This year, three University of Michigan students have been awarded the Goldwater Scholarship, one of the most prestigious awards undergraduate students in STEM can receive. Marcus Gozon, Devarshi Mukherji, and Tirth Patel are this year’s winners.

Established in 1986, the Goldwater Scholarship provides support for highly qualified undergraduates who plan to pursue a PhD and research career in STEM fields. It provides $7,500 for students in support of their junior and/or senior year of study.

Marcus Gozon

Marcus is a junior double-majoring in Mathematics and Computer Science. He intends to pursue a PhD in mathematics or theoretical computer science and go on to do research in either academia or industry in the future. 

His previous research experience includes his DIMACS REU project, where he designed algorithms and complexity lower bounds for motion-planning problems in robotics, and U-M UROP, where he evaluated the implications of a machine learning reconstruction attack in medical environments. Additionally, he helped write problems for the Michigan Math Meet high school competition and is helping organize another one around combinatorics and algorithms.

Marcus recounts that he was initially doubtful of his chances of receiving the award, and thus was almost certain he wouldn’t apply. However, with encouragement from his mentors, Professor Jingjin Yu and Professor Stephen DeBacker, he pulled his application together the week of the deadline.

He notes that applying for the Goldwater Scholarship gave him an incredible opportunity to seriously reflect on his future career goals and consider how his past experiences have shaped his current actions. Marcus highly encourages anyone interested in doing research to apply regardless of their current stage in the process, noting that the opportunity to reflect is more valuable than the outcome.

Marcus mentions that he is grateful for, “Jingjin Yu, Stephen DeBacker, and Maria Han Veiga for their advice, help, and patience these last few years, as well as their general kindness in ensuring the best for me. In particular, Stephen DeBacker has been very swift and accommodating even when I decided fairly late to apply.”

Devarshi Mukherji

Devarshi is a junior studying Neuroscience. He is leading a research project analyzing single-cell RNA-sequencing data to identify molecular mechanisms causing resistance to radiation therapy in pediatric brain tumors. By addressing the limitations of current therapies, Devarshi hopes to help children and their families fight this devastating disease. Devarshi credits his clinical experiences with these patients during his Ramnath Fellowship as his motivation to push through the inevitable setbacks in science and propel his research forward. His thesis is titled Investigating Mechanisms of Radioresistance in H3.3-G34R Pediatric High-Grade Gliomas. 

Devarshi applied for Goldwater in order to bring recognition to the collective fight he and others are putting up against glioma. He hopes this recognition can remind patients and their families that people are still fighting, even though improvements in treatment have been slow. He plans to pursue an M.D./Ph.D focusing on the intersection between bioinformatics and cancer biology to advance targeted therapies for brain tumors.

When asked about the value of applying, Devarshi stated, “The amount of introspection that was necessary for this application process was invaluable in helping me understand who I want to become. For future applicants, spend a lot of time thinking. Understanding why you've made the decisions you have and how your experiences have impacted you may help reveal your underlying drive. Knowing yourself is an essential first step to telling your story.”

He would like to thank Dr. Maria Castro, Dr. Pedro Lowenstein, Dr. Santiago Haase, Dr. Stephen Carney, Dr. Maria Luisa Varela, Dr. Kaushik Banerjee, Dr. Anzar Mujeeb, Nigel Lang, Dr. Marta Edwards, Dr. YingXiang Li, Anna Argento, Molly West, Claire Tronrud, Brandon McClellan, Dr. Jayakrishnan Nandakumar, Dr. Cristina Mitrea, Dr. Steven Kalkanis, Dr. Peter Fecci, Dr. Anoop Patel, Dr. Shawn Hervey-Jumper, Dr. Mariella Filbin, and Dr. Carl Koschmann for supporting his scientific and personal development. Additionally, he would like to thank his family, in particular, his parents, for their endless support, and the patients and families who have graciously supported the lab’s research.

Tirth Patel

Tirth is an engineering student majoring in Biomedical Engineering. His research is focused on optimizing Platelet-Derived Growth Factor Receptor Alpha inhibition therapy in glioma. His findings highlight the importance of understanding the mechanisms of tumor response and resistance to targeted therapies, paving the way for improved treatment outcomes for this challenging disease. 

Tirth is dedicated to pursuing an M.D/Ph.D with a focus on neuro-oncology and biomedical engineering. He states, “as a future physician-scientist, my ambition is to delve into the development of targeted therapies for brain tumors, leveraging my background in biomedical engineering to innovate on treatment modalities.” This path aligns with his passion for both patient care and research, as he aims to bridge the gap between laboratory discoveries and clinical applications to advance the treatment of brain tumors and ultimately improve patient outcomes through precision medicine.

He applied for the Goldwater Scholarship to support his aspirations in advancing research, and notes that the award recognizes his commitment and provides essential funding that will enable him to concentrate more fully on his academic and research endeavors. Tirth notes that the application and nomination process was a journey of self-reflection and vision for his future, compelling him to articulate his research experiences and aspirations with clarity, which deepened his understanding of the impact he aspires to in his field. To future applicants, Tirth says, “embrace this process as an opportunity to reflect on your passion and achievements. This is a great opportunity for you to acknowledge your journey and envision your future contributions. The insight I’ve gained is invaluable, it is not just about winning the award but about understanding your role in the broader scientific community and the tangible difference you aim to make in the world.”

Tirth would like to thank his research mentors, including Dr. Carl Koschmann, Dr. Anish Tuteja, Dr. Paul Price, Dr. Geeta Mehta, Dr. Muneesh Tiwari, Kallen Schwark, and David Speer. His is deeply thankful to them for their mentorship and supporting his interests in research and medicine. Furthermore, Tirth is deeply grateful to his family and friends for emotionally supporting him so far.