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Rafael Setra Named One of Three 2014 UMD Goldwater Scholars

Rafael Setra Named One of Three 2014 UMD Goldwater Scholars

Setra presents at TREND Research Fair, August 2013
Setra presents at TREND Research Fair, August 2013

Electrical Engineering and Mathematics major Rafael Setra was one of three University of Maryland students awarded scholarships by the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation, which encourages students to pursue advanced study and careers in the sciences, engineering and mathematics.

The Goldwater Scholarship program was created by Congress in 1986 to identify students of outstanding ability and promise in science, engineering and mathematics, and to encourage their pursuit of advanced study and research careers. Colleges and universities can submit up to four nominations annually for these awards.

Currently, Rafael is tackling novel research questions in signal processing. He is mentored by Director of the Institute for Research in Electronics and Applied Physics (IREAP) and Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering Thomas E. Murphy and Prof. Rajarshi Roy (Physics/IREAP/IPST). Under their guidance during the 2013 TREND-REU program, Rafael completed a research project entitled “Suppressing SBS Through Chaotic Phase Modulation.” Rafael has created a whole new theoretical and experimental research direction in the lab – starting from an idea and an equation – and is working to overcome signal scattering problems in optical fibers to greatly improve the distance that high powered signals can travel coherently. He is also using applied mathematical modeling to improve the resolution/image quality of scanning transmission electron micrographs of biological structures, in collaboration with NIH researchers and Dr. Wojciech Czaja, Professor of Mathematics.

“The project we gave to Rafael was related to overcoming a nonlinear signal scattering problem that is pervasive in optical fibers, and the project was in a research direction that had never been previously tested or initiated,” said Murphy. “In the span of just 10 weeks, Rafael taught himself about fiber optic instrumentation, measurement automation, splicing, and spectrometry, and he designed, purchased and constructed an experiment to test his hypotheses.”

The other UMD students selected were Geoffrey Ji (Physics/Mathematics/Economics/Computer Science) and Michael Dan Mandler (Chemistry/Biological Science). UMD student Daniel Albarnaz Farias (Computer Science/Electrical Engineering/Mathematics) was also given honorable mention. The students were among the 283 Barry Goldwater Scholars selected from 1,166 students nominated nationally this year.

Honorable mention recipient Farias is a triple major in computer science, electrical engineering, and mathematics. He has conducted research projects with Daniel Butts, assistant professor of biology, and Neil Spring, associate professor in computer science with an appointment in the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies. With Butts, Farias adapted a model that was developed to describe neural signal processing in the visual midbrain to work in the auditory midbrain.

The University of Maryland has had a total of 47 Goldwater winners since the program's inception 28 years ago. UMD's prior Goldwater scholars and nominees have continued their impressive academic pursuits:

  • Five were National Science Foundation graduate research fellowship winners
  • One was a 2013 Gates Cambridge Scholar
  • One was a Churchill Scholar at Cambridge University, now at UC Berkley to pursue a Ph.D. in engineering
  • One was a Clarendon Scholar pursuing a Ph.D. in chemistry at Oxford University
  • Several pursuing medical and doctorate degrees at prestigious U.S. institutions

Goldwater scholars receive one- or two-year scholarships that cover the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board. These scholarships are a stepping-stone to future support for their research careers.


March 23, 2014

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