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Miami students named Goldwater Scholar, Honorable Mentions

Abraham "Jon" Moller, a junior microbiology and biochemistry double major from Oxford, has received a Goldwater Scholarship.  He is one of 283 students nationwide to receive the scholarship, the premier undergraduate award of its type in the fields of mathematics, natural science and engineering.

Eric Lee, a junior manufacturing engineering and mechanical engineering double major with a premedical studies co-major, and Michael Markesbery, a junior zoology major and neuroscience and entrepreneurship double minor, each received a Goldwater Scholar Honorable Mention.

The Goldwater Scholarship

 The Goldwater Foundation Scholarship Program encourages outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, natural sciences and engineering. 

Nationwide, faculty nominted 1,166 students for the award, worth up to a maximum of $7,500 per year. 

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Jon Moller, junior microbiology and biochemistry double major, has been named a Goldwater Scholar (photo by Jeff Sabo).

Jon Moller - Goldwater Scholar

Moller has been conducting research with faculty mentor Michael Crowder, chair and professor of chemistry and biochemistry, every summer since he was a junior in high school and for the past two academic years. He has been studying antibiotic-resistant proteins called metallo-beta-lactamases — which can destroy penicillin and cephalosporin antibiotics.

This year he is also conducting research with faculty mentor Chun Liang, associate professor of biology, as a Choose Ohio First Bioinformatics Scholar.

Prior to enrolling at Miami, Moller spent his first year at the University of Pennsylvania and then transferred "from a Private Ivy to a Public Ivy," he said. 

"As an undergraduate researcher I appreciate the resources here; undergraduate research is very accessible at Miami. It is part of what makes Miami special."

"Jon has worked on a lot of projects in the lab," Crowder said. "He did mathematical simulations on kinetic progress curves of metallo-b-lactamases when he was still in high school. During the next summer, he started a new project in the lab in which he was looking for novel antibiotics in endophytes isolated from plants in southwest Ohio. He has done all of the molecular biological and biochemical studies on the metallo-b-lactamases that we do in the lab. He is currently working on a DEER (double electron electron resonance) spectroscopy project."

"Other schools can't beat the opportunities Miami provides for interaction with faculty members, meaningful research and the chance to co-author a publication," said Moller, who is a co-author on a publication in the journal Biochemistry and has contributed research for a presentation at the American Chemical Society National Meeting. 

He will also present his research with Liang at a conference at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center next month.

"Jon is a great student. He is fascinated by problems, and he is very creative in finding ways to solve those problems," Crowder said. "Whether it be designing an umbrella system for wheelchairs (a project in high school) or figuring out a way to isolate endophytes or to simulate complex kinetic mechanisms, he is genuinely interested in solving problems and with the process of discovery."

Moller is a member of Miami's microbiology club and a volunteer at the Cincinnati VA Hospital surgical intensive care unit. He plans to pursue a Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) after graduation and conduct research on the human microbiome. 

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Eric Lee, junior manufacturing engineering and mechanical engineering double major (photo by Jeff Sabo).

Eric Lee - Honorable Mention

Lee, from Hamilton, has worked with faculty mentor Kumar Singh, associate professor of mechanical and manufacturing engineering, for several semesters on vibration research and has been involved in the development of a Computational-Experiment (ComEx) learning module.

He has also participated in the department of mechanical and manufacturing engineering's co-op programs, having completed a co-op experience with GE Aviation and with Ethicon Endo-Surgery Inc. over the past year.

"Eric is a remarkably intelligent student who is passionate about engineering science," Singh said. "While working with me on an NSF project, the most important ability he demonstrated was his willingness to approach the unknown. Such a desire for learning and value-addition will make him a successful researcher and engineer."

Lee's co-op experience with Ethicon Endo-Surgery  — in particular working on a vertical sleeve gastrectomy project — sparked his interest in the applications of mechanical engineering in the field of medicine.

The "direct impact on people" of engineering inspired his interest in the field of biomedical engineering, which he hopes to purse after graduation through an M.D./Ph.D. program. 

Lee has been an undergraduate assistant in the vibrations lab and a member of the mechanical and manufacturing engineering student advisory council. He is a member of the university honors program and a member of the Lockheed Martin Leadership Institute.

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Michael Markesbery, junior zoology major (photo by Scott Kissell).

Michael Markesbery - Honorable Mention

Markesbery, from Cincinnati, has been conducting research with faculty mentor Paul Harding, associate professor of biology, since his first year at Miami.

Markesbery, a personal trainer, said "I love metabolism and learning about its effects on the body. I met with Dr. Harding and fell in love with what he was doing — the idea of developing a therapeutic treatment for obesity and diabetes II."

He is currently participating in the DUOS (Doctoral Undergraduate Opportunities for Scholarship) program with Sean Taylor, doctoral student in biology in Harding's lab.

Their project "Physiological Similarities in Glucose Uptake of BAT-like co-transfected HB-EGF/ Adam-12 cells and BAT Cells" involves modifying cells to very closely resemble brown adipose tissue — or brown fat — cells. "We are comparing these modified cells to actual brown adipose tissue cells to see how functionally similar the two actually are," Markesbery said.

Markesbery has presented his research at the 2012 and the 2013 American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) conferences and in poster sessions for representatives at both the state and national levels.

"Michael is an outstanding young scientist, and I have no doubt that he has a promising future in science and medicine," Harding said.  It is an extreme pleasure to work in the lab with talented undergraduates such as Michael."  

Markesbery, an entrepreneurship minor, recently launched a company, Lukla, with Rithvik Venna, also a junior zoology major. "At Lukla, we are taking NASA's technology, Aerogel, used for insulation in their spacesuits, and installing it in outerwear," Markesbery said. "We've formed an incredible board of advisors with the help of the entrepreneurship program and look forward to launching our first line of outerwear next fall."

Markesbery is a chemistry and biology tutor at the Rinella Learning Center, a volunteer at McCullough-Hyde Memorial Hospital and a member of the university honors program. He hopes to pursue an M.D./Ph.D. with a focus on obesity genes and endocrine surgery.

Moller is one of eight students at an Ohio public university to receive a Goldwater Scholarship.

Lee and Markesberry are two of five students at an Ohio public university to receive an honorable mention.