Lake Norman & Mooresville

Junior earns top science award

To say Casey Rimland didn't like science in high school would be an understatement.

"I hated science in high school," she said. "I absolutely hated it."

She would never have predicted years later winning one of the most prestigious scholarships that can be given to an undergraduate with a talent in the sciences.

Rimland, 21, a junior at UNC Charlotte, made history recently, becoming the first UNC Charlotte student to be awarded the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship. Named after U.S. Senator Barry Goldwater, the scholarship gives up to $7,500 each year for sophomores and juniors who show the promise of future contributions in the fields of mathematics, natural sciences or engineering.

Four other North Carolinians - from Duke University, Princeton University, UNC Chapel Hill and NC State University - were awarded the scholarship this year as well.

Princeton, Harvard and Duke universities hold the highest number of Goldwater Scholarship winners, with 64, 60 and 58 recipients, respectively. Of the more than 1,000 students nominated annually, only 275 go on to win the scholarship.

Rimland credits UNC Charlotte for its role in helping her discover her passion for the sciences.

While enrolled as a freshman in the psychology program, she found the inner-workings of the brain more fascinating than any other aspect of her coursework.

"I realized what I liked about it was the biology behind it," she said. "I liked learning about the parts of the brain."

Nominated for the scholarship in part on the merit of her scholarly level of research in chemistry, biology and psychology, Rimland has conducted a wide range of investigations in the sciences, from researching traumatic brain injuries to conducting studies on the relationship between genetics and cancer. Last summer, she traveled to Brazil to analyze the effects of weight-loss medications in the blood.

After graduation in May 2012, she intends to pursue a combined M.D./Ph.D. degree at either Wake Forest or Yale universities, and to eventually enter a career in biomedical research.