Junior Becomes Second Mason Student to Win Goldwater Scholarship
By Rashad Mulla
Computer science major Alexander Behnaz has joined an elite group. He is the second Mason student ever to win a Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship.
Behnaz joins Philip Naudus, a senior double majoring in physics and math, as the only two Mason students to win the Goldwater Scholarship, a nationwide competitive scholarship that awards excellent students majoring in mathematics, science or engineering up to $7,500 annually.
Behnaz, a junior, has already established an admirable collection of research, work and internship experience. Last summer, he conducted research under the guidance of Nathalia Peixoto, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering. In a collaboration with Georgetown University Medical Center, he wrote a paper on volumetric computed tomography (CT) methods that was published in the SPIE Medical Imaging 2010 journal.
In addition, he spent four summers working for the U.S. Navy performing data acquisition and trials on full-scale ships.
“Gaining real-world experience in a commercial or research setting early is critical,” Behnaz says. “It helped me to frame the material that I was learning in class in a practical context.”
Behnaz, who received an honorable mention for the Goldwater award two years ago, says he felt honored when he learned he had won the scholarship.
“The Goldwater Scholarship is a very competitive award,” he says. “Receiving it means that you are competitive with the best of the best in the academic world. That means a lot to me.”
Deirdre Moloney, director of fellowships and the Undergraduate Apprenticeship Program, says only dedicated, standout students receive the Goldwater Scholarship and that Behnaz had the accomplishments worthy of the award.
“He has that combination of internship and early research experience,” Moloney says. “Now, graduate programs and scholarship committees are looking for experience outside of the classroom.”