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Goldwater Scholar

University of Dayton senior Joey Saurine has received an elite Goldwater Scholarship, one of the nation’s top awards for undergraduate STEM students. In addition to covering the cost of his senior-year tuition, the scholarship will help Saurine achieve his dream of a doctoral degree in neuroscience.

“I was ecstatic, because I know it has a lot of implications — not only financially, but also for my future career,” said Saurine, a biochemistry major and graduate of Dayton’s Carroll High School. “People say it is a ‘gold star’ on your resume.”

Being named a Goldwater Scholar means Saurine has successfully competed against the best STEM undergraduates in the U.S., which could increase his chances of being accepted into a top post-graduate program.

Saurine is one of 211 Goldwater Scholars for the 2018-19 academic year. He was selected based on academic merit from a field of 1,280 natural sciences, mathematics and engineering students nominated by campus representatives from more than 2,000 U.S. colleges and universities.

“This fellowship is intended for the most talented, most promising research-oriented students who will become the next leaders in their fields,” said Pothitos “Takis” Pitychoutis, assistant professor of biology and researcher in the Center for Tissue Regeneration and Engineering at Dayton (TREND). “It is the most prestigious undergraduate research fellowship that we have in the STEM field.”

As a sophomore, Saurine was selected for the 2017 cohort of the University’s Berry Summer Thesis Institute, where he began research for his honors thesis in Pitychoutis’ laboratory.

“Discovering his love for research early helped enhance Joey’s application for the Goldwater Scholarship,” said Laura Cotten, associate director of the University Honors Program. “His past research experience, academic excellence and a desire to earn a Ph.D. in neuroscience all contributed to the success of his application.”

Saurine is the University of Dayton’s fifth Goldwater Scholar; the third from the Department of Biology; and the second from Pitychoutis’ research group.

Pitychoutis’ research includes deciphering the role of a novel calcium-handling protein in the brain that could be involved in mental conditions such as autism, schizophrenia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). In 2018, Pitychoutis received a $148,077 grant from the National Institutes of Health to support his work, which could lead to the discovery of safer and more effective drug therapies to prevent and treat these devastating brain disorders.

“My contribution has been analyzing the behavior of mice that have this protein deleted — so, a ‘knockout’ version of the mice,” Saurine said. “I run normal mice and these knockout mice through different behavioral tests, such as open-field and Y-maze, to understand how loss of this protein affects behavior.”

The scholarship has allowed Saurine to dedicate himself to that research during his senior year. He has applied to four neuroscience doctoral programs, and hopes to eventually pursue a tenure-track position in academia or work in industry.

Saurine originally joined Pitychoutis’ lab with the idea of becoming a medical doctor. But after discovering his passion for research, he decided to become a scientist, specializing in the field of neuroscience.

“Being his mentor, I could not be more proud of Joey,” Pitychoutis said. “Joey’s story showcases how the experiential learning opportunities that we offer to our students help them shape their future and find their muse.”

Goldwater Scholar Jonathan Sens ’16, who also worked in Pitychoutis’ lab, received several graduate school offers and joined the Mayo Clinic’s Neurobiology of Disease graduate program.

Fellow recipient Raphael Crum ’17, a former research assistant in biology professor Carissa Krane’s molecular physiology research lab, is now an M.D./doctoral candidate in the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and Carnegie Mellon University medical scientist training program.

Established in 1986, the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation is a federally endowed agency that provides scholarships to college sophomores and juniors who intend to pursue research careers in the natural sciences, mathematics and engineering. Since its first award in 1989, the foundation has bestowed 8,132 scholarships worth $65 million.

Many recent Goldwater Scholars have gone on to receive prestigious post-graduate fellowship awards, including 91 Rhodes Scholarships, 131 Marshall Awards, 150 Churchill Scholarships, 100 Hertz Fellowships and numerous other distinguished awards, such as National Science Foundation research fellowships.

 

- Dave Larsen, communication coordinator, College of Arts and Sciences

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