Keller Blackwell and Willie McClinton become the 10th and 11th recipients in USF history to receive this award
TAMPA, Fla. (May 1, 2019) – Two USF Honors College students, Keller Blackwell and Willie McClinton, have been named Goldwater Scholars for 2019, chosen out of nearly 1,300 students nationally who were nominated through a highly selective process. Blackwell and McClinton are among just 13 recipients from Florida colleges and universities. The scholarship is the most prestigious undergraduate award in the country for science research and provides $7,500 for educational expenses and research support.
McClinton, a computer science major, is currently involved in two research projects with the university. The first involves working with Dr. Marvin Andujar to create technology that will allow patients with ALS to paint pictures using their brains. McClinton has worked on the brain computer interface that allows the technology to work in virtual reality, giving artistic freedom to those who are no longer able to create art in traditional ways.
In the second research project, McClinton is working with Dr. Sriram Chellappan to create a smart phone app (which is now in the Beta phase) that will allow people to take photos of mosquitos to identify their specific species. “Certain species carry diseases such as Zika and Malaria,” says McClinton. “The goal is to create a way for citizens in mosquito-prevalent areas to identify those mosquitos and take the necessary precautions.”
Using Artificial Intelligence, McClinton ultimately wants to create multi-purpose robots that can perform a wide range of daily tasks.
Blackwell, a pure mathematics major, is completing research under Dr. Gretchen L. Matthews at Virginia Tech that will help protect personal data in the future. His research uses mathematics to create encryption algorithms that will better secure sensitive data online when quantum computers become a reality.
A non-traditional student, Blackwell spent many years working full-time in the restaurant industry before starting college. A transfer student from California, he was impressed by the level of caring and individualized assistance he received from professors. “There are specific challenges that you deal with as a non-traditional student,” says Blackwell. “I’ve had such excellent mentors at USF who have gone above and beyond to help me succeed. My career goal is to become a university professor and give back to others in similar situations.”
Both Goldwater Scholars plan to pursue their PhDs. Blackwell and McClinton worked with the university’s Office of National Scholarships (ONS) and its director, Dr. Sayandeb Basu, on their research goals and Goldwater applications. ONS works with students across the USF system to identify prestigious scholarship opportunities and craft competitive applications.
“Both of these students have such bright futures,” says Honors College Dean Dr. Charles Adams. “Undergraduate research is both valued and promoted throughout our university and I am proud, but not surprised, to see how our faculty and staff have mentored Keller and Willie.”
The two award recipients bring USF’s Goldwater Scholar tally to eleven in the university’s history. Previous scholars have gone on to earn other nationally competitive awards and study at internationally prominent institutions as they work on research projects.
The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program was established by Congress in 1986 to honor Senator Barry M. Goldwater, who served his country for 56 years as a soldier and statesman, including 30 years of service in the U.S. Senate. The purpose of the Foundation is to provide a continuing source of highly qualified scientists, mathematicians and engineers by awarding scholarships to college students who intend to pursue careers in these fields.
About the University of South Florida
The University of South Florida, established in 1956 and located in Tampa, is a high-impact global research university dedicated to student success. The USF System includes three separately accredited institutions: USF, USF St. Petersburg and USF Sarasota-Manatee. Serving more than 50,000 students, the USF System has an annual budget of $1.8 billion and an annual economic impact of $4.4 billion. USF ranks in the top 25 nationally for research expenditures among public universities, according to the National Science Foundation. In 2018, the Florida Board of Governors designated USF as a Preeminent State Research University, placing USF in the most elite category among the state’s 12 public universities. USF is a member of the American Athletic Conference.