Four Duke students with a record of success in undergraduate research have won Barry M. Goldwater Scholarships, which recognize excellence in science, mathematics, and engineering. This year's recipients are Dave A. Chokshi, Rebecca C. Ahrens, David G. Arthur, and Andrew G. Taube.
They were among 309 undergraduates selected on the basis of academic merit from a national field of 1,155. Since the awards were inaugurated in 1989 in memory of the late U.S. senator and Republican presidential candidate, forty-eight Duke students have received the honor, which provides up to $7,500 a year toward tuition and other college expenses. Supported by the Goldwater Foundation, a federally endowed agency, the scholarship program encourages students to pursue careers in the fields of engineering, mathematics, and the natural sciences.
Mary Nijhout, associate dean of Trinity College of Arts and Sciences, noted that this year was significant for the university because all four of Duke's nominees won the scholarship. All of Duke's current award recipients are Angier B. Duke Scholars.
Ahrens, a junior from St. Louis, Missouri, is majoring in pharmacology. Her goal is to earn a medical degree or a doctorate in neuroscience or in pharmacology and to work toward the development of better drugs for neurodegenerative disorders through basic research and clinical trials. She is studying abroad at Cambridge University in England. Her adviser and research mentor at Duke is Rochelle Shwartz-Bloom in the department of pharmacology and cancer biology.
Arthur, a sophomore from Princeton, New Jersey, is studying mathematics and computer science. He plans to obtain a doctorate in mathematics, then become a professor of mathematics or computer science. Twice he has led a Duke team to the finals of the Association for Computer Machinery. The team's adviser is Owen Astrachan in the computer science department.
Taube, a junior from McLean, Virginia, is studying chemistry and mathematics. He plans to earn a doctorate in theoretical/computational chemistry. From there he aims to teach at the university level and conduct fundamental research in theoretical chemistry that will allow for better understanding and prediction of chemical behavior. His research mentor is Richard Palmer in the chemistry department.
Chokshi, a junior from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, is studying chemistry and biology. He plans to obtain a medical degree or a doctorate, followed by a position in academic medicine as a professor or basic science researcher in molecular immunology. His research mentor is Dhavalkumar Patel in the department of medicine.
Chokshi is also one of two juniors selected as national winners of the Truman Scholarship, which recognizes academic accomplishments, leadership potential, and commitment to a career in public service. He and Troy G. Clair of New York City are among eighty winners. The Harry S Truman Scholarship Foundation awards scholarships of $3,000 for senior-year study and up to $27,000 for graduate studies. Truman scholars receive leadership development training and internship opportunities in the federal government. Duke students have received thirty-five Truman scholarships since the program was initiated in 1977.
"One of the Truman interviewers said the scholarship is an investment," Chokshi says. "We're being given the chance to study issues we're really passionate about so we have the tools to effect change in the future."
Clair is a political science major who intends to prepare for a career in public service by completing a joint graduate program that combines a law degree with a master's in public policy. He then plans to work as a legislative aide or policy adviser in the federal government and run for political office.
"All the work I've done to date in public service I view as seeds for change," Clair says. "The Truman gives me the opportunity to water those seeds through graduate study in order to enact change in the future on a larger scale."
Clair, Duke Student Government's newly elected vice president for student affairs, has been president of the Black Student Alliance. He has been president of his dormitory council and has taken on numerous leadership roles, including serving on the President's Council on Black Affairs, the Inter-Community Council, the African-American Mentoring Program Steering Committee, and the Spectrum Presidents' Council, a coalition of campus cultural, religious, and political groups. He has held summer internships in the White House (as a press intern) and the Office of the Mayor of the City of New York (as chief of staff interns).