Marianne Sleiman, a junior chemical engineering major from Greenville, Rhode Island, is one of three Commonwealth Honors College students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst to receive scholarships for work in the natural sciences and engineering as part of the highly competitive Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program. Goldwater scholarships are intended to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences, and engineering. Each competing university nominated its top four students, who were then evaluated by the national Goldwater Scholarship selection committee. From a field of 1,166 mathematics, science, and engineering students nominated by colleges and universities, 283 received scholarships, and 247 received honorable mentions.
The one- and two-year scholarships cover the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board up to a maximum of $7,500 per year.
Sleiman works with Professor Shelly Peyton of the Chemical Engineering Department to study methods for using biomaterial systems to quantify how cancer cells respond to drugs when they are placed in environments that mimic a natural in vivo environment. In particular, they are interested in determining the relationship between tumor stiffening and the efficacy of a variety of underperforming chemotherapeutics.
“I am motivated to continue this leading research by using my knowledge to find a novel method to facilitate therapeutics during the drug screening process,” said Sleiman. “This research will help identify how mechanical and chemical changes in the ECM affect tumor growth and drug resistance, which will improve therapeutic methods, thus furthering cancer drug research.”
After graduation Sleiman will pursue a Ph.D. in chemical engineering and hopes to lead a research team that will focus on understanding carcinomas and finding novel therapies to impede the development of tumors.
According to Susan Krauss Whitbourne, a professor of psychology and director of the Office of National Scholarship Advisement (ONSA) at the Commonwealth Honors College, "each participating campus can nominate up to four applicants, so we were particularly pleased that three of our UMass students won, and the fourth was recognized with Honorable Mention. This is a tribute to the great research being carried out by our faculty and their dedication to advising and mentoring undergraduates in their labs."
Working with Professor Whitbourne is Dr. Howard Schultz, a lecturer in the Honors College, who assisted in recruiting applicants and advising those who were nominated on their final applications.
The Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program was established by Congress in 1986 to honor Senator Barry Goldwater for his service as a soldier and statesman, including 30 years in the U.S. Senate. The other Goldwater winners are Alyson Warr, a junior from Freetown majoring in microbiology, and Stefan (Marco) Eres, a junior chemistry major from Knoxville, Tennessee. (May 2014)