Two local students recently were awarded a prestigious scholarship for their work in the fields of solar energy systems and brain function research.
Erik Stout, a Desert Vista graduate, and Michael Kenney, a Mountain Pointe graduate, received the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, which is awarded to college sophomores or juniors who are working toward a degree in mathematics, natural sciences or engineering.
Stout, 21, who is majoring in biochemistry and economics at Arizona State University, is also a paid research assistant at Barrow Neurological Institute. One of the things he is currently working on is how the brain processes information and how we learn.
"Everything I am working on is going toward the same goal - how our brains control our body," Stout said. "Our nervous system is a complicated and interesting thing."
He is working under the direction of Dr. Irina Beloozerova at Barrow's, which he has done since he was in high school. After he graduated, Beloozerova offered him a paid position.
"Erik is extremely effective because he is mathematician and he is also very creative in applying his knowledge," she said. "He contributed here consistently and his accomplishments are so many."
Kenney, 21, is a chemistry major at ASU and is working on research for a more efficient and cheaper form of solar energy to be used for solar panels. The industry standard is based on silicon and he is researching how to use inorganic cells based on carbon.
"It is an interesting field because of the energy implications and how we need more clean energy sources," Kenney said. "Solar energy is a best bet. The biggest problem is silicon solar cells are not cheap and plastic is cheaper but not as efficient."
He has been working with Devens Gust at ASU, who said they are using photosynthesis as the foundation in which they are conducting their research.
"We are looking at ways to harvest sunlight based on photosynthesis and using that as a blue print," Gust said. "To do this kind of work you have to be smart enough and creative enough to discover new science and tenacious enough to convert this to practical science. (Kenney) has both."
Kenney will be attending the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship at the California Institute of Technology over the summer. He wrote a proposal for nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), which is similar to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Both students will receive up to $7,500 per year for their continued research. Universities are only allowed to nominate four students per year for the scholarship, which is named after Goldwater, who was a U.S. senator from Arizona. He died in 1998.
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