Each year, universities may nominate up to four sophomores or juniors to compete in the prestigious Goldwater Scholarship Competition. For more information about UConn’s nomination process and the scholarship itself, click HERE. This year’s nominees include one sophomore and three juniors from a variety of STEM disciplines. Each satisfied the Goldwater’s criteria of academic excellence, demonstrate research experience and potential, and the desire to earn a PhD in their field. Also vital is the strong support of their faculty mentors. Nominees will have until January 27, 2017 to complete the national application. Results will be posted at or around April 1, 2017.
Tyler Daddio (ENG ‘18, CLAS ‘18) from Beacon Falls, CT, is a STEM scholar pursuing a B.S. in mathematics and dual B.S.E./M.S. degrees in computer science and engineering. He is planning on earning a Ph.D. in computer science following his graduation from UConn. Tyler first began working with Dr. Ion Mandoiu of the Computer Science and Engineering Department in the final months of his senior year of high school during which he aided in writing XML wrappers to port various bioinformatics tools traditionally used on the command line to a graphical web interface. Ever since, Tyler’s research has primarily focused on computational methods for improving cancer vaccine design, notably through the characterization of the T cell receptor repertoire. As a Holster Scholar, he spent his first summer at UConn developing an algorithmic approach to elucidate T cell receptor αβ pairs from pooled DNA sequencing data. Tyler has since expanded the scope of this project with the aim of creating a three-stage bioinformatics pipeline to aid in the selection of cancer neoepitopes for use in the design of personalized cancer vaccines. He was recently selected as a 2017 University Scholar and plans to complete the development of this pipeline before his graduation. Tyler has also received an IDEA grant to continue producing educational computer science videos on his YouTube channel, CoderTheTyler. He finds great joy in teaching others and, in his first two years at university, has served as an undergraduate teaching assistant both for undergraduate and graduate computer science courses. He is also serving as a Peer Research Ambassador through which he hopes to inspire other undergraduates to get involved in research. Tyler is the treasurer both for the UConn Student Chapter of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and for Street Performers Club (for which he is also a co-founder and head unicycle enthusiast). He is also serving as the student organizer for the UConn ACM International Collegiate Programming Competition (ICPC) team. When he can find time to procrastinate, he does so by working on any one of his numerous yet somewhat secretive side projects.
Alyssa Matz (CLAS ’19) from Cheshire, CT, is an honors student majoring in molecular and cellular biology, minoring in chemistry, with plans to achieve a Ph.D. after graduation. She aims to conduct and apply research in genomic, epigenomic, and metagenomic changes to humans and associated microbes that lead to disease. Alyssa currently interns in the molecular oncology lab of Dr. Daniel Rosenberg of UConn Health. She contributes to multiple projects to develop chemopreventive agents for primary colorectal cancer with a focus on nutritional modulation through whole walnut consumption. Beginning the spring of freshman year and continuing in the summer, she performed histopathological analyses on mice models to determine the effects of varying dietary walnut levels on a cancer pathway driven by inflammation and presented the findings at university symposia. She is currently leading the continuation of this investigation by analyzing changes in the microbiome and epigenetic hydroxylmethylcytosine levels before and after inflammation and the effects of walnut consumption. Other projects include evaluating the importance of macrophage-derived mPGES-1 in tumorigenesis of mouse models and characterization of abnormal crypt foci (ACF) in normal human colons. Freshman year, as a Holster Scholar, she developed a novel research project into invasive plant biological control independent of an established lab. The summer-long experiment yielded significant implications to the control of the invasive plant Lythrum salicaria (purple loosestrife), a major contributor to the degradation of North American wetland ecosystems. She investigated chemical enhancements to the established bio-control system using Galerucella spp. beetles. This work was presented at the 2016 Connecticut Invasive Plant Working Group Symposium and is currently under consideration for publication in The Journal of Life Sciences. She is also a recognized Babbidge scholar. Outside of academics, she works as a student partner to UConn for the online platform Wiley Plus and as a veterinarian technician assistant at Animal Medical Care of CT. She is an accomplished painter, dancer, and runs in the UConn running club.
Vincent Pistritto (CLAS, SFA, ’18) is an Honors student from Woodbury, CT pursuing a dual degree in chemistry and music. Upon graduation, he intends on pursuing a Ph. D. in chemistry with the ultimate goal of working to develop efficient, robust, and environmentally friendly routes to active pharmaceutical ingredients. As an undergraduate, he has worked in the laboratory of Dr. Nicholas Leadbeater looking to perform oxidative functionalization in a manner that is safer for the environment. In particular, his research looks to expand the reaction profile of an environmentally friendly oxidant commonly known as Bobbitt’s Salt. As part of his 2015 Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship provided by the Department of Chemistry, Vincent investigated the cleavage of silyl ethers. This work has since been published in the journal Synlett as a way in which a typical two step procedure could be performed in a single reaction. More recent work has consisted of the synthesis of a variety of N-acyl azoles using Bobbitt’s Salt. This research was recently accepted and will be published shortly in the journal Organic Letters. In the summer of 2016, Vincent worked as a Summer Student Worker at Pfizer Inc. in Groton, CT as a member of the process chemistry team working towards the development of cross-electrophile coupling. Vincent was also named University Scholar in December 2016, the university’s highest distinction. As a part of his independent research project he will look to merge photoredox catalysis with a derivative of Bobbitt’s Salt to form trifluoromethyl ketones, a group with noted pharmaceutical value. Outside of the laboratory, Vincent is active as a member of the University of Connecticut Wind Ensemble as a clarinet player and also serves as the lead student coordinator of Honors Initiatives for Prospective Students (HIPS).
Nick Russo (CLAS ’18) is an Honors Student and STEM scholar majoring in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. He plans to pursue a Ph.D. in ecology, with a focus on ornithology and forest community ecology. Since his freshman year, Nick has been working in the lab of Dr. Morgan Tingley, conducting research on the potential for birds to disperse hemlock woolly adelgid, an invasive insect that devastates eastern hemlock forests. Nick received an IDEA Grant in summer 2016 to monitor adelgid carrying rates of birds in hemlock forests, and presented this research, and his Holster Scholar research, at the national Wilson Ornithological Society meeting in March, 2017. In November 2016, the results of his Holster Scholar research on adelgid transfer rates between hemlock branches and birds were published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Entomology. As president of the UConn Birding Club and a representative of ECOalition, Nick takes a strong interest in citizen science and environmental awareness. As part of these organizations, he is working to implement a university general education requirement in environmental literacy and sustainability, and undertake a Connecticut Ornithological Society-funded project to ensure continued management of the Mansfield Community Garden for migratory birds. He received the Stewart L. and Morris K. Udall Scholarship in 2016 for his efforts, and was recently named a University Scholar. Nick works at the Writing Center, and in his spare time, he likes to bird, run, swim, and speak French.