Three University of Delaware students--two of them from the College of Arts and Sciences--have earned scholarships from the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation, considered the premier undergraduate award of its kind.
The students are Benjamin Lefler, a chemistry major; Adam Ramsaran, who is
majoring in neuroscience; and Daniel Charytonowicz, a biomedical engineering and computer science major. They were among 283 Goldwater Scholars selected on
the basis of academic merit from a field of more than 1,100
mathematics, science and engineering students across the U.S.
The scholarship program honoring the late senator was designed to
foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in the
fields of mathematics, the natural sciences and engineering.
Unlocking the possibilities of chemistry
Lefler, an Honors Program student from Haddonfield,
N.J., plans to continue his education with a doctoral degree in
inorganic chemistry. His goals are to conduct research in solar energy
conversion and teach at the university level.
Advised by Joel Rosenthal, assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry,
Lefler is currently doing research on the synthesis and
characterization of porphyrinoid derivatives, molecules that are similar
to chlorophyll, the light harvester in plants.
“Optimizing the photochemistry of these molecules could lead to more
efficient dye-sensitized solar cells for solar paneling,” Lefler says.
“They could also be used to catalyze energetically unfavorable
processes, harnessing solar energy to drive reactions forward.”
Lefler’s fascination with chemistry was inspired by John Sohn, his AP chemistry teacher at Haddonfield Memorial High School.
“Since then, professors like Susan Groh and Burnaby Munson at UD have
guided me, and others like me, even further along our path to help
others,” he says. “This is the heart of chemistry; it is progress in its
purest form. Chemistry is everything in nature and in society; it
provides the explanation of everything we see, and the way to unlock
Neurodevelopmental disorders and cognition
A resident of Newark, Del., Ramsaran plans to earn a Ph.D. in
neuroscience and then teach at the university level, with research
focusing on the neural mechanisms by which neurodevelopmental disorders
Under the advisement of Mark Stanton, professor in the UD Department
of Psychology, Ramsaran is conducting research aimed at defining the
neurobehavioral characteristics of context-dependent object and spatial
learning and memory during embryonic development.
“This research is particularly useful for understanding when and how
different types of learning develop in relation to the functional
development of their neural correlates,” he says.
For his senior thesis, Ramsaran plans to apply the behavioral
paradigms he’s been working on to a rodent model of fetal alcohol
spectrum disorders to determine whether these forms of learning and
memory are vulnerable to early alcohol exposure. If so, he will extend
the work to investigate behavioral and pharmacological interventions
that may reverse the resulting cognitive deficits.
Engineering a career in medical imaging
Charytonowicz, an Honors Program student who is from Wantagh, N.Y.,
plans to earn both an M.D. and a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering so that
he can conduct research to expand the clinical capabilities of medical
Charytonowicz, whose research is advised by James Hoffman, professor
in the Department of Psychology, is conducting a study to understand the
cognitive mechanisms of visual attention — in other words, how our
brain collects, sorts, and processes visual information.
The work involves presenting a series of images in rapid succession
to human participants while they are connected to an
electroencephalograph (EEG) machine, which provides information about
how various stimuli are processed by the brain.
“I hope to pursue a clinical research career focusing on medical
imaging and the brain,” he says. “Cognitive psychology, while seemingly
unrelated to my majors, has been an incredible field to apply what I
know in a new way. My hope is that I will be able to use EEG, other
imaging systems, and my background as an engineer and computer scientist
to help others one day.”
Inspired by his parents, a biologist and an IT specialist,
Charytonowicz began his research career very early — the summer before
he entered high school, when he worked at Columbia University Cancer
Center. Within the next two years, he wrote his first software
application and co-authored two scientific publications.
About the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program
The Goldwater Scholars Program was established by Congress in 1986 to
honor U.S. Sen. Barry Goldwater, who served his country for 56 years as
a soldier and statesman, including 30 years of service in the U.S.
The purpose of the foundation is to provide a continuing source of
highly qualified scientists, mathematicians, and engineers by awarding
scholarships to college students who intend to pursue research careers
in these fields. The one- and two-year scholarships cover the cost of
tuition, fees, books, and room and board up to $7,500 per year.
According to the foundation, Goldwater Scholars have very impressive
academic qualifications that have garnered the attention of prestigious
post-graduate fellowship programs.
Recent Goldwater Scholars have been awarded 80 Rhodes Scholarships,
117 Marshall Awards, 112 Churchill Scholarships, and numerous other
distinguished fellowships such as the National Science Foundation