Three TU students receive prestigious scholarships

Friday, April 01, 2011

Since 1998, TU students have received 40 Goldwater and eight Udall scholarships.

The Barry M. Goldwater and Morris K. Udall foundations announced this week that three University of Tulsa students have earned prestigious nationally competitive scholarships from these programs.

Sean Fuentes and Will LePage have been named 2011 Udall Scholars, while Fuentes and fellow TU student Kirby Smithe were named 2011 Goldwater Scholars. A fourth student, Jacob Mitchell Cantu, received an honorable mention from the Goldwater program.

The Udall Scholarship funds future leaders across a wide spectrum of environmental fields, including engineering, science, education, urban planning and renewal, and business. The one-year scholarship covers the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board up to $5,000.

The Goldwater is the premier award for recognizing students pursuing careers in science, mathematics and engineering. The one- and two-year scholarships cover the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board up to $7,500 per year, with sophomores receiving two-year scholarships. TU was the state’s leader this year with its two winners and one honorable mention. 

Since 1998, TU students have received 40 Goldwater and eight Udall scholarships. TU students have won more nationally competitive scholarships in the past decade than all other Oklahoma colleges and universities combined.

Sean FuentesA junior chemistry major from Owasso, Fuentes received the prestigious Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship for study abroad and is currently in Costa Rica studying language and cultural issues.

Fuentes aims to someday conduct environmental and aquatic chemistry research and teach at the university level. He is working with TU Chemistry Professor Gordon Purser on researching the interactions between commercial sunscreens and water treated with chlorine. Fuentes has volunteered with Blue Thumb, an environmental organization that works in concert with the Oklahoma State Department of Environmental Quality in monitoring the health of local streams and creeks. He led the effort to bring Blue Thumb to the TU campus as an official student organization.

Will LePageLePage is a sophomore mechanical engineering major and a Presidential Scholar from Helias Catholic High School in Jefferson City, Missouri. He is a National Merit Scholar and a varsity athlete at TU, competing in cross-country and track.

LePage is on the design team for a Human-Powered Utility Vehicle and is a member of SENEA (Sustainable Energy for North East Asia). He is working with Purser and mechanical engineering Professor John Henshaw to develop an off-grid system of purifying water with a kind of low-tech, portable electrolysis cell. The device uses solar energy to create hypochlorous acid, which destroys disease-causing bacteria. The electrolysis cell is LePage’s design.

Fuentes and LePage will attend the Udall Institute slated for August in Tucson, Arizona. Both are participating in the Tulsa Undergraduate Research Challenge, which provides opportunities for undergraduates to perform original research while working directly with faculty mentors.

Kirby SmitheSmithe is a sophomore from Broken Arrow, majoring in engineering physics. The summer after his freshman year, he was selected in a nationwide competition as one of 16 students accepted into NanoJapan, a program that sponsors students in nanoscale research in Japan.

Smithe aims to develop novel solid-state electronic devices and is interested in fields that cross pure science with engineering to produce new technologies. He also has researched time-dependent phenomena in ferroelectric thin film materials under the mentorship of Alexei Grigoriev, an assistant physics professor.

A biochemistry junior, Cantu graduated from the Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics and began mentored research with Purser the summer before his freshman year. His research has focused on Reservatrol, which is found in red wine, and its potential health effects in reversing inflammation, lowering blood sugar levels and perhaps preventing cancer. He also spent last summer at Austria’s Graz University of Technology researching the synthesis and testing of heterogeneous palladium catalysts.

All four students plan to pursue doctoral degrees in their chosen fields of study.


Mona Chamberlin