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Junior and sophomore earn national science accolades

April 16, 2018

University of North Georgia (UNG) student Caroline Brown’s love for scientific research is paying off.

Brown, a junior majoring in chemistry with a biochemistry focus, is the first UNG student to earn a Goldwater Honorable Mention. It is the highest award given to college students in the natural sciences, engineering and mathematics in the United States.

This year, 1,280 students from 455 institutions were nominated for a Goldwater scholarship. Each institution is limited to nominating four students. The Goldwater Trust named 211 new Goldwater Scholars and identified 281 students as Honorable Mentions.

"Simply being a university nominee is an honor," said Dr. Anastasia Lin, assistant vice president of research and engagement and associate professor of English.

She said Brown is deserving of the honor. Brown completed a Faculty Undergraduate Summer Engagement (FUSE) grant with Dr. Yu Wang last summer and continued that research forward into a scholarly, peer-reviewed publication.

 "Caroline has consistently demonstrated the characteristics required of a successful Goldwater, including a commitment to research and the clear potential to contribute to her field," Lin said.

Only six scholars and seven honorable mentions were selected from Georgia this year.

Brown was also selected for the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) at the University of Minnesota (UM) in Minneapolis and Saint Paul, Minnesota. She is the third UNG student to receive a REU this year.

Stefen Gray, a junior majoring in environmental spatial analysis with a specialization in geographic information systems (GIS), was the first student selected for an REU this year. He earned a National Science Foundation (NSF) REU at the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York.

UNG sophomore Simeon Salia, who is majoring in physics and engineering, was second. The 20-year-old Atlanta native earned an REU at Alabama A&M University in Huntsville, Alabama. The city is home to the U.S. Army's Redstone Arsenal, which houses NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center.

"I was excited," Salia said after being notified of the honor last month. "My professors hung my letter up in the office. They each wrote a recommendation for me."

Salia and Brown, who are members of the NSF Scholarship in the STEM program, will spend 10 weeks at their assigned institutions.

Brown will be based at UM, which is ranked eighth among U.S. public research universities and 10th among all U.S. universities in the 2009 National Science Foundation Survey of Research and Development Expenditures at Universities and Colleges. More than 25 individuals who were students or faculty at the school have won a Nobel Prize, including four in chemistry, according to the UM website.

"When I first applied I didn't realize the caliber of the institution, because I was not familiar with it," Brown said. "Then I started researching the school and learned their primary focus is in research."

She is looking forward to learning from the researchers at UM.

"I haven't gotten my lab placement yet, but it will be in biochemistry," the 20-year-old from Carrollton, Georgia said.

Salia said he has not received his placement either, but is looking forward to conducting research in physics. It will add to his already busy summer schedule.

Salia is a member of the Georgia National Guard and will be on duty from April 27 to May 25.

"As soon as I come back, I will have to go to Alabama," he said.

Salia will return to UNG for one more year before transferring to Georgia Tech as part of the Regents' Engineering Transfer Program (RETP). Students in RETP attend UNG at the Dahlonega or Gainesville campuses to take their math, science and some engineering courses required in the first two years. When they successful complete the classes, the students transfer to Georgia Tech to complete the requirements for an engineering degree.

After Salia finishes his degree at Georgia Tech, he plans to attend graduate school. Salia said the REU will help give him the research experience he needs to get into graduate school and succeed. Brown agreed.

"If you have an REU, it makes your chances of getting into grad school better," she said. "It shows that you are used to the rigors of research and you can handle the pressure. That makes you a great candidate."

Students interested in learning more about REUs, email Center for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities.

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