Goldwater Scholarship Awarded to Kosik Lab Members

April 4, 2024

On March 31, 2024, five scholarship awards for the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation were announced for researchers at UC Santa Barbara. Of these scholarships, two were awarded to undergraduate researchers at Kosik Lab, Riya Nilkant and Matthew Unger.

Riya Nilkant
Riya Nilkant

Joining Kosik Lab in 2022, Riya Nilkant has worked under the membership of Dr. Kosik and Dr. Soojin Yi on a project, which is currently en route to publication. Riya leveraged her bioinformatics skills to kickstart this synapse project. Independently, she found interesting homologs of synaptic protein PSD-95 in the genomes of single-celled protists. Despite no prior experience with constructing a phylogeny tree, Riya in collaboration with post-doctoral fellow Lisa Mesrop learned from Dr. Yi how to build phylogenetic trees that elucidated the relationships among the PDZ, SH3, and GK domains of PSD-95. Riya went on to work with graduate Sam Lobo to perform simulations that reveal the ancestral relationship of the PDZ domain and its ligands. In addition to the Goldwater scholarship, Riya has received two additional grants from UC Santa Barbara.


Matthew Unger has worked in Kosik Lab since 2022, demonstrating a remarkable proficiency in a wide array of laboratory techniques. His mastery of cloning and molecular biology techniques has contributed to research on tau aggregation and seeding. In addition to his work in molecular biology, Matthew has proven especially adept at more conceptually complex physics-based projects involving non-equilibrium phase separation behaviors, approaching this topic from both computational and experimental perspectives. Driven by interests in using computational methods to understand and predict biomolecular structures, Matthew has recently started to work closely on a collaborative project using AI-driven design of small molecule therapeutics. This year, Matthew plans to join a summer research program in similar topics that will advance his interests.