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Florida State students receive prestigious national scholarships

Florida State student Matthew Vedrin received a Boren and Goldwater scholarship in 2013.

Two Florida State University students — Joseph “Tony” Manning and Matthew Vedrin — have received 2013-2014 Boren Undergraduate Scholarships, and Vedrin also has received a 2013 Goldwater Scholarship.

Boren Undergraduate Scholarships, funded by the National Security Education Program, provide students with $20,000 toward study abroad in areas of the world that are critical to U.S. interests. Goldwater Scholarships, funded by the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program, provide sophomores and juniors with $7,500 to pursue research careers in mathematics, science and engineering.

As a Boren Undergraduate Scholar, Manning will study Portuguese in Mozambique.

“Counting down the days until my Boren Scholarship is the most exciting and intimidating period in my academic career,” said Manning, an international affairs and political science double major from Miami, Fla. “I find it interesting how a country so freshly out of an extremely long and violent period of war can improve and become stable so quickly. This is a unique chance to finally explore a part of the world I have only experienced through books, lectures and maps.”

Eric Wiebelhaus-Brahm, an associate instructor of political science and international affairs in Florida State’s Department of Political Science, recently taught Manning in a course on African politics.

“Tonyhas a passion for studying security issues and he has developed significant expertise on regional security issues in Africa,” Wiebelhaus-Brahm said. “In class, hewas extremely well prepared and made important intellectual links. His academic achievements in the classroom as well as with Florida State’s Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program are indicative of hispotential as a future leader in U.S. national security policy.”

Vedrin, a mechanical engineering major from Winter Park, Fla., will use his Boren Undergraduate Scholarship to study Portuguese in Brazil.

“I was chosen for the Boren Scholarship because of my interest in international relations and energy, and how they affect the national security of the United States,” said Vedrin, who has been preparing for the exchange program by taking two semesters of Portuguese. “I want to understand how Brazilian culture ties to the development of that country’s energy policies and technologies. Brazil is known for its extensive use of bio-fuel from sugar cane, creating a transportation infrastructure capable of using both petroleum and biofuels.”

In Brazil, Vedrin will work on his senior design project while taking engineering and language classes, all in Portuguese. The project is a joint effort between the Florida State University and the Federal University of Paraná (UFPR), which involves a microalgae photobioreactor that can grow algae for bio-fuels.

Chiang Shih, a mechanical engineering professor in the Florida A&M University-FSU College of Engineering and Vedrin’s academic adviser, praised Vedrin as an exemplary student who excels academically while actively engaging in extracurricular activities.

“Matthew has set a clear goal to pursue an energy-centric and sustainability-related career direction, from not only a technical perspective but also with a global focus,” Shih said. “He studied in Sweden through an exchange program two years ago and, more recently, participated in the U.S.-Brazil partnership for Portuguese language training and international project collaboration. He also served as an undergraduate research assistant in Florida State’s Center for Advanced Power Systems. His determination and technical competency in energy as well as international experience will prepare him well as a leader in these important fields.”

Manning and Vedrin are two of 161 students to be selected this year as Boren Scholars, and two of six selected from Florida.

In addition, Vedrin was selected to receive a Goldwater Scholarship based on a project he completed that dealt with thermoacoustics, the interaction of heat and sound.

“I built a thermoacoustic engine and performed modeling and optimization ofthe engine using software created at Los Alamos National Laboratory,” Vedrin said. “Most of my Goldwater application focused on this experience and my future researchplans for this project. I have no doubt that the guidance I have received from my mentors and research advisers had a great impact on the Goldwater Scholarship award.”

Juan Ordonez, an associate professor of mechanical engineering in the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering who helped supervise the thermoacoustic engine project, praised Vedrin’s intellectual curiosity and aptitude for analytical thinking.

“His initiative in seeking out undergraduate research, his unwavering dedication to academics and his commitment to expand the use and development of alternative and sustainable energy technologies suggest a strong potential to significantly impact the future of sustainable energy in the U.S. and the world,” Ordonez said.

Alejandro Rivera, who also helped supervise Vedrin’s thermoacoustic research, described him as an outstanding student who is passionate about his work.

“Matthew has the sense of responsibility felt by many scientists and engineers to use their work to benefit society,” said Rivera, a scholar-scientist in the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering and researcher at Florida State’s Center for Advanced Power Systems. “Through his career and achievements, he will touch the lives of many in a very significant way.”

Vedrin is one of 272 students to be selected this year as a Goldwater Scholar, and one of five selected from Florida. The award aims to provide a continuing source of highly qualified scientists, mathematicians and engineers by awarding scholarships to college students who intend to pursue careers in these fields.