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NMSU junior biology student awarded competitive Goldwater Scholarship

New Mexico State University junior Chiann-Ling Cindy Yeh of Las Cruces has been awarded the Barry Goldwater Scholarship, a highly competitive award that supports outstanding students in the fields of math, science or engineering.


Portrait of Cindy Yeh
New Mexico State University junior Chiann-Ling Cindy Yeh has been awarded the Barry Goldwater Scholarship, a highly competitive award that supports outstanding students in the fields of math, science or engineering. (Courtesy photo)

The Goldwater Scholarship is the premier undergraduate award of its type in these fields, and covers the cost of tuition, fees, books and room and board up to a maximum of $7,500 per year. Yeh is one of just 260 students nationwide to receive the scholarship this year, and one of two from universities in New Mexico.

Yeh, a genetics and biotechnology major and research scholar funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at NMSU, has conducted her own research project in the laboratory of Graciela A. Unguez in the Department of Biology. Yeh?s research focuses on muscle degeneration in vertebrates, and she plans to continue to pursue her research in the biomedical sciences.

She credits Unguez, along with Honors College Associate Dean Mark Andersen and previous Goldwater winner Lindsey Redman for providing encouragement and guidance as she underwent the application process for the scholarship, where she competed against more than 1,200 applicants.

?I am grateful for all the amazing mentors, encouraging faculty and supportive peers here at NMSU,? Yeh said. ?They have all enhanced my undergraduate experience. This goes to show that NMSU has many incredible resources available for students that can help us accomplish our goals.?

Yeh?s research in Unguez?s lab focuses on an electric fish native to the Amazon.

?These fish are unique, because if you amputate their tails, they are able to regenerate all their tissue ? this includes skin, spinal cord, muscle and cells of the electric organ called electrocytes,? Yeh explained. ?By studying the fish?s regenerative capabilities, we can learn more about what occurs during natural degeneration of muscle.?

Unguez said Yeh?s Goldwater Scholarship comes as no surprise to her, because she?s such an accomplished student with varied interests.

?Cindy is not only endowed with a precocious ingenuity, artistic keenness and expanding social conscience,? Unguez said, ?she is already meeting many of the criteria that make exceptional individuals in our scientific community and society in general: the smarts, hunger for knowledge and its dissemination, superb interpersonal skills, broad-mindedness and integration of an interdisciplinary thought process to problem-solving, and knack to readily grasp theory and practice in the research setting.?

In addition to her scientific curiosity, Yeh makes time to explore her artistic and community outreach interests. She?s an accomplished pianist who teaches lessons to children; she has collected short fiction stories and poems from NMSU undergraduate students to edit, publish, and disseminate to the Las Cruces community; and she spearheaded a local showing of the documentary ?Food Chain$,? which focuses on current farm labor practices in the United States.

Yeh is the daughter of Crystal Wang and Chingder Yeh, and a 2012 graduate of Las Cruces High School.