Three Northeastern students named Goldwater Scholars

Three North­eastern Uni­ver­sity students—Theo Bowe, S’16, Tushar Swamy, E/S’15, and Greg Allan, E/S’16—have been selected to receive the pres­ti­gious Barry M. Gold­water Scholarship.

A total of 283 sopho­mores and juniors in the U.S. were named Gold­water Scholars for the 2014–15 aca­d­emic year. Scholars were selected from a field of 1,166 math, sci­ence, and engi­neering stu­dents who were nom­i­nated by fac­ulty at their respec­tive insti­tu­tions based on their strong aca­d­emic standing. The Barry Gold­water Schol­ar­ship and Excel­lence in Edu­ca­tion Foun­da­tion has been pre­senting the award since 1989.

The trio of tal­ented stu­dents credit research oppor­tu­ni­ties they received as freshmen with fos­tering their pas­sion for sci­ence and engineering.

Bowe recalled taking an honors psy­chology course taught by James Akula, whom he once approached after class to inquire about working on one of his research projects. Akula brought him in to help do com­puter analysis on a project inves­ti­gating the retinal tox­i­city of an antiepileptic drug called vigabatrin.

“A lot of this was over my head as a freshman, but my pro­fessor was sup­portive. He’d give me arti­cles to read and help me do some simple analyses,” said Bowe, a biology major. “I was really happy with that first expe­ri­ence. It fos­tered my interest in research.”

This pas­sion con­tinued to grow in Bowe’s second year, when he began working with asso­ciate pro­fessor of marine and envi­ron­mental sci­ences Rebeca Rosen­gaus. The oppor­tu­nity ulti­mately led to his working on co-​​op in her lab on a project inves­ti­gating whether female moths can antic­i­pate the immuno­log­ical needs of their off­spring and pass along fac­tors that would help them build immu­nity. His role is ana­lyzing whether the eggs of moths exposed to pathogens are larger and con­tain higher levels of things like glu­cose and pro­tein than those from moths not exposed.

“I’ve been bitten by the research bug,” said Bowe, who pre­sented his work at the annual Ento­mo­log­ical Society of America meeting in Texas last year and will be doing the same on Thursday at RISE:2014—Northeastern’s Research, Inno­va­tion, and Schol­ar­ship Expo. “I’ve had two great men­tors,” he said, “and these expe­ri­ences have enhanced my ability to do quality research and my gen­eral sci­en­tific inquisitiveness.”

Next up for Bowe: on July 1, he’ll begin a co-​​op at the Uni­ver­sity of Cape Town in South Africa. There, he’ll be helping a pro­fessor cat­a­logue the nesting dis­tri­b­u­tion of weaver birds and com­pare that data to pre­vious years.

Swamy, an elec­trical engi­neering and physics com­bined major, also found his way into a research lab freshman year. It was then when he worked under the super­vi­sion of assis­tant pro­fessor of elec­trical and com­puter engi­neering Mark Niedre and along­side a grad­uate stu­dent on a device that per­forms in vivo flu­o­res­cent tomog­raphy to track small cancer cell pop­u­la­tions in mice. The non-​​invasive approach, he explained, can be done without ever taking a blood sample. “I didn’t have any back­ground in bio at the time,” he said, “but it sparked my interest in pur­suing other kinds of research.”

Now, Swamy works in the North­eastern Uni­ver­sity Com­puter Archi­tec­ture Research Lab­o­ra­tory run by elec­trical engi­neering pro­fessor David Kaeli. His most recent project focuses on cre­ating soft­ware that ana­lyzes and tests hard­ware for secu­rity flaws, with a par­tic­ular emphasis on vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties to side-​​channel attacks. The project is in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the North­eastern Uni­ver­sity Energy-​​Efficient and Secure Sys­tems Lab, led by asso­ciate pro­fessor of elec­trical and com­puter engi­neering Yunsi Fei.

“This could help industry ana­lyze the risk their sys­tems face,” Swamy explained. “My role was devel­oping algo­rithms for the assess­ment of hard­ware and writing some of the software.”

What’s more, Kaeli rec­og­nized Swamy’s talent and encour­aged him and another stu­dent, Neel Shah, E’15, to enter a super­com­puter com­pe­ti­tion in fall 2013 in Denver. Together with three Bentley Uni­ver­sity stu­dents, Swamy’s team won a com­pe­ti­tion that required building a super­com­puter that met strin­gent power usage and cost parameters.

Allan’s first research oppor­tu­nity came as a freshman, too, when he worked along­side assis­tant pro­fessor Jose Martinez-​​Lorenzo. The project, through Northeastern’s Aware­ness and Local­iza­tion of Explosives-​​Related Threats, or ALERT—a multi-​​university, Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­rity Center of Excellence—focused on devel­oping a novel system for explo­sives detec­tion at air­ports. Allan’s role required him to write algo­rithms and pro­grams to help opti­mize the posi­tion of an array of antennas that enhanced the images pro­duced by scan­ning technology.

Allan, an elec­trical engi­neering and physics com­bined major, noted his interest in engi­neering is due to his long­time fas­ci­na­tion with exploring the world around him. But that interest goes beyond the bound­aries of our planet—his curiosity with space began during child­hood and has con­tinued ever since.

It should come as no sur­prise that he com­pleted his first co-​​op with SpaceX, a space trans­port ser­vices com­pany that designs, man­u­fac­tures, and launches rockets and space­craft. “That was my first expo­sure to aero­space and astro­nau­tical engi­neering,” said Allan, who led the design of an avionics diag­nostic system for a new ver­sion of the Falcon 9 during his spring 2013 expe­ri­en­tial learning opportunity.

That job led to his cur­rent co-​​op at the MIT Lin­coln Lab­o­ra­tory, which com­bines the skills he honed while con­ducting research at North­eastern and working at SpaceX. His new work involves remote sensing for a mini weather satellite.

The trio of expe­ri­ences, he said, has opened his eyes to a poten­tial career in devel­oping space­craft and space-​​based instru­ments for sci­en­tific study.


Related Faculty: David Kaeli

Related Departments:Electrical & Computer Engineering