Two engineering students selected as 2008 Goldwater Scholars

Sesha Pinnaduwage and Arunan Skandarajah have been selected Goldwater Scholars for the 2008-09 academic year. Each will receive a two-year scholarship worth $7,500 a year for educational expenses.

The Goldwater Scholarship is the premier undergraduate award of its type in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences and engineering. Competition for the award is fierce:  321 scholars were selected on academic merit this year from a field of 1,035 students.

All four students recommended by the faculty and staff of Vanderbilt University were named 2008 Goldwater Scholars.  Also chosen were Ayla Gafni, a junior mathematics major, and Brittany Rohrman, a junior physics major.

Pinnaduwage is a junior from Knoxville who is studying chemical engineering, with minors in math and biotechnology. She plans to earn a Ph.D. in chemical engineering in order to pursue a career in cancer research.

Sesha has been a council member in the Mayfield Living/Learning lodge for the past two years, is a team leader for Vanderbilt Student Volunteers for Science (VSVS) and serves as a V2 Mentor for first-year engineering students.

She is currently in Sydney, Australia, where she is spending the semester as a student at the University of New South Wales.

Skandarajah, a junior from Indianapolis, is majoring in biomedical engineering. After earning a Ph.D. in biomedical instrumentation, he plans to work with physicians in the development of diagnostic technology.

Arunan is active in the Vanderbilt community as a founding member of “Unite for Sight,” which offers free vision screening and information sessions in high need areas.

He is the webmaster for the Vanderbilt Global Health Council, gives science lessons to and tutors students in area schools as part of VSVS and LOOP (Learning Opens Outstanding Possibilities), participates in Engineers Without Borders and serves on student government.

The Goldwater Foundation is a federally endowed agency established in 1986. The scholarship program honoring the late U.S. Senator Barry M. Goldwater was designed to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in math, natural sciences and engineering. In its 22-year history, the foundation has awarded 5,523 scholarships worth about $54 million.