ASU students' dedication to STEM rewarded with Goldwater Scholarship

Two ASU juniors were awarded the nation's highest STEM undergraduate award

Years of research experience, academic excellence and mentorship helped two ASU students win the prestigious Barry Goldwater Scholarship, which provides up to $7,500 per year to help pay for tuition, fees, books, and room and board. 

Meilin Zhu, a junior studying biochemistry, and Humza Zubair, a junior studying biochemistry and biological sciences, were awarded the scholarship, which is the nation's highest honor for undergraduate STEM students. 

The scholarship, named for the late Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater, goes to students who have demonstrated excellence in academics and research, said Kyle Mox, associate dean at Barrett, the Honors College and director of the Lorraine W. Frank Office of National Scholarship Advisement

"These two students are incredibly intelligent and motivated young people, but more importantly they have a strong desire to make sure their research benefits the lives of others," Mox said. 

Each participating university nominates its top four STEM students for the scholarship. A dedication to research and perseverance were strong factors for selecting Zhu and Zubair, he said. 

Zhu applied last year and wasn't selected, but she said she valued the experience and opportunity to be more prepared this year. The two found out they were selected via email at the end of March. 

Zhu has worked in four research projects to date and is currently conducting serology research in early biomarkers of cancer.

Her interest in STEM was sparked after she was assigned to finish high-level research projects for the Arizona Science and Engineering Fair in high school.

"(The scholarship) has helped me become more confident to continue my studies and research," Zhu said. 

She plans to pursue a doctorate in biological engineering and aspires to become a principal investigator at a research institution and have her own research laboratory. 

Zhu also aims to expand science communication to people who are not in science fields. Although she spends most of the day juggling classes and research, she enjoys hiking and rock climbing in her spare time. 

Humza Zubair said the process of applying to the Goldwater Scholarship made him investigate what his research goals are. 

For the past four years, Zubair has been studying visual motor integration at the Barrow Neurological Institute, focusing on what types of visual inputs the brain receives. 

The scholarship application requires a research proposal to prove why a candidate's research is important, as well as four essays and three letters of recommendation, he said. 

Zubair's goal is obtain an MD-PhD and continue doing research in neuroscience in the future.

"Applying to Goldwater was a very involved process," Zubair said. "It required me to think about my research and get different people's inputs. Prove that you're interested and don't be afraid to go up to people who are higher than you. You learn by throwing yourself into the fire."


Reach the reporter at afalero1@asu.edu or follow @afalero18 on Twitter.

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