UGA Honors student Vanessa del Valle receives 2008 Goldwater Scholarship

UGA Honors student Vanessa del Valle receives 2008 Goldwater Scholarship

Athens, Ga. – Vanessa del Valle, a University of Georgia Honors student, has been selected as a 2008 Barry M. Goldwater Scholar, a prestigious national science award for sophomores and juniors who are excelling in mathematics, engineering and the natural sciences.

Del Valle, a junior biology and psychology double major from Alpharetta, was chosen among a pool of 1,035 candidates from across the U.S. who were nominated by their colleges and universities. The one- and two-year scholarships provide funding for tuition, room and board and other educational expenses worth up to $7,500 per year. Del Valle’s selection brings the total of UGA recipients to 33 since 1995. UGA students have been named Goldwater Scholars every year since 2001.

UGA Honors students Tyler Kelly and Tulsi Patel were two of 157 recipients of Goldwater Honorable Mentions. Kelly, a junior from Alpharetta, is pursuing a bachelor’s/master’s degree in mathematics and a second bachelor’s degree in Romance languages. Patel, a junior from Acworth, is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in genetics.

“The quality of the UGA student body has been reaffirmed by Vanessa’s receipt of a Goldwater Scholarship and the honorable mention citations awarded to Tyler and Tulsi,” said UGA President Michael F. Adams. “UGA students are among the best this nation has to offer, and I am proud of the recognition they are receiving.”

Del Valle conducted social neuroscience research under the guidance of Keith Campbell, a professor of social psychology, during her first two years as a research apprentice through the Honors Program’s Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities (CURO). She has continued as a teaching assistant with the CURO apprentice program, supporting and mentoring the current apprentices.

Now, as a Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) Research Scholar, del Valle is investigating the molecular processes of enzymes associated with type II diabetes, in which individuals are resistant to insulin, in the laboratory of Lance Wells, a professor of biochemistry and molecular biology. She presented this research at the national level at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students in the fall.

Del Valle has been involved with the UGA chapter of the Association of Women in Science and serves on the Student Health Advisory Committee at UGA. She would like to enter an M.D./Ph.D. program, specializing in molecular biology, after graduating from UGA in spring 2009.

Kelly’s mathematics research began two years ago when he was invited to participate in the VIGRE (Vertical Integration of Research and Education) Algebra Group, a research team made up of UGA faculty and students who collaborate on a single topic throughout the year. Since much of the literature is written by leading French mathematicians, Kelly’s decision to also obtain a Romance languages degree expands his research possibilities.

Kelly has continued his research, now in algebraic geometry, under the guidance of mathematics professor Elham Izadi and gave a presentation at the 2008 undergraduate research symposium sponsored by CURO. While working as an applied mathematics researcher through an internship program at the Department of Defense over the summer, Kelly co-authored an internal paper and briefed top officials.

Among his campus activities, Kelly has been involved with the UGA Math Club, the Lambda Alliance and the UGA chapter of Habitat for Humanity. He would like to become a university professor one day and continue to pursue original research in algebraic geometry.

Patel’s first research experience in the plant sciences began as a CURO apprentice in the laboratory of Scott Gold, a professor of plant pathology. After studying fungal genomics during her first year, she designed her own project that focused on developing a fungal pathogen that could be used as a biological agent to control Chinese privet, a harmful exotic weed in Georgia. She received a CURO summer fellowship to finish her work and recently presented her results at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students.

Now as a teaching assistant, Patel is using her previous research experience to assist the current group of CURO apprentices. She is also continuing her research in the field of stem cells, an area she would like to pursue in her future academic career. Patel is working in the laboratory of Steve Stice, a noted biomedical cloning scientist.

Patel holds memberships in the Student Society for Stem Cell Research, the UGA chapter of Association of Women in Sciences, the Demosthenian Literary Society, and Young Democrats. She would like to obtain a Ph.D. in genetics to teach and conduct biomedical sciences research.

“We are very proud of Vanessa, Tyler, and Tulsi,” said David S. Williams, director of UGA’s Honors Program and UGA’s Goldwater faculty representative. “Not only because of the impressive research that each has conducted, which has led to their recognitions by the Goldwater Foundation, but also because of the kind of caring and involved people they are. Their success demonstrates that UGA Honors students can compete with the very best across the country.”

The Goldwater Scholarship is the latest major award earned this year by students in UGA’s Honors Program. Two students were named 2008 Rhodes Scholars and one student was selected as a Truman Scholar. Only five other schools-all private institutions-have at least one Rhodes, Truman and Goldwater recipient this year. They are Columbia University, University of Pennsylvania, Stanford, Swarthmore, and Yale.

For more information on the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, see www.act.org/goldwater.

For more information on UGA’s Honors Program, see www.uga.edu/honors.