Paloma Armendáriz Ruiz is UNC-Chapel Hill’s 51st Goldwater Scholar
Ruiz is one of 410 students nationwide to win the award this year
Paloma Armendáriz Ruiz, a third-year student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, was recently selected for the prestigious Goldwater Scholarship. Ruiz, who is pursuing a major in quantitative biology, hopes to earn a doctorate of philosophy in genetics with a focus on computational genomics. Ultimately, she would like to conduct research and teach at the university level.
Ruiz, 21, from Cary, NC is one of 410 students nationwide to win the award, selected from a pool of 1,256 candidates nominated by their universities. Ruiz is UNC-Chapel Hill’s 51st Goldwater Scholar. The scholarship provides up to $7,500 a year to help cover costs associated with tuition, mandatory fees, books, room and board.
“It is an honor to have been selected as a Goldwater Scholar.” Ruiz said. “I have deep passion for research, specifically combining genetics with computational analysis in order gain a deeper understanding of disease progression. I am excited to now be a part of a community that is dedicated to the advancement of STEM in all fields and look forward to interacting with Goldwater Scholars across the country. The program is organizing Zoom meetups as well as virtual mentorship opportunities, which will hopefully transition soon into in person meetups. I’m incredibly grateful to the University and ODS for this opportunity as well as the Strahl Lab and the Chancellor’s Science Scholars Program, who have truly shaped my experience here at UNC and have motivated me to succeed in all areas.”
Paloma currently works in the lab of Dr. Brian Strahl at the UNC School of Medicine, exploring how epigenetic changes affect human health, and during the summer of 2020 Paloma was accepted to the Broad Summer Research Program (BSRP) at the Broad
Institute of MIT and Harvard. This summer intensive afforded her opportunities to gain hands-on research experience in quantitative biology. Ruiz is also a member of Cohort 6 of the Chancellor’s Science Scholars (CSS) Program, a merit-based scholarship program at UNC, focused on promoting diversity and inclusion in STEM fields.
Outside the classroom and lab, Ruiz’s has been active in mentoring underclassmen throughout her undergraduate career. She is currently a Biology Ambassador, an undergraduate representative of the Department of Biology at UNC, where she mentors first-year biology majors and assists them in their transition into college and their STEM courses. As a Latina student, she has made providing encouragement and empowering typically underrepresented students in STEM a priority. In addition to being a Biology Ambassador, Ruiz is a Residential Advisor (RA). Being able to serve others is one of her core values and she plans to incorporate these experiences as she journeys on to mentor researchers in the lab and undergraduate students when she becomes a research professor in the future. As a Quantitative Biology major, her long-term goal is to continue in research and gain the skills needed to utilize computational methods to correlate the epigenetic code and levels of gene expression, which may lead to breakthroughs in various diseases such as cancer.
Professor Inger Brodey, director of the Office of Distinguished Scholarships, said, “few undergraduate students have made such a contribution to promoting the pursuit of research among students who are new to research. Our office has been very impressed with Paloma’s generosity as well as her scientific brilliance.”
The Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation was established by the U.S. Congress in 1986 to serve as a living memorial to honor the lifetime work of Sen. Barry Goldwater, who served his country for 56 years as a soldier and statesman, including 30 years in the U.S. Senate. It is considered one of the most prestigious undergraduate scholarships in natural sciences, mathematics and engineering in America and is meant to prepare students for careers in research.
About the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the nation’s first public university, is a global higher education leader known for innovative teaching, research and public service. A member of the prestigious Association of American Universities, Carolina regularly ranks as the best value for academic quality in U.S. public higher education. Now in its third century, the University offers 74 bachelor’s, 104 master’s, 65 doctorate and seven professional degree programs through 14 schools including the College of Arts & Sciences. Every day, faculty, staff and students shape their teaching, research and public service to meet North Carolina’s most pressing needs in every region and all 100 counties. Carolina’s nearly 330,000 alumni live in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, US Territories and 161 countries. Over 178,000 live in North Carolina.