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Three Duke juniors named Barry M. Goldwater Scholars for achievements in STEM

Left: Aditya Paul. Top right: Tanner Zachem. Bottom right: Ella Gunady. Courtesy of Aditya Paul, Tanner Zachem and Ella Gunady.
Left: Aditya Paul. Top right: Tanner Zachem. Bottom right: Ella Gunady. Courtesy of Aditya Paul, Tanner Zachem and Ella Gunady.

Three Duke undergraduates have been named Barry M. Goldwater Scholars for the 2022-23 academic year. The scholarship is a federally endowed award that encourages students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, natural sciences and engineering.

This year, juniors Ella Gunady, Aditya Paul and Tanner Zachem were among the 417 college students from across the United States to be awarded the Goldwater Scholarship on Friday.

They were selected based on academic merit from a pool of 1,242 college sophomores and juniors nominated by 433 academic institutions.

According to the Goldwater Scholarship website, “many of the Scholars have published their research in leading professional journals and have presented their work at professional society conferences,” and nearly all plan to obtain a doctoral degree.

Gunady is from Fremont, Calif. and is studying biomedical engineering and biology. At Duke, she works in the Somarelli Lab at the Duke Cancer Institute and has used molecular biology techniques to engineer enzymes for plastic degradation.

Gunady’s work involves analyzing whole exome sequencing data to uncover the mutational landscape of hepatocellular carcinoma in lemurs. She plans to obtain her doctorate in cellular or molecular engineering and continue to research the use of microorganisms to tackle environmental issues through bioremediation.

“I’m thankful for all of the opportunities I’ve had to explore research questions that matter to me under the guidance of incredible mentors,” Gunady wrote. “I owe a debt of gratitude to my [principal investigator] and mentors on my Bass Connections team, professors who have supported and challenged me, and [Karen Weber, executive director of the Office of University Scholars and Fellows]. Getting to work with and learn from them has been a highlight of my time at Duke.”

Paul is from Plano, Texas studying computer science and electrical and computer engineering with a minor in mathematics. He is interested in cryptography, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence and quantum information.

At Duke, he works in the Monroe Lab at the Duke Quantum Center where he creates numerical models for ion chains to optimize trapped-ion quantum computer performance. After graduation, Paul plans to earn a doctorate in electrical engineering, conduct research in quantum information systems and algorithms and teach at the university level.

“I was blown away by the fact that I was named as a scholar. I'm grateful to everyone who's helped me along my journey, and I'm really excited to continue my research and explore my academic passions,” Paul wrote.

Zachem is from Scarsdale, N.Y. and is majoring in mechanical engineering and mathematics. His work in translational medicine lies at the intersection of cancer research, robotics and machine learning.

At Duke, Zachem has been a Woo Research Fellow at the Brain Tool Laboratory, where he has helped create algorithms to find the boundary of a brain tumor for resection. He plans on getting a doctorate in mechanical engineering. He also hopes to conduct research in neurosurgery and engineering to improve patient outcomes and teach at the university level.

According to Zachem, he would never have considered applying if it was not for the Brain Tool Laboratory, the MEMS Department, and the Department of Neurosurgery.

“My two main mentors [Associate Professor of Neurosurgery] Patrick Codd and Matthew Tucker, [research advisor at the Brain Tool Laboratory] have completely changed the course of my life and I am deeply thankful,” Zachem wrote. “I am so happy that by extension, their support and the time that they have devoted to me gets recognized and appreciated.”

Last year, four Duke undergraduates were named Goldwater Scholars. Students and alumni can receive support for opportunities like the Goldwater Scholarship from the Nationally Competitive Scholarships team at the Office of Undergraduate Scholars and Fellows. 


Katie Tan | Managing Editor

Katie Tan is a Trinity junior and managing editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.

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