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Goldwater Awards Help Juniors Pursue Research

Apr 14, 2022   |   Dartmouth News

The scholarships support work in natural sciences, engineering, and mathematics.

Katherine Lasonde '23 and Nicholas Sugiarto '23. (Photos by Eli Burakian '00)

It's a been a banner year for Goldwater Scholarships. Five members of the class of 2023 applied for the coveted award, and all five have been welcomed into the fold.

The scholarship, named in honor of the late Sen. Barry Goldwater, R-Arizona, "seeks to identify and support college sophomores and juniors who show exceptional promise of becoming this nation’s next generation of research leaders" in the natural sciences, engineering, and mathematics, according to the program's website.

The program is among the oldest and most competitive of its kind in the United States. For 2022, some 5,000 college sophomores and juniors were nominated by 433 academic institutions. Only 417 were chosen.

Each Goldwater Scholar annually receives recognition and up to $7,500 per full academic year. The scholars from Thayer are:

Katherine Lasonde '23

"I have two lifetime goals," says Lasonde, another Stamps Scholar. "One is to build a working quantum computer and the other is to combat climate change." The engineering sciences major with a minor in computer science is making progress toward both objectives by working in the lab of Eric Fossum, the John H. Krehbiel Sr. Professor for Emerging Technologies at Thayer and the vice provost for entrepreneurship and technology transfer.

"Right now, I am building a spectrometer for ensembles of Nitrogen-vacancy (NV) centers in diamond. NV centers are a type of qubit, which is the quantum analogue of a classical bit. Quantum computers have immense potential applications in the natural sciences because they are so good at simulating atoms," says Lasonde. The Goldwater funding will allow her to take a break from teaching assistantships and spend more time in the lab — and on another project she's involved in.

"I'm the director of Hack Dartmouth, a student-run program which does a 24-hour hackathon every year, with up to $10,000 in prizes. We have five categories this year and the theme is 'Hack on Your Wild Side.'"

Nicholas Sugiarto '23

A writer for Dartmouth's satire magazine, The Jack-O-Lantern, a stand-up comedian on the Dartmouth Comedy Network, and a biomedical engineering major with a double minor in computer science and English, Sugiarto sees a connection between seeing a joke fall flat and hitting an error with his computer code. "You've essentially bombed in front of an audience, and you have to go back to the grindstone." But some failures, he says, are fortunate, because they advance scientific knowledge.

At the Geisel School of Medicine's Wang Laboratory, Sugiarto, a Neukom Research Scholar and a James O. Freedman Presidential Scholar, works with Luke Deary GR under the supervision of Xiaofeng Wang, an assistant professor of molecular and systems biology. They're learning about the role played by a chromatin remodeling complex called SWI/SNF in many kinds of cancers. "DNA wraps tightly around histomes to form chromosomes, and SWI/SNF is able to regulate which parts of the DNA get expressed, but the mechanisms by which it impacts cancer are not clearly understood," says Sugiarto.

The Goldwater funding will allow him to drop several campus jobs. "I'm really passionate about the research and I want to be able to focus all my time on that," he says.

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