Jonathan X. Meng ’18 wins prestigious Goldwater Scholarship for chemistry, math

On April 25, the College announced that Jonathan X. Meng ’18 was named a 2017 Goldwater Scholar. The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation awarded the scholarship to 240 people out of the 1286 that were nominated. Students who receive this scholarship are given up to $7500 to cover tuition, fees, books and room and board.

The Goldwater Scholarship is awarded to sophomores and juniors across the nation who distinguish themselves in the fields of mathematics, science or engineering. Each student must be a full-time matriculated sophomore or junior who is pursuing a degree at an accredited two- or four-year institution of higher education; intend to pursue a research career in a natural science, mathematics or engineering; and have a college grade point average of at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale. Students must be nominated by their institutions.

Meng, a chemistry and mathematics double major, was originally thinking of majoring in psychology. “When I first came to Williams, I was actually thinking about majoring in psychology because I was not good at chemistry before that,” Meng said. “However, Professor [of Chemistry David] Richardson allowed me to view chemistry not only as a branch of science but also a way of solving problems and understanding the world.”

Meng was born in Shenyang, China, and now considers Los Angeles home. At the College, he keeps himself busy. He is a member of the College’s Questbridge Chapter, Koreans of Williams and the Chinese-American Student Organization and has also done volunteer work for the Northern County Care Coalition.

Meng has worked with Associate Professor of Chemistry Sarah Goh in her polymer lab. He was working on the architectural properties of polymers that address problems in chemotherapy drug delivery applications. Some of these problems include poor selectivity, shot in-vivo half-life and low solubility. He is now looking at how architectural variations of polymers can affect their glass transition temperatures and the stability and bioactivity of the drug when it is conjugated with the polymer.

Last summer, Meng worked at the Scripps Research institute in La Jolla, Calif. on research related to modulation of membrane binding of Hsp27 by phosphorylation and lipid composition. This summer, he will be working at the Stanford Summer Research Program in Palo Alto, Calif., as an Amgen scholar, where he hopes to work in a biophysical chemistry lab. He will return to the College in the fall as a senior and work in Richardson’s lab, using organic chemistry research to explore and develop synthetic methods.

Meng wants to pursue a doctorate in biophysics in the future. Meng told the College’s Office of Communications that he wants to “explore the interface between theoretical physics and cell biology bench research [and] teach at the university level, particularly in a liberal arts setting, in which I am able not only to conduct research myself, but also inspire many more young minds to find their own niche and passion in science.”

“Knowing full well I am not bright enough, I still need more guidance after my undergrad experience,” Meng said. “So I will probably apply to some predoctoral fellowships so I can spend a couple more years under some great mentorship beyond the Purple Valley.”

Meng is flattered to have received this prize. “I feel honored and humbled to receive this scholarship,” Meng said. “Honestly, it is less an award for me than a recognition of all of my great mentorship and friendship, both of which have supported and shaped me throughout my Williams career. I am so fortunate to have Professor Richardson, [Associate] Professor [of Mathematics Mihai] Stoiciu and many other affectionate mentors, such as Professor Goh, Professor [of Biology David] Lynch and Professor [of Biology Lois] Banta. All of them kindly guide me through some difficult times and selflessly impart their knowledge and wisdom onto me.”