Three College Students Named Goldwater Scholars
Three Georgetown College students have been named 2022 Goldwater Scholars: Adrian Kalaw (C’23), Dominic Pham (C’23) and Aryaman Arora (C’24).
Established by Congress in 1986, the prestigious national award is conferred to sophomores and juniors who excel in the fields of mathematics, engineering, and the natural sciences. The awards support undergraduate students who will become the next generation’s research leaders. This year’s applicant pool of more than 5,000 qualified students resulted in just 417 recipients.
Kalaw, a biochemistry major and statistics minor, is fueled by a fascination with the chemical processes that underpin life. A high school course on biotechnology sparked a passion for research within Kalaw that he has nurtured at Georgetown, where he studies drug resistance with Paul Roepe. Working in Roepe’s lab, Kalaw has helped develop molecular explanations for how antimalarial drugs like chloroquine and piperaquine lose their efficacy over time.
“Although the pandemic disrupted our original research plans, it inspired Professor Roepe and I to develop a computational project that was largely novel for the lab, and for the field as a whole,” Kalaw reflects. “I now use a combination of computational and biochemical techniques to study a membrane transporter implicated in chloroquine and piperaquine resistance.
After completing his undergraduate degree, Kalaw intends to continue researching infectious disease and, potentially, explore genetic diseases. Kalaw hopes to pursue a combined M.D./Ph.D. program to both study infectious disease, immunology or biomedical sciences and treat patients as a physician.
“Winning this award has been one of the biggest honors of my Georgetown career,” Kalaw says. “Investigating interesting, unanswered questions is exhilarating and knowing that my work has important consequences is fulfilling. I am so grateful to all my research mentors and professors who have nurtured my love of science and my intellectual growth throughout my studies.”
Pham, a biochemistry and global and comparative literature double major, researches structural conformations of Protein kinase A, an integral signaling protein that controls the processes of cell growth, development, and metabolism. Pham’s interest in biology and chemistry is underpinned and informed by his interdisciplinary studies.
“Taking a course on Asian American literature from Professor Christine So made me a more socially conscious student and forced me to reconsider my education,” Pham reflects. “I saw the potential of rigorously studying marginalized communities and reprioritized my academic and professional goals. The class reminded me that science itself is embedded in structures of discrimination and inequality; in order for us to conduct science with humanity, we must confront its histories and evaluate its practices currently.”
After graduating next year, Pham plans to pursue a Ph.D. in biochemistry or chemical biology, while continuing to investigate the chemical mechanisms of biological processes and diseases.
“I’m very grateful for this recognition as I intend to pursue a career in scientific research,” Pham says. “This validation is a reflection of the patience and support of my research mentor Professor Rodrigo Maillard, the graduate students I’ve worked with and my family.”
Arora, a double major in computer science and linguistics, researches computational linguistics with Nathan Schneider, an assistant professor with a joint appointment in the Department of Linguistics and the Department of Computer Science.
Computational linguistics involves teaching computers how to ‘understand’ human language, which has led to the development of new everyday technologies, like voice assistants and machine translation software. Arora’s work has included developing text-to-speech algorithms and text-understanding models for Hindi and Punjabi, and studying mathematical properties of language.
For Arora, the desire to create better linguistic models is personal. While in high school, Arora was driven to improve his Hindi, which he had not used in the United States since immigrating from India as a young child. In the process, he encountered the field of linguistics, the scientific study of language. Combined with his interest in computer science, this led Arora to computational linguistics research.
After graduating, Arora intends to pursue a Ph.D. in computational linguistics to continue his research. This summer, he will intern with Apple in Seattle, working on the natural language understanding team behind Siri.
“Receiving the Goldwater Scholarship has affirmed my choice to do research,” Arora says. “I’m excited to keep learning in the fast-moving field of computational linguistics.”
Nadia Sadanandan (NHS’24), a sophomore in the School of Nursing & Health Studies majoring in human science, has also been named a 2022 Goldwater Scholar. Learn more about her story (new window) and the studies she conducts with zebrafish to investigate cancer cell behavior, tumor biology, and neural development.
-by Hayden Frye (C’17)