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April 14, 2011

Pitt neuroscience major wins Goldwater scholarship


Wen Xu

Wen Xu, a Pitt junior majoring in neuroscience, is among 275 undergraduates nationwide who were awarded scholarships by the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation for the 2011-12 academic year. Xu, of McCandless Township, is the 35th Pitt student to have won a Goldwater scholarship since 1995.

Xu conducts research in Pitt’s Stem Cell Research Center under the guidance of Yong Li, a faculty member in the departments of orthopaedic surgery, pathology and bioengineering and the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine. Xu’s project aims to assist functional skeletal muscle recovery after injury through the use of growth factor-derived stem cells.

Xu plans to attend medical school, then complete a residency in neurology and earn a PhD in neuroscience. As a translational researcher, she hopes to find a viable treatment method for patients with peripheral nerve damage.

David Wen Rui Wang, a Pitt junior from Mt. Lebanon who is majoring in chemistry and applied mathematics with minors in physics and economics, received an honorable mention from the Goldwater scholarship committee. Wang conducts computational biophysics research under the direction of chemistry faculty member Lillian Chong. Among Wang’s research goals is the simulation of protein folding that will offer insight into engineering novel biomolecules with therapeutic applications.

Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg congratulated the students for their achievement. “The University of Pittsburgh has an extraordinary record of providing an academic environment in which hard-working, high-achieving students can develop their talents, as is demonstrated by our enviable successes in prestigious national scholarship competitions that involve the very best students from the country’s finest universities,” he said in a prepared statement.

According to the foundation, the scholarship program honoring Sen. Barry M. Goldwater was designed to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences and engineering.

This year’s Goldwater scholars — 170 men and 105 women — were chosen on the basis of academic merit from a field of 1,095 mathematics, science and engineering students nominated by their schools’ faculty. Two dozen are math majors, 194 are majoring in science or related majors, 52 are engineering majors and five are computer science majors. Many have dual majors.

The one- and two-year scholarships, awarded to sophomores and juniors, cover tuition, fees, books and room and board for the remaining period of recipients’ study, up to a maximum of $7,500 per year. Institutions can nominate up to four students for the Goldwater scholarship.

Since 1989, more than 6,600 scholarships worth approximately $50 million have been awarded.

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