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Duke Junior Sofia Guerrero Named Goldwater Scholar

Award encourages students to pursue careers in mathematics, natural sciences, and engineering

Sofia Guerrero, a Duke junior majoring in neuroscience with a minor in computer science, has been named a 2023 scholar by the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation Program.

Originally from Seattle, Washington, Guerrero is among 413 students awarded Goldwater Scholarships for the 2023-2024 academic year. The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship is a federally endowed award that encourages students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences and engineering.

Goldwater Scholars are chosen on the basis of academic merit from a pool of 1,267 natural science, engineering and mathematics students nominated by the institutional representatives of 427 colleges and universities nationwide. Virtually all this year’s Goldwater Scholars intend to obtain a Ph.D. and go on to pursue a research career in the sciences, mathematics, and engineering.

Guerrero’s research at Duke focuses on understanding the role of the gene ubiquitin conjugase Rad6 in yeast energy metabolism. Under the faculty mentorship of Gustavo Silva, Guerrero is working to better characterize Rad6’s role in cell physiology to garner insight into the underlying causes associated with Nascimento intellectual disability.

Previously as an Amgen Scholar at UCLA, Sofia worked to create a research tool to better understand how microglia, the brain’s primary immune cells, clear harmful debris from brain tissue in the lab of Lindsay De Biase. She also worked as a tutor for Duke GANO, where she provided English lessons to native Spanish speakers in Durham to help them become more confident in their ability to speak and understand English.

Guerrero said she plans to obtain a Ph.D. in neuroscience with the goal of furthering the development of treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.

“My experiences in the lab, as well as my incredible mentors, have shaped my desire to specialize in translational research, work in a fast-paced environment, and collaborate with scientists in both industry and academia on a large scale to better understand the underlying causes of Alzheimer’s and to develop therapeutic treatments,” Guerrero said.

 “I am beyond honored to have been named in this year’s cohort of Goldwater Scholars,” she said. “I am especially grateful to all of my amazing mentors who have contributed to my research journey, including my mentors at Duke, Dr. Gustavo Silva, Vanessa Simöes, and Dr. Géssica Cabral Barros, and my mentors at UCLA, Dr. Lindsay De Biase, Dr. Fanny Etienne, and Katherine Espinoza. Their dedication, wise insight, and support have been invaluable for my continued growth as a scientist.”

Silva, an assistant professor of biology, said the Goldwater is a testament to not only Guerrero’s “intelligence, analytical and logical skills, but also to her hard work and capacity to perform at the highest level. I have no doubt that she will make a huge impact in biomedical research.”

Since its first award in 1989, the Goldwater Scholarship Foundation has awarded 10,283 scholarships worth approximately $71 million. Ninety-three Duke students have won Goldwater scholarships since 1990. Each Goldwater Scholar receives an amount equal to the cost of tuition, mandatory fees, books, and room and board, up to a maximum of $7,500 per full academic year.

Duke students and alumni can receive support for opportunities, such as the Goldwater Scholarship, from the Nationally Competitive Scholarships team at the Office of University Scholars and Fellows (OUSF).

For more information on the Goldwater Scholarship for Duke’s student, go to the OUSF website.