Three Duke undergraduates were awarded Barry M. Goldwater Scholarships for their achievements in the sciences, mathematics, or engineering. They were among 320 sophomores and juniors selected on the basis of academic merit from a national field of 1,091. The scholarship provides up to $7,500 a year for tuition, books, and other college expenses.
This year's winners were Peter Q. Blair, a junior from Chicago who is majoring in mathematics and physics; Adam Chandler, a junior from Burlington, North Carolina, majoring in mathematics and chemistry; and William (Billy) Hwang, a junior from Potomac, Maryland, majoring in biomedical engineering, physics, and electrical and computer engineering.
Blair, the first African-American student from Duke to win the award, is studying how light bends as it travels around black holes, a topic he will present in a paper at this summer's eleventh annual Conference for African-American Researchers in the Mathematical Sciences. He is president of the campus Society of Physics Students, a mentor in the AGAPE Corner Boys Home, and a member of United Voices of Praise Gospel Choir and the Black Student Alliance. Blair traces his knack for math back to his childhood in Nassau, Bahamas, where he worked at his family's fruit and vegetable stand. "You had so many different products of different prices. You had to multiply this one, add another, and then subtract to make change," he says. "I had to develop quick math skills."
Chandler is working on research projects that apply mathematics to questions in chemistry, biology, and linguistics. One linguistics project, he says, involved developing a mathematical model to show how two dialects can develop in the same region. He was one of three members of a Duke team to win a Mathematical Association of America prize for best solution to a problem posed in the 2005 Mathematical Contest in Modeling. A cellist in the Duke Symphony Orchestra, Chandler also serves on the University Committee for Admissions and Financial Aid and is a member of the Duke Mathematics Union. "I've seen through my coursework and research how math can answer questions in fields you never thought of."
Hwang is part of a research team developing electrical chips to quickly perform chemical analyses of small amounts of a substance. He is a member of the Duke men's volleyball team and editor of two undergraduate publications, Eruditio, a humanities journal, and Vertices, a journal of science and technology. Last summer, he taught a weeklong seminar on science and technology for underprivileged middle-school students through InnoWorks, an organization he co-founded. Hwang says he started InnoWorks to provide an alternative to the largely remedial supplementary education programs in the U.S. "Instead of focusing on this remedial process, we wanted to change [students'] fundamental attitudes and get them excited about science and engineering.