Two Auburn University juniors named Goldwater Scholars

Published: April 27, 2015
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Auburn University juniors Christy Pickering and Connor Dobson have been chosen as 2015 Barry M. Goldwater Scholars, an honor bestowed on approximately 300 students nationwide each year. The scholarship is widely considered the most prestigious award in the United States for undergraduates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines.

Pickering, a Huntsville, Alabama, native, and Dobson, from Jacksonville, Florida, are in the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering and also in the Honors College. They are fellows in the undergraduate research program and conduct research with Robert "Rusty" Arnold, an associate professor in the Department of Drug Discovery and Development within the Harrison School of Pharmacy.

Pickering's research investigates a novel method to encapsulate gold nanoparticles within the aqueous core of liposomes and improve tumor targeting. These novel multifunctional gold-lipidic drug carriers may lead to an increase in efficacy and reduce toxicity of chemotherapeutic drugs used to fight cancer.

Dobson's research examines the synthesis of multifunctional gold nanoclusters that can be used in combination with stealth nanoparticles to improve cancer detection and drug delivery. Dobson recently took first place for his poster presentation in the Food, Pharmaceuticals and Biotechnology section at the American Institute for Chemical Engineers annual meeting in Atlanta.

"With the hundreds of undergraduates conducting research across Auburn's campus, we are so pleased and honored that Connor and Christy have achieved recognition as Goldwater Scholars and offer our congratulations to them both along with Dr. Arnold, their faculty mentor," said Melissa Baumann, Auburn University assistant provost for undergraduate studies and director of the Honors College.

"Christy and Connor are two exceptional students that have excelled academically and developed research projects that combine their passion for chemical engineering and biomedical research" Arnold said. "They show genuine enthusiasm and interest in addressing a critical limitation associated with the effective delivery of chemotherapeutic agents. It has been a privilege to have Christy and Connor contributing to our research efforts. I look forward to hearing about all their successes in their future endeavors."

"I am humbled to have been selected, and it really reflects the wealth of opportunities and incredible group of faculty here at Auburn who have provided mentoring and guidance in my undergraduate studies," Dobson said.

"I am incredibly honored to have been recognized by such a prestigious award" Pickering said. "Conducting undergraduate research has opened up my passion for pharmaceutical research and continues to challenge me. By working with Dr. Arnold, my skills and knowledge have grown tremendously, and I am excited about the opportunities available. I am thankful for my professors and the Honors College for supporting me throughout the lengthy application process."

In addition to Pickering and Dobson's selection, Natasha Narayan, an Honors College sophomore from Auburn majoring in biochemistry in the College of Sciences and Mathematics, received an honorable mention during the 2015 Goldwater selection process, one of only 50 students nationwide given this distinction. Under the guidance of Bradley Merner, an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Narayan's research is focused on the development of short, streamlined, synthetic approaches to creating tricyclic nucleic acids.

The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship Program was established to provide scholarships to outstanding students who intend to pursue careers in mathematics, the natural sciences and engineering. Each scholarship covers eligible expenses up to a maximum of $7,500 annually for undergraduate tuition, fees, books and housing. In awarding scholarships, the foundation of trustees considers the nominee's field of study and career objectives along with the extent to which that individual has the commitment and potential to make a significant contribution to the field of science or engineering.

"It was a pleasure assisting all four of our Goldwater applicants," said Paul Harris, associate director of the Honors College. "They represent the very best of what my office looks for in prestigious scholarship applicants: an intellectually curious nature, a sincere desire to learn for learning's sake and a 'can-do, will-do' attitude. They make our Auburn Family proud."