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K-State Today

February 27, 2013

In the running: Undergraduate researchers nominated for Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship

Submitted by Communications and Marketing

Kansas State University has nominated four students for the 2013 Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship. The nominees are Jenny Barriga, Dodge City; Kyle C. Snow, Eudora; Brianne Pierce, Wichita; and Christine Spartz, Ellington, Conn.

Established by Congress in 1986 to honor Sen. Barry M. Goldwater from Arizona, the scholarship is awarded to nearly 300 college students across the country every year. Awardees receive up to $7,500 annually for college-related expenses. With 68 Goldwater scholars to date, Kansas State University ranks first among the nation's 500 state-supported universities.

All four of this year's nominees have active research projects and intend to pursue careers in mathematics, science or engineering -- a requirement of the scholarship.

Barriga, a junior in chemistry and biochemistry, is working in the laboratory of Stefan Bossmann, professor of chemistry, to develop an early detection diagnostic tool for breast cancer. Cancer cells overexpress a type of enzyme called matrix metalloproteinases, and Barriga is working to develop a test using fluorescent dyes that will identify the overexpression of the enzyme in a patient's blood within the early stages of cancer. 

Barriga is a member of the Developing Scholars Program and the Kansas State University Bridges to the Future program. She has received a Cancer Research Award from the Johnson Center for Basic Cancer Research, Jack and Betsy Lambert Scholarship, Memorial Scholarship and K-State Transfer Academic Award. A 2010 graduate of Dodge City High School, Barriga is the daughter of Graciela Cervantez and Francisco Barriga, both from Dodge City.

Snow, a junior in chemical engineering, is researching the growth of high-purity hexagonal boron nitride crystals in the laboratory of James Edgar, professor and head of the department of chemical engineering. The properties of the crystals are used as a neutron-capture material for detecting radioactive materials such as nuclear weapons. They also may be an effective replacement for Helium-3, a highly scarce material currently used for these purposes. Participating in a project funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Snow is researching how the crystals form and he is working on developing a process to grow them large enough and strong enough to be used in handheld radiation detection devices.

Snow is a member of Delta Sigma Phi fraternity and Omega Chi Epsilon chemical engineering honorary. He was co-chair for activities for the American Institute of Chemical Engineers at the All-University Open House, secretary for Delta Sigma Phi fraternity and a lab instructor for general chemistry. He has received a Henry J. Putnam Scholarship, College of Engineering Scholarship and Alliant Techsystems' Learning for Life Scholarship. A 2010 graduate of Eudora High School, Snow is the son of Leahann and Brian Snow, Eudora.

Pierce, a junior in microbiology and premedicine, is an undergraduate research assistant in the laboratory of Jeroen Roelofs, assistant professor of biology. She is investigating proteasome in yeast cells, which are often used as a simplified model of human cells. The proteasome's function is to degrade unneeded or damaged proteins in the cell. Understanding how the cell's machinery functions may help develop effective cancer treatments.

Pierce is the recorder for Alpha Chi Sigma professional chemistry fraternity. She has received a Cancer Research Award from the Johnson Center for Basic Cancer Research, Kansas IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence Scholarship, Putnam Scholarship, the university's Division of Biology's Most Promising Student Award and the Ethel Rogers Scholarship from Central Christian Church in Wichita, as well as semester honors from the university. A 2010 graduate of Trinity Academy, Pierce is the daughter of Lois and David Pierce, Wichita.

Spartz, a sophomore in chemistry, is working in a crystal engineering laboratory with adviser Christer Aakeroy, university distinguished professor of chemistry. Her research includes searching for patterns in how molecules interact within crystalline structures formed from hydrogen and halogen bonds. Understanding how and when these interactions occur could lead to improvements in pharmacological and agricultural pesticide development. One of Spartz's projects involves a cancer drug, 5-Fluorouracil. The drug is not easily soluble in water and it cannot be taken as a pill. Spartz is researching how to change the drug's chemical properties to make it more effective.

Spartz is a member of Alpha Chi Sigma professional chemistry fraternity, a Marlatt Hall floor president and community assistant, and a member of the university's Hall Governing Board. She has received a Cancer Research Award from the Johnson Center for Basic Cancer Research, the Baldwin Reinhold Jr. Scholarship, a freshman Phi Lambda Upsilon national honorary chemical society award, the department of chemistry's H. H. King Memorial Scholarship and a Bausch & Lomb Honorary Science Award. She is also a National Merit Scholarship commended student. A 2011 graduate of Ellington High School, Spartz is the daughter of Barbara and Martin Spartz, Ellington, Conn.