Hwang Wins Goldwater Scholarship

(l-r)Adam Chandler, William Hwang, Peter Blair

William (Billy) Hwang, a junior majoring in biomedical engineering, physics, and electrical and computer engineering, is one of three Duke students awarded Barry M. Goldwater Scholarships for their achievements in the sciences, mathematics or engineering.

In addition to Hwang, who is from Potomac, Md., this year's winners are Peter Q. Blair, a junior from Chicago who is majoring in mathematics and physics; and Adam Chandler, a junior from Burlington, N.C., majoring in mathematics and chemistry. They were among 320 sophomores and juniors selected on the basis of academic merit from a national field of 1,091.

Since the awards began about 17 years ago in memory of the late U.S. senator and Republican presidential candidate, 58 Duke students have received the honor, which provides up to $7,500 a year toward tuition, books and other college expenses.

Hwang is part of a research team developing electrical chips to quickly perform chemical analyses of small amounts of a substance. He is a member of the Duke men's volleyball team and editor of two campus publications, one literary and the other about science and technology. Last summer, he taught a weeklong seminar on science and technology for underprivileged middle school students through InnoWorks, an organization he co-founded.

"The problem we saw with supplementary educational programs in the U.S was that they are largely remedial in nature," Hwang said, explaining why he started InnoWorks. "Instead of focusing on this remedial process, we wanted to change their fundamental attitudes and get them excited about science and engineering." The project is profiled online.

Hwang, an Angier B. Duke Scholar, has published seven research papers since 2000, including a paper in the IEEE Connections Magazine and one entitled "The Development of Automated Software for Quantifying Droplets from Enhanced Silhouette Images" that was selected as the first student paper ever published on the Washington Academy of Science website and was given a Department of Navy Research Award.

So what keeps him going? Two words, Hwang says, "intellectual curiosity."

"I’m always striving to do better than what I’ve done before," Hwang said. "Everything I do is a reflection of who I am. My parents are extremely supportive–— more than any kid could ask for."

It was his intellectual curiosity that made him such an attractive candidate for a plethora of top colleges. But Hwang chose to go to Duke in large part because of its research opportunities and the biomedical engineering (BME) program "is one of the best in the country."

"When I visited the campus, I sensed a diverse and engaging atmosphere where people not only study hard, but really pursue their other passions, whatever they may be," said the Maryland native. "Duke is a top caliber school that is still young, so people who come here can have the opportunity to significantly contribute to the future of the school."

Hwang enjoys many different subjects and has chosen a highly interdisciplinary approach to his undergraduate education to satisfy his thirst for knowledge.

Hwang is considering a joint MD/PhD program when he graduates. He plans to do research pertinent to the medical field, such as biomedical engineering or biophysics. He would like to stay involved in education and continue teaching.