Sophomores Ann Liu and Varun Puvanesarajah came to UNC on somewhat similar paths.
Now, both have won Barry M. Goldwater Scholarships for students who intend to pursue careers in mathematics, the natural sciences or engineering.
The Goldwater Foundation has announced 278 recipients of the awards for 2009-10. Colleges and universities had nominated 1,097 candidates.
The Goldwater provides up to $7,500 per year for educational expenses to sophomores and juniors. Sophomores receive two years of support; juniors, one year. Scholars are chosen for intellectual curiosity and intensity and potential for significant future contributions in their chosen fields.
Liu, a double-major in biochemistry and business, said she eventually intends to seek a doctoral degree and teach at a university while also conducting research. She graduated in 2007 from the N.C. School of Science and Mathematics in Durham.
Puvanesarajah, a double-major in biochemistry and mathematics, hopes to earn doctoral and medical degrees and eventually conduct pharmaceutical research. He graduated from East Chapel Hill High School in 2007.
The Goldwater program seeks scholars who represent American diversity, a goal that Carolina’s new Goldwaters help to support.
“I consider myself a Chinese-Canadian-American, or as I jokingly tell my friends, a Canasian American,” Liu said. “My parents are Chinese, but I was born in Canada and lived there until I moved to the U.S. when I was 9. My parents grew up during the harsh times of the Cultural Revolution but worked very hard to succeed in Canada and America.”
Puvanesarajah’s parents lived in a village in Sri Lanka. His father moved to Canada for graduate school, then to the U.S. for post-doctoral research. Then a civil war in Sri Lanka began to escalate. “My parents decided it was best that my mother and sister move to the United States,” he said. “I am the first member of my family to be born in the U.S.”
Liu holds other merit scholarships and studies in the honors program. She is a residence hall adviser, a tutor for a high school student and a science mentor to elementary school students. She founded and edits a science research news magazine, Carolina Scientific.
Puvanesarajah, also in the honors program, has received previous merit scholarships. He is a member of the Carolina Research Fellowship Program and the UNC American Red Cross club. He has volunteered at UNC Hospitals and played intramural sports.
Both students work in UNC labs and have been awarded summer fellowships to conduct research.
Congress established the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program in 1986 to honor the late Barry M. Goldwater of Arizona, who served in the U.S. Senate for 30 years.