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K-State Today

April 18, 2013

University earns 69th Goldwater scholar, two honorable mentions

Submitted by Communications and Marketing

Jenny Barriga

Three Kansas State University students are recognized in the 2013 Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship competition.

Jenny Barriga, junior in chemistry and biochemistry, Dodge City, has been awarded the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, making her the university's 69th Goldwater scholar. Kyle Snow, senior in chemical engineering, Eudora, and Brianne Pierce, junior in microbiology and premedicine, Wichita, have received honorable mentions in the competition.

Kansas State University ranks first in the nation among all state-supported schools in total Goldwater scholarships since the program began in 1989. Overall, Kansas State University is among the Top Five of all U.S. universities for total Goldwater scholars, behind only Princeton, Harvard, Duke University and the University of Chicago.

Established by Congress to honor Sen. Barry M. Goldwater from Arizona, the scholarship is a national competition that provides up to $15,000 for two years of undergraduate study in mathematics, science or engineering. More than 1,100 students from across the nation were nominated, and 271 students were awarded the scholarship.

"Jenny Barriga's passion for learning and research during her undergraduate years is remarkable, and we are proud that the Goldwater scholarship committee has recognized her hard work," said Kirk Schulz, Kansas State University president. "Ms. Barriga and our two Goldwater honorable mentions, Kyle Snow and Brianne Pierce, are excellent examples of undergraduate students taking advantage of the world-class research opportunities the university offers. As K-State moves forward to becoming a Top 50 public research university, we are committed to increasing these opportunities that help our students become future leaders in their fields."

Barriga is working with Stefan Bossmann, professor of chemistry, to develop an early detection diagnostic tool for breast cancer. Using a fluorescent dye to identify enzymes called matrix metalloproteinases produced by cancer cells, a patient could be diagnosed through a blood test. For phase two of the project, they are working on using the dye during surgery so surgeons can easily see where the cancer has spread outside the tumor.

Barriga's interest in chemical research stems from her continued thirst for knowledge.

"With chemistry there are infinite learning possibilities and so much we don't know," Barriga said. "For me, it is really interesting to keep learning and be able to help others through what I learn."

Barriga came to Kansas State University after participating in a summer research experience with Bossmann while she was a student at Dodge City Community College. After earning her bachelor's degree, she would like to attend graduate school and then pursue a career working for a national laboratory. She is interested in researching bacteria cells, an area she started studying while participating in a summer research program at the National Institutes of Health.

"To me, being awarded the Goldwater scholarship says that the committee believes I am going to make an impact in my field, which is a real honor," Barriga said.

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 Cancer Research Center, 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 Francisco Barriga and Graciela Cervantez, both from Dodge City.

Snow 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 neutron-capture properties of the crystals make them useful for detecting radioactive materials such as nuclear weapons. They 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 Edgar is working on developing a process to grow them large and strong enough to be used in hand-held radiation detection devices.

Snow is a member of Delta Sigma Phi fraternity, where he has served as secretary, and of Omega Chi Epsilon, the chemical engineering honorary. He has been the All-University Open House co-chair for the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and a lab instructor for general chemistry. He has received a 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 Brian and Leahann Snow, Eudora.

Pierce is an undergraduate research assistant in the laboratory of Jeroen Roelofs, assistant professor of biology. She is investigating the 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. In addition, she has worked as a summer undergraduate fellow at the University of Texas Southwestern, where she researched the role of microRNA in the development of the human lung.

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