CLAS students win top national honors

By Christine Buckley, CLAS Today

Three CLAS students were honored this week by two prestigious scholarship organizations: the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship Program and the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation.

Juniors Colin Carlson and W. David Lindsay were awarded Goldwater scholarships, which are given for academic merit in the sciences, engineering, mathematics and computer science. Anna Green, a sophomore, received an honorable mention for the award. The scholarship grants $7,500 toward the completion of the recipient’s undergraduate degree.

Carlson was also awarded a Truman scholarship, which acknowledges college juniors for their leadership abilities and dedication to careers in public service. The scholarship provides $30,000 toward graduate study. Carlson is the fourth UConn student to win the award since its inception in 1975.

An honors student and University Scholar, Carlson is earning a dual degree in ecology and evolutionary biology and in an individualized major, environmental studies. At the age of 14, he is one of the youngest students ever to attend UConn.

Several EEB faculty members have worked with Carlson on research projects. He has investigated reproduction in fish that give birth to live young, with Associate Professor Eric Schultz, and he also traveled to South Africa with Professor Carl Schlichting to work on his University Scholar thesis, which will examine how native South African plants respond to differing levels of sunlight.

Carlson has also been engaged in outreach and public service, helping to found a climate change action group in his hometown of Coventry, a national network of student environmental groups called the Keep US Cool Initiative (KUSCI) and the Connecticut Youth Activist Network.

Being honored for both his scientific and service achievements, says Carlson, is a great distinction.

“A lot of what I want to do is bridging public service and science,” he says. “It’s really special to know that I’ve been recognized in both fields.”

Carlson plans to continue his education with a PhD in ecology and evolutionary biology and eventually a degree in law.

David Lindsay is a junior honors student earning degrees in neurobiology and mathematics. During his time at UConn, Lindsay has performed research in the laboratories of chemistry Professor Vijaya Kumar and physiology and neurobiology professors Akiko Nishiyama and Joanne Conover. With Conover, Lindsay is currently investigating the proliferation of adult neural stem cells in the brain.

In conjunction with Craig van Horne, neurosurgeon-in-chief at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Boston, Lindsay has created a computer model that analyzes speech patterns in Parkinson’s patients that have undergone deep brain stimulation. Based on his experiences with van Horne, Lindsay founded the UConn Physician Scientist Internship Program, in which three UConn undergraduates are funded each summer to work with van Horne in his Boston laboratory.

Lindsay will move on to pursue a combined MD/PhD with a concentration in computational neuroscience, which he says will allow him to use high-level mathematics to ask research questions about the human brain. He hopes to create models of the human nervous system that will allow scientists and doctors to better investigate complex diseases.

“Especially right now, when research dollars are at a premium, we can create artificial systems to test our hypotheses about the brain,” he says, adding that testing in artificial neural systems can hone scientists’ experiments before they move on to animal models.

Sophomore Anna Green was given an honorable mention for the scholarship. Green studies bioinformatics with molecular and cell biology Professor Peter Gogarten, looking at the evolution of bacteria that can withstand high temperatures.

Her recognition as a sophomore bodes well for her chances next year, as Lindsay and College of Agriculture and Natural Resources junior Kathleen Carey – another 2011 Goldwater winner – were all given honorable mentions in last year’s competition.

“I was definitely honored to have the opportunity to apply as a sophomore,” Green says.

Green cited UConn’s Office of National Scholarships, especially Director Jill Deans and Assistant Marlene Coughlin, as a guiding and helpful force all the students during the application process.

“We’re so proud of all of our students who applied for national awards this year,” says Deans. “This number of awardees this year is truly a windfall.”

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