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Two Juniors Earn Goldwater Scholarships

April 24, 2014

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – Kevin Liang and Michael Martini, two Middlebury College juniors, are among the 300 undergraduates nationwide to receive Barry Goldwater Scholarships in 2014 for excellence in science and technology.

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Michael Martini '15

Liang, a physics and mathematics major from New York City, and Martini, a biochemistry and molecular biology major from Stockton, Calif., will now receive up to $7,500 for their senior year of academic study.

The purpose of the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation is “to alleviate the critical current and future shortage of highly qualified scientists, mathematicians, and engineers” in the United States, and “to provide a continuing source of highly qualified individuals to those fields of academic study and research.”

Liang’s goal is to earn a Ph.D. in dusty plasma physics and conduct research in astrophysics and space physics. “Dusty plasma physics is a growing field that attempts to model certain situations in the universe,” he explained, “such as Saturn’s rings or nebulae, which contain high levels of plasma along with micro- or nana-sized dust particles immersed in them.

“I want to expand our knowledge of the interplay between these particles in my research,” he said, “and I would also like to teach physics to interested students at the university level.”

Liang was an undergraduate research assistant in the Center for Astrophysics, Space Physics, and Engineering Research at Baylor University when, for the first time, he observed levitating dust grains with a high-speed camera. “I was taken aback,” he said in his application to the Goldwater Foundation. “For the first time ever I knew I was doing frontier research for a field of physics that can have universal implications.”

Martini hopes to earn an M.D./Ph.D. in molecular pharmacology so he can “bridge the gap between lab bench and clinic,” i.e., lead a research team in developing novel therapeutics and then test the compounds in drug trials.

During the summer of 2012 Martini pursued a 10-week project in Dr. Lynn Heasley’s lab at the University of Colorado Cancer Center investigating the potential for fibroblast growth factor receptors (FGFRs) to serve as predictive biomarkers for Non Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC) cells.

Then, during the summer of 2013 he worked on a 10-week project in the lab of Dr. Ben Cravatt, a renowned chemical biologist at the Scripps Research Institute. Martini spearheaded an independent project that used affinity-based proteomic profiling to identify protein-sterol interactions regulated by constitutively active epidermal growth factor receptors (EGFRs) in glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) cells.

"The process of drug discovery presents extraordinary challenges and rewards that I find invigorating," Martini said.

The scholarship program honors the late Barry Goldwater, who died in 1998 after serving his country as an Army pilot, statesman, and U.S. senator from the state of Arizona.

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