Two Rose-Hulman Students Named Goldwater Scholars for Biomedical Engineering, Math Research Contributions

Thursday, April 18, 2024
Connor Lane and Ellen Shales

Connor Lane and Ellen Shales earned recognition as Goldwater Scholars, the preeminent honor for undergraduate students pursuing degrees in natural science, engineering, and mathematics.

Rose-Hulman students Ellen Shales and Connor Lane earned recognition as Goldwater Scholars, the preeminent honor for undergraduate students pursuing degrees in natural science, engineering, and mathematics. They have received substantial scholarships from the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation to support their career goals of earning doctorate degrees in their career fields.

Shales is a junior, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering and is a Noblitt Scholar. Lane is also a junior majoring in mathematics, with a minor in computer science and theoretical physics.

This marks the fourth consecutive year that Rose-Hulman students have been named Goldwater Scholars, and the institute now has 17 students who have earned this distinction since 2004, with several more honorable mention selections as well. Only students who are committed to obtaining a PhD and pursuing research, as well as have an exceptional GPA, are eligible for the Goldwater Scholarship. Typically, Rose-Hulman has between 15 and 20 students who are eligible for the scholarship, compared to larger universities with hundreds of candidates, according to Department Head and Associate Professor of Biology and Biomedical Engineering Bill Weiner, PhD.

“Our pool of students who intend to get a doctoral degree is small,” said Weiner, who is also Rose-Hulman’s Goldwater Scholars campus representative. “For us to have two students selected as Goldwater Scholars speaks to the strength and quality of the research experiences our students obtain and the positive impact they have on these projects. Both Ellen and Connor are deserving of this recognition and on track to make significant contributions in their chosen fields.” 

Shales’ research work includes interning with the University of Wisconsin, Madison’s behavioral neuroscience lab studying autism in adolescents. Her project specifically involved tracking eye movements of adolescents while they played a computer game to learn how the kids subconsciously picked up on contextual cues. Shales analyzed the eye movement data that was obtained and developed a novel metric for detecting differences in eye tracking strategies between adolescents with and without autism spectrum disorder. She has also conducted research in a synthetic biology lab at Rice University, developing drug activation capabilities in E. coli.

“As Ellen’s instructor in capstone design, I have seen direct evidence of her ability to work as a member of a team and handle the stressful situations that inevitably arise during a multi‐term design project,” said Professor of Biomedical Engineering Renee Rogge, Ph.D. “I am confident that Ellen has the potential to emerge as a leader in the field of biomedical engineering. She possesses the intellectual curiosity, analytical skills, and dedication necessary to excel in both academic and research environments.”

A West Chicago native, Shales chose to attend Rose-Hulman for its rigorous academic program with hands-on curriculum, and the personal connection to faculty and staff. She believes those elements are what helped her obtain the Goldwater Scholarship.

“I am very excited and honored to receive the 2024 Goldwater scholarship,” said Shales. “The Rose-Hulman faculty have encouraged my independent, creative thinking to confidently approach new topics and techniques. … I cannot thank my mentors enough for the time they invested into my education and development. The skills I have gained from personal encouragement and training are invaluable. Receiving this scholarship is also a testament to their dedication.”

Lane has been involved in various research endeavors at Rose-Hulman. He is currently working on a project led by Associate Professor of Mathematics William Green, PhD, on bounding solutions to the Dirac equation, a partial differential equation that comes from physics. He has completed quite a bit of research, primarily in number theory, and produced a paper studying Pascal’s triangle. Lane also conducted independent research in Galois Cohomology for a topics class in number theory. This summer, Lane will attend University of Clemson to participate in an REU on modular forms, one of his areas of interest in number theory.

“Connor is a phenomenal student of mathematics,” said Associate Professor of Mathematics Timothy All, Ph.D. All has taught three of Lane’s math courses and supervises him in an independent study in the Cohomology of Number Fields, a topic most students encounter only after a couple years into graduate study.

“His breadth of knowledge is extraordinary, and his cleverness and the speed with which he absorbs technical information easily puts him within the top students I have known or worked with at Rose-Hulman or elsewhere. At the same time, Connor is patient and hard-working, and he collaborates well with a diverse group of peers.”

Originally from Winnetka, a suburb of Chicago, Lane chose to attend Rose-Hulman for the student-to-faculty ratio in the math department, and the fact that students can provide input in the courses being offered. He credits the professors for helping him receive the 2024 Goldwater Scholarship.

“The math professors — in particular Drs. All, Green, Butske, Finn and Billingsley — have been extremely supportive in my education,” said Lane. “They have all taken time out of their schedules to do independent study classes with me and one or two other students. These classes helped me grow mathematically in a way regular classes do not, and they could not happen without the support of Rose’s math faculty.”

Shales is interested in a multidisciplinary Ph.D. program in bioengineering and neuroscience with medical applications and plans to create solutions to some of the pressing health challenges individuals face daily.

Lane plans to pursue a Ph.D. in pure mathematics and conduct research in number theory and teach at a university.

Weiner notes that past Rose-Hulman Goldwater Scholars have become physicians, researchers at world-respected medical research clinics, experts in industry, and students pursuing PhDs at leading universities across the country.