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Brian Perea, a junior chemical engineering major, has been awarded the prestigious Goldwater Scholarship. He is one of four ASU recipients.

The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship Program was created to encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in mathematics, the natural sciences or engineering and to foster excellence in those fields. Recipients are awarded $7,500 annually for up to two years. This year, 275 Goldwater Scholars were chosen from 1,095 students nominated nationwide.

Perea knew he wanted to pursue research. He was accepted into the Fulton Undergraduate Research Initiative (FURI) program in the second semester of his freshman year. He cites the opportunity to conduct research early in his undergraduate experience as a significant factor in his decision to attend ASU.

As a student of Lenore Dai, assistant professor and program chair for Chemical Engineering in the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy, Perea learned about her work on smart materials. He saw the opportunity to pursue interesting research and have an impact in a sought-after field.

“Everyone starts off the same way in research—both challenged and frustrated,” Perea says. “But, I was able to build a project from the ground up and collect results, which ultimately led to publication.”

His work, in collaboration with a graduate student, has been published in Colloids and Surfaces A: Physicochemical and Engineering Aspect. He has also presented at the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AlChE) national meeting.

“I never considered that I would have the opportunity to be a published author so early. It’s a highlight for me to be able to contribute to the great academic community,” he says.

Perea is working on a project with Dai’s group involving smart materials that have unique properties, and frequently properties that can change reversibly in reaction to the environment. He says it is fundamental research, looking at colloidal particles and self-assembly techniques to create desired materials. Now in his fifth semester of FURI, Perea will be presenting his research at the upcoming Symposium.

Dai says that Perea is an “independent and innovative researcher, who initiates and validates original ideas.”

Perea says FURI has helped with other opportunities, such as the Goldwater Scholarship which requires significant research experience. It has also opened doors to research opportunities outside ASU. Last summer, he was accepted to the Research Experience for Undergraduates at the University of Colorado at Boulder. His work led to his second presentation at the AlChE meeting last year.

This summer, Perea will participate in MIT’s REU program in the lab of Professor Bob Langer, studying polymers for drug delivery and tissue engineering.

Perea is also a National Hispanic Scholar and enrolled in Barrett, the Honors College. He is active with the Society of Professional Hispanic Engineers, working on outreach programs to elementary schools in conjunction with MESA.

Perea plans to continue his education to obtain his Ph.D. and ultimately become a professor.

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