Undergraduates Win Prestigious National Awards

UC Riverside’s Julianne Rolf and Geoffrey Pronovost are recipients of Barry M. Goldwater Scholarships

UC Ri verside undergraduates Julianne Rolf (left) and Geoffrey Pronovost are recipients of the prestigious Barry M. Goldwater Scholarships.Photo credit: M. Sherkat, UC Riverside.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Two University of California, Riverside undergraduates – one aspiring to be a professor of environmental engineering and the other interested in becoming a professor and doing research in neurodegenerative diseases at the university level – have each won a Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, one of the most prestigious and competitive undergraduate awards given in the sciences.

Julianne Rolf, the student intent on a career in environmental engineering, studies electrically conductive membranes to treat wastewater with David Jassby, an assistant professor of chemical and environmental engineering.  Specifically, her research focuses on the use of membrane bioreactors and reverse osmosis systems to develop a method for treatment and reuse of wastewater in the semiconductor industry. Her senior design project,titled “An Integrated Appliance System,” was awarded the UC Office of the President Sustainability Fellowship.  This summer, she will study channel erosion at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, Md., as part of a National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates program.

“I first met Julianne while teaching ‘Fundamentals of Environmental Engineering,’ and she immediately struck me as a thoughtful and hardworking student that has a real passion for the environment,” Jassby said.  “So naturally, I offered her a position as a research assistant in my lab. Julianne has proven herself as an excellent researcher, with a strong desire to advance professionally; she is very skilled at defining a problem and works tirelessly to come up with an innovative solution. I am confident that Julianne is heading towards great things – the Goldwater Scholarship is only the beginning!”

Rolf is an active member of the UC Riverside community, a University Honors student, a University of California’s Leadership Excellence through Advanced DegreeS (UC LEADS) scholar, and an Academic Resource Center Peer Counselor. She has assisted students on academic probation, tutored students in mathematics, and mentored and trained new peer counselors.  She has planned activities related to science and engineering for underprivileged youth in Riverside and taught the fundamentals of soccer to young children.

She will be applying to graduate schools this fall – specifically, programs in civil and environmental engineering as well as chemical and environmental engineering.  She expects to graduate from UCR next year in the spring.

After receiving honorable mention last year for the Barry Goldwater Scholarship, Rolf worked hard to set herself further apart by gaining more research and presentation experience as a UC LEADS scholar and getting published.

“Being recognized by this scholarship committee again and as a Goldwater Scholar this year is such an honor,” she said. “My research advisors – David Jassby and Kawai Tam at UCR, and David Sedlak at UC Berkeley – have been influential in my development as an engineering student and researcher. This scholarship will go towards paying tuition so I can focus my efforts on completing my Honors Senior Thesis next year.”

Rolf’s many awards and honors include: Chancellor’s Scholarship recipient; Dean’s Honor List; Honors Fellowship; Bourns Foundation Scholarship recipient; Krieger & Stewart Fellowship recipient; and Marlan and Rosemary Bourns College of Engineering Award.

The other recipient this year of the Goldwater Scholarship is Geoffrey Pronovost, a transfer student from Riverside Community College who expects to graduate in June 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry.  His research interests are focused on applying techniques in protein structural biology to elucidate mechanisms of neurodegenerative diseases and neurotrauma.

Interested in pursuing graduate studies at the doctoral level, currently he studies changes in the immune system in the brain following traumatic brain injury.  Specifically, his research focuses on brain-resident microgial cells – cells that act as the first and main form of active immune defense in the central nervous system – and on a receptor in the brain that is classically identified with anti-inflammatory reactions.  By elucidating the molecular mechanisms involved with brain trauma, his work stands to identify potential targets that might ultimately ameliorate the clinical outcomes of the millions of people who suffer from head injuries.

“I am incredibly lucky that Geoff has joined my lab,” said Monica Carson, a professor of biomedical sciences in UCR’s School of Medicine and in whose lab Pronovost works.  “He brings a level of enthusiasm, joyful curiosity, generosity, professionalism and goal-oriented behavior that are appreciated by and role models for all in my lab. He has taken advantage of all that UCR offers but also takes pride in being part of a team and helping all in a group to excel.  Simply stated, Geoff embodies the spirit of the Goldwater Scholarship: blending achievement with service!”

Pronovost has served as a peer mentor and tutor to his peers, and has tutored students in biochemistry.  He also serves as a peer-mentor in the University Honors program, and has designed a series of workshops for fellow students about how to excel in research. This August, he will be attending the International Society for Neurochemistry conference in Cairns, Australia, where he will present the latest traumatic brain injury project from the Carson lab.

He is a Chancellor’s Research Fellow, University Honors student, and a UC LEADS scholar.  His other awards and honors include: Mentoring Year-round in Biological Engineering Science and Technology Fellowship; UCR Alumni Re-entry scholarship; Chancellor’s Transfer Scholarship; and Dean’s Honor List.  The Goldwater Scholarship is his latest award.

“This award is a tremendous honor, and it has given me the confidence that I can make a significant impact and truly change the world as I move forward in my career,” Pronovost said. “The fact that UCR received two of these awards is a testament to the outstanding research and intellectual exploration that is taking place across campus. I have been guided by some extraordinary people, and would especially like to thank my mentor, Dr. Monica Carson.”

Both Rolf and Pronovost are supported by the Office of Student Success in Undergraduate Education.  They also recently won first place in their respective categories at the annual UC LEADS system-wide symposium.  They join other undergraduates at UCR who have won Goldwater Scholarships; for a full list of past recipients, click here.

The UCR Office of Student Success in Undergraduate Education invites students, staff, and faculty to review an extensive list of national awards.

“These awards are very competitive, thus we feel it is important that students are aware of the opportunities and begin planning as early as the sophomore year,” said Gladis Herrera-Berkowitz, the director of student success programs in the Office of Undergraduate Education.  “We host workshops throughout the year to expose students to these opportunities and to help them understand how to develop a competitive application.  We will host workshops on applying to the Goldwater, Fulbright, and other national awards at our upcoming Undergraduate Research, Scholarship & Creative Activity Symposium.”

The Barry Goldwater Scholarship Program was created to encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in mathematics, the natural sciences, or engineering and to foster excellence in those fields.  More information about the scholarships can be found here.  Of the 1,206 national applicants this year, 260 were awarded the scholarship (eight are in the UC system). UCR and UC Santa Barbara each received two scholarships; UC Berkeley, UCLA, UC San Diego and UC Davis each received one scholarship.

Media Contact


Tel: (951) 827-6050
E-mail: iqbal@ucr.edu
Twitter: UCR_Sciencenews

Additional Contacts

Julianne Rolf
E-mail: jrolf001@ucr.edu

Geoffrey Pronovost
E-mail: gpron002@ucr.edu

Undergraduate Education
Tel: (951) 827-1010
E-mail: gladis@ucr.edu

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