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Category: Student News

A University of Minnesota–Twin Cities undergraduate has been named a 2014 Barry M. Goldwater Scholar, and two UMTC undergraduates have received honorable mentions in the competition. The prestigious Goldwater Scholarship is awarded annually to outstanding sophomores and juniors who intend to pursue research-oriented careers in mathematics, the natural sciences, and engineering. The scholarships provide up to $7,500 per year for up to two years of undergraduate study.

University Honors Program student Rachel Soble is a 2014 Goldwater Scholar. Rachel is in her third year of a five-year undergraduate career pursuing Bachelors of Science degrees in genetics, cell biology & development (College of Biological Sciences) and computer science (College of Science and Engineering). She plans to earn a Ph.D. in computational biology and to develop new computational frameworks for investigating microbial ecology and physiology. Rachel is a National Merit Scholar and a Robert C. Byrd Scholar, and holds a prestigious American Society for Microbiology Undergraduate Research Fellowship this year. As an Amgen Scholar in summer 2013 she conducted microbiology research at Columbia University. At the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities, Rachel conducts research in Professor Jeffrey Gralnick's microbiology laboratory. Her project is the application of a new genetic technique called Tn-seq to study interdependence in a synthetic cooperative community of bacteria, with the goal of contributing to the scientific understanding of microbial cooperation. She has also worked on computational biology projects in Professor Chad Myers's research group. Rachel is co-author of a forthcoming article and has presented her research at national conferences. She is involved in many campus activities including Teaching SMART, a student group that teaches lessons in local schools to spark children's interest in science. Rachel grew up in New Orleans, Louisiana and attended Brookfield High School in Brookfield, Wisconsin.

Rachel Soble on her experience at the Gralnick Lab—Engineering Bacterial Cooperation.

Moriana Haj received an honorable mention from the Goldwater Scholarship Program this year. Moriana is a junior chemistry major in the University Honors Program and the College of Science and Engineering. Originally from Edina, Minnesota where she attended Edina High School, Moriana plans to pursue a Ph.D. in organic chemistry. She aspires to participate in interdisciplinary research efforts to solve major scientific problems, in areas ranging from drug discovery to sustainable materials development. As an undergraduate researcher in Professor Thomas Hoye's laboratory, Moriana has been studying various aspects of a newly uncovered chemical reaction, the hexadehydro-Diels-Alder (HDDA) reaction, a variation on a classic transformation that is fundamental to the field of organic chemistry. Moriana takes inspiration from the creativity and open-mindedness that led Hoye's research group to explore the HDDA reaction, which they first observed while attempting a routine reaction in an unrelated study. She is a National Merit Scholar and the recipient of several scholarships to support her research activities. As the recipient of the Robert C. Brasted Fellowship, she is completing a teaching apprenticeship with Professor Jane Wissinger, for which she is developing a new experiment for the organic chemistry laboratory course.

Robin Lee also received honorable mention. A native of Bel Air, Maryland and a graduate of Bel Air High School, Robin lived in South Korea for many years before coming to the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities to pursue his interest in cancer genetics. Now a junior in the University Honors Program, he is completing an undergraduate degree in genetics, cell biology & development in the College of Biological Sciences. Robin has conducted research with Professors Craig Eckfeldt and David Largaespada on the pathways of growth in NRAS, a gene frequently mutated that causes abnormal growth in acute myeloid leukemia. Over several summers in high school and college, he has engaged in neurobiology, genetics, and cancer research at the University of Ulsan College of Medicine in Seoul, South Korea. His first-authored articles have been published in Gene and The Journal of Genetic Medicine, and he has received an Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program grant and other awards to support his research and travel to present at conferences. Robin plans to pursue a Ph.D. in genetics and hopes one day to establish an international cancer genetics research consortium.

The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program was established by Congress in 1986 to honor Senator Barry Goldwater, who served his country for 56 years as a soldier and statesman, including 30 years of service in the U.S. Senate. This year, 283 scholars were selected nationwide from a field of more than 1,166 students who were nominated by their colleges and universities. Each institution many nominate up to four students.

A total of 55 University of Minnesota-Twin Cities undergraduates have been Goldwater Scholars since the program's inception in 1986. UMTC students who are interested in applying for the scholarship in the future may consult the Office for National and International Scholarships.

For more information on the Goldwater Scholarship, visit

Two University of Minnesota students, Melanie Paurus and Johnathon Walker, have been named Katherine E. Sullivan Scholars for 2014–15. The Sullivan Scholarship is the University's most prestigious scholarship for study abroad. It supports a fifth year of undergraduate study in another country for one or more outstanding seniors from any campus of the University of Minnesota. The annual scholarship competition is administered by the University Honors Program at the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities, and the fund is managed by the Global Programs and Strategy Alliance.

