Iowa State University student named a 2015 Goldwater Scholar

Catherine Meis in lab

Iowa State student Catherine Meis, Le Mars, is a 2015 Goldwater Scholar. She wants to research the biomedical applications of materials after earning a Ph.D. High-res photo by Christopher Gannon.

AMES, Iowa -- Iowa State University student Catherine Meis, Le Mars, has been named a 2015 Goldwater Scholar, the nation's premier undergraduate scholarship in mathematics, natural sciences and engineering. Meis is a third-year student, majoring in materials engineering with a minor in bioengineering.

Two other Iowa State students earned Honorable Mention in this year's competition. They are Samuel Schulte, a third-year major in biochemistry from West Des Moines, and Jered Stratton, a third-year major in genetics from Secor, Illinois.

The Goldwater recognizes students of outstanding potential who intend to pursue careers in research. This year, 260 Goldwater Scholars were selected on the basis of academic merit from a field of 1,206 students who were nominated by college and university faculty nationwide.

Meis graduates in December 2016. With a long-time interest in medicine, she wants to pursue a Ph.D. and research the biomedical applications of materials.

"I'm interested in developing the material building blocks to make medical devices," Meis said. "Doing material science and then bringing in medical tech as an application has really grabbed my attention."

Since her second semester at Iowa State, Meis has worked in the laboratories of her ISU Honors Program research mentors, Reza Montazami and Nastaran Hashemi, mechanical engineering assistant professors. She works on designing the microfluidic platform for an organ-on-a-chip device that would replicate the function of the placenta and, ultimately, be used for drug testing and biological research.

In 2013, Meis presented her research at the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Summer Bioengineering Conference in Oregon. Last year, she was lead author of “Investigation of Spray-Coated Silver-Microparticle Electrodes for Ionic Electroactive Polymer Actuators,” published in the Journal of Applied Physics.

Meis participated in a Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internship at the U.S. Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory, where she worked with smart materials. She also worked on experiments related to polymerization during a summer National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates at the Materials Research Science and Engineering Center at the University of Minnesota.

"I've been given more opportunities than a person could ask for as an undergrad by my mentors, faculty and people in the Honors Program," she said. "It's a team effort to be able to put together enough experiences to compete for a Goldwater."

Meis was a student leader/instructor in the Freshman Honors Program and a three-time presenter at the Program for Women in Sciences and Engineering's STEM outreach conference for girls in grades 7-12. She is secretary of the materials science and engineering student organization Material Advantage, and is active with Tau Beta Pi engineering honor society. Meis is also a member of the Iowa State Singers.

This summer, Meis hopes to work in an internship at a medical technology firm.

"Whether I end up in academia or industry, I think it's valuable to know how product development takes place. Then I will have an understanding of how you develop something in the lab and turn it into a commercial product that consumers can have for medical technology," Meis said.

A fan of science and math in high school, Meis said her appreciation for math has grown since coming to college.

One of the cool things for me is to apply math to physiological systems. I find that really fascinating," she said. "I think it's amazing that you can explain a lot of how your body works with math and physics."

Established by the United States Congress in 1986, the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation has bestowed 7,428 scholarships worth approximately $48 million. The trustees plan to award about 200 scholarships for the 2016–2017 academic year.