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July 18th, 2002

INSTAAR Mark Williams is key player in CU undergraduate education

Mark Williams is co-director of CU-Boulder's Undergraduate Academy, which focuses on expanding the education of top students outside the classroom. The Academy seeks to build a sense of intellectual community and help prepare students for post-graduate opportunities. The Academy also helps administer Boettcher Scholarships, which are considered to be the most prestigious merit-based scholarships available to graduating high school seniors in the state.

Sixteen Boettcher Scholars at the University of Colorado at Boulder received enrichment grants this summer to conduct projects in locations ranging from campus laboratories to an aboriginal medical clinic in Australia.

The Boettcher Scholarship is considered to be the most prestigious merit-based scholarship available to graduating high school seniors in the state. Forty Boettcher Scholars are selected annually to attend any of the 16 four-year accredited colleges and universities in Colorado, and all must be in the top 5 percent of their graduating high school class.

"The Boettcher Scholars are participating in unique activities all around the world and they are taking advantage of the research strengths at CU-Boulder," said Mark Williams, associate professor of geography and co-director of CU-Boulder's Undergraduate Academy. "Their activities this summer are geared toward enhancing their current education as well as focusing on their career goals. This forces students to look toward the future."

Psychology major Samantha Pelican chose to work in Australia at an aboriginal medical clinic. With a focus on the mind-body connection, and more specifically how mental well being leads to physical well being, Pelican chose to work with the aborigines because of the large role empathy plays in their traditional health care.

Alicia Berger, a senior with a double major in molecular, cellular and developmental biology and biochemistry, is working with Professor Norman Pace, a MacArthur Fellowship "genius grant" recipient. Berger is carrying out a molecular study of microbes that exist in extreme environments in Baja California. Her research is providing valuable information on the possibility of life forms existing on planets such as Mars.

Not all of the students who received the Boettcher enrichment grants are leaving Boulder to do their projects. Wei-Shin Wang, an electrical engineering major, is working with professors Frank Barnes and Howard Wachtel at CU-Boulder to study the potential carcinogenic effects of automobile exhaust and electromagnetic radiation from sources such as power lines and microwave towers.

"Many of these students had the opportunity to go to Ivy League schools such as Harvard and Yale, but programs like the Boettcher Scholarships are helping to make CU-Boulder much more competitive," said Williams.

In June, Chancellor Richard Byyny and the Boettcher Foundation announced that 15 Boettcher Scholars had chosen to attend CU-Boulder for their undergraduate studies, the highest number of any Colorado institution. Currently, there are 66 Boettcher Scholars enrolled at the university, slightly more than 40 percent of the total enrolled statewide.

Along with receiving full tuition and fees to any accredited four-year Colorado institution, awardees of the scholarship can apply for optional grants such as the $3,500 enrichment grant. A panel composed of members from both the Boettcher Foundation and the Undergraduate Academy decides which students will receive the grant.

The scholarship was conceived by long-time Colorado businessmen Charles and Claude Boettcher and was established in 1952. In its 50 years of existence, the program has awarded 1,962 scholarships totaling $33.9 million.