Melanie Paurus is majoring in Spanish and Global Studies at UMTC with academic interests in human rights, drug trafficking, migration, and incarceration. She will spend the 2014–15 academic year in Jerusalem studying intensive Arabic at the Hebrew University. Melanie has volunteered and completed internships in Mexico, Columbia, and Ecuador, including a women's prison in Quito. Her concern for people caught up in the destructive fall-out of the drug trade has led her to study the structures of international trafficking, and she plans to expand her knowledge to the trade in opium through Central Asia and the Middle East. Her expertise with Spanish has shown her that speaking a local language is essential, so she will study Arabic in order to gain access to the cultural, social, and political dynamics currently shaping the region. Melanie is from Cottage Grove, MN and is a graduate of Park High School.

Johnathon Zelenak Walker is a student in the University Honors Program at UMTC, with majors in Global Studies and Political Science and a minor in Spanish Studies. Inspired by growing up in rural Minnesota and his extensive travel throughout rural communities in Mexico, Venezuela, Peru, and Bolivia, Johnathon's interests are agricultural politics and networks of solidarity in resistance to the state and capitalism. His research examines the use of art and technology to build solidarity between dispersed autonomous communities across cultural and territorial boundaries. Next year, Johnathon will attend the Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar in Quito, Ecuador and continue his fieldwork in South America. Johnathon is from Clear Lake, MN and is a graduate of St. Cloud Technical High School.

Contratulations, Melanie and Johnathon!

Honors Seminars in the News

February 10, 2014

Honors Seminars (HSem) are some of the most fascinating courses at the University, offering students the opportunity to explore a variety of topics in a discussion-based setting with expert faculty and instructors.

Our fall 2013 Honors Seminars were an extraordinary bunch, covering topics from modern Chinese culture to 21st century cognition. Two of these courses were featured in recent publications. Chang Wang's (adjunct professor, Law School) final lecture to students in HSem 3801H (Modern China: Law, History, and Culture) was published by China Insight, and Professor Lee Pen (Chemistry) was featured in the Minnesota Daily for her innovative use of cell phones to analyze solutions in HSem 2513H (NANO! Small Science, Big Deal.

UHP Students from all disciplines are invited to imagine the future of the Mississippi River in the Twin Cities and to create a work that responds to that imagined future. Comprehensive information about this opportunity will be available at two upcoming information sessions in 12 Nicholson Hall, on Thursday, October 10th from 10–11am and on Friday, October 11th from 2–3pm.

How will people gain access to the water? What wildlife will inhabit this corridor in the city? How will the region's long history be evident? These are just examples of the questions you might ask yourself about this place. Projects will take the form of a proposed research project, work of art (visual art, music, performance, etc.), audio/visual media, or other means of expression. A panel of judges (faculty, staff, and community partners) will review all proposals and select a number for further development by mid-December. Students whose proposals are selected will work in conjunction with faculty or community partners to complete their work by late March, and the work will be presented during the grand re-opening celebration at Northrop on April 16th. We will review each selected work to determine whether it can be used to fulfill an Honors Experience.

For more information on River Futures, download the program brief.

To learn more about the Mississippi River in the Twin Cities, and to get links to sources of information about trends and patterns affecting the river, visit the River Life website.

The 2012–2013 academic year saw an exciting number of University of Minnesota students—many of them in the University Honors Program—winning nationally and internationally competitive scholarships. Among the most prestigious scholarships awarded to UHP students this year were the Harry S. Truman Scholarship and Udall Scholarship—congratulations, everyone!

UHP students Bradley Conley (Truman finalist), Marissa Kramer (Gilman and Udall winner), and Katrina Klett (Truman and Udall winner) celebrate at a reception in honor of finalists and winners of nationally & internationally competitive scholarships, held at the Campus Club on April 24th. Photo by Patrick O'Leary for University Relations.

Astronaut Scholarships

  • Daniel Boman, Mechanical Engineering
  • Paige Voigt, Biomedical Engineering

Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange

  • Michael Demianiuk, History

Critical Language Scholarships

  • Alicia Nelson, Sociology (Korean)

DAAD Summer Research Internships in Science and Engineering

  • Alexander Hron, Biochemistry and Chemistry
  • Maxwell Shinn, Neuroscience and Mathematics

Fulbright UK Summer Institutes

  • Anna Courchaine, Graphic Design (Scotland)

Fulbright US Student Program Scholarships

  • Yoko Ishida, Neuroscience, Physiology (Research, Japan)
  • Whitney Koester, Biology, Society, & Environment (English Teaching Assistant, Brazil)
  • Karl LaFleur, Biomedical Engineering (Research, Netherlands)
  • Leslie Meyer, Global Studies, Spanish Studies (English Teaching Assistant, Brazil)
  • Whitley Pusch, English, German Studies (English Teaching Assistant, Germany)
  • Paul Stadem, Biochemistry (Research, Uganda)
  • Katelyn Trexel, French Studies, Linguistics (English Teaching Assistant, Korea)

