LAWRENCE — Two University of Kansas juniors working on research problems related to fighting viruses and creating more efficient electricity systems are the latest KU students to earn Barry M. Goldwater Scholarships.
Annie Lynn and Kevin Tenny are both chemical engineering students who have known each other throughout their KU careers, and both have plans to obtain doctoral degrees and pursue careers as university professors to pursue their teaching and research interests.
Both students credited the KU Honors Program and their teachers, research mentors and others at KU and beyond in helping them to attain the honor.
Lynn and Tenny are the 59th and 60th KU students to earn Goldwater Scholarships. Congress established the program in 1986, and it focuses on ensuring a continuing source of scientists, mathematicians and engineers. The scholarship provides up to $7,500 annually to cover undergraduate tuition, fees, room and board, and books.
“Annie and Kevin have worked hard during their undergraduate careers, and the entire university community can be proud of their achievements,” said Anne Wallen, assistant director of national scholarships and fellowships for the KU Honors Program. “Both of them are incredibly deserving of this honor.”
Lynn, from Overland Park, was interested in research at the university level from an early age, beginning work in the lab of Liang Tang, associate professor of molecular biosciences, in her senior year of high school. She has worked on studying the proteins that make up viruses.
She said she was incredibly grateful to many at KU, including Tang and her lab supervisor, for their mentorship and training.
“The lab experiences have been really inspiring,” Lynn said. “It’s been great to see the application of things I’m learning in the classroom. First I saw it in a class, and now we get to use that knowledge to make a difference in the world.”
The hepatitis C virus, for example, causes a liver infection and affects about 3.5 million people in the U.S. No immunization is currently available for the virus. Lynn said the goal for her and other researchers is that their work can eventually contribute to a vaccine.
Lynn wants to obtain a doctorate in biomedical engineering and continue along her current viral engineering path. The scholarship allows additional free time to pursue her research even further, Lynn said.
Born in China and adopted by her parents in the U.S., Lynn is active in the Chinese Culture Club. She is honing her Mandarin language skills in the group. She also is interested in dance, an activity she took up since she was about 7 or 8, and continued through her time at KU.
“It’s a nice de-stressor,” Lynn said.
Tenny, from Leawood, has spent time in the labs of Michael Detamore and Trung Van Nguyen, both professors of chemical and petroleum engineering at KU.
He was initially interested in track and field at KU but chose early in his scholarly career to focus on his engineering work. After expressing an initial interest in biomedical engineering, he settled on electrochemical engineering as an interest after hearing a lecture on its potential early in his research career.
“My jaw kind of dropped,” he said. “This kind of work is really going to help in the energy crisis of the future. Fuel cells and batteries will be very important in helping to navigate these issues.”
Tenny is a member of Alpha Tau Omega fraternity and Theta Tau, a professional engineering fraternity. He works with undergraduate students in beginning-level math courses through the Kansas Algebra Program, and he helped to start the Electrochemical Society of KU student group.
He also completed two National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates programs at Iowa State University and at the University of South Carolina.
“I’m very humbled by this award,” Tenny said. “I’ve been inspired by so many great educators and mentors who have allowed me to make mistakes. All those mistakes eventually made me a better researcher.”
Lynn is the daughter of Debra and William Lynn, and Tenny is the son of Robert and Karen Tenny.