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UT Arlington student wins prestigious Goldwater Scholarship

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Friday, March 28, 2014

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Media Contact: Traci Peterson, Office:817-272-9208, Cell:817-521-5494, tpeterso@uta.edu

News Topics: awards, biology, chemistry, medicine, physics, research, science, students

A UT Arlington undergraduate who found her passion studying microorganisms and their role in ecology has been awarded the prestigious Barry Goldwater Scholarship.

Jessica Dawn Stevens

Jessica Dawn Stevens, a junior majoring in microbiology and biology, is among just 11 students in Texas named as Goldwater Scholars for the 2014-2015 academic year.

Another student in the UT Arlington College of Science, Emmanuel Fordjour, was recognized as an honorable mention in this year’s competition. Stevens is UT Arlington’s third Goldwater Scholar since 2012.

“The Goldwater Scholars program is well known for identifying top-flight students with potential to make a lasting contribution to their research fields. Having three students chosen as Scholars in three consecutive years is a testament to the caliber of UT Arlington students and the quality of our academic and research programs,” said Pamela Jansma, dean of the UT Arlington College of Science. “We are proud of Jessica and Emmanuel, and of the way that UT Arlington faculty members inspire our students to achieve their dreams."

The Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education program awards scholarships to up to 300 incoming juniors and seniors each year. It was established by federal legislation in 1986 to encourage excellence and fill the critical need for mathematicians, scientists and engineers. Each Goldwater Scholar receives up to $7,500 annually.

Emmanuel Fordjour

Emmanuel Fordjour

UT Arlington’s first Goldwater Scholar, Erica Castillo, majored in aerospace engineering and physics. She graduated in 2013 and went on to a job at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics in Fort Worth. The University’s second honoree was Stevens’ husband, Elijah Stevens, who is now a senior majoring in mechanical engineering.

The Goldwater Scholars’ recognition spotlights the tradition of student excellence at UT Arlington, said Mahera “Mimi” Philobos, an assistant provost who oversees undergraduate research.

"This honor is a testimony to the caliber of our students and our relentless belief in their abilities,” Philobos said.

Jessica Dawn Stevens started at UT Arlington in 2010 as an architecture major, but a class in biology turned her attention toward natural sciences. She quickly became interested in doing research with College of Science professors.

Since then, she has worked in the laboratories of Matthew Walsh and Todd Castoe, both assistant professors of biology, and has helped study the asexual and sexual reproduction of Daphnia, a small crustacean that adapts its method of reproduction to stressors in the environment. Studying them will help scientists understand the link between ecology and evolutionary changes in species.

Stevens also has participated in National Science Foundation’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates, or REU, summer program at The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, studying environmental microbiology.

She was also named a NSF Robert Noyce Summer Intern at the Botanical Research Institute of Texas in Fort Worth. There, she helped develop curriculum materials for practicing educators to motivate and engage students in the natural sciences. This fit in well with her future plans to create her own non-profit aimed at education and outreach to promote increased scientific literacy.

“I enjoy sharing knowledge and information that I’m excited about,” she said. “What I love about science is its complexity and I want to find ways to help children and adults see how important scientific knowledge can be to understanding and protecting the world around them.”

Fordjour, who is UT Arlington’s second honorable mention in the Goldwater program, is majoring in biology and microbiology and minoring in chemistry. He has worked with Julian Hurdle, an assistant professor of biology, to seek out novel drug combinations to fight the dangerous, hospital-acquired disease Clostridium difficile infection.

Fordjour recently was named a winner of the Washington D.C.-based Council on Undergraduate Research’s 2014 Posters on the Hill competition.  He also is a member of the UT Arlington Honors College and recipient of the UT System Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation, or LSAMP, scholarship.

Both Fordjour and Stevens plan to pursue graduate degrees after they complete their bachelor’s studies in 2015.

About UT Arlington 

The University of Texas at Arlington is a comprehensive research institution and the second largest institution in The University of Texas System. The Chronicle of Higher Education ranked UT Arlington as the seventh fastest-growing public research university in 2013. U.S. News & World Report ranks UT Arlington fifth in the nation for undergraduate diversity. Visit www.uta.edu to learn more.

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The University of Texas at Arlington is an Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action employer.