Columbia Engineers Awarded Prestigious Goldwater Scholarships

Apr 11 2018 | By Jesse Adams | Photos: Justin Bui, Rachel Mintz and Janice Chung

For showing “exceptional promise” of becoming the “next generation of research leaders,” two Columbia Engineering juniors have received Goldwater Scholarships, among the most prestigious awards recognizing top undergraduates in engineering, mathematics, and the natural sciences.

Chemical engineer Justin Bui ’19 and biomedical engineer Rachel Mintz ’19 were each named Goldwater Scholars, garnering up to $7,500 each for their studies over the next year, while biomedical engineer Janice Chung ‘19 earned an honorable mention. Established in honor of Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater, the federally-endowed Goldwater Scholarships are considered the preeminent awards of their kind. Just 211 awardees were selected this year from 1,280 nominees.

“I am extremely honored that the Goldwater committee has enough faith in my potential as a researcher to provide me this generous funding,” said Bui, who researches how computational field dynamics can improve solar fuel technologies. “It will help me attend the Electrochemical Society National Conference to present some of my recent research and meet more of the top researchers in my field.”

Bui will work at Caltech this summer to develop novel architectures for photoelectrochemical cells on an Amgen Scholars Fellowship. Considering becoming a professor of chemical engineering, he plans to earn a PhD developing techniques for harvesting solar energy.

Mintz, who focuses on targeted oncological therapeutics, works in Professor Kam Leong’s Nanotherapeutics and Stem Cell lab on sensitizing breast cancer cells to chemotherapy. She is cofounder and president of the Columbia Systems Biology Initiative and was part of a team that earned a gold medal in the iGEM competition for programming skin microbes to secrete natural mosquito repellent that need not be reapplied. She plans to earn her MD/PhD and one day lead her own lab engineering new ways to treat cancer.

“I truly believe research is the best way to improve people’s lives in the long run,” Mintz said. “I hope to combine the critical thinking and technical skills I acquire through my biomedical engineering major to solve real-world medical problems and service society.”

Chung works with Professor Sam Sia on microtissue engineering to diagnose cancer and potentially treat diabetes and help prevent obesity. She plans to pursue a career in medicine developing devices that serve patients’ needs, and eventually enter academia.

“Coming into college, I didn’t realize I’d enjoy research as much as I do now,” Chung said. “The Goldwater program is a testament to the passion for building solutions that drives our research community.”

Justin Bui ’19 and Rachel Mintz ’19 have been named 2018 Goldwater Scholars, while Janice Chung ‘19 earned an honorable mention.

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