Three Elis receive science award

Three Yale students have been named Goldwater Scholars for the 2007-’08 academic year, earning them $7,500 in support of their scientific studies.

Bennett Lane ’08, Aaron Ring ’08 and Cassie Stoddard ’08 were among the 317 scholarship recipients nationwide. The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarships — which are awarded to undergraduate sophomores and juniors dedicated to careers in the fields of mathematics, science and engineering — are given to students on the basis of academic achievement and cover the cost of tuition, fees, books and room and board up to a maximum of $7,500 per year. Yale’s four nominations were among the 1,110 from colleges and universities nationwide.

Aaron Ring ’08 and Cassie Stoddard ’08, along with Bennett Lane ’08, have recently been named Goldwater Scholars for the coming academic year on the basis of their scientific research and aspirations and on their other achievements.
Ming-Yee Lin
Aaron Ring ’08 and Cassie Stoddard ’08, along with Bennett Lane ’08, have recently been named Goldwater Scholars for the coming academic year on the basis of their scientific research and aspirations and on their other achievements.

Linda De Laurentis, fellowship director of Yale’s Office of International Education and Fellowship Programs, said a typical Goldwater Scholar has an excellent grade point average, generally between 3.8 and 3.9, and has significant research experience and a demonstrated commitment to pursuing a doctoral degree. Although the vast majority of scholarship winners are juniors, she said sophomores with significant research experience are also good candidates.

“We are extremely proud of the accomplishments of Yale’s Goldwater Scholars,” DeLaurentis said in an e-mail. “This year’s group is quite diverse, but all stand out for their academic achievement, the ability to articulate professional goals, think creatively about their current and future research plans, and form partnerships with key professors in their fields.”

The scholarships were established by Congress in 1986 to honor Sen. Barry Goldwater, who was also the Republican nominee for president in 1964. The competition is organized by state, with the goal of awarding at least two winners per state.

Lane, a molecular biophysics and biochemistry major, has researched the interaction and function of proteins involved in ribosomal RNA maturation in yeast while at Yale. He said he plans to continue his biochemistry studies while earning his doctorate, but he will probably shift his concentration from this particular focus.

Ring, also a molecular biophysics and biochemistry major, said he has worked at his current Yale lab since the summer after his freshman year, when he participated in the research portion of the Perspectives on Science program. At the lab, Ring said, he studies the molecular and genetic causes of high blood pressure or hypertension, a disease about which little is known despite its prevalence in the U.S.

“It was an unusual situation in the lab that I had a lot of freedom and a lot of help,” he said. “Basically, the way it works in Rick [Lifton]’s lab is that if you come up with a good testable idea, there’s really no reason you shouldn’t be able to test it out yourself. I’ve had a lot of great freedom in the lab to pursue my own ideas, and I’ve had a lot of great input.”

Ring — who has been an author in three published papers, including two published in March in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences — also volunteers with medical school students as part of a neighborhood health project. Once a week, he tests people’s blood pressure and blood glucose levels at a local church, then refers them to local free clinics if they are found to have hypertension or diabetes and lack adequate health care.

Stoddard, an ecology and evolutionary biology major, researches the evolution of avian color in Yale’s ornithology lab. To this end, she developed a computer program that analyzes feather colors based on bird vision, which is much more complex than human vision.

“It’s a relatively new, unexplored territory that involves biology, physics and computer science, so I’ve gotten to dive into a lot of areas of science that certainly make the whole project very enriching and exciting,” she said.

Stoddard, who plans to pursue a Ph.D. and possibly teach on the university level, said she is working to establish the Yale Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Undergraduate Group. The group participates in volunteer projects at the Peabody Museum of Natural History, hosts panel discussions and takes biology-related field trips.

One hundred seventy-four of the Goldwater Scholars nationwide are men and 143 are women. There are 28 mathematics majors, 223 in science and science-related majors, 54 engineering majors and 12 computer science majors.

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