2 Rice University students named Goldwater Scholars

Rice University
Office of Public Affairs / News & Media Relations


B.J. Almond

 2 Rice University students named Goldwater Scholars

HOUSTON — (April 18, 2016) — Two Rice University undergraduate students have been named Goldwater Scholars for the 2016-2017 academic year.

Henry Bair and Austin Cao were chosen from 1,150 mathematics, science and engineering students nominated by universities nationwide for the award based on academic merit. Each of the 252 new Goldwater Scholars will receive up to $7,500 per year for a one- or two-year scholarship to cover tuition, fees, book and room and board.

Bair, from Taichung, Taiwan, is a junior working on a B.S. in biochemistry and cell biology and a B.A. in medieval/early modern studies. He plans to pursue medical and doctorate degrees in pathobiology and then conduct translational research on biologics for cardiopulmonary disorders, teach at an academic institution and carry out clinical work at a hospital.

As a participant in the Rice Undergraduate Scholars Program, Bair is currently studying stem cell-derived microvesicles as a therapy for pulmonary hypertension in the Department of Pediatric Surgery at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. “These agents potentially carry the cytoprotective and regenerative capabilities of stem cells without the health risks associated with transplanting viable replicating stem cells,” Bair said.

Bair has served as an executive editor for Catalyst, Rice’s undergraduate science journal, and regularly contributes editorials to the Rice Thresher, the student newspaper. He is a co-chair of the Rice Student Volunteering Program, has been a peer research adviser for the Department of BioSciences and was a coordinator of the Rice Undergraduate Research Symposium. Bair is also working on an art history project, studying Insular illuminated manuscripts and teaching a student-taught course on manuscript studies. His residential college at Rice is Baker College.

Cao, from Mequon, Wis., is a sophomore majoring in chemistry with a specialization in medicinal chemistry. A Rice-Baylor Medical Scholar, Cao will attend Baylor College of Medicine after graduating from Rice and continue to pursue his passion for clinical research.

He currently conducts research at Baylor and the Neurological Research Institute, where his work focuses on understanding the regulatory pathways that govern the generation of neurons from stem cells in the adult brain. “Furthering our knowledge of these processes can create therapeutic approaches for countering neurodegenerative diseases like ALS and Parkinson’s using the body’s own regenerative mechanisms,” Cao said.

At Rice, Cao is an editor of Catalyst and serves on the executive board for the International Collegiate Science Journal, a collaborative project among 10 other universities around the world. He is currently completing EMT-Basic training and plans to join Rice EMS next semester. Cao has competed with the George R. Brown Forensics Society, Rice’s speech and debate team, for the past two years. He serves as class rep for Hanszen College — his residential college at Rice, plays various college sports and enjoys playing the piano and running. This summer he will be conducting research on kidney medicine at Brigham’s and Women’s Hospital in Boston through the Harvard Summer Research Program.

The Goldwater Foundation is a federally endowed agency established in 1986. The scholarship program honoring Sen. Barry Goldwater was designed to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences and engineering. The Goldwater Scholarship is the premier undergraduate award of its type in these fields.

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High-resolution images are available for download:


Caption: Henry Bair



Caption: Austin Cao

About B.J. Almond

B.J. Almond is senior director of news and media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.