Two University of Richmond Students Named Goldwater Scholars to Further Research in Machine Learning and Organic Chemistry

April 3, 2023

UNIVERSITY OF RICHMOND — Two University of Richmond students — Paige Delsa and Helen Xia — have received Goldwater scholarships, the preeminent undergraduate award in science and math.

The Goldwater scholarship is open to college sophomores and juniors interested in pursuing careers and fostering excellence in mathematics, the natural sciences, or engineering. The University of Richmond student recipients include:

Paige Delsa photoPaige Delsa, a sophomore from Mandeville, Louisiana, who is majoring in physics.

Delsa is currently researching active plasmonic devices, which falls under the field of condensed-matter physics, the study of substances in their solid state. She is also interested in machine learning and semiconductor research, which has applications in the field of consumer electronics, including mobile phones, laptops, and appliances.

Delsa’s mentor is UR physics professor Mariama Rebello de Sousa Dias.

“I want to be on the cutting edge of materials science development and lead a team of individuals likewise fascinated with materials properties and interested in developing the next era of semiconductors," said Delsa, who plans to pursue a Ph.D. in materials science. “I am interested in using computational tools to push the boundaries of materials science as we currently understand it, and this award will help me continue exploring that passion.”

Helen XiaHelen Xia, a junior from Coppell, Texas, who is double majoring in biochemistry & molecular biology and minoring in leadership studies.

Under the guidance of chemistry professor Wade Downey, Xia’s research focuses on the field of synthetic organic chemistry with indoles, organic compounds found in many natural products and medicines. Her research has been published in the Journal of Organic Chemistry.

“Research has been the most rewarding part of my education and what has driven my academic ambition,” said Xia, who aspires to become a physician-scientist dedicated to research in prenatal disorders’ diagnosis and treatment. “This award gives me resources to continue my research in synthetic organic chemistry and chemical biology, which can be used to create medicines to treat prenatal disorders and other diseases.”

Xia is also a Beckman Scholar.

Including these awards, UR has had 38 Goldwater Scholars since the program’s inception in 1986. This year, 413 Goldwater scholars were selected based on academic merit from a field of more than 1,200 students nominated by nearly 430 colleges and universities nationwide.

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