Three UCSB Students Awarded Prestigious Barry Goldwater Scholarship

Image Courtesy of Wikimedia

Joanne Rhee
Staff Writer

Three University of California, Santa Barbara students have been selected as the recipients of a scholarship as part of the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program. Students Kevin Dervishi, Christina Garcia and Qicheng Zhang have all been identified as Barry Goldwater Scholars 2016.

According to the website, “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.”

“I was incredulous at first, and spent the next few days in a state of disbelief; I’ve been dreaming of getting the Goldwater since the end of my freshman year at UCSB,” biology major Kevin Dervishi said. “ I was incredibly thankful to the numerous professors, mentors and loved ones who acted as pillars of support. Without them, I would have never been even remotely in reach of this honor.”

This year, UCSB is the only public university in California with more than two recipients. The recipients were among a pool of over 100 applicants in universities spanning the nation.

“With the help of the Goldwater Scholarship, I will be able to focus on my research more and prepare for graduate school in a couple years,” said physics major Christina Garcia. Garcia’s areas of interest include condensed matter physics and materials science.

Garcia has been involved in research with Professor Ram Seshadri’s group since February of 2015. Alongside UCSB graduate student Joshua Bocarsly, she focuses on developing calculation methods to predict new magnetocaloric materials for more energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly refrigeration applications.

“Honestly, I kind of just stumbled into this field,” Garcia said. “When deciding on my major before entering college, I really enjoyed solving applied math problems and trying to understand things at a fundamental level, so physics seemed like a natural fit for me.”

Like Garcia, Dervishi is currently involved in research at UCSB. “I’m incredibly fortunate to have an independent research project under Stu Feinstein in the Neuroscience Research Institute.”

The Feinstein lab researches the protein tau, which is involved in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Dervishi is currently looking to establish a novel function and behavior of the tau protein. Though he has been working on the project for over a year, the past few months brought him “some long-awaited breakthroughs” that Dervishi hopes will bring his project progress.

“I plan to enter graduate school immediately after finishing my undergraduate education,” Devrishi said. “With the support of the Goldwater Scholarship, I’m going to try to get into the Ph.D. program in biochemistry that best supports my goals.”

Likewise, physics major Qicheng Zheng plans to further his education by attending graduate school. He’s currently involved in research with Professor Philip Lubin and is a part of the DE-STAR project, which seeks to create a “system to deflect asteroids, comets, and other objects that pose a credible risk of impact.”

Despite winning a prestigious award, Devrishi remains humble and grateful for the help he’s had. “When I first got to UCSB, anything about me on paper would have said I was nothing special. I had no APs, I was not admitted with honors and I had literally the lowest priority for classes out of anyone I knew,” said Devrishi.

“The resources here at UCSB are one of the only reasons I’ve been able to become who I am today,” he continued. “They’re right in front of you: go to office hours. Pick your professors’ brains. Seriously. It has made ALL the difference in both my grades and motivation. I owe a significant amount of my work ethic to Professor Scott Price in the chem department. Fall quarter of freshman year, he took the time to sit with me outside class and explain how he managed to be such a productive role model. That changed my entire approach to both college and life.”