Abigail Burtner named a UW Goldwater Scholar

Five University of Washington undergraduates have been honored as Goldwater Scholars by the Goldwater Foundation, marking 2023 as the first time five students from the UW were named in a single year.

The Goldwater Foundation awards undergraduate scholarships to students who show exceptional academic promise pursuing research careers in the natural sciences, mathematics and engineering. The five UW nominees were selected from a pool of 5,000 students nominated by 427 institutions across the country. A total of 413 scholars were announced from the 2023 competition, bringing the number of scholarships awarded by the Goldwater Foundation since 1989 to 10,283.

This year’s UW Goldwater Scholars are Abigail Burtner, Jan Buzek, Nuria Alina Chandra, Meg Takezawa and Peter Yu. All scholars hail from Washington state, spanning across Pullman, Duvall, Olympia and Seattle. Their undergraduate research projects with faculty include a range of topics such as transportation engineering, immunology, cryptology and chronic pain.

“We are so proud of these five Goldwater Scholars. These are talented and devoted students and have already accomplished a lot — as undergraduates,” said Ed Taylor, vice provost and dean of Undergraduate Academic Affairs. “When you combine their intellect and enthusiasm for making the world a better place with the UW’s world-class researchers and scientific leaders who support undergraduate research, remarkable outcomes happen. As they progress in their studies and careers, we can all look forward to the ways their work will benefit people and the planet.”

Meet the 2023 UW Goldwater Scholars

Abigail Burtner

Photo of Abigail Burtner

“I aim to obtain a Ph.D. in Biochemistry with a focus on vaccine or drug design; I then plan to pursue a career in industry/academia addressing public health challenges due to infectious disease,” says Goldwater Scholar Abigail Burtner.

Burtner is a junior in the Honors Program majoring in biochemistry and minoring in data science and chemistry. Broadly interested in immunology and protein design, she works in the King Lab at the Institute for Protein Design designing de novo proteins to bind toll-like receptors, key receptors that activate the innate immune system, for applications in vaccine development.

Burtner aims to obtain a Ph.D. in biochemistry to pursue research on medical issues at the biochemical scale. Following her graduate work, she intends to pursue a research career aimed at vaccine or drug development to address major public health issues with cutting-edge technology and methods (e.g., deep learning in protein design and computational modeling).

Jan Buzek

Photo of Jan Buzek

“I am interested in pursuing a research career in theoretical computer science, combining ideas from complexity and mathematics to build algorithms and secure systems based on computational problems,” says Goldwater Scholar Jan Buzek.

Buzek is a junior studying computer science and mathematics and is interested in cryptography, number theory and computational complexity.

In sophomore year, he did a research project on twin smooth integers that began at the Washington Experimental Mathematics Lab and continued for a year independently. The project focused on finding very large consecutive integers with as small prime factors as possible, a task for which no effective algorithms are known. Buzek’s five person team found new, more efficient algorithms for locating such integers, which have applications in cryptography. This year, Buzek has been studying cryptography and discrete mathematics abroad at the University of Heidelberg and ETH Zürich. He intends to go to graduate school to study cryptography.

Nuria Alina Chandra

Photo of Nuria Alina Chandra

“I will research machine learning, computational biology, and algorithms to develop tools that prevent, treat, and cure disease. My research career will span from theory to clinical application,” says Goldwater Scholar Nuria Alina Chandra.

Chandra is a senior in the Honors Program majoring in computer science and minoring in global health. She began her UW research journey with Dr. Jennifer Rabbitts at Seattle Children’s Hospital studying the development of acute and chronic pain after surgery and traumatic injury. Chandra is currently part of the Mostafavi Computational Biology Lab, where she uses deep learning to study regulatory genetics in immune cells. The long-term goal of this research is to be able to predict the effect of genetic mutations on immunological diseases. She has also explored theoretical research through a geometric combinatorics research project with Dr. Rekha Thomas on graphical designs.

Chandra plans to pursue a Ph.D. in computer science and then work at the intersection of machine learning, computational biology, and algorithms research. Chandra wants her research to have an impact spanning from theory to clinical applications.

Meg Takezawa

Photo of Meg Takezawa

“I aim to pursue a Ph.D. and an interdisciplinary research career in chemistry and engineering to develop microscale technologies to analyze symptoms due to infectious diseases,” says Goldwater Scholar Meg Takezawa.

Takezawa is a junior majoring in biochemistry. Since she joined the Theberge Lab in her first year at the UW, she has been using microfluidics to innovate a salivary diagnostic device and analyze cellular responses in allergic inflammation through her past research projects. In the summer of her second year, she had an internship at Coburg University, Germany, where she fabricated microfluidic devices for separation techniques. These experiences inspired her to pursue an interdisciplinary research career to analyze the underlying chemistry that drive diseases and symptoms.

Takezawa plans to pursue a Ph.D. in chemistry, ultimately pursuing research to develop microscale technologies and chemical tools for bioanalytics. Takezawa aspires to make globally accessible novel technologies to further improve therapeutics.

Peter Yu

Photo of Peter Yu

“After graduating, I will pursue a Ph.D. in transportation engineering, followed by a faculty position at a R1 university with research in traffic operations and intelligent transportation systems,” says Goldwater Scholar Peter Yu.

Yu is a junior majoring in civil and environmental engineering with a focus on transportation engineering. He is passionate about highway transportation engineering, with interests in highway design, traffic operations and simulation, traffic signal control and intelligent transportation systems. Since his freshman year, he has been a member of the Smart Transportation Applications and Research Laboratory led by Dr. Yinhai Wang. In the lab, he has developed and tested novel highway geometric designs, traffic control schemes, and intelligent transportation systems to increase safety and mobility for all roadway users.

Yu has developed several new alternative intersection/interchange and freeway designs and novel traffic control schemes for them. He has been analyzing their safety and operational performance with traffic microsimulation. Yu aims to obtain a Ph.D. in civil engineering and make meaningful contributions to the transportation engineering field globally through research and innovation.

About the Goldwater Foundation

The Goldwater Foundation is a federally endowed agency established in 1986. The Scholarship Program honoring Senator Barry Goldwater was designed to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue research careers in the fields of the natural sciences, engineering and mathematics. The Goldwater Scholarship is the preeminent undergraduate award of its type in these fields. Learn more at Goldwater Scholarship.

Learn more about scholarship opportunities at the UW

The Goldwater Scholarship application process is supported by the Office of Merit Scholarships, Fellowships and Awards (OMSFA), a UAA program. OMSFA works with faculty, staff and students to identify and support promising students in developing the skills and personal insights necessary to become strong candidates for this and other prestigious awards.

This news post was written by Danielle Marie Holland.