Philip Cho and Lisa Yamada Awarded Barry Goldwater Scholarships

Purpose of Scholarship is to Promote Interest in STEM Research

So bountiful was this year’s group of Trinity students interested in the prestigious Goldwater Scholarship that Hyunsu “Philip” Cho and Lisa Yamada, both members of the Class of 2015, had to compete against their fellow students for the right to apply. That’s because each four-year higher education institution is only allowed four applicants.

Cho and Yamada emerged from Trinity’s internal competition, winning the right to compete against the best and the brightest students from across the country.

Having passed their first hurdle, both students were victorious in the national competition, winning scholarships that will help cover the cost of tuition, fees, books and room and board during their senior year. Cho, of Seattle, WA, is a computer science and math major, and Yamada, of Bergenfield, NJ, is majoring in engineering and math with a minor in music.

Lisa Yamada
 Cho, Trinity’s current Mathematics Scholar, is doing research with Peter Yoon, associate professor of computer science, and Yamada, a Josh P. Kupferberg Scholar, has worked closely with Emilie Dressaire, assistant professor of engineering. Both students said they were drawn to Trinity, in large part, because it’s a leading liberal arts college with strong math and science programs.

Among other activities, Yamada has been involved with Trinity’s robotics team and spent the spring semester of her junior year at the University of the West Indies in Trinidad and Tobago, where she studied engineering.

“Lisa Yamada is an incredibly accomplished young engineer. In a two-summer [program] at the University of California at Los Angeles, in collaboration with her professor here at Trinity, Lisa made important discoveries in mushroom spore release,” Science Center Director Alison Draper wrote in her letter of recommendation.

“It was her observation of unexpected experimental results that led to the breakthroughs that the group made. Her high level of personal responsibility and ability to complete tasks independently and carefully have been noted by classroom and research faculty alike. At Trinity, she is consistently the best student in each class she takes, but more, she is interested in reaching out to younger students to serve as a [teaching assistant] and as a research mentor in order to bring peers along with her.”

Of Cho, who was a Goldwater Honorable Mention in 2013, Draper wrote, he “is the rare student who is intellectually curious and hard working and raises the level of every class and activity in which he participates. He is captivated by his own research and excited about the next steps in each project.”

Both students will do graduate work upon graduation from Trinity, eventually getting their Ph.Ds. Cho plans to get his in applied mathematics and is leaning a lot towards being a professor as well as doing research. “The ability to mentor students,” he said “is an attraction.”

Cho is particularly interested in GPU (graphics processing units), which is a single-chip processor that creates lighting effects and transforms objects every time a 3D scene is redrawn. “My goal is to use GPU to do science,” he said.

Yamada isn’t quite sure what her graduate work will involve, although she said that one benefit of applying for the Goldwater Scholarship was to force her to focus on what she wants to do after graduation earlier than she normally would have.

In 1986, Congress established the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program to honor U.S. Sen. Barry Goldwater, who served his country for 56 years as a soldier and statesman, including 30 years in the U.S. Senate. The purpose of the Foundation is to provide a continuing source of highly qualified scientists, mathematicians, and engineers by awarding scholarships to college students who intend to pursue research careers in these fields.

The Foundation awarded 283 scholarships for the 2014-2015 academic year to sophomores and juniors at American colleges and universities. The scholars were selected from a field of 1,166 mathematics, science and engineering students. Of those selected, 172 are men and 111 are women.             

According to the Foundation, “Goldwater Scholars have very impressive academic qualifications that have garnered the attention of prestigious post-graduate fellowship programs. Recent Goldwater Scholars have been awarded 80 Rhodes Scholarships, 117 Marshall Awards, 112 Churchill Scholarships, and numerous other distinguished fellowships such as the National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowships.”

Since its first award in 1989, the Foundation has bestowed 7,163 scholarships worth approximately $46 million.