Pitt Students Win Goldwater Scholarships

Issue Date: 
April 7, 2008

Pitt undergraduates have won a total of 39


University of Pittsburgh Honors College students Todd Morton Moyle and Charles Richard Sleasman II have been awarded 2008 Barry M. Goldwater Scholarships for their exceptional independent research in the science and engineering disciplines.

Moyle is a sophomore majoring in chemical engineering in the Swanson School of Engineering, and Sleasman is a junior majoring in physics and mathematics in the School of Arts and Sciences. Both Pennsylvania natives, Moyle is from Sayre, Bradford County, and Sleasman is from Connellsville, Fayette County.

“The outstanding record of undergraduate attainment at Pitt reflects individual student talent and hard work,” said Pitt Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg. “It also reflects our University’s long-standing commitment to our most fundamental mission—the development of human potential. Last month, Pitt became the only public university in Pennsylvania with a 2008 Harry S. Truman Scholar. This month, we congratulate Todd Moyle and Charles Sleasman as Goldwater Scholars. Together they have further strengthened Pitt’s already robust record of undergraduate success.”

“Todd Moyle and Charles Sleasman are excellent experimentalists and outstanding Goldwater candidates who represent the highest levels of undergraduate research attainment,” said G. Alec Stewart, Pitt Honors College dean, Goldwater institutional faculty representative, and nominator of Moyle and Sleasman. “Their faculty advisors have played a special role in making them competitive for this prestigious national award. Jeremy Levy in Pitt’s physics department has worked with Charles, and Eugene Wagner in the chemistry department has worked with Todd. These faculty members are stellar examples of the kind of undergraduate research mentoring that fosters high attainment in a student-centered university.”

Many of Pitt’s recent Goldwater Scholars have gone on to receive prestigious graduate study awards: Pitt’s 2007 Rhodes Scholar Daniel Armanios, 2006 Rhodes Scholar Justin Chalker, and 2007 Marshall Scholar Anna Quider were Goldwater winners. Pitt undergrads have won a total of 39 Goldwater Scholarships.

The Goldwater Scholarship was established in 1986 by the U.S. Congress in honor of then-Senator Barry M. Goldwater of Arizona to encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences, and engineering. The premier undergraduate award of its type in these fields, the Goldwater Scholarship is awarded in either a student’s sophomore or junior year. It covers tuition, room and board, fees, and books—up to a maximum of $7,500 per year—for each student recipient’s remaining period of study.

Under Professor Wagner’s guidance, Moyle has researched the potential use of vegetable oil as an alternative fuel. His work focuses on developing a blend of vegetable oil and other additives that would run on standard diesel automobiles without modifications. Results of this work will be presented at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research this month, the Biennial Conference on Chemical Education in July, and Pitt’s science conference in the fall.

Moyle’s primary interest is in pharmaceutical development and production research with the idea of developing new pharmaceuticals to combat human diseases and novel and cost-effective methods to manufacture them.

Motivated by the ever-growing cost of prescription drugs and concern for those not able to afford treatment, Moyle plans to pursue a master’s degree involving pharmaceutical manufacturing. He then will work either toward an M.D. degree focusing on clinical research of pharmaceuticals and consulting or a Ph.D. degree in biomedical engineering, to concentrate on drug-delivery systems and pharmaceutical manufacturing.

Sleasman began doing research as a second-semester freshman. Under Professor Levy’s direction, Sleasman learned atomic force microscope operation procedures, some scanning electron microscope operation procedures, and LabView. His first project was to map the topography of carbon dots grown on silicon wafers. His most recent research is on ferroelectric thin films for use in quantum computing architectures. He is coauthor of a paper to be submitted to Nature magazine for his work on ferroelectric measurements of strontium titanate grown on silicon.

Most of Sleasman’s experience and expertise is in quantum computing and/or condensed matter physics. Fascinated by group theory and its application to physics, such as in quantum mechanics, he is studying the connections between group theory and physics at the University of Oxford in England this term.

Sleasman aspires to make a career of conducting physics research and possibly teaching at the university level. Along with pursuing physics research, Sleasman would like to use or even create new mathematical ideas for solving physical problems.