Julia Button of Lutherville, Md., a junior honors student majoring in biological sciences and biochemistry in the College of Science, has been awarded a Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship for the 2013-14 academic year.

She is among 271 sophomore or junior students selected for the honor. Faculty members from colleges and universities across the United States nominated more than 1,100 mathematics, science, and engineering students for consideration of the award.

In addition, Justeen Olinger of Roanoke, Va., a junior honors student majoring in electrical engineering in the College of Engineering, earned a 2013 Goldwater Scholarship Honorable Mention, one of 200 students given this distinction.

Julia Button – Goldwater Scholar

Button is actively involved in research, particularly in the area of cancer and drug research. She says she hopes to pursue a Ph.D. in cancer biology and continue research in that area while teaching at the university level.

“Julia is intellectually one of the brightest undergraduates with whom I have had the pleasure to work. Julia’s early vision of her career path and the many choices she has already made to pursue her goals is remarkable, unexpected, and stunning for a junior student,” Carla Finkielstein, associate professor of biological sciences, said. Finkielstein was a faculty research mentor to Button on a project titled, “Dab2: Comparative studies between anti-aggregatory drugs.”

Most recently, Button is working with Liwu Li, professor of inflammation biology and immunology in the Department of Biological Sciences and director of the Center for Inflammation at Virginia Tech, on a project titled, “Mechanisms and intervention strategies for low grade inflammation induced by lipopolysaccharide.” She plans to continue work on the project next year.

“Julia brings tremendous enthusiasm and care to the project that she works on, and has been a great help to the lab,” Li said. “She sees a unique niche in the study of immune environment in modulating human diseases such as cancer, and is determined to continue her training and research in this area in the future.  The Goldwater award is not only a great recognition for her accomplishment, but also a catalyst to assist her in achieving her future career goal.”

"Julia is driven by an innate curiosity and desire to learn new things,” Richard Walker, associate professor and associate department head of biological sciences said. Walker serves as Button’s academic advisor. “Although her research experiences have focused on basic biomedical areas, she took advantage of a study abroad opportunity to learn about human impacts on Antarctica."

Button’s curiosity sparked during a high school senior year experience. She had the opportunity to participate as a research assistant in the Department of Anatomy and Neurology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

“I have known since my first research experience – in my senior year of high school – that biomedical research was something I was passionate about,” Button said. “Cancer is so complex and it intrigues me. I am interested in learning anything I can about it. I want to contribute to a scientific community that determines why cancer forms, develops novel therapies, and prevents onset and reoccurrence."

This summer, Button will participate in an undergraduate research program at the Louis V. Gerstner, Jr. Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

Despite her academically rigorous schedule with undergraduate research and University Honors courses, Button has maintained a near-perfect grade point average. She is also involved in activities outside the classroom like Campus Crusades for Christ and a student organization dedicated to fighting HIV/AIDS called FACE AIDS. She is also a Bridges Team language partner. In that role, she works to help international students acclimate to Virginia Tech.

Button received a 2012 Goldwater Scholarship Honorable Mention.

Goldwater Scholarships cover the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board up to a maximum of $7,500 per year. Since its first award in 1989, the Goldwater Foundation has given more than 6,550 scholarships worth around $40 million.

Justeen Olinger – Honorable Mention

Olinger is active in undergraduate research, working in both the Autonomous Mastery Prototyping (AMP) Lab and the Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS) Lab. She says she hopes to pursue a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering, with an emphasis on kinesiology and biomechanics to conduct research on human response to electricity.

Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 240 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $513 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.

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