Two UC Davis Juniors Receive Prestigious Goldwater Scholarships

Two award winners in a science lab
UC Davis juniors Osamu Yasui, left, and Joleen Cheah have been named Goldwater scholars. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

Two University of California, Davis, juniors are among the winners of what is the nation’s premier undergraduate award of its type in the natural sciences, mathematics and engineering.

Osamu Yasui of San Carlos, California, and Joleen Cheah of San Jose, California, are the 23rd and 24th students in the history of the campus to be named Goldwater scholars. The scholarship provides up to $7,500 for college expenses and was awarded to only 211 of 1,280 applicants nationwide for the 2018-19 academic year.

Yasui, a biomedical engineering major, and Cheah, a biological sciences major, have already presented research at academic conferences, including the undergraduate research conference at UC Davis, and co-authored articles that have been published in research journals.

Honoring the late U.S. Sen. Barry Goldwater, the federally endowed Goldwater Scholarship Program was designed to encourage outstanding students to pursue research careers in the natural sciences, mathematics and engineering.

‘Working at the edge of human knowledge’

“I get excited by the feeling that we are living in the future,” Yasui said. “I feel that I am working at the edge of human knowledge.”

He aims to earn a doctoral degree and pursue a career in research that combines computational and experimental methods to translate stem cell and tissue engineering therapies to clinical use.

Yasui is already researching ways to help bundles of cells, or spheroids, survive and perform better when they are subjected to stresses to encourage their differentiation and growth.

After earning a doctoral degree, Cheah plans to pursue a career in the study of the molecular mechanisms of cell physiology to contribute to novel therapeutic approaches for diseases like cancer. She is currently researching how proteins behave in response to different mechanical stresses.

“The award is encouragement to keep working hard and discovering new things in the lab,” Cheah said.

Doubling up as Beckman scholars

Yasui and Cheah receive support to conduct research as Beckman scholars. The Beckman Scholars Program, awarded to only about a dozen institutions nationwide each year, is designed to develop the next generation of leading researchers. It provides funding for a 15-month faculty-mentored research experience over two summers and one academic year.

The Undergraduate and Prestigious Scholarship office at UC Davis assists high-achieving students in applying for 20 of the most prestigious national and international scholarships.

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Julia Ann Easley, UC Davis News and Media Relations, 530-752-8248,

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