2014 Recipients: Top Scholarships and Fellowships
2014 Goldwater Scholar
CSU Goldwater Scholar Melissa Wirtz is an Electrical Engineering major in her junior year at CSU and is originally from Corrales, New Mexico.
Melissa first began conducting research in high school when she was selected as a STEM Teacher and Researcher High School (STAR) Fellow at Sandia National Laboratory in Albuquerque, New Mexico. There, she helped create new chemical compounds under the direction of Dr. Richard Kemp. Impressed by Melissa's aptitude for research, Dr. Kemp has asked that she return to his lab every summer since. Last summer, she participated in the International Institute of Nanotechnology Research Experience for Undergraduates at Northwestern University and conducted research in nanotechnology.
This summer, Melissa will be interning in an engineering group at Sandia National Labs in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She hopes to use her knowledge and skills gained from her time at CSU to contribute in areas such as renewable energy, medical devices, or defense, and she also plans to pursue a higher degree after her bachelors. When Melissa isn't doing homework or research, she enjoys playing piano and guitar, rock climbing, and sightseeing.
2014 Goldwater Honorable Mention
Emily Robitschek is currently a junior at CSU in the Honors Program, majoring in Biochemistry and Anthropology.
In the 2013, she worked under Dr. Peebles in the Chemical and Biological Engineering Department on a project to genetically engineer the cyanobacteria Synechocystis to produce the nutraceutical astaxanthin. The following year, she conducted research with Dr. Diane Ordway, on mice infected with mycobacterial diseases--part of an NIH task order to develop new non-tuberculosis mycobacterial animal models to test novel vaccines and drugs/provide information on the nature of induction of protective immunity, especially related to Mycobacterium abscessus, an emergent pathogen.
Building off early research experiences at CSU, Emily researched cancer immunotherapy at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine last summer as an intern in the lab of Dr. TC Wu. It was this experience that ignited her passion to dedicate herself to researching a disease that tinges so many lives with fear and loss.
"I could really see myself making an impact, especially working in collaboration with others. There are a lot of opportunities and brilliant minds all working together to unravel the mysteries of cancer and develop better therapies and strategies to improve the lives of patients and their families."
Having discovered a passion and an area where her curiosity and drive could potentially help others, Emily conducted research on pancreatic research while studying abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina. During this time, she also volunteered at local childrens hospital.
This spring, Emily is currently taking classes as a visiting student at Johns Hopkins University to learn more about stem cells, public health and cancer biology, and is continuing her work in the lab of Dr. Wu. She was fortunate enough to be the recipient of a Sigma Xi Grant in Aid of Research, and the American Association for Cancer Research's (AACR) Thomas J Bardos Award, and will be presenting at the AACR 2015 Annual Meeting in Philadelphia this month.
In addition to research and volunteering, Emily enjoys traveling, spending time with friends, singing, hiking, and spending time outdoors and with her family (she is a triplet). After her program in Argentina ended, she backpacked around South America, snorkeled with the sea lions of the Galapagos Islands, trekked to Machu Pichhu and 4-wheeled across the largest salt flat in the world in Bolivia.
Emily's ultimate goal is to attain an MPH and a PhD and lead interdisciplinary, collaborative research that combines basic stem cell biology and immunology research with the application of new and innovative technologies like high-throughput screening, personalized medicine, and mathematical models, to alleviate the suffering caused by cancer.
She plans to come back to CSU in the fall and to apply for a research Fulbright after she graduates and has a paid summer internship with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) at the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT this summer.