North Platte's Lopez awarded Goldwater scholarship

North Platte's Lopez awarded Goldwater scholarship

Calendar Icon Apr 06, 2011      Person Bust Icon By Christine Scalora | UComm     RSS Feed RSS

Jeffrey Lopez
Jeffrey Lopez

Jeffrey Lopez, a junior studying chemical engineering, has been awarded a 2011 Goldwater Scholarship. The nationally competitive scholarship of up to $7,500 per year is awarded to students preparing for careers in science, engineering and mathematics. This year, 275 scholars were selected from 1,095 applicants.

Lopez, from North Platte, said he was excited to win the scholarship.

"It's a really huge honor to have been selected," he said.

Lopez plans to go to graduate school, where he will likely study materials science. He said he hopes the Goldwater Scholarship will open doors for his post-graduation plans. "The eventual goal is that I will be able to gain a faculty position at a research institution," he said.

Lopez already does research through his participation in the Undergraduate Creative Activities and Research Experiences program with Ravi Saraf, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering. The UCARE program lets undergraduates get involved in research early in their college careers, by pairing the student with a faculty adviser. Lopez and Saraf are trying to develop an enzyme sensor that could be used for comprehensive diagnosis and monitoring of diseases like diabetes and congestive heart failure.

"Working for Dr. Saraf has had an enormous influence on my academic experience," Lopez said. "I would not have received the Goldwater without my research experience." Saraf and Lopez have worked together for more than a year.

"Jeff is a very proactive and highly motivated student," Saraf said. "I usually do not take sophomore students, but in his case I made an exception and I am glad I did."

Lopez said doing research on campus has focused his career path. "Before my research experience, I had thought about pursuing a career in research, but now I cannot see myself going anywhere else," he said. Like doing research, Lopez said the Honors Program has also helped him grow outside of the classroom.

"The program has provided me with a peer group that is constantly motivating me to improve," he said. "The environment provides so much support and has so many resources that have been a part of my success."

Lopez is also involved with the Nebraska Human Resources Institute and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. On March 30, Lopez was inaugurated as internal vice president for ASUN, UNL's student government.

"I am very proud of him and certainly feel very happy to be a part of his development," Saraf said. "I look forward to seeing him develop and blossom into a great scientist some day."

The Goldwater Scholarship awards up to $7,500 a year for sophomores and juniors studying engineering, mathematics and the natural sciences. The program was created by Congress in 1986 to honor the memory of Sen. Barry M. Goldwater. Its goal is to encourage highly qualified students to study and research as scientists, mathematicians and engineers. Universities can nominate up to four students per year.

Two other UNL students received honorable mentions from the Goldwater Scholarship Foundation: Stephanie Berger, a biological systems engineering major, and Nate Otten, a mechanical engineering major, both from Sioux Falls, S.D.