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Engineering student earns Goldwater Scholarship

Posted: April 27, 2011

Junior chemical engineering major Brian Perea is one of four Arizona State University students to recently be awarded a prestigious Goldwater Scholarship.

Brian Perea. Photo: Jessica Slater/ASU

Brian Perea. Photo: Jessica Slater/ASU

The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship Program encourages outstanding students to pursue careers in mathematics, the natural sciences, or engineering. Recipients are awarded $7,500 annually for up to two years.

Almost 1,100 students were nominated nationwide for the program’s scholarships this year. Perea is among the 275 chosen to receive one of them.

Perea says the opportunity to conduct research early in his undergraduate experience was a significant factor in his decision to attend ASU. He was accepted in his freshman year into the Fulton Undergraduate Research Initiative (FURI) program of ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

He saw a chance to do research he found interesting when he learned of work on “smart materials” being done by Lenore Dai, an assistant professor and chair of the chemical engineering program in the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy.

“Everyone starts off the same way in research—both challenged and frustrated,” Perea says. “But I was able to build a project from the ground up and collect results, which ultimately led to publication in research journals.”

His work, in collaboration with a graduate student, has been published in Colloids and Surfaces A: Physicochemical and Engineering Aspects.  He has given a presentation on the work at the American Institute of Chemical Engineers national meeting.

“I never considered that I would be a published author so early. It’s a highlight for me to be able to contribute to the great academic community,” he says.

Perea is working on a project with Dai’s group involving “smart materials” that have unique properties – including properties that can change in reaction to the environment.

He says it is fundamental research, looking at colloidal particles and self-assembly techniques to create new materials.

Dai says that Perea is an “independent and innovative researcher, who initiates and validates original ideas. He’s a natural leader and a role model.”

Perea recently completed his fifth semester in the FURI program.  He says it has opened up several opportunities. For one, the research experience helped qualify him for the Goldwater Scholarship.

The FURI experience has led to research opportunities outside ASU. Last summer, he was accepted to the Research Experience for Undergraduates at the University of Colorado at Boulder. That work in turn led to his second presentation at an American Institute of Chemical Engineers last year.

This summer, Perea will participate in the Research Experience for Undergraduates at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, studying polymers used for drug delivery and tissue engineering.

Perea is a National Hispanic Scholar and enrolled in ASU’s Barrett, The Honors College. He’s a member of the Society of Professional Hispanic Engineers, and is working with one of ASU’s education outreach projects – the Mathematics, Engineering and Science Achievement program – to help mentor elementary school students.

Perea plans to obtain his doctorate degree in engineering and hopes to eventually become a professor.

Written by Heather Beshears

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Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

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