The University of Texas at Dallas

Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science


Undergraduate Researchers Win Goldwater Scholarships

Sydney Sherman Wins Goldwater Scholarship

Undergraduate researcher from The University of Texas at Dallas have been recognized with award from the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program. Sydney Sherman, a biomedical engineering junior in the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science, received full scholarships. She is McDermott Scholar. She join the ranks of 16 other UT Dallas students who have been recognized by the Goldwater Foundation.

The Goldwater Scholarships recognize college sophomores and juniors who want to pursue research careers in the natural sciences, mathematics and engineering. Winners receive a scholarship of up to $7,500 a year to help cover costs associated with tuition, fees, books, room and board.

Sydney Sherman Over the Goldwater program’s 30-year history, many scholarship recipients have gone on to win prestigious awards such as the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Fellowship, the Rhodes Scholarship, the Churchill Scholarship, and the National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship.

Sherman, who is from Wrightstown, Pennsylvania, became interested in research while still in high school when she participated in a neuro-electrophysiology project at the Pennsylvania Governor’s School for the Sciences hosted by Carnegie Mellon University.

“I was introduced to both lab research and neurophysiology for the first time. I enjoyed both, and knew I wanted to continue with research,” Sherman said.

At UT Dallas, she asked to join the Advanced Polymer Research Lab of Dr. Walter Voit BS’05, MS’06 after she heard him talk about his projects. Voit suggested she work on a project developing a softening spinal cord stimulation array. Spinal cord stimulation is used for pain management, but also is being researched for use in promoting motor recovery after paralysis from a spinal cord injury.

“The softening stimulator is designed to be minimally invasive, close in modulus to neural tissue and easy to implant,” Sherman said. “The device is fabricated from a substrate polymer that is stiff at room temperature, allowing for easy handling, and then transitions to a softer more flexible phase at physiological conditions for safer chronic use for implantation against the spinal cord.”

Sherman also worked in Dr. Joseph Pancrazio’s Neuronal Networks and Interfaces Lab, where she was introduced to neuroscience research using cells rather than devices to study neurodegenerative disease progression.

“Sydney quickly became adept at measuring and analyzing bioelectrical activity from neuronal networks, including those derived from mice with genetic defects,” said Pancrazio, who is vice president for research. “Sydney is the kind of student who is a treasure for any serious scientist. She is as bright and enthusiastic as she is committed to pursuing new ideas and scientific opportunities.”

Sherman has also worked at Dr. Jason Carmel’s Motor Recovery Lab at Burke Medical Research Institute, an academic affiliate of Weill Cornell Medicine. Carmel is collaborating with Voit to evaluate the softening spinal cord stimulators.

This summer, Sherman is researching neuromodulation therapies to augment recovery after spinal cord injury at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne.

“I have been reading publications from this lab since my freshman year to learn about spinal cord stimulation and stimulator development, and am very excited to have the opportunity to work with them this summer,” Sherman said.

She plans to pursue a PhD in biomedical engineering and continue to explore how the central nervous system can recover after disease or injury through a combination of implantable devices and nervous tissue regeneration.