Grace Smith, Alan Baez awarded Barry Goldwater Scholarships

Grace Smith and Alan Baez
Grace Smith and Alan Baez

University of Maine juniors Grace Smith and Alan Baez have been awarded Barry Goldwater Scholarships for demonstrating exceptional promise of becoming next-generation research leaders in engineering, mathematics or natural sciences.

Each will receive as much as $7,500 for tuition, books and room and board.

Smith, a junior from Holden, Maine, is a molecular and cellular biology and biochemistry double major with a minor in computer science. She also is in the Honors College.

This summer, the Brewer High School graduate will intern at Washington University in St. Louis through the Amgen Scholars Program, which provides opportunities to undergraduates worldwide to participate in cutting-edge research opportunities at world-class institutions.

Smith has been conducting laboratory research since her junior year of high school. Her current research under Benjamin King, UMaine assistant professor of bioinformatics, seeks to identify novel regulatory genes that modulate phenotypic severity in muscular dystrophy.

Last fall, she presented her work at an undergraduate research symposium at Harvard University.

Smith also has interned at Novartis Institute for BioMedical Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts through the Novartis Scientific Summer Scholars Program.

She recently was inducted into the All Maine Women Honor Society, which recognizes distinguished leadership, scholarship and service to the university and campus community. Smith is a volunteer coach for a Girls on the Run Team in Hampden. The marathon runner also is a member of the UMaine Club Track and is vice president of the Maine Society for Microbiology.

Smith plans to pursue a dual M.D./Ph.D. degree and become a principal investigator in a private or academic research laboratory, exploring the role of regulatory genes in cardiac regeneration and disease.

In addition to King, her faculty mentors are Jason Thomas, Sally Molloy, Eric Gallandt, Angela Myracle, Jennifer Lipps and Sonja Birthisel.

Baez, a 2016 Waterville Senior High School graduate, is a biochemistry major. The 2016 Mitchell Scholar also is in the Honors College.

He has been conducting toxicology research in the lab of Julie Gosse, an associate professor of biochemistry, since his sophomore year at UMaine.

Last year, he was awarded a Maine INBRE (IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence) Summer Fellowship to study effects of the antimicrobial triclosan on the plasma membrane potential of mast cells.

Baez presented this research at the Society of Toxicology Annual Meeting and ToxExpo in Baltimore.

This summer, he’ll participate in The Jackson Laboratory Summer Student Program, designed for scholars who want to be immersed in genetics and genomics research.

Baez plans to earn his bachelor’s, doctorate and post-doctorate degrees and become a principal investigator at a nonprofit or academic research institution, conducting independent research in toxicology or genomics in his own laboratory.

“I would like to thank Dr. Julie Gosse for providing me with the research experience that allowed me to earn this fellowship,” says Baez.

“I would also like to thank Dr. (Robert) Wheeler and Nives Dalbo-Wheeler for providing the guidance that allowed me to craft a successful application. I am incredibly excited to see the opportunities that being a Goldwater Scholar might bring.”

In addition to Gosse, Baez’s faculty mentors are Molloy, King, Juyoung Shim, Keith Hutchison, Suraj Sangroula and Melody Neely.

Wheeler, associate professor of microbiology, is the UMaine campus representative for the scholarship.

Smith and Baez received application support from the Office of Major Scholarships in Fogler Library. The office has more information about the Goldwater Scholarship and other scholarship opportunities on its website.

In 1986, Congress established the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation to honor the work of Sen. Barry Goldwater, who served the country for 56 years as a soldier and statesman, including 30 years in the U.S. Senate.

Since 1989, the Goldwater Foundation has awarded scholarships totaling more than $68 million to 8,628 students. Goldwater Scholars have been awarded 92 Rhodes Scholarships, 137 Marshall Awards, 159 Churchill Scholarships, 104 Hertz Fellowships, and other distinguished awards, including National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships.

For additional information, the Goldwater Foundation release is online, as is a list of scholarship recipients from each state.

Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777