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rodrigo tapia, japan, 2014-2015

Like many