Thursday, April 2, 2009

Engineering Science student William Jacobs, selected as Goldwater Scholar

April 2, 2009 — UVA Today by Matt Kelly

William Jacobs, a third-year engineering science and physics major at the University of Virginia, has received a scholarship from the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation.

The scholarship, valued at $7,500 a year for up to two years, is awarded to rising third- and fourth-year students pursuing degrees in science, mathematics and engineering. The scholarships help cover the cost of tuition, fees, books and room and board.

Jacobs, 21, of Fredericksburg, Va., was one of 278 winners selected from a field of 1,097 mathematics, science and engineering students nominated by faculties of colleges and universities nationwide.

"I was thrilled to see my name among the list of Goldwater scholars," Jacobs said. "I know how strong the competition is in Virginia, and I am both excited and humbled to have been awarded one of the scholarships."

Jacobs said a research proposal comprised a major portion of his application, a proposal for which he has already received a Harrison Undergraduate Research Award. Jacobs' research concerns the computational investigation of hypersonic impact on carbon nanotube-reinforced polymer composite materials. Sponsored by NASA, this research forms the foundation of his theses for both engineering science and physics majors over the course of three semesters.

"Receiving this scholarship will certainly give me confidence as I apply to graduate schools and fellowships in the fall," Jacobs said. "Right now, however, it gives me renewed motivation as I tackle my research and classes."

"William Jacobs is an outstanding example of the excellence of our SEAS undergraduates," said James H. Aylor, dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science. "He combines intellect, curiosity, initiative and dedication to excel in his academic pursuits. We are very proud of him."

Jacobs' work has also impressed his professors.

"Will is the most talented undergraduate student I have had work with me in the 18 years I have been at U.Va.," said Robert G. Kelly, a professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering. "I feel extremely fortunate to have watched him grow as a person and scientist during the past two years."

"It is having students like William that makes my work as an educator and research mentor most rewarding," said Leonid V. Zhigilei, an associate professor of materials science and engineering and Jacobs' research mentor. "William is a very pleasant, modest and sincere person and I thoroughly enjoy my interaction with him."

Jacobs is a Jefferson Scholar and a Rodman Scholar, as well as a member of the Raven Society. He belongs to two research groups: Computational Materials Group and Center for Electrochemical Science and Engineering.

He is also a shop manager at Charlottesville Community Bikes and a member of the Triathlon Club and the Jazz Chamber Ensemble.

Jacobs plans to pursue a Ph.D. in physics, materials science or a related engineering discipline.

"This year was a particularly competitive year with many outstanding candidates representing their home institutions and states in this national competition," said Michael P. Timko, biology professor and faculty representative for the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program. "William Jacobs continues a long line of successes at U.Va. with our students being recognized as among the best science and engineering undergraduates nationally."

Thushara Gunda, a third-year environmental sciences student from Alexandria, Va., received an honorable mention.

This year, 163 of the 278 Goldwater Scholars are men, 115 are women and virtually all intend to obtain a Ph.D. as their degree objective. Thirty are mathematics majors, 190 are science and related majors, 51 are majoring in engineering, and seven are computer science majors. Many of the scholars have dual majors in a variety of mathematics, science, engineering and computer disciplines.