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My Town GR South: Calvin student earns Goldwater Scholar honor | Arts & Culture

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My Town GR South: Calvin student earns Goldwater Scholar honor
My Town GR South: Calvin student earns Goldwater Scholar honor

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.—Calvin College is celebrating its 15th Goldwater Scholar since 2008- a number unmatched by any other liberal arts college over that span of time.

Abigail Leistra is the latest recipient of the award, which is considered by many as the highest national honor given to undergraduates in science, mathematics and engineering.

"This honor really is a testament to the strength of Calvin College's research program," said Leistra, a junior majoring in both biochemistry and chemical engineering.

Leistra is part of  chemistry professor Kumar Sinniah's research group—a group that's had four Goldwater Scholars since 2006. Their research team is developing methods to deliver drug molecules such as chemotherapeutic drugs to tumor sites while curbing the drug interaction at healthy sites, thereby minimizing side-effects.  Their research is in collaboration with scientists from the University of Michigan.

Leistra is the co-author of a research article that was recently published in the “Journal of Physical Chemistry”; she is currently working on another publication.

"I was blessed with the opportunity to join professor Sinniah's lab group and have learned so much over the past two years working alongside him," said Leistra. "Receiving the award validates the work being done on this project and encourages me to continue doing my best in it."  

Two other Calvin students earned an honorable mention by the Goldwater Foundation this year-- senior Andrea Bootsma, who is majoring in mathematics and chemistry and junior Sam Auyeung, who is majoring in mathematics.  Since 2008, 25 of 28 Calvin students nominated for the Goldwater Foundation honor have received recognition.