UMass Amherst Junior Named Goldwater Scholar

AMHERST, Mass. – Michael Krainin, of Sharon, a junior at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, has won a prestigious Goldwater Scholarship. He is one of just 321 students in the nation to win the award for the 2008-09 academic year.

Goldwater Scholars are selected on the basis of academic merit, and are students who intend to pursue careers in science, mathematics or engineering. This year, 1,035 students were nominated for the award from colleges and universities nationwide. The scholarship covers the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board up to $7,500 a year.

Krainin is a Commonwealth College honors student majoring in computer science and mathematics. He is currently on exchange at Uppsala University in Sweden, where he is taking courses in algorithmic problem-solving, machine learning, elementary particle physics and basic Swedish.

For the past two years, Krainin has worked in the Multi-Agent Systems Laboratory under the supervision of UMass Amherst computer scientist Victor Lesser. Most of his work has been related to the Collaborative Adaptive Sensing of the Atmosphere (CASA) project, a National Science Foundation center with more than $40 million in federal, university, industry and state funding. Krainin has completed two summer Research Experience for Undergraduates programs with CASA, which led to his publication of a paper in the proceedings of the 2007 Intelligent Agent Technology Conference in California, where he presented his research.

“The scholarship is going towards helping to pay for my school fees and expenses for my final year at UMass,” he said. “I’ve already completed the requirements for the computer science major, but I’ve elected to stay for a year longer than I would really have to. That way I have some extra time for opportunities I want to pursue. These include coming here to Sweden, taking a second major, continuing to do research, and taking courses like ‘General Relativity,’ about which I’m curious. Having this scholarship makes staying for a fourth year a bit easier.”

Krainin said participating in the overseas exchange program may have boosted his chances for the Goldwater Scholarship. “It helps when the selection committee can see that a student has interests that go beyond the classroom and the lab. Studying abroad is something that stands out and demonstrates both multicultural interests and a certain sense of independence.”

Susan K.Whitbourne, a psychology professor who directs the campus’ Office of National Scholarship Advisement, said Krainin and the other three UMass Amherst nominees all demonstrated academic and research prowess.

“Mike is working in a research area of great national importance, namely the detecting of tornadoes, but in addition to the practical applications of his work, he is exploring important theoretical dimensions involving computer simulations,” she says. “I worked with Mike long-distance in helping him submit his materials for the application, and throughout the process I became impressed with his enthusiasm and dedication. This award is the first of what I know will be many to come in a distinguished research career.”

“I think the real benefit of the Goldwater Scholarship comes from the recognition associated with it,” said Krainin, who plans to apply for an NSF graduate research fellowship.

Goldwater Scholars have gone on to be awarded 70 Rhodes Scholarships, 94 Marshall Awards, and numerous other prestigious fellowships. The 20-year-old scholarship program honors the late U.S. Sen. Barry M. Goldwater.

Michael Krainin can be reached via e-mail at mkrainin@student.umass.edu.

Susan Whitbourne, director of the UMass Amherst Office of National Scholarship Advisement, can be reached at 413/545-4306 or swhitbo@psych.umass.edu.

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