April 01, 2021
Two Mizzou Engineering students have been named Goldwater Scholars, making the University of Missouri the only school in the state with more than one recipient.
Rebecca Shyu is majoring in computer science with an interest in bioinformatics. Brandon Lee is a double major in chemical engineering and physics. Both went through a rigorous essay and application process for the Goldwater Scholarship, which aims to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue research careers.
“We’re very proud of Brandon and Rebecca,” said Noah Manring, interim dean of Mizzou Engineering. “This prestigious scholarship is truly a testament to their academic achievements and contributions to the college.”
Shyu — who was named “outstanding senior” in computer science this year — plans to pursue a PhD to become a professor and conduct research in biomedical informatics. Ultimately, she hopes to become an expert on health topics and policies.
“I’ve always been interested in medicine but was not sure about pursuing an MD,” she said. “Computer science provides so many interdisciplinary opportunities. I hope to use my background in computer science and data analytics to make new discoveries.”
She’s on the right track. Shyu is involved in research around health disparities using geospatial technologies with the Department of Health Management and Informatics at the MU School of Medicine. She is also involved in the Missouri Telehealth Network’s Show Me ECHO program to serve rural Missourians. And she is doing research for her honors thesis with Associate Professor Wei Jiang in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.
Additionally, Shyu is conducting research on health care policy as it relates to substance abuse using telemedicine with a group at Harvard Medical School.
“The computer science program has really given me a lot of opportunities,” she said. “I would recommend it. The professors are very supportive and encouraging. And there are so many different avenues computer science can take you. Whatever your heart desires, there’s a way computer science can fit into it.”
Outside of the classroom and lab, Shyu is involved in the Society of Women Engineers and Upsilon Pi Epsilon, the honor society for computer science. She is a Mizzou Engineering Ambassador and an undergraduate research ambassador. Last year, she served as a tri-director for Mizzou Homecoming and was tapped into Mortar Board, a society that recognizes outstanding leadership, scholarship and service.
“Organizations, I think, are essential to creating a strong community at Mizzou,” she said. “That’s where I found a really strong support system.”
In addition to Jiang, Shyu lists among her mentors Iris Zachary and Mirna Becevic, assistant research professors at the School of Medicine.
Lee — named “outstanding junior” in chemical engineering this year — plans to earn a PhD in plasma physics and work at a national lab.
“I hope to work as a research scientist and make nuclear fusion commercially viable,” he said.
This semester, Lee is taking a break from his studies for a Department of Energy Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internship. This program provides research experiences at DOE laboratories to encourage students pursuing STEM fields. Lee is working with a post-doc on research around stellarator optimization at Princeton’s Plasma Physics Lab.
On campus, Lee has worked on computational materials research relevant to nuclear fusion with Karl Hamond, associate professor of chemical engineering.
Lee’s research is already getting national accolades. In November, he took home an Outstanding Poster Award from the American Physical Society’s Division of Plasma Physics annual meeting. His research topic focused on the effects of temperature on bursting characteristics of helium bubbles embedded in tungsten surfaces. The goal of the research was to improve modeling forecasts for shielding materials in nuclear fusion reactors.
“The chemical engineering program is a good program,” Lee said. “They care about their students, and they make sure you know your stuff.”
Outside of research and studies, Lee has served as president Engineers Without Boarders, traveling abroad to work on water pipe installation in a community in Panama and to help supervise an engineering assessment trip and initial design phase for a well in Ecuador. Last year, he was president of Tau Beta Pi, the engineering honors society, and helped guide the group through the challenges of COVID-19.
In addition to Hammond, Lee thanked mentors Paul Chan, associate professor emeritus in biomedical, biological and chemical engineering, and Sergei Kopeikin, a professor of physics and astronomy in the College of Arts and Science.
“That’s the most critical component of doing well,” Lee said. “Having people who will guide you and have your back.”