David Mackanic of Cary, N.C., a junior double majoring in engineering in the College of Engineering and chemistry in the College of Science and a University Honors student, has been awarded a Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship for the 2014-15 academic year.

He is among 283 sophomore or junior students selected for the honor. Faculty members from colleges and universities across the United States nominated more than 1,100 mathematics, science, and engineering students for consideration of the award.

In addition, Mark Brown of Herndon, Va., a junior double majoring in physics and mathematics in the College of Science and University Honors student, earned a 2014 Goldwater Scholarship Honorable Mention, one of more than 250 students given this distinction.

David Mackanic – Goldwater Scholar

Mackanic got involved in undergraduate research his first semester at Virginia Tech with a student outreach group called Bridges to Prosperity. They looked at concrete mixing compositions and techniques that may impact the strength of concrete used to build in third-world countries.

Mackanic has also participated in two National Science Foundation funded Research Experience for Undergraduate programs. In summer 2012, Mackanic went to Beijing, China, to study hydrodynamic profiles of vibro-fluidized granular material. The following summer, Mackanic worked at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, developing a method of creating new nanostructured materials that were highly effective as super capacitor electrodes.

In addition, Mackanic has worked on research projects with faculty at Virginia Tech, including the lab of Michael Ellis, associate professor of mechanical engineering, where he investigates novel materials for lithium air batteries. Robert Moore, professor of chemistry, jointly advises the project.

“David is inquisitive, creative, and an extremely fast learner. When I explain things to students, I often start at an abstract level and then explain again with more detail or specific examples. The latter steps are rarely necessary with David as his insight allows him to quickly grasp new material. This characteristic is also apparent in David’s ability to read technical literature, where I find that his depth of understanding is more appropriate to a second year graduate student than to a junior in his undergraduate studies,” Ellis said.

Mackanic is also a member of the Honors Residential College, currently serving as a resident advisor. He also is active in the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, Bridges to Prosperity, and Ultrarunning Club at Virginia Tech.

“Winning the Goldwater Scholarship is a great honor,” Mackanic said. “I am very compelled by the research that I am involved in. The most meaningful aspect about the scholarship is that other people find my research compelling. It is great to explain why my field of research is important and have others agree.”

After finishing his undergraduate degree, Mackanic says he plans to pursue a Ph.D. in materials science to develop novel materials for energy storage solutions. Ultimately, he says he would like to research technologies that can enable a society powered by renewable energy either in academia or industry.

Mark Brown – Honorable Mention

Brown is actively involved in undergraduate research, pursuing opportunities on and off Virginia Tech’s campus. Since fall 2012, Brown has worked with Michel Pleimling, associate professor of physics on projects in the field of theoretical condensed matter physics.

"Since the beginning of my academic career, I have never met an undergraduate with so much motivation, creativity, reliability, analytical/computational skills, physical intuition, and perseverance,” said Michel Pleimling, associate professor of physics. “Mark's abilities and promise put him well ahead of all other Goldwater scholars I have known."

During summer 2013, Brown participated in a Research Experience for Undergraduates program hosted at Cornell University’s Laboratory for Elementary Particle Physics.

Brown was a member of the inaugural class of the Integrated Science Curriculum at Virginia Tech and now helps tutor students in the curriculum. He lives in the Hillcrest Honors Housing Community and participates in ensembles and jazz, concert, and marching bands at the university.

Brown says he hopes to pursue a Ph.D. in physics and go on to do research and teach as a post-doctorate and then a university professor.

Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 240 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $513 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.

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