Cornell University: Three students in STEM win 2022 Goldwater Scholarships

A sophomore and a two juniors have won Goldwater Scholarships, the top undergraduate award for students pursuing careers in mathematics, the natural sciences and engineering.

Jeffrey Backus, ’23 and Abhi Sarma ’24, both in the College of Arts and Sciences, and Briana Arquilevich ’23, in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, are among the 417 Goldwater scholars. Awardees were selected based on academic merit from a diverse field of 1,242 mathematics, science and engineering students from hundreds of colleges and universities nationwide.

Jeffrey Backus
The Goldwater Scholarship Program, honoring former Arizona Sen. Barry M. Goldwater, covers the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board up to $7,500 per year. Students may not apply directly to the Goldwater Foundation but must be endorsed by their institutions.

Abhi Sarma
Sarma, from Marlboro, New Jersey, a 2020 National Merit Scholarship Finalist, is currently the research assistant in the lab of Peter McMahon, assistant professor of applied and engineering physics in the College of Engineering. His career goal is to obtain a doctorate in physics and to eventually have a research career at a university or national lab. Students who win as sophomores receive two years of funding.

Briana Arquilevich
Sarma was nominated for the Goldwater Scholarship by McMahon and Paul Ginsparg, professor of physics (A&S).

Backus, from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the recipient of the Hunter R. Rawlings III Cornell Presidential Research Scholarship, is currently the research assistant in the F.R. Newman Lab for Elementary-Particle Physics in the Department of Physics (A&S). Previously he worked as a research fellow at ATLAS Experiment at the Large Hadron Collider at Stony Brook University as well as two Cornell labs; the Fermilab Test Beam Facility and the Cornell High Energy Synchrotron Source.

He was an undergraduate teaching assistant in the Department of Physics for three semesters and acted as a mentor to first-year physics students through the Cornell University Society for Physics Students. Backus was nominated for the scholarship by physics professors Yuval Grossman and Julia Thom-Levy, both in A&S.

Arquilevich, from Agoura Hills, California, a Hispanic Scholarship Fund Scholar, is currently an undergraduate researcher in the Cornell Department of Microbiology. She is also part of the Yale BioMed Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship and previously participated in the National Summer Undergraduate Research Project hosted by the University of California, Davis.

Arquilevich is a teaching assistant for general chemistry and part of the Biology Scholars Program.Previously she was a teaching assistant at Fall Creek Elementary School and the event chair for the Cornell Chapter of the Scientista Foundation.

Her career goal is to pursue an M.D or Ph.D. in microbiology. She was nominated by John Helmann, professor of microbiology (CALS) and Stephen Lee, professor of chemistry and chemical biology (A&S).

Cornell’s Goldwater Scholarship endorsement committee this year consisted of Tim Healey, professor of mathematics (A&S), Mariana Wolfner, professor of molecular biology and genetics (A&S), and Beth Fiori, fellowships coordinator.

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