is studying the pathogen Shigella flexneri responsible for the diarrheal disease that is the leading cause of childhood death. Olive’s competition essay focuses on his efforts to learn more about how the pathogen invades cells. Olive has contributed to two scientific papers on the pathogen written by Picking and others. Olive presented a poster at the 2005 Great Plains Infectious Disease Conference and is preparing a poster presentation for the May 2006 American Society for Microbiology conference. He has received an undergraduate research award in microbiology and is a Midwest Student Exchange Scholar at KU. He graduated Lincoln Southeast High School and is the son of Mike and Sandy Olive.

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