Frank Leibfarth wins Goldwater Scholarship; Dvanajscak earns honorable mention

Frank Leibfarth wins Goldwater Scholarship; Dvanajscak earns honorable mention
The University of South Dakota has announced that two of its students have received prestigious national academic awards.

Frank Leibfarth, a Yankton native, who is pursuing a double major in chemistry and biology with a minor in Spanish, has earned a Goldwater Scholarship. Zeljko Dvanajscak, from Sioux Falls, and a third-year biology student, earned honorable mention in the Goldwater Scholarship competition.

USD hasn't seen one of its students receive the Goldwater Scholarship since 2002 and Leibfarth is the institution's seventh Goldwater Scholar.

The Goldwater Scholars were selected on the basis of academic merit from a field of 1,081 mathematics, science and engineering students who were nominated by the faculties of colleges and universities nationwide. The one and two year scholarships will cover the cost of tuition, fees, books and room and board up to a maximum of $7,500 per year.

Leibfarth has already achieved numerous academic and athletic successes. In 2005, he completed a summer National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Experience for Undergraduates at Columbia University in a materials chemistry laboratory that specializes in nanoscale research on field-effect transistors. The research in which he participated will be published with Leibfarth listed as a contributing author.

Leibfarth has also participated in a research team at USD that studies the infection and spread of sylvatic plague through prairie dog colonies in Colorado. This coming summer he has accepted an internship with the NSF Materials Research Science and Engineering Center on Polymer Interfaces and Macromolecular Assemblies which involves Stanford University, IBM Almaden, and the University of California at Davis.

As the kicker for the Coyote football team, Leibfarth was twice named 2005 Conference Special Teams Player of the Week. He is also president of his fraternity, Pi Kappa Alpha, a student ambassador, member of the Honors Program and the childcare coordinator for the Newman Center on campus. After he graduates in spring of 2008, Leibfarth plans to get a Ph.D. in materials chemistry and to embark on a research and teaching career in academia.

Leibfarth credits the unique positive qualities of USD with the opportunities he has been able to take advantage of on his way to accomplishing his academic goals.

"The University of South Dakota has offered me the personal attention and advising which put me in a�position to compete for this scholarship. I know I would not have had the opportunity to even dream many of the goals I have now realized without the personal attention I have received by faculty at USD. I have never had any doubts about coming to this small, public university and I would recommend it to any graduating senior in high school," Leibfarth said.

Dvanajscak has researched for almost three years in the laboratory of Dr. Robert Morecraft at the School of Medicine at USD. His research project is designed to unravel the microstructural relationships between two of the most important brain areas involved in the formation of cognition, and he has presented the results of this research at six conferences, including the 18th NSF EPSCoR National Conference in Puerto Rico.

Dvanajscak has also contributed in many other ways to campus life at USD. He is vice-president of the International Students Club, has served as a resident assistant in the residence halls, tutors mathematics and is a leader in the fencing club. After completing his undergraduate degree he plans to seek an MD/PhD in neurology and neurobiology.

Dvanajscak praised USD and its faculty and credited the wide variety of opportunities he has enjoyed for much of his success.

"USD has excellent and unique undergraduate research opportunities. In addition, the faculty at USD is exceptionally willing to help their students with not only academic achievement but also with career advancement. I would especially like to recognize my mentor, Dr. Robert Morecraft, for his invaluable teaching and an intrinsic desire to help all of his students, both graduate and undergraduate, to advance in every aspect of their academic careers here at USD," said Dvanajscak.

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