Five Caltech undergraduates have been named Goldwater Scholars for the 2021–22 academic year. Patryk Kozlowski, Aikaterini Gorou, David Jin, Anjini Chandra, and Jenny Wan were among the 409 recipients nationwide of the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation awards.
These scholarships are granted annually to exceptional students focused on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. Colleges and universities can nominate up to five students as long as one is a transfer student. For 2021, 438 academic institutions nominated a total of 1,256 students before the final 409 were selected. All five students nominated by Caltech were chosen for the award, an unusual occurrence.
Caltech's 2021–22 Goldwater Scholars have a variety of research interests. Junior Jenny Wan works with Caltech research professor of physics Jack Sayers and Sunil Golwala, professor of physics and director of the Caltech Submillimeter Observatory, on a project to measure the Hubble Constant—the rate of expansion of the universe—using X-ray and other observations of galaxy clusters.
"I'm honored that I was selected for a Goldwater Scholarship and to be a part of a community of scientists who are doing remarkable work across all fields," she says. "But even more so, I'm incredibly grateful to be at Caltech, where I have these wonderful opportunities to study the things that have fascinated me ever since I was a kid."
Katerina Gorou, a junior studying chemistry, has been working in the lab of Mitchio Okumura, professor of chemical physics, in collaboration with the lab of Yuk Yung, professor of planetary science and Jet Propulsion Laboratory senior research scientist. Gorou focuses on the atmospheric chemistry of Mars. "The motivation behind this research is to find out what exactly happened to all the water that used to be on Mars," Gorou says.
Junior Anjini Chandra is interested in the meeting point between biology and fluid mechanics. "My most recent projects, completed under Professor Lydia Bourouiba at MIT as part of the SURF [Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship] program, have involved modeling particle movement through meshes that represent cloth masks and tracking the movement and properties of sneeze clouds over time." Another of Chandra's interests is the use of origami in engineering. As a first-year student at Caltech, Chandra worked with Sergio Pellegrino, the Joyce and Kent Kresa Professor of Aerospace and Civil Engineering and JPL senior research scientist, to help design an origami-inspired base for a set of antenna tiles to capture signals from multiple directions.
"I'm very grateful that Caltech provides plenty of opportunities, including the SURF program, for undergraduates to get involved in interdisciplinary research and that faculty are so willing to mentor undergraduate researchers," Chandra says.
Patryk Kozlowski, a junior majoring in chemistry, completed a first-year SURF project in the lab of Ryan G. Hadt, Caltech assistant professor of chemistry, where Kozlowski became interested in quantum chemical computational methods. Now, with a group led by Garnet Chan, Bren Professor of Chemistry, he is continuing his research using theoretical computational models and exploring how they can simulate chemical interactions. "Specifically, I am trying to elucidate the electronic structures of liquid electrolytes, which are key components of emerging technologies for the production and storage of clean energy," he says.
David Jin, a junior who transferred to Caltech last year to study problems at the intersection of optics and computer science, is the Institute's transfer student Goldwater Scholar. One such problem is creating realistic-looking 3D images by simulating all the rays of light an object would reflect. Calculating each light ray requires an enormous amount of computational power, Jin explains, which is why rendering just a few frames of a Pixar movie can take thousands of computers several hours to complete. Jin's research aims to reduce the time and computational strain by applying machine learning to the task.
Jin, a junior, has spent his first year in Harbin, China, unable to physically come to Caltech because of the COVID-19 pandemic. He says he looks forward to enjoying the Southern California sunshine, working in a world-class research lab, and auditioning to be a percussionist for the orchestra when in-person campus life resumes.