Three from Carolina Earn Goldwater Scholarships

Three UNC students have received Barry M. Goldwater Scholarships, one of the nation’s most distinguished awards.

Juniors Lena Hyatt of Asheville and Stephanie Jones of Cary and sophomore Jonathan Toledo of Sylva were among 317 winners chosen from a field of 1,100 math, science and engineering students nominated by faculty members at U.S. colleges and universities. The one- and two-year scholarships cover the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board up to a maximum of $7,500 per year.

The Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation of Springfield, Va., makes the awards annually to sophomores and juniors who demonstrate strong commitment to careers in mathematics, the natural sciences or engineering. Recipients must display intellectual curiosity and intensity and possess potential for significant future contributions in their chosen field.

Congress created the Goldwater scholarship program in 1986 to honor the late senator, who served for 56 years as a soldier and statesman, including 30 years in the U.S. Senate.

The winners bring to 31 the total number of Goldwater Scholars to come from Carolina since the first awards were made in 1989.

Hyatt, 21, is the daughter of Joseph and Nancy Hyatt of Asheville. She graduated from A.C. Reynolds High School in Asheville in May 2004 and has taken classes at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College and at a Duke University study abroad session in Costa Rica.

Since 2005, she has worked at a campus genetics lab, examining DNA repair in fruit flies. While in Costa Rica, Hyatt conducted an independent research project, comparing relative concentrations of chlorophyll between fruiting and nonfruiting plants. She will travel to the University of Giessen in Germany in May to conduct DNA research on E. coli bacteria.

“Ultimately, I want to help people, but the best way for me to save the world is different than most people’s ideas,” Hyatt said. “My way is in a lab, peering under a microscope, purifying proteins, crossing flies and searching for novel information about aberrant DNA repair that might one day lead to cures for cancer.”

Hyatt is president of the UNC women’s club volleyball team; pledge-class president of Alpha Chi Sigma, a national chemistry fraternity; and student affiliate for the American Chemical Society.

Jones, 21, is the daughter of Cindy Hughes-Jones and Stephen R. Jones of Cary. She graduated from the N.C. School of Science and Mathematics in Durham in May 2004. She participated last summer in UNC field studies in Siberia, based out of Novosibirsk and Irkutsk, Russia.

Jones first worked at a campus lab in 2003, as a high school student, and has continued to log time as an undergraduate. In 2005, she joined a campus research group where her research, which she plans to incorporate into an honors thesis, focuses in part on stem cell differentiation. Jones also works part time at an internship with Liquidia Technologies, a materials science company based in Research Triangle Park and founded by researchers at Carolina and N.C. State. Jones aspires to become a university professor, conducting interdisciplinary research involving biological chemistry and materials science.

“I want to throw myself into a research project in which I must learn anything needed to solve the problem,” she said. “I also hope to teach and mentor. I believe many students become discouraged from science because of lack of personal interaction with professors who do the most interesting research. I want to change this.”

Jones is president of the UNC student group Space Talk and was a member of the board of directors for Students for the Exploration and Development of Space, a national student interest group. She has tutored students in chemistry, coached an elementary club soccer team, worked for The Daily Tar Heel and volunteered for Katrina hurricane relief.

Toledo, 19, is the son of Janet James and Charles Toledo of Sylva. He graduated from Smoky Mountain High School in Sylva in 2005 after having also attended classes at the N.C. School of Science and Mathematics, N.C. State University and Western Carolina University before coming to Carolina.

Toledo is an undergraduate research assistant in the applied mathematics department, and last summer he received a William P. Smallwood Undergraduate Research Fellowship to fund his research. Toledo recently was accepted into the Integrated Biomedical Research Training Program, which will provide research funding for this summer. He presented his work at two math and physics conferences last year, and the results of a research modeling project on which he worked recently were accepted for publication in a journal of statistical, nonlinear and soft matter physics.

Toledo plans to seek a position at a university where he can conduct biophysics research. “It is the challenges of science and the process of discovery that truly bring me happiness,” he said.

Toledo is a member of the student attorney general staff and has volunteered for INSPIRE, a service project that aims to motivate younger generations to pursue careers in science. He has tutored students in physics, mathematics and chemistry.