University of Rochester

University of Rochester Students Awarded Goldwater Scholarships

April 16, 2009

University of Rochester sophomore Patrick Sheehan and junior Sean Virgile have been named 2009 Barry M. Goldwater Scholars. Sheehan and Virgile are the 12th and 13th University of Rochester Goldwater Scholars since 2004, and are among 278 recipients selected from a national pool of more than 1,100 candidates.

Sheehan, of Troy, Mich., is working toward a bachelor of science degree in physics and astronomy and a bachelor of arts degree in mathematics. Sheehan came to the University of Rochester with an interest in the physics of star formation and is the chief data reductionist for the Infrared Spectograph (IRS) Disks Team under physics and astronomy professor Dan Watson. He intends to pursue a doctoral degree in astronomy and earn a teaching post in higher education.

"There is so much out there that we don't know and it's cool to be able to provide some answers to those questions," says Sheehan of his academic interest in astronomy. "It's often said that everything is connected, and maybe something our research finds can help in another field."

Sheehan also is a member of the varsity tennis team and was one of four Yellowjackets to receive 2009 Spring Sport All Academic Recognition from the University Athletic Association. He was one of 18 students out of 1,100 sophomores to receive the Iota Book Award, given by the University's chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. Sheehan, the son of John and Sharon Sheehan, is a graduate of Troy High School.

Virgile, of Franklin, Penn., will graduate with a bachelor of science in biomedical engineering and a minor in economics. He has a particular interest in cell and tissue engineering, and has spent two years focused on polymer design and drug delivery in the BioNanomaterials Research Group under University of Rochester Medical Center professor Lisa DeLouise. Virgile would like to pursue a career in healthcare, applying his academic research to the practice of medicine after earning his doctoral degree.

"In my introductory courses, I saw all the things that could be done with biomedical engineering," says Virgile. "Being exposed to a research university, it was clear that I could combine my interest in engineering and design with my passion for medicine."

Also active on campus, Virgile is a resident assistant, a teaching assistant for two courses, and the president of the club fencing team. He was recently elected to Phi Beta Kappa, the nation's oldest academic honorary society. Virgile, the son of Roger and Laverne Virgile, is a graduate of Franklin Area High School.

The Goldwater Scholarship, which is endowed by the U.S. Congress to honor the late Sen. Barry M. Goldwater, is a competitive fellowship for undergraduate students in science, math, and engineering. The scholarship is worth up to $7,500. Each year, 10 to 20 sophomores and juniors compete for the four University nominations to the national competition. Applicants must rank in the top quartile of their class while demonstrating outstanding research skills, potential for advanced study in their fields, and a strong pursuit of research-oriented careers.