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LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 22, 2024) — The University of Kentucky Office of Nationally Competitive Awards has announced that three UK students have been awarded Barry M. Goldwater Scholarships:

  • Hena Kachroo, biochemistry major in the College of Arts and Sciences

  • Asa O’Neal, mechanical engineering major in the Stanley and Karen Pigman College of Engineering and physics major in the College of Arts and Sciences

  • Harrison Yang, biomedical engineering major in the Stanley and Karen Pigman College of Engineering

Kachroo, O’Neal and Yang are among 438 students selected nationwide to receive the 2024-25 scholarship. This year’s recipients were selected from a pool of 1,353 undergraduates nominated by 446 institutions. 

The prestigious Goldwater Scholarship was created to honor U.S. Sen. Barry Goldwater. The program was designed to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences and engineering. Since its first award in 1989, the foundation has bestowed 10,720 scholarships.

Hena Kachroo

The Goldwater Scholarship is not Kachroo’s first major recognition at UK. Last year, she was named a Beckman Scholar through the Office of Undergraduate Research and is completing a 15-month independent research project under the mentorship of Anne Frances Miller, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Chemistry. She is currently studying how bifurcating electron transport flavoproteins from certain organisms are better equipped to catalyze more energy efficient reactions, which will aid in identifying biochemical solutions to challenges in sustainable energy.

“Guided, one-on-one time with my mentor has been invaluable, allowing me to grasp the intricacies of the research process,” Kachroo said.

A Lexington native and member of the Lewis Honors College, Kachroo has also conducted neurological brain research in Alzheimer’s disease with Yang Jiang, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Behavioral Science in the College of Medicine, and nuclear physics research with Chris Crawford, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

Kachroo plans to obtain a Ph.D. in astrobiology and conduct research aimed at advancing the biochemical knowledge of extreme environments and molecules for applications in space. She looks forward to connecting with the network provided by the Goldwater Scholarship.

“Making these valuable connections as I continue in my research journey will allow me to gain access to mentorship from experienced scholars, ultimately accelerating my growth as a researcher,” she said.

Asa O’Neal

A summer visit to Dayton, Ohio’s National Museum of the United States Air Force renewed O’Neal’s childhood interest in astronautics and inspired him to pursue a career researching aerospace technologies.

A Chellgren Fellow and member of the Lewis Honors College, he has since conducted research in UK’s Uncrewed Aerial Vehicle Lab and as part of UK’s Kentucky Re-entry Universal Payload System (KRUPS). He is a member of the Solar Car Team and credits Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering professors Sean Bailey, Ph.D., and Suzanne Smith, Ph.D., for serving as mentors during his time on campus.

A native of West Liberty, Kentucky, O’Neal spent last summer at NASA's Langley Research Center (LaRC) in Hampton, Virginia, working to develop aerial mesh networks using uncrewed aerial vehicles. He said his time at LaRC cemented his dream to work on human spaceflight projects.

“I was surrounded by history, working in the building where the Apollo astronauts trained for the first lunar mission,” he said.

This summer, he will intern at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, working to develop cryogenic CO2 scrubber technologies for human spaceflight.

He plans to pursue a Ph.D. researching spacecraft propulsion technologies and pursue a career in research.

“The Goldwater Scholarship will not only lessen the financial burden of undergraduate studies but will also demonstrate my academic achievement for future graduate fellowships,” he said.

Harrison Yang

Pursuing an array of research experiences on campus has helped Yang, of Louisville, clarify his future career goals. He intends to pursue cancer immunology research and bridge the gap between doctors and researchers to improve patient care.

 “My time as an undergraduate has really been about pursuing something that makes me happy,” he said. “There is no one experience that completely influenced me towards my area of study. Instead, through trial and error, I have slowly discovered that I enjoy the process of leading a study.”

Yang is currently working under the mentorship of Christine Brainson, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Toxicology and Cancer Biology in the College of Medicine.

“The inherently complex and confusing nature of this field always has me asking more questions that I hope to answer,” he said. “I see graduating with a degree in biomedical engineering as a means of answering these questions.”

Yang, a member of the Lewis Honors College, previously conducted research on optical microscopy of tumor metabolism following radiation therapy with Caigang Zhu, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Jing Yan, doctoral student in biomedical engineering. He also worked with former biomedical engineering research assistant professor Fanny Chapelin, Ph.D., to lead a study on magnetic resonance imaging of macrophage response to radiation therapy.

He also credits Ok-Kyong Park-Sarge, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Physiology in the College of Medicine, and Christine Goble, Ph.D., senior lecturer in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and Lewis Honors College, for serving as mentors inside the classroom.

The Office of Nationally Competitive Awards is very grateful for the work of the campus Goldwater committee. Liz Debski, associate professor of biology, Chris Crawford, professor of physics, and Al Corso, associate professor of mathematics, have given many hours of work reviewing applications and supporting Goldwater applicants. The office seeks applicants for the Goldwater Scholarship each fall. Interested students can find more information on the office’s website.

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.