Published: April 5, 2016

Half of this year’s six Colorado-based winners of the prestigious Goldwater Scholarship attend CU-Boulder.

The scholarship is worth up to $7,500 and recognizes sophomores and juniors who have achieved high academic merit in math, science and engineering and who are expected to be leaders in their fields.

This year’s CU-Boulder recipients – all juniors – not only stand out in their academic pursuits, but they also are actively engaged volunteers and make time for extracurricular activities as well. The students are among this year’s 252 scholarship winners from across the country chosen from a competitive field of 1,150 nominations.

Derek Driggs, Golden

Derek Driggs of Golden, Colorado, is using his applied mathematics major to develop an algorithm that can be used to analyze multidimensional data sets, such as three-dimensional MRI scans. He is collaborating with Professor Stephen Becker, of applied mathematics, and Professor Tor Wager, of neuroscience, to develop a program that can allow researchers to study patient responses to pain from an MRI scan. This work will likely improve data-analysis in a number of fields that use multidimensional data sets.

Driggs has tutored math and physics and fenced with the CU Fencing Club, earning a bronze medal at the 2014 North American Cup in Richmond, Virginia. Driggs said he hopes to continue his research in graduate school and eventually teach at a research university.

Richard Paucek, Greenwood Village

Richard Paucek of Greenwood Village, Colorado, is a double major in biochemistry and molecular, cellular and developmental biology. He got an early start in research in the lab of Dan Theodorescu at the University of Colorado Cancer Center where he was focused on identifying the molecular mechanisms driving bladder cancer progression. Paucek now works with Nobel Prize-winning chemist Tom Cech at CU-Boulder.

Paucek intends to become a physician-scientist and hopes to perform research at the interface of RNA biology and medicine.

“The importance of cellular RNA systems in human disease is clear,” said Paucek. “Through my career, I want to be in the best position possible to promote interdisciplinary collaborations that further our understanding of basic cellular processes involving RNA and lead to solutions to difficult biomedical problems.”

Paucek is also the natural science editor for CU-Boulder's Honors Journal and has served as a teaching assistant and mentor in the sciences on campus.

Matthew Winchester, Englewood

Matthew Winchester of Englewood, Colorado, is studying engineering physics. He is working on a superradiance experiment in physicist James Thompson’s lab at JILA aimed at improving laser precision. This work could have implications for more precise measurements of distance, more accurate atomic clocks and more sensitive GPS technology.

Winchester said he plans to continue his research in atomic, molecular and optical physics as a graduate student and would like to teach at a research university. He’ll be conducting research this summer in France at the Kastler-Brossel Laboratory. When he’s not in the lab, Winchester spends time outdoors hiking and skiing.

The Goldwater Scholarship Program is the premier undergraduate award of its type in these fields. Recent Goldwater Scholars have been awarded 86 Rhodes Scholarships, 125 Marshall Awards, 134 Churchill Scholarships and numerous other distinguished fellowships such as the National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowships.

CU-Boulder has had at least one Goldwater Scholar every year since 2005, and this year’s three scholarship recipients bring CU-Boulder’s total to 40.

Students interested in applying for the scholarship should contact Deborah Viles at deborah.viles@colorado.edu.

Derek Driggs, Richard Paucek and Matthew Winchester 

From left to right: Derek Driggs, Richard Paucek and Matthew Winchester 

“The importance of cellular RNA systems in human disease is clear,” said recipient Richard Paucek. “Through my career, I want to be in the best position possible to promote interdisciplinary collaborations that further our understanding of basic cellular processes involving RNA and lead to solutions to difficult biomedical problems.”