Three at Tech Win Goldwater Scholarship

One's a film director turned physicist, another is a second-generation engineer and another is a mathematician who's studied the relationships between members of the U.S. House of Representatives. Sophomores Jonathan Diaz, Andrew Marin and A.J. Friend are Tech's latest recipients of the prestigious Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship.

Jonathan Diaz is proof that good high school teachers can change students lives, or at least their minds. He had planned to go to film school to become a director, but after taking a high school astronomy class he decided that his future lay in cosmology.

"I was always good in science," said Diaz, a physics major from Alpharetta, Ga, "but the thought that I would spend my life devoted to it, didn't occur to me until I took an astronomy course. I realized that there is something more than what I see in front of my eyes."

At Tech, Diaz is working in the PicoForce lab under Elisa Reido studying the atomic origins of friction and other phenomena on the nanoscale.

But just because he's an aspiring physicist, doesn't mean he's turned his back on filmmaking. He recently finished making his first feature-length film, shot on mini-DV, titled 'Disruptions.' He is currently writing his second feature-length screenplay.

Andrew Marin comes from scientific stock. With an engineer for a father, a mother who's a nurse, an uncle who's a geologist and another who's an ecologist, it's no surprise to his family that Marin decided to pursue engineering.

In fact, the chemical and biomolecular engineering major from Plano, Tx said he can't remember a time when he hasn't been interested in engineering.

"It's very hands-on. I like seeing things develop from an idea to an application - that's very satisfying," said Marin.

When he's not busy playing soccer or competing in a triathlon, he's working with professors Charles Eckert and Charles Liotta on tunable solvents. Marin participated in the development of these solvents in which key properties can be rapidly changed. This could streamline the processing of chemicals - such as those used in the food and pharmaceutical industry.

According to A.J. Friend, mathematics is key to understanding the world. Whether it's discovering the hidden relationships between seemingly unrelated people or groups, predicting and explaining people's behavior, or solving more traditional mathematical problems such as those faced in engineering or the sciences - math is an essential tool.

While still a freshman, the discrete mathematics major from West Haven, Ct, participated in research examining the degree of partisanship and power networks of the U.S. House of Representatives.

"Network theory is going to have a huge impact," said Friend. "It's what Google and Amazon's recommendations are based on. With the direction that marketing is taking, it's the only way to understand the world."

Like Diaz, it was a high school teacher who really inspired him to utilize his natural talent for math. And like Marin, he's also athletic, playing sweeper in intramural soccer.

Concentrating in both applied and theoretical mathematics, Friend is still experimenting with the direction he wants his future to take. What he is sure of is that he wants to teach.

"Relaying mathematical ideas to others in a simple and clear fashion and then seeing the epiphany in that person's expressions have been joys of mine for as long as I knew enough math to do so," he said.

Named in honor of the former Arizona senator, the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship Program is designed to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences and engineering. The award covers the cost of tuition, fees, books and room and board up to a maximum of $7,500 per year for up to two years.