Three New Goldwater Scholars Hail From Rhodes

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Publication Date: 4/3/2008


Rhodes College chemistry majors Laura Hofto ′10 and Elizabeth Parkinson ′10 and chemistry and biology double major Jacquelyn Hancock ′10 have been named Goldwater Scholars for 2008-2009. All are second-year students. The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation is awarding 321 scholarships for the academic year to undergraduate sophomores and juniors from the United States.

Established by Congress in 1986 to honor Senator Barry M. Goldwater, the program provides awards to highly qualified college students who intend to pursue careers in science, mathematics, and engineering. Scholarships provide funding up to a maximum of $7,500 per year. Students cannot apply for the scholarship, but rather must be nominated by their institutions based on their potential for scientific research.

“The Goldwater scholarship is widely held to be the most prestigious award for undergraduate science majors in the United States, as it evaluates Laura, Betsy and Jackie against the top science students from all colleges and universities across the country,” says Dr. Mauricio Cafiero, assistant professor of chemistry at Rhodes. “The criteria for this scholarship include not only grades, but also extra-curricular activities and research experience and potential. Rhodes is very lucky to have these excellent students. All three have been involved in exciting research since their freshman year, and they were able to use those experiences to write very strong applications.”

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Jacquelyn Hancock of China Spring, Texas

The daughter of Thomas C. and Lura Hancock, Hancock is the 2006 Valedictorian of China Spring High School. In 2007, she won the Award for Excellence in First Year Biology. She recently was recognized with an Outstanding Research award for her poster presentation titled “The Gene THI73 and Its Role in G1 Cyclin Cln3 Function in S. cerevisiae” at the Southeastern Regional Yeast Meeting (SERYM) in Gatlinburg, Tenn. Hancock uses the yeast model to study the cell cycle, and she was the only undergraduate to receive this award.

In addition, Hancock serves as a tutor both on the Rhodes campus and at a local middle school.  She is a member of Kappa Delta Sorority and Rhodes’ Ultimate Frisbee Team.  Hancock plays intramural basketball and volleyball and volunteers at “More Than a Meal,” a soup kitchen at Idlewild Presbyterian Church, and at local animal shelters. This summer she will serve as a National Science Foundation Summer Research Fellow continuing her work in genetics in the lab of Dr. Mary E. Miller at Rhodes.

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Laura Hofto of Mobile, Ala.

The daughter of Mike and Nancy Hofto, Hofto is a graduate of St. Paul’s Episcopal School and a member of Kappa Delta. She conducts research in the lab of Dr. Mauricio Cafiero and received the CRC First-year Chemistry Award last year. In the summer of 2007, she presented her work at the Mercury Conference in New York and in October, she spoke in The Netherlands at an international symposium on Computational Life Science about her research, "Using Simple Molecular Orbital Calculations to Predict Disease.” She received a competitive travel grant to make her presentation. Her research on protein interactions has been published in the International Journal of Quantum Chemistry and the American Institute of Physics’ Conference Proceedings Series.

Hofto currently is working on a study of the enzymes responsible for the synthesis of serotonin and how mutations in these enzymes cause diseases such as OCD and anxiety. Hofto will give two presentations at the National American Chemical Society conference in April and this summer she will conduct research in computational chemistry at Edinburgh’s Heriot-Watt University, one of the UK’s leading research institutions.

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Elizabeth Parkinson of Greenville, Miss.

The daughter of John and Amy Parkinson, Parkinson is a graduate of Washington School. She is Outreach Chair for the Rhodes Student Affiliates of the American Chemical Society (SAACS) which has taken chemistry demonstrations to elementary, middle and high schools in Memphis. Also, she is a participant in the St. Jude Summer Plus Program where she works in Dr. Phil Potter’s Molecular Pharmacology laboratory researching novel inhibitors of Carboxylesterases in the hope of finding molecules for use in medications to ameliorate the dose-limiting toxicity of CPT-11, an anticancer drug.

In 2007, she won the CRC First-year Chemistry Award, the Jack U. Russell First-year Mathematics Award, and the Fred W. Neal Prize in recognition of valuable contributions to The Search for Values in the Light of Western History and Religion Course.  Also, she has served as a classroom assistant at Springdale Elementary school and a tutor for General Chemistry.