Georgia Tech Student Wins Prestigious Goldwater Scholarship

Georgia Tech junior Monique Gupta, 20, doesn't want much out of life, only to get a Ph.D., an M.D. and improve the efficiency of gene transfer techniques and the health care system. Scheduled to receive her bachelor's degree in Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISyE) from Tech next year, she has a bit of work to do before she reaches those goals. But winning the prestigious Goldwater scholarship has put her one step closer.

"She's really the best I've seen in several years," said Paul Griffin, undergraduate coordinator for ISyE.

Gupta came to Tech from Macon, GA three years ago. At the time, she said, she didn't really know what she wanted to do, only that she wanted to study engineering. After being at Tech for a while, it all came together when she decided to major in ISyE.

"ISyE gives me an engineering background, which helps with research analysis and technical writing," Gupta said.

Healthcare system efficiency is also one of the major areas of concentration in ISyE, said Griffin.

Gupta has been working on gene therapy techniques with Joseph LeDoux, professor in biomedical engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University.

Gene therapy is a novel approach to treating diseases, and most of it is still in the experimental phase, said Gupta. But the idea is that scientists would first identify a gene in a patient that is causing a certain disease. "A new gene would be created in a lab, and doctors would use it to replace the gene that is causing the problem. One way to deliver the new gene to the patient is by using a retrovirus to carry the gene into the affected area of the patient," explained Gupta.

"Diseases that can be helped by gene transfer include rheumatic arthritis and juvenile arthritis," she said.

Before winning the Goldwater, Gupta won Tech's four-year President's Scholarship, which is given to incoming freshmen who demonstrate leadership in their community and academic excellence. By paying up to $7,500 toward next year's tuition, fees and room and board, the scholarship should help her save money for graduate and medical school.

This year the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation awarded 300 scholarships out of a field of 1,093 applicants from the U.S. and Puerto Rico. The Foundation is a federally endowed agency established in 1986. The Scholarship Program, honoring former Arizona Senator Barry M. Goldwater, was designed to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences, and engineering.