Campus News

Three UB engineering students win coveted Goldwater

Three UB students in Davis Hall, home of UB Engineering.

Left to right: UB students Stephanie M. Kong (chemical engineering), Sharon Lin (chemical engineering) and Kristina Monokhova (electrical engineering) are UB's 2015 Goldwater scholarship winners.


Published April 9, 2015

“The awards are especially gratifying because of the emphasis UB places on encouraging women, minorities and other underrepresented groups to pursue careers in STEM fields.”
Liesl Folks, dean
School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

Three UB juniors will receive Goldwater scholarships, a prestigious national honor that supports undergraduates studying science, mathematics or engineering.

The students are:

  • Stephanie M. Kong, a chemical engineering major from East Amherst.
  • Sharon Lin, a chemical engineering major from Schenectady.
  • Kristina Monakhova, an electrical engineering major from Liverpool.

They are among 260 award winners chosen by the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program from a nationwide pool of 1,206 sophomores and juniors. Congress established the program in 1986 to honor Barry Goldwater, a five-term senator from Arizona.

Each award winner will receive up to $7,500 per year to cover educational expenses.

“The Goldwater scholarship committee could not have chosen three more deserving scholars than Stephanie, Sharon and Kristina,” said Liesl Folks, dean of UB’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. “They have excelled in the classroom and laboratory, and set an example for other students to emulate. The awards are especially gratifying because of the emphasis UB places on encouraging women, minorities and other underrepresented groups to pursue careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields.”

Universities may nominate up to four undergraduates annually, and each of UB’s four 2015 nominees received recognition. Junior Dante A. Iozzo, a dual major in physics and mathematics from Lewiston, earned an honorable mention.

All four nominees are UB Honors Scholars; the three winners also received Presidential Scholarships upon enrolling at UB in 2013.

“Goldwater scholarships are extremely competitive,” said Elizabeth Colucci, UB’s coordinator of fellowships and scholarships. “Fortunately at UB, we have the good problem of having no shortage of exemplary students to nominate. This is no doubt a reflection of the quality of our student body.”

This year’s award winners are a point of pride for UB’s engineering school. Since 2012, six undergraduate engineering students – including five from the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering – have won the prestigious award.

About Stephanie M. Kong:

Kong is a dual major in chemical engineering and Spanish.

Upon arriving at UB in the fall of 2013, she sought to work in the laboratory of Paschalis Alexandridis, UB Distinguished Professor in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering (CBE).

“I started my freshman year. I read through the faculty research bios of the CBE department, and became particularly drawn to how Dr. Alexandridis is working with surfactant self-assembly,” Kong wrote in an email. “I was amazed by the sheer number of applications his research had and its implications for future materials.”

Kong studies the fundamental thermodynamic properties of model surfactant systems, which may be used to create more eco-friendly dispersants for oil spill cleanups, assess the stability of drug-delivery systems, and other applications.

Kong, who intends to earn a PhD in chemical engineering, plans to conduct research in nanomaterials and teach at the university level. She also hopes to promote scientific learning and outreach in low-income area schools.

“Stephanie is the most academically accomplished third-year UB student I've known. She is a dedicated and serious student, self-motivated and ambitious,” Alexandridis said.

About Sharon Lin:

Lin was drawn to UB because of its wide range of research opportunities for undergraduates, its affordability and extracurricular activities such as Alternative Spring Break.

She was first exposed to medical research by her father, a cancer researcher and professor at Taipei Medical University in Taiwan.

At the end of her freshman year at UB, she joined the laboratory of Blaine Pfeifer, associate professor in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering.

“My research with Dr. Pfeifer focuses on methods of gene delivery, the process of delivering therapeutic DNA into a cell,” she wrote in an email. “This kind of work is powerful because it can be used to treat many sorts of diseases at the genetic level, including various cancers.”

Lin plans to earn a PhD in chemical engineering, conduct research in pharmaceuticals and polymer engineering, and teach at the university level.

“It has been a pleasure working with Sharon,” Pfeifer said. “Her scientific ability is truly outstanding. She represents the best of UB.”

About Kristina Monakhova:

Monakhova was not at UB when she was notified via email that she won a Goldwater scholarship. She wasn’t even in the country.

She is studying abroad this semester in France at the National School of Electronics and its Applications (ENSEA).

“UB’s electrical engineering department has a very nice exchange program set up with ENSEA, where I can take the equivalent junior year spring courses in France – a rare opportunity with such strict course requirements in engineering,” she wrote in an email.

The semester abroad is one of numerous interesting projects that Monakhova has tackled as a UB student. Among them:

  • GLADOS (Glint Analyzing Data Observation Satellite), a U.S. Air Force-funded project designed to track space debris that orbits the Earth and threatens satellites and future space missions.
  • An internship with NASA’s Robotics Academy at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama.
  • She also worked with four UB students to develop a radar system for unmanned aerial vehicles. The project is funded by UB’s Center for Undergraduate Research & Creative Activities (CURCA).

“Kristina truly deserves this award. The depth and breadth of her research interests, combined with her ability to execute research and deliver presentations, all are exceptional,” said John Crassidis, CUBRC Professor in Space Situational Awareness. Crassidis supervised Monakhova on the GLADOS project.

Monakhova plans to earn a PhD in electrical engineering and research advanced concepts in space systems while leading a multidisciplinary space systems research laboratory.