Fall 2011
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Chemistry/Biochemistry juniors honored with prestigious national awards...

Dr. Petuskey, Chair of the department (right) with Goldwater Scholarships recipients, from left: John Ingraham, Michael Kenney, and Erik Stout.

Three chemistry/biochemistry juniors who already are doing sophisticated research and presenting their work to national audiences have won Goldwater Scholarships, the nation's premier awards for undergraduates studying science, math and engineering.

Working in the laboratories of ASU senior faculty and scientists at the Barrow Neurological Institute, each of the three will receive $7,500 a year for up to two years. Their work ranges from brain cancer research to the creation of less expensive solar cells for producing electricity and fuel.

Recipients are Erik Stout, majoring in biochemistry and economics; John Ingraham, majoring in biochemistry and applied mathematics and Michael Kenney, a chemistry major.

Stout, Ingraham and Kenney are in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and are enrolled in Barrett, the Honors College.

Over the last 18 years ASU has won 51 total Goldwater awards, and of those, 35 percent (a total of 18) have been chemistry/biochemistry students. This year 275 Goldwater Scholars were selected on the basis of academic merit from a field of 1,095 mathematics, science, and engineering students nominated by the faculties of colleges and universities nationwide.

Kenney's research is focused on making solar cells cheaper to produce, by trying to create new dyes and polymers for cell production that are as efficient as silicon-based solar cells. Along with several ASU professors, he is part of a team that wants to convert sunlight into electricity and fuel, and to make using organic solar cells as cheap as burning fossil fuels.

Kenney also was chosen for a 10-week NSF-funded Research Experiences for Undergraduates program at Carnegie Mellon University last summer, and this summer he will go to Caltech to do nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy.

"Michael is interested in and has ability in a variety of areas of science, which will allow him to tackle important technological problems in society which can only be solved via a multidisciplinary approach," said Devens Gust, Foundation Professor of Chemistry. "Finding a student with such a breadth of interest and ability at such an early stage of development is unusual."

Kenney also acts as a mentor to an Obama Scholar, a freshman chemistry student who is the first person in his family to attend college.

Ingraham is doing brain cancer research at Barrow in the neurosurgery research laboratory, in collaboration with ASU math faculty. He is working to develop better mathematical models of brain tumor invasion, with the hope of better understanding how tumors infiltrate and what treatment strategies might be most effective. Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is the most common and most deadly of cancers of the brain, especially difficult to treat because the tumor cells tend to migrate along the nerve fibers of the brain."Our goal is to see whether it might be possible to make short-term predictions of the growth of GBM tumors in individual patients," said Eric Kostelich, professor in the ASU School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences. "We're a long way from this goal, but John's work has helped us establish that our basic mathematical models of tumor growth and spread can reproduce at least qualitatively the patterns of spread that are seen in certain patients."

Ingraham, who also is a Flinn Scholar, will present his work at a national 2011 Computational Science and Engineering conference.


Stout is such a stellar student that he began working at Barrow while still in high school, and was offered a paid position as a research assistant when he was just 17. He does research on how the brain controls the body, and how our bodies compensate for the challenges that occur, such as uneven terrain, inclines and shifting ground. He has presented his research at several meetings of the Society for Neuroscience and is co-author of two research reports published in the Journal of Physiology and the Journal of Neurophysiology.

Stout, who came to ASU as a Flinn Scholar, also has mentored a high school student in the lab for a year and a half. "Erik is still in the middle of his undergraduate studies, but in research he performs at the level of an advanced graduate student," said Irina Beloozerova, director of the laboratory of motor systems neurophysiology at Barrow. "In my 25 years of experience working with students in an academic research setting, he is the best student I've met."

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