Two URI students awarded prestigious science, engineering scholarship

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Portsmouth, North Kingstown residents receive $7,500 each

KINGSTON, R.I. – April 9, 2012 – Russell Dauksis of North Kingstown is aiming for a career as a college professor studying coral reef conservation. Christopher Bobba of Portsmouth plans to become a medical doctor and use new technologies to help patients.

Although their plans are very different, both University of Rhode Island students are among 282 students from across the country who have been awarded the nation’s most prestigious undergraduate scholarship for those interested in careers in science and engineering, the $7,500 Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship.

“I am deeply honored to be recognized alongside these other amazing students who are all so extremely successful in their respective fields,” said Dauksis, a URI junior studying marine biology.

“The Goldwater Scholarship will be a sort of milestone in my undergraduate career,” added Bobba, who is studying chemical engineering at the University. “It has helped prove to myself that I have a good chance of getting into a top medical school.”

Dauksis said that he has always been passionate about the ocean, but he credits his mother and late aunt for encouraging him to find a rewarding career that he will enjoy for the rest of his life.

“I’ve really enjoyed the chance to get involved with scientific diving at URI,” he said. “It has allowed me to do a coral reef research project in the Caribbean that was not only fun but also an invaluable educational experience on a topic that interested me greatly.”

Dauksis won a scholarship from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration last year that included a summer internship that enabled him to complete a coral reef restoration project in the waters off Puerto Rico. He will present his research findings at NOAA headquarters this summer.

Unlike most students planning to attend medical school, Bobba decided to study chemical engineering “so I could take things I just learned in class and use them to understand and solve everyday problems,” he said.

Bobba’s research on engineered particles that could be used as therapeutic drug carriers won an award last month at a meeting of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. He also serves as a chemistry tutor and research assistant while working at URI’s Ryan Center.

“Ultimately, I want to end up at the interface between the hospital bedside and the laboratory,” Bobba said of his career plans. “I want to harness new technologies and procedures developed in labs, and apply them to actually heal people and improve their lives.”

Students majoring in chemical engineering at URI have been particularly successful at being awarded the Goldwater Scholarship in recent years. In addition to Bobba, Eily Cournoyer of Portsmouth received the scholarship in 2011 and Brian Bonk of Westerly in 2010. Farid Topchiev of Warwick was an honorable mention winner this year. All majored in chemical engineering.

“Their success reflects on the quality of our undergraduate students and the faculty who mentor them during their time here,” said Richard Brown, professor and chairman of the URI Department of Chemical Engineering. “Emphasis on extensive undergraduate research opportunities, a longstanding feature of the department, also plays a significant role in these students overall academic development.”

Pictured above

Christopher Bobba and Russell Dauksis.

URI Department of Communications & Marketing photo by Michael Salerno Photography