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Six KU juniors nominated for Goldwater, Astronaut scholarships

Thu, 03/24/2016

LAWRENCE — Six University of Kansas students who have been actively involved in undergraduate research during their university careers are competing for two prestigious scholarships: Barry M. Goldwater Scholarships and Astronaut Scholarship Foundation Astronaut Scholarships.

KU’s nominees include:

  • Emily Binshtok, a junior from Overland Park majoring in biochemistry, who is nominated for Goldwater and Astronaut scholarships.
  • Mackenzie Bloom, a junior from Superior, Colorado, majoring in biology, who is nominated for the Astronaut scholarship.
  • Mark LaFollette, a junior from Olathe majoring in chemical engineering, who is nominated for the Goldwater scholarship.
  • Annie Lynn, a junior from Overland Park majoring in chemical engineering, who is nominated for the Goldwater and Astronaut scholarships.
  • Emily Smith, a junior from Lenexa majoring in physics and interdisciplinary computing, who is nominated for the Astronaut scholarship.
  • Kevin Tenny, a junior from Leawood majoring in chemical engineering, who is nominated for the Goldwater scholarship.

At KU, the nomination process for both scholarships is coordinated through the Office of Fellowships and Scholarships in the University Honors Program. Honors Program Director Bryan Young is the campus representative for the Goldwater scholarship, and Professor Mikhail Barybin is committee chair; Professor Steve Hawley is chair of the Astronaut scholarship committee.

“These outstanding students have all demonstrated tremendous aptitude and skill in the sciences and mathematics, and all of them have promising futures to look forward to,” said Anne Wallen, assistant director of national fellowships and scholarships at the KU Honors Program. “We know they will represent our university well in these competitions.”

Goldwater Scholarships

A total of 58 KU students have received Goldwater scholarships, which have encouraged excellence in science, engineering and mathematics since they first were awarded in 1989. Congress established the program in 1986 in tribute to the retired U.S. senator from Arizona and to ensure a continuing source of highly qualified scientists, mathematicians and engineers.

The scholarships cover eligible expenses for undergraduate tuition, fees,  room and board, and books up to $7,500 annually. The trustees intend to award as many as 260 Goldwater scholarships.

Only sophomore- and junior-level students with outstanding academic records, significant research experience and high potential for careers in mathematics, the natural sciences or engineering were eligible for nomination. Nominees submitted applications that included essays related to the nominee’s career and faculty recommendations.

Astronaut Scholarships

The Astronaut Scholarship Foundation Astronaut Scholarship was founded in 1984 by the six surviving members of the Mercury 7 mission as a means to encourage students to pursue scientific endeavors. Astronauts from the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Skylab and Space Shuttle programs have joined the ASF, which has awarded $4 million in scholarships to more than 370 of the nation’s top scholars.

As many as two KU undergraduate students will be selected to receive a $10,000 scholarship during their junior or senior year. Nominations were sought from faculty in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields for students with exceptional academic records and research experience. Nominees submitted personal statements and résumés for consideration.

Jessica van Loben Sels and Jenny Stern became the first KU students to receive an Astronaut Scholarship in September 2015.

More information on the KU nominees is below.

Emily Binshtok, a graduate of Blue Valley West High School, is the daughter of Ilya Binshtok and Vlada Binshtok of Overland Park. She is majoring in biochemistry and has worked since her freshman year in the lab of Professor Liang Xu, studying microRNA expression and restoration, specifically in breast cancer cells. She has also been a summer research volunteer in the lab of Dr. Kenneth Peterson at KU Medical Center. A member of the University Honors Program, her awards include a KU Chancellor’s Club Scholarship, the K-INBRE Scholarship, and two KU Undergraduate Research Awards. She was nominated for the Astronaut Scholarship by professors Liang Xu and Rob Ward in the Department of Molecular Biosciences.

Mackenzie Bloom is the daughter of Mike and Melissa Bloom of Carlsbad, California. She is a graduate of Monarch High School, Louisville, Colorado. She was nominated for the Astronaut Scholarship by Professor Michael Detamore in chemical engineering) and Professor Kristi Neufeld in molecular biosciences. A biology–genetics major, Bloom worked in Detamore’s lab from her freshman year through her sophomore year. In summer 2015 she did research at the National University of Ireland, Galway in the lab of Professor Frank Barry at the Regenerative Medicine Institute. After returning to KU, Bloom joined Neufeld's lab to do biological cancer research. A member of the University Honors Program, Bloom is an ambassador for Undergraduate Research and founder and president of the KU Society for Biomaterials.

Mark LaFollette, a graduate of Olathe North High School, is the son of Ann LaFollette and Rodney LaFollete. He is majoring in chemical engineering and has conducted research with Professor Susan Williams on the hydrothermal liquefacation of algae to biocrude and biochar. He also completed a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, Colorado. A member of the University Honors Program, he was named an Outstanding Freshman and Outstanding Sophomore in Chemical Engineering, and received recognition in his division for his poster presentation at the American Institute of Chemical Engineers annual meeting.

Annie Lynn is the daughter of Debra and William Lynn. She was homeschooled and is now majoring in chemical engineering.  She began working in the lab of Professor Liang Tang while still in high school and has earned co-authorship on multiple publications. Her research involves using advanced X-ray crystallography techniques to analyze complex biochemical protein assembly mechanisms in viruses at the atomic level. A member of the University Honors Program, Lynn is also in the School of Engineering’s Self Engineering Leadership Fellows Program. She is active in the Society for Biomaterials, the Chinese Culture Club, and ballet. She was nominated for the Astronaut Scholarship by Professor Liang Tang in the Department of Molecular Biosciences and Professor Mikhail Barybin in the Department of Chemistry.

Emily Smith is the daughter of Douglas Smith of Soldier, Kansas, and Jane Schmits Smith of Seneca, Kansas. She is a graduate of Olathe Northwest High School. She was nominated for the Astronaut Scholarship by professors Philip Baringer and Alice Bean in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, in whose lab she has worked since starting at KU. With them, she has been involved in research at CERN (The European Organization for Nuclear Research) in Geneva, Switzerland. Her current research focuses on the search for the theoretical top-prime particle in relation to the recently-discovered Higgs boson. A member of the University Honors Program, she is involved in the Undergraduate Physics Committee and the professional engineering fraternity Theta Tau.

Kevin Tenny, a graduate of Blue Valley North High School, is the son of Robert and Karen Tenny. He is majoring in chemical engineering and has worked in the labs of Professor Michael Detamore and Professor Trung Nguyen at KU. In addition, he has completed two summer National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates programs at Iowa State University and at the University of South Carolina. His research goals are focused on electrochemical engineering. A member of the University Honors Program, he has received KU certifications in Service Learning, the Global Awareness Program, and the Research Experience Program, amongst other accolades.



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