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Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

ChBE sophomore wins Goldwater Scholarship

University of Illinois Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering sophomore Elijah Karvelis has been awarded the prestigious Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship for demonstrating leadership and academic promise.

The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program was established by Congress in 1986 to honor Barry M. Goldwater, who served 30 years in the U.S. Senate. The program provides a continuing source of highly qualified scientists, mathematicians and engineers by awarding scholarships to sophomores and juniors from the United States who intend to pursue doctorates in these fields.

As a first-semester freshman at Illinois, Karvelis worked with Associate Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Charles Schroeder to synthesize structurally defined polymers.

“It has been a pleasure working with Eli on undergraduate research. Eli is mature beyond his years and is always asking the deep scientific questions of ‘how’ and ‘why’ in research,” said Schroeder, who nominated Karvelis for the scholarship. “In my group, Eli synthesized ‘structurally-defined’ polymers, which are macromolecules with precise topologies and architectures. On this project, he quickly became proficient in a broad area of techniques in biopolymer synthesis and characterization. He has a very promising future ahead and represents some of the best intellectual student talent that Illinois has to offer.”

ChBE sophomore and Goldwater Scholarship recipient Elijah Karvelis
ChBE sophomore and Goldwater Scholarship recipient Elijah Karvelis

Karvelis, of Pecatonica, Illinois, is a member of both the Campus Honors and James Scholar programs at Illinois and is attending Illinois with the aid of a Stamps Leadership Scholarship. He plans to pursue a Ph.D. in chemical or biological engineering and conduct research in biotechnology to advance health sciences. His initial introduction to research was at Highland Community College, where Karvelis took classes during his last two years of high school.

Last summer, Karvelis participated in a National Science Foundation-sponsored Research Experience for Undergraduates at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which introduced him to topics in tissue engineering and biomaterials. As his interest in tissue engineering grew, Karvelis in January moved to the research group of Associate Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Brendan Harley.

Karvelis is one of three University of Illinois students being recognized this year. He and math major Boris Xu were awarded the Goldwater scholarships for the 2016-17 and 2017-18 academic years, and Pariyamon Thaprawat, who is studying molecular and cellular biology, earned an honorable mention.

The 252 Goldwater Scholars for 2016-17 were selected on the basis of academic merit from a field of 1,150 mathematics, science and engineering students nominated by the faculties of colleges and universities nationwide. Additionally, 256 honorable mentions were named. The Goldwater Scholarship is the premier undergraduate award of its type in these fields. For Karvelis and Xu, the scholarships cover the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board for up to a maximum of $7,500 for each of the next two years.

“Nationally, only 20 percent of Goldwater Scholarships are awarded to sophomores, so it speaks volumes that two of our second-year students have found such success at this early stage of their education. These flourishing scientists have seized the research opportunities presented to undergraduates at Illinois,” said David Schug, the director of the National and International Scholarships Program at Illinois.