Gilman Scholarships (for study abroad)

  • Myra Burnette, History (Turkey)
  • David Deal, Journalism (Denmark)
  • Aletha Duchene, Spanish/Portuguese (Venezuela)
  • Tasha Ezell, Art History (Turkey)
  • Gabe Franta, Genetics, Cell Biology, & Development (Ecuador)
  • Anna Haynes, Biochemistry (Chile)
  • Song Her, Family Social Science (India)
  • Audra Huffmeyer Fisheries & Wildlife (Nepal)
  • Brittney Johnson, Applied Plant Science (Senegal)
  • Marissa Kramer, Political Science (Hungary)
  • Ky Krawczeski, Asian Languages & Literatures (Japan)
  • Aleah Laughlin, Global Studies (Venezuela)
  • Nicholas Leach, Urban Studies (Spain)
  • Mark Magelssen, Finance (Italy)
  • Justin Moen, Mathematics (Hong Kong)
  • Mee Pha, Sociology (Japan)
  • Khaleel Qandeel, Global Studies (Venezuela)
  • Scott Smith, Global Studies and Philosophy (China)
  • Katie Strand, Global Studies (Senegal)
  • Nadine Teisberg, Global Studies (Jorsan)
  • Pashie Vang (Japan)
  • Samantha Walsh, Global Studies and Political Science (Jordan)

Goldwater Scholarships

  • Daniel Boman, Mechanizal Engineering
  • Karen Leopold, Biochemistry and Genetics
  • Maxwell Shinn, Neuroscience and Mathematics

NanoJapan International Research Experience for Undergraduates

  • Alec Nicol, Chemistry & Biochemistry

National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships

  • Lucas Caretta, Materials Science
  • Paul Carlson, Chemical Engineering
  • Ross Kerner, Materials Science
  • Sam Schreiner, Aerospace Engineering

Truman Scholarship

  • Katrina Klett, Asian Languages and Literature: Chinese

Udall Scholarships

  • Katrina Klett, Asian Languages & Literatures/Chinese
  • Marissa Kramer, Political Science

Two UHP students—Karl Lafleur (graduating senior, biomedical engineering) and Eitan Rogin (graduating senior, computer science)—were part of a research group led by Professor Bin He (biomedical engineering) that has developed a new noninvasive system that allows people to control a flying robot with nothing but their minds.

The study, which could potentially help people with paralysis and neurodegenerative diseases, was published in Journal of Neural Engineering.

For more information, see the press release or feature story from the University News Service.

Contact: Daniel Wolter, University News Service,, (612) 624-5551

MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL (12/09/2010) --University of Minnesota Provost Tom Sullivan today reported that the Fall 2010 freshman class in the university's young campus-wide Honors Program was one of the best in the nation.

"Just a few years ago, when we launched our campus-wide Honors Program, it was our goal to be able to compete with the best colleges and universities in the country for the best and brightest students in Minnesota and from around the world," said Sullivan. "In just its third year, that goal is a reality. The profile of the 2010 freshman Honors class puts us at or near the top among our peers, which is wonderful news for the university and the state of Minnesota."

With an average ACT composite score of 31.6, the U of M's freshman honors class is at the top of a distinguished group of peer liberal arts institutions, which includes Carleton, Amherst, Williams, Grinnell, Vassar and Macalester. It also puts the U third among peer universities, behind Stanford and Northwestern Universities and ahead of Duke, Carnegie Mellon, the University of Chicago and Georgetown University.

Among peer STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) universities, the U of M's 33.5 average ACT composite tied with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), put it a half a point behind the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and ahead of Cornell, Carnegie Mellon and Georgia Tech.

"A top research university has many outstanding qualities. Among the most important is the ability to attract exceptional and talented students," Sullivan added. "The improvements and investments we've made in our Honors Program and to our overall undergraduate experience at the University of Minnesota is really paying off."

(The comparisons cited above are University of Minnesota Honors Program students compared to the incoming freshman classes of peer institutions.)

Six honors students were named winners of 2010 Scholarly Excellence in Equity and Diversity (SEED) Awards. These awards, given by the Office of Equity and Diversity, honor high-achieving diverse undergraduate, graduate, and professional students who are doing outstanding work at the University, both in and out of the classroom. Congratulations! 

President's SEED Award for Outstanding Scholar-Activism:
Damé Idossa

President's SEED Award for Outstanding Academic Achievement:
Yefei Jin

Sue W. Hancock Undergraduate SEEDs of Change Awards:
Amanda Donohue-Hansen
Karlo A. Malaga
Jennifer A. Nicklay
Brea D. Turner  

Learn more about the SEED Awards.