For the second straight year, two UNLV students in a single cycle earned the Barry Goldwater Scholarship, the nation's premier undergraduate award in mathematics, natural sciences, and engineering.
Honors College students Alvaro Carbonero and Ava Platt are two of just 396 scholarship recipients chosen from a field of competitors nominated by colleges and universities nationwide. The scholarships provide up to $7,500 per year and cover the cost of tuition, fees, books, and other expenses. More than 1,300 college sophomores and juniors from 461 colleges were nominated for the scholarship this year.
"The Goldwater Scholarship is the gold standard for undergraduate research in STEM disciplines,” said Andrew Hanson, Dean of the Honors College. “I am extremely proud of Ava and Alvaro and all of their hard work that led to being recognized for the award.”
Platt – a nontraditional undergraduate pursuing a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in neuroscience – has focused her research on the genetic, cellular and molecular components of neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's Disease. In Summer 2018, she traveled to Jerusalem, Israel for an internship at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem to research time perception, attention, and neural oscillations.
Boasting an impressive 4.0 GPA at UNLV, Platt is working on her undergraduate thesis as part of the Honors College Research and Creative Honors program and is a research assistant in Professor Jefferson Kinney's Cellular and Molecular Brain Lab. Platt also works as a yoga instructor at the UNLV Campus Recreation and Wellness Center and has a passion for helping others live a healthy lifestyle. She plans to pursue a Ph.D. in neuroscience after she graduates next year.
“Becoming a Goldwater Scholar has brought my aspirations of becoming a researcher into reality, and I am extremely excited to apply for graduate programs this coming Fall,” said Platt. “I am honored to represent UNLV in receiving such a prestigious award and I owe my success to my family and my amazing mentors: Dr. Jefferson Kinney, Andrew Ortiz, Dr. James Hyman and Dr. Ayelet Landau. I hope that my story will inspire other students that they can accomplish anything with hard work and devotion.”
Carbonero is an Honors College senior majoring in mathematics with a 3.94 GPA. He balances his time between classes, researching combinatorics for his Honor thesis, and serving as a mathematics tutor. Last summer, Carbonero completed an eight-week grant-funded research experience on discrete geometry at Lafayette College.
At the age of 18, Carbonero moved from Lima, Peru to Las Vegas to start a new life in the U.S. and to attend UNLV. After graduating in 2021, he plans to pursue a doctoral degree in the field of pure mathematics and intends to become a researcher, educator, and mentor for minority students pursuing careers in academia.
“To me, being recognized by the Goldwater Foundation with this award means that my dream of becoming a world-class mathematician is not that crazy after all,” said Carbonero. “If I had to thank one person, it would be my math professor and mentor Dr. Michelle Robinette. Without her, I would be nowhere close to where I am today.”
With these two new Goldwater Scholars, UNLV has had five students earn the award over the past three years. This is also the first time in UNLV’s 63-year history that the university has had three active Goldwater Scholars at the same time. Platt and Carbonero join fellow undergraduate Michael Schwob, who received the award last year as a sophomore and plans to graduate in 2021.
“The success of our undergraduates with the Goldwater awards in recent years is an exciting sign of the increasing significance of undergraduate research at UNLV," said Hanson.
Named for the late U.S. Sen. Barry Goldwater, the federally endowed scholarship program seeks students majoring in natural sciences, mathematics, and engineering who demonstrate a strong commitment to research and great potential for significant contributions to their chosen field.