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CEE Student Wins Prestigious Goldwater Scholarship

4/15/2009 5:20:00 AM

CEE student Derek Vardon, a junior in the Environmental Engineering & Science program, has won a prestigious Barry M. Goldwater scholarship for the 2009-2010 academic year.
“I am honored to receive the Goldwater Scholar award and proud to represent the undergraduate research efforts that take place in our department,” Vardon says.  “The Goldwater award will help me pursue my goals to continue research and complete a doctorate degree in Environmental Engineering.”

The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program, established by Congress in 1986, honors Sen. Barry M. Goldwater of Arizona, who served 30 years in the U.S. Senate. He died in 1998.

The program aims to provide a continuing source of highly qualified scientists, mathematicians and engineers by awarding scholarships to sophomores and juniors from the U.S. who intend to pursue careers in those fields.

Competition for the scholarships is significant. The 278 Goldwater Scholars for 2009-2010 were selected on the basis of academic merit from a field of 1,097 students who were nominated by faculty members. The one- and two-year scholarships cover the cost of tuition, fees, books and room and board up to a maximum of $7,500 per year.

Originally from Bolingbrook, Ill., Vardon served six years in the U.S. Navy working in the nuclear power field before college.  He recently finished work with CEE Professor Emeritus Mark Clark investigating remote detection methods for algal blooms and how blooms foul water-treatment membranes.  This summer, Vardon will work with Professor Lance Schideman (BS 92, MS 94, PhD 06), a CEE alumnus and U of I professor of agricultural and biological engineering, studying the mass cultivation of algae for biodiesel production and carbon dioxide sequestration.  After finishing his Ph.D., Vardon plans to pursue research in biological methods for pollution mitigation and renewable energy.

“I am deeply in gratitude to the faculty and fellow students in the department who have mentored me throughout my time at the University," Vardon says.  "I would especially like to thank Professor Mark Clark, Professor Lance Schideman, and my graduate mentor, David Ladner.”

He also thanked his wife, Jill, and their son, Kaleb, for their support when he decided to pursue a college education as a non-traditional student.