Two Duke Students Named 2013 Goldwater Scholars

Goldwater Scholars are selected on the basis of academic merit from a national field of mathematics, science and engineering students

Kushal Seetharam and Yaohua Xue

Two Duke University juniors have been selected as scholars by the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program.

Kushal Seetharam and Yaohua Xue are among 271 students awarded Goldwater Scholarships for the 2013-14 academic year. The one- and two-year scholarships will cover the cost of tuition, fees, books, room and board up to a maximum of $7,500 per year.

The Goldwater Scholars were selected on the basis of academic merit from a national field of more than 1,100 mathematics, science and engineering students. The scholarship program honoring the late U.S. Sen. Barry Goldwater was designed to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences and engineering.

Xue, a chemistry and economics double major from Apex, N.C., plans to pursue a M.D./Ph.D. in pharmacology and cancer biology. She is interested in conducting research on cell-signaling pathways implicated in cancer and designing drug therapies that target those pathways. A volunteer in the Duke Hospital Pediatric Bone Marrow Transplant Unit, Xue said she hopes her future research will help personalize cancer treatments based on the molecular characteristics of each patient's disease.

Xue's current research project in the lab of Dr. Pei Zhou, in Duke University Medical Center's Department of Biochemistry, focuses on DNA repair in cancer cells. She started the project during her sophomore year.

"Working on the project has taught me valuable skills in experimental design, data analysis, generation of research ideas and writing research proposals and papers," Xue said. "My research experience over the past two years has greatly strengthened my interest in pursuing a career in medical research. Scientific research is more than pushing the boundaries of knowledge; it is the vehicle through which I can make an impact in the lives of others."

Xue hopes to teach at the university level.

Seetharam, an Angier B. Duke Scholar from Great Falls, Va., is a physics and electrical and computer engineering double major. He intends to earn a Ph.D. in applied physics, and wants to conduct research in applications of electromagnetics and photonics.

Seetharam is currently working on a project to improve wireless energy transfer with metamaterials. His faculty adviser is engineering professor David R. Smith, director of Duke's Center for Metamaterials and Integrated Plasmonics.

"The field of metamaterials is one of the few where a project can span theory, simulation and experimental demonstration while remaining within an individual's ability to carry out," Seetharam said. "On a personal level, I have always wanted to be an inventor across multiple fields. Modern improvements in digital technology have made scientific and technological development increasingly computational. Having the ability to develop computational techniques combined with a deep knowledge of physics will allow me the versatility necessary to work on a range of projects."

Seetharam also intends to teach on the university level.

Since its first award in 1989, the foundation has bestowed more than 6,550 scholarships worth approximately $40 million. Sixty-two Duke students have received Goldwater Scholarships since 1995.