Undergraduate Academic Affairs

April 9, 2024

Three UW students named 2024 Goldwater Scholars

Danielle Marie Holland

Three University of Washington undergraduates have been honored as Goldwater Scholars by the Goldwater Foundation, continuing the longstanding tradition of UW students receiving this honor.

The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program was created to encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in mathematics, the natural sciences, or engineering and to foster excellence in these fields. The three UW awardees were selected from a pool of over 5,000 students nominated by 446 institutions across the country. A total of 438 scholars were announced from the 2024 competition.

This year’s UW Goldwater Scholars are Dania Ahmed, Annabella Li and Masa Nakura-Fan. Their undergraduate research projects with faculty cover a range of topics such as the mechanisms underlying heart disease, designing, producing and testing novel protein-based systems, and computational fabrication and artificial intelligence.

“We are extremely impressed by these students’ achievements. Their dedication and intellectual curiosity are evident, and they have made significant strides at the undergraduate level,” said Ed Taylor, vice provost and dean of Undergraduate Academic Affairs. “Pairing their passion for science and discovery for the public good with mentorship from the UW’s leading researchers results in extraordinary outcomes. As these students continue their academic journey, the positive impact they will undoubtedly make on society and the environment is something we can all look forward to.”

Meet the 2024 UW Goldwater Scholars

Dania Ahmed

Hometown: Redmond, WA

Photo of Dania Ahmed

Dania Ahmed is a junior pursuing a degree in molecular, cellular and developmental biology.

My favorite part about research is that every answer leads to a new question, a paradox I hope to continue exploring by pursuing a Ph.D. in stem cell biology,” says Goldwater Scholar Dania Ahmed.

Dania Ahmed is a junior pursuing a degree in molecular, cellular and developmental biology. Her research at the Yang Lab is engaged in harnessing induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) in the field of cardiology.

By reprogramming iPSCs from a patient’s blood or skin cells and differentiating them into heart muscle cells, Ahmed works to create disease models that accurately mimic the patient’s condition in a dish. This approach enables researchers to gain insights into disease mechanisms and personalized treatments without subjecting patients to direct experimentation. Ahmeds’ research aims to shed light on the underlying mechanisms of dilated cardiomyopathy, a heart disease with a harrowing 5-year median life expectancy after diagnosis.

Previously, Ahmed was recognized as an Undergraduate Research Fellow by UW’s Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine and as a Levinson Scholar. Reflecting on her academic journey, Ahmed extends her gratitude to her phenomenal mentors, Dr. Alex Loiben and Dr. Daniel Yang, for guiding her with purpose and passion into the expansive world of science.

Annabella Li

Hometown: Redmond, WA

Photo of Annabella Li

Annabella Li is a junior studying for a double degree in chemical engineering and biochemistry.

My experience has led me to want to pursue a career in research. I am interested in bridging the fields of chemistry, physics, biology and engineering to come up with solutions in biotherapeutics and drug delivery that aim to improve human health,” says Goldwater Scholar Annabella Li.

Annabella Li is a junior studying for a double degree in chemical engineering and biochemistry. She joined the DeForest Lab in her freshman year, focusing her research on the design, production and testing of innovative protein-based systems. These systems aim to control the delivery of therapeutics, enhance proteomic studies and aid in tissue modeling. Her work involves a variety of skills across protein engineering, bioprocessing, optogenetics, tissue culture and biomaterials science.

Currently, Li is working on a platform that manipulates the attachment and release of signaling factors from hydrogels to provide increased tunability in biomaterials. She plans to pursue a Ph.D. in biochemical engineering or applied biophysics. Li is thankful for her past and present mentors, including Cole DeForest and Ryan Gharios, for their continual support and guidance.

Masa Nakura-Fan

Hometown: Bellevue, WA

Photo of Masa Nakura-Fan

Masa Nakura-Fan is a sophomore studying computer science and mathematics.

I am extremely grateful for the guidance I have received from my research mentors Daniel Revier, Dr. Jeffrey Lipton and Dr. Vitaly Ablavsky. Their support has not only enriched my education at UW but also inspired me to pursue a research career,” says Goldwater Scholar Masa Nakura-Fan.

Masa Nakura-Fan is a sophomore studying computer science and mathematics. His research focuses on developing computational tools for manufacturing a stochastic foam-like material. His fabrication research at the Transformative Robotics Lab work opens the doors to utilizing this foam-like material in various applications such as customizable orthotics or limbs for soft robots. By enabling sustainable and accessible manufacturing methods for complex physical structures, Nakura-Fan believes his computational fabrication research can help define everyday objects and even technological advancements such as in robotics.

Nakura-Fan is involved with artificial intelligence research at the University of Washington Applied Physics Laboratory, where he has investigated two main research topics: adversarial artificial intelligence and multi-object tracking systems. He plans to pursue a Ph.D. in computer science, with the aim of developing advanced fabrication techniques and enhancing the efficiency of existing manufacturing processes through AI.

About the Goldwater Foundation

The Goldwater Foundation is a federally endowed agency established in 1986. The Scholarship Program honoring Senator Barry Goldwater was designed to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue research careers in the fields of the natural sciences, engineering and mathematics. The Goldwater Scholarship is the preeminent undergraduate award of its type in these fields. Learn more at Goldwater Scholarship.

Learn more about scholarship opportunities at the UW

The Goldwater Scholarship application process is supported by the Office of Merit Scholarships, Fellowships and Awards (OMSFA), a UAA program. OMSFA works with faculty, staff and students to identify and support promising students in developing the skills and personal insights necessary to become strong candidates for this and other prestigious awards.