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MCB undergraduate awarded Goldwater Scholarship

From left, students Emmarie Alexander, Marta Cortinovis, Evan Dray and Ariel Lerman are among 410 scholars selected for Goldwater scholarships from among the 1,256 mathematics, science and engineering students nominated by colleges and universities nationwide.

Congratulations to MCB junior Evan Dray, who was awarded the prestigious Barry M. Goldwater scholarship!

Dray, of East Peoria, Ill., and a graduate of East Peoria Community High School, is pursuing majors in molecular and cellular biology and chemistry to support his career goals in oncology and pharmacology. He desires to teach and conduct translational research at a medical university designing novel immunotherapy drugs to fight cancer.

Dray’s research in the lab of Illinois neuroscience professor Daniel McKim has resulted in two publications, including a first-author publication in Molecular Immunology. Dray led a class of 25 freshmen as their semester instructor, tutors students in chemistry and serves as a mentor to first- and second-year students in Molecular and Cellular Biology. He is a member of the college James Scholar Honors Program and the Molecular and Cellular Biology Honors Concentration.

He joins three other University of Illinois students chosen for the award this year: Emmarie Alexander, Marta Cortinovis, and Ariel Lerman.

The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program was established by Congress in 1986 to honor Goldwater, who served 30 years in the U.S. Senate. The program encourages the continued development of highly qualified scientists, mathematicians and engineers by awarding scholarships to college sophomores and juniors from the U.S. who intend to pursue doctorates. The scholarship provides recipients $7,500 annually toward undergraduate tuition, fees, books or room and board.

This year’s 410 scholars were selected from among the 1,256 mathematics, science and engineering students nominated by colleges and universities nationwide.

“All four of our campus nominees were selected, which places the University of Illinois in a select group,” said David Schug, the director of the National and International Scholarships Program at Illinois. “Less than 20 institutions in the country garnered such success among their endorsed candidates. Further, it’s telling that our diverse recipients hail from the colleges of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences; Engineering; and Liberal Arts and Sciences.”

Alexander, a junior from Belvidere, Illinois, and a graduate of Belvidere High School, is pursuing a degree in animal sciences. Her research ranges from molecular to field studies, seeking to shed light on the ecology of carnivores and understand human-animal conflicts from multiple angles. As a freshman and sophomore, Alexander worked with animal sciences professor Anna Kukekova, analyzing the Y-chromosome of farm-bred and wild foxes to characterize genetic variations in paternal ancestry. She is studying the behaviors of urban red foxes and coyotes in Champaign-Urbana with Illinois Natural History Survey researcher Max Allen.

Alexander also has contributed to two additional labs during her undergraduate studies, which resulted in two grants. She has delivered presentations at national and regional conferences and has appeared as an author in multiple publications. Alexander is a member of the James Scholar Honors Program. She also serves as a journal editor for an international undergraduate publication and is president of three wildlife-related student groups, one of which she created.

Cortinovis, of Oak Park, Illinois, and a graduate of Oak Park and River Forest High School, is a junior in aerospace engineering. A first-generation American, Cortinovis emigrated from Italy to Oak Park in middle school. She aspires to obtain a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering and conduct research in space exploration systems to contribute to interplanetary and deep-space exploration missions. Cortinovis has spent the last year and a half contributing to the lab of assistant professor of aerospace engineering Zachary R. Putnam on the development of autonomous aerobraking, a technique used by spacecraft to position into a desired orbit. Cortinovis also is the current administrative director of the Illinois Space Society, a student-led organization on campus that participates in aerospace engineering-related competitions across the country. She is a James Scholar Honors Program member.

Lerman, a sophomore from Urbana, began taking upper-level mathematics courses and physics at the University of Illinois while in high school. He has since finished the undergraduate course requirements for mathematics majors, completed four graduate-level mathematics courses and is currently enrolled in three additional graduate classes this semester. Simultaneously, Lerman has conducted research with Vadim Zharnitsky, a professor of mathematics, on the dynamics of billiards, and with Jorge Noronha, an associate professor of nuclear physics, on nonrelativistic fluid dynamics.

Lerman’s work has resulted in multiple presentations, including an upcoming presentation at the American Physical Society, as well as a submitted first-author publication to a national mathematics journal. At Illinois, Lerman earned the 2020 Elsie Thomas Fraser Award as the top freshman or sophomore in his department, and the 2021 Salma Wanna award for exceptional performance in mathematics. Lerman plans to conduct research in dynamical systems and partial differential equations, and their applications in physics.

April 06, 2021 All News