Kansas State University students Max Goering, senior in mathematics, McPherson, and Christine Spartz, junior in chemistry, Ellington, Conn., are the university’s newest Barry M. Goldwater scholars.
Established by the U.S. Congress in 1986 to honor Sen. Barry M. Goldwater from Arizona, the scholarship is awarded to approximately 300 college students across the country every year. Awardees receive up to $7,500 annually for college-related expenses. With 71 Goldwater scholars to date, Kansas State University ranks first among the nation’s 500 state-supported universities for the most Goldwater scholars.
Goering and Spartz have active research projects and intend to pursue careers in mathematics, science or engineering — a scholarship requirement.
Goering is working with Pietro Poggi-Corradini, professor of mathematics, to research the mathematical modulus of finite graphs. Funded by the National Science Foundation, their research focuses on understanding mathematical models that could be helpful in analyzing epidemics, social networks and many biological processes.
“I have always really enjoyed optimization problems, which are roughly problems in which you try to find the best strategy to complete a task,” Goering said. “My research started as attempting to optimize a certain model and has grown to determining fine properties of the optimal solution to a collection of these optimization problems.
Goering has co-authored and submitted a paper with Poggi-Corradini and colleagues, and he will present results at the Mathematical Association of America meeting in Emporia and at K-State’s All-University Open House on April 5.
“Max is capable of working collaboratively very effectively,” Poggi-Corradini said. “He is taking advantage of every research and learning opportunity K-State has to offer. This award is fully deserved.”
Goering plans to continue his research and eventually pursue a doctoral degree in the field of mathematical analysis.
“Being awarded the Goldwater is a wonderful reassurance that my time and hard work is noticed by people outside of my academic bubble and that they believe what I have accomplished has been worthwhile for society,” Goering said.
Goering is a member of Math Club, Physics Club, Students for Environmental Action, the university’s 2013 Mathematical Competition in Modeling team and Phi Kappa Phi. He received the Leonard E. Fuller Scholarship, Evan Stewart Endowment Scholarship twice, Phi Kappa Phi Sophomore Scholarship and the Leo E. Hudiberg Academic Scholarship. He won first place in the 14th annual S. Thomas Parker Math Competition and has placed three years in a row at the International Putnam Competition. A graduate of McPherson High School, he is the son of Mike and Jana Goering, McPherson.
Spartz started undergraduate research to challenge herself outside of the classroom by exploring the fields of crystal engineering and intermolecular interactions. In December 2011, she began working with Christer Aakeröy, university distinguished professor of chemistry, and together they are altering the water solubility of the cancer drug 5-flurouracil to explore different drug administering methods.
“We are attempting to not only broaden general knowledge in the field by contributing new co-crystal systems, which benefit the scientific community, but also to work toward a cancer cure to benefit society as a whole,” Spartz said.
The cancer drug’s poor solubility limits it to intravenous administration. Introducing the drug to the chemical structure of another molecule could help the drug to dissolve in water, which could allow the drug to be administered in pill form.
“I am delighted that Christine is part of my team,” Aakeröy said. “She is in possession of a very analytical and innovative mind. She has true intellectual depth and is motivated by genuine curiosity and a passion for science. Additionally, these assets are underpinned by an excellent work ethic, self-discipline and terrific time-management skills.”
Using the experiences she’s received in Aakeröy’s lab, Spartz plans to pursue a graduate degree in food chemistry.
“The applications of chemistry in the food industry fascinate me, specifically in the realm of improving foods for consumers,” Spartz said. “Much research is conducted to improve the nutritional and biological impact of foods to the body.”
Spartz is the treasurer for the Beta Rho chapter of Alpha Chi Sigma chemistry fraternity, an undergraduate teaching assistant for organic chemistry lab and a St. Isidore’s Phone-a-thon volunteer. She has received a Johnson Cancer Research Center award, the American Chemical Society Undergraduate Award in Inorganic Chemistry, the Baldwin Reinhold Jr. Scholarship twice, freshman and sophomore PLU Award from the university’s chemistry department, and the H.H. King Memorial Scholarship. A graduate of Ellington High School, she is the daughter of Martin and Barbara Spartz, Ellington, Conn.
“I felt honored to have even been nominated by K-State for this award, and I was shocked and excited when I won,” Spartz said. “Winning the Goldwater Scholarship helps validate all of the hard work and long hours I have put in to maintain my grades and juggle my research with other extracurricular activities. I feel quite blessed.”
Information courtesy of K-State News and Editorial Services.