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ASU life sciences student wins Goldwater Scholarship for excellence in research

portrait of ASU student Ryan Muller
April 04, 2014

Thanks to an undergraduate career full of research and success, biochemistry and molecular and cellular biology junior Ryan Muller has been awarded the Goldwater Scholarship, a national award for students in the fields of science, math and engineering.

“I’m honored to have been chosen,” said Muller, a School of Life Sciences student. “Research is my passion, and this award reaffirms my belief that I have chosen the right path for myself.”

In his three years at Arizona State University, he has worked on multiple research projects, including a study with Neal Woodbury, ASU professor with the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, on enzyme kinetics, and he also worked with ASU’s International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) team in 2011, 2012 and 2013. The iGEM teams compete on a national level to engineer synthetic biological systems. In 2012, the ASU team won a gold medal, a spot in the international championship and the Best Human Practices Advance award.

Currently, Muller is conducting research with professors Xiao Wang and Karmella Haynes, from ASU’s School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering, on molecular biosensors, which can be used to ensure a clean water supply for at-risk areas.

“If a specific pathogen is present in a water sample, the molecular sensor binds to a marker which triggers an enzyme-catalyzed reaction,” Muller said. “This creates a color change from clear to black, and one can use a color change as an indication of contamination to the water sample.”

To win the scholarship, Muller had to be more than just an exemplary scientist. In applying, he had to submit essays along with his resume, all while competing with other ASU students. After an ASU selection committee picked him as a top-four candidate, he then had to compete with students from all over the country.

As one of 300 winners across the country, and three from ASU, Muller will receive $7,500 per year for up to two years, which he can use toward tuition, room and board, school fees and books. He credits professors Wang and Haynes, as well as his fellow lab members, with contributing to his success. He also credits ASU’s School of Life Sciences Undergraduate Research program staff.