Auburn University Honors College student, graduate awarded Fulbright Scholarships

James BarnettSamantha LopezAUBURN UNIVERSITY – An Auburn University Honors College senior and a recent graduate have been awarded Fulbright Scholarships to continue their studies in Europe.

Samantha Lopez, a senior double-majoring in microbiology and French, will study in Belgium, while James Barnett, a December 2012 graduate with a double major in biomedical sciences and Spanish, will travel to Spain. They are Auburn’s sixth and seventh Fulbright recipients in the past four years.

Lopez, of Tampa, Fla., will be working in Professor Isabelle George’s laboratory of ecology and aquatic systems at the Université libre de Bruxelles, where she will examine the activity, diversity and role of bacteria in soil and aquatic environments.

For the past two years at Auburn she has worked under the direction of Leondaro de la Fuente, assistant professor in the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology. Lopez has aspirations to earn graduate degrees in public health and microbiology with the goal of researching infectious agents and treating and curing infectious diseases.

“Samantha’s obvious joy in discovery, her open-minded approach to new understandings, her resolute determination to expand her horizons and her tenacious will to achieve, all inspire those who have the good fortune to work with her,” said Pamela Paine, associate professor of French at Auburn. “She brings to the learning process a balance of open-mindedness and intellectual skepticism.”

Lopez also plays saxophone in the Auburn University Marching Band and is a tutor with Study Partners, a member in the weekly French Conversation Table and a member of the French honors society, Pi Delta Phi.

“I am excited and privileged to represent not only my country, but Auburn as well,” Lopez said. “While I’m in Belgium I hope to visit each region of the country, as well as France, Germany and the Netherlands. I especially look forward to visiting Dinant, Belgium, the birthplace of Adolphe Sax, the inventor of the saxophone.”

Barnett, of Childersburg, Ala., will conduct research under the direction of Patrick Gamez, research professor of inorganic chemistry at The University of Barcelona.

For the past three years at Auburn, Barnett has conducted research under the guidance of researcher Susanne Striegler, examining the application of copper complexes in the design of anticancer drugs. Given the serious side effects of chemical drugs in the treatment of cancer, his work examines the use of copper complexes as a synthetic enzyme to produce anti-cancer agents.

“James is a promising, young chemist with a keen awareness of science’s frontiers and international dimensions,” said Vince Ortiz, chair of Auburn’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. “He has already proven himself to be an outstanding student researcher. His Fulbright fellowship will enable him to advance professionally and to increase the cultural versatility of the rising generation of American scientists.”

Barnett, the first person in his family to attend college, has co-authored four peer-reviewed publications in addition to presenting his work at national and regional academic conferences. He plans to pursue a joint master’s degree and doctorate upon his return from Spain.

“At the age of 15, I became very interested in the Spanish language through my employment at a family restaurant in Birmingham where several of my coworkers were native Spanish speakers,” Barnett said. “Those glimpses into the lives of a different culture coupled with the language classes I have taken at Auburn have made a lasting impression that has fueled my passion for the Spanish language and Hispanic culture and tradition.”

Paul Harris, associate director of the Honors College, said, “Samantha and James not only excel in the classroom and the lab, but their commitment to learning a foreign language and to promoting international understanding are noteworthy. They are the type of well-rounded, globally engaged students that any college or university would be proud to call their own. The entire Auburn family can take great pride in their respective accomplishments.”

The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. Recipients of Fulbright grants are selected on the basis of academic or professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential in their fields.

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