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Terry Phang Named Goldwater Scholar

April 19, 2021

Phang is one of two UGA students to be recognized for this honor

Physics undergraduate Terry Phang is among 410 undergraduates across the nation to be recognized as Barry Goldwater Scholars in 2021, earning the highest undergraduate award of its type for the fields of the natural sciences, mathematics and engineering.  

Phang, from Cumming, is a third-year majoring in physics and mathematics with a focus on condensed matter physics. Claire Bunn, a third year UGA student majoring in genetics and minoring in statistics, also received the award. 

Since 1995, 63 UGA students have received the Goldwater Scholarship, which recognizes exceptional sophomores and juniors across the United States. “The University of Georgia is proud of Claire and Terry for this impressive achievement,” said President Jere W. Morehead.  

This year, recipients were selected from a field of more than 5,000 college sophomores and juniors who were nominated by 438 academic institutions nationwide. Each awardee will receive up to $7,500 toward the cost of tuition, fees, books and room and board. 

Of this year’s Goldwater Scholars, 51 are mathematics and computer science majors, 291 are majoring in the natural sciences and 68 are majoring in engineering. 

Phang Goldwater Scholar.jpegHaving lived and attended school in both the United States, a developed country, and Malaysia, a developing country, Phang recalls the stark differences in the technology and other resources available for STEM education in each school system. As a student in the U.S., he read studies describing the detrimental effect of insufficient resources on student interest in STEM fields within developing countries. 

“At UGA, I am striving to increase student retention in STEM fields through my teaching, mentoring and volunteering roles, while creating a culturally inclusive learning environment,” he said. “I hope that my work as a Malaysian American scientist will inspire people of many backgrounds to pursue an education and career in STEM.” 

Phang’s long-term goals are to pursue a Ph.D. in physics and conduct research at a national laboratory, focusing on magnetism in quantum materials. As a physicist, he plans to work at the intersection of theory and experiment to investigate the fundamental properties of these materials and further the quest to realize their vast potential for applications in energy-related technology and information science. 

Currently, Phang is researching the properties of magnetic nanomaterials and working on smartphone physics for mobile learning with Yiping Zhao, Distinguished Research Professor of Physics. Prior to this, he conducted research with Tho Nguyen, associate professor of physics, using spectroscopy to study the magneto-optical effects of organic semiconductors. He also has held a research internship with research scientist Benjamin Lawrie at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in which he used computational methods for data analysis of quantum materials. He was recently invited to conduct research this summer at the University of California, Berkeley with Stephen Leone, professor of chemistry and physics. 

Phang’s UGA involvement includes service as president of the Society of Physics Students, Honors Program teaching assistant, Rankin M. Smith Student Athlete Academic Center tutor, Chinese Culture and Language Association public relations officer, UGA MATHCOUNTS Outreach and IMPACT Service Trips volunteer, and member of the department of physics and astronomy’s diversity, equity and inclusion committee. He has received a CURO Summer Fellowship, UGA Physics and Astronomy Undergraduate Research Scholarship, and UGA Experiential Learning Scholarship and is a member of Phi Kappa Phi. 

The scholarship honoring Sen. Barry Goldwater was created to encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, natural sciences and engineering. Since its first award in 1989, the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation has bestowed 9,457 scholarships. 

This article originally appeared in UGA Today on April 16 and was written by Stephanie Schupska. 

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