Clark School Undergraduate Named 2018 Goldwater Scholar

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Eric Wang

Fischell Department of Bioengineering (BIOE) junior Eric Wang was awarded a prestigious scholarship by the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation, which encourages students to pursue advanced study and careers in the sciences, engineering and mathematics.

Wang was one of four University of Maryland students to receive the honor this year. In the past five years, UMD's 20 nominations yielded 18 scholarships and two honorable mentions.

Wang—a member of the University Honors program in the Honors College and a recipient of a 2017 Howard Hughes Medical Institute Research Fellowship, a President’s Scholarship and an A. James Clark Scholarship—is interested in molecular dynamics, a computer simulation method for studying the physical movements of biomolecules.

In 2016, he began working with Jeffery Klauda, an associate professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at UMD. Wang ran molecular dynamics simulations and analyzed trajectories for computational models of lipid rafts, ocular lens membranes and the outer layer of the skin.

"I have been impressed with Eric’s computational ability to quickly learn our techniques and to know when to ask versus figuring it out on his own," said Klauda. "He is currently at the level I might expect from a top mid-level graduate student, not an undergraduate that has only worked in my lab for a year." 

Wang published three first-author papers and one co-first author paper. Currently, he is preparing another manuscript for submission. He presented his work at the 254th American Chemical Society (ACS) National Meeting last summer and the 62nd Meeting of the Biophysical Society this past winter. At the ACS meeting, he won the Jeffry Madura Outstanding Research Award for his poster presentation.

Last summer, Wang joined the lab of Klauda's collaborator, Richard Pastor, a senior investigator in the Membrane Biophysics Section of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute at the National Institutes of Health. There, he used molecular dynamics to determine how a peptide that promotes membrane fusion stabilizes pore formation. 

Wang is a member of Catholic Terps and Knights of Columbus. He also enjoys being a teaching assistant for engineering courses, mentoring a local high school student in bioengineering research and tutoring students at K-12 schools near campus. 

The Goldwater Scholarship program was created in 1986 to identify students of outstanding ability and promise in science, engineering and mathematics, and to encourage their pursuit of advanced study and research careers. The Goldwater Foundation has honored 62 University of Maryland winners and five honorable mentions since the program’s first award was given in 1989.

Colleges and universities may submit up to four nominations annually for these awards. Goldwater Scholars receive one- or two-year scholarships that cover the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board up to $7,500 per year. These scholarships are a stepping-stone to future support for the students’ research careers.

Published April 5, 2018