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Two engineering students win Goldwater scholarships

Goldwater scholarship winners

Chemical engineering majors Phillip Tucciarone (left) and Christopher Dundas (right) are recipients of the prestigious Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship. Photo: Douglas Levere

By MARCENE ROBINSON

Published April 25, 2013

UB chemical engineering majors Christopher Dundas and Phillip Tucciarone are now part of the prestigious group of students receiving the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship.

The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program was founded in 1986 with the goal of alleviating the critical shortage of highly qualified scientists, mathematicians and engineers. The foundation was authorized by the U.S. Congress in honor of the late Sen. Barry M. Goldwater, and is financed by a trust fund that has been established in the U.S. Treasury.

More than 1,000 nominees apply each year in hope of receiving $7,500 toward the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board on the condition they pursue careers in mathematics, the natural sciences or engineering.

Dundas, a sophomore, plans to obtain his PhD in biological engineering and research protein engineering at a university. Since his freshman year, he has studied protein engineering under the direction of Sheldon Park, assistant professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering. Dundas handpicked the research program because it combines his interests in biology, physics, mathematics and chemistry.

“Christopher came to me excited about doing research and was mature for an incoming freshman,” says Park. “He was a go-getter and he stood out among many talented undergraduates.”

Eager to have his work published as an undergraduate, Dundas quickly progressed from assisting graduate students to leading his own research project to develop a protein-purification system under Park’s supervision. The system would isolate proteins, allowing them to be studied more effectively.

“Manipulating what makes us up at the molecular level is the most fascinating thing that can ever be done,” says Dundas, who is also a member of the University Honors College.

As part of another project, Dundas will head a team of UB students attempting to engineer bacteria that can purify water. The study is part of the International Genetically Engineered Machine competition, an international synthetic biology research competition that draws teams from more than 250 universities around the world. The UB team, founded by Dundas, is the first iGEM chapter among SUNY schools.

Outside of his research, Dundas is heavily involved with the UB chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, or AIChE, where he is chair of the Society of Biological Engineering subdivision.

In addition to receiving the Goldwater scholarship, Dundas has been awarded the UB Provost Scholarship and AIChE Outstanding Freshman Award.

Tucciarone, a junior and member of the University Honors College, has a number of accolades of his own.

His research on silicon-based nanomaterial has been awarded the University Honors College Research and Creative Activity Grant, and the UB School of Engineering and Applied Sciences’ Undergraduate Research and Scholarship Award of Distinction. The study will attempt to use nanomaterial to develop nontoxic bio-imaging that could be used in cancer treatment.

Tucciarone’s work already has been published: He co-authored two papers in ACS Nano and Nano Letters, both monthly, peer-reviewed, scientific journals published by the American Chemical Society.

Tucciarone’s passion for civic engagement and education also makes him a remarkable student. Working in inner city public schools through the Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Partnership (ISEP), a program that seeks to improve science education in the Buffalo Public Schools, opened his eyes to the inequalities in education, he says, and helped him recognize that without the scholarships he received, attending college would be more of a dream than reality.

“If I didn’t go to college, I would have joined the Marines or worked odd jobs,” says Tucciarone. “It troubles me to see others who didn’t have the same opportunities I had.”

In an effort to help others attain the same opportunities, Tucciarone serves as director of public service in the Honors Student Council and has travelled to the Dominican Republic to work in English education reform.

With the aid of the Goldwater scholarship, he plans to obtain a PhD in materials science and teach future engineers and scientists at a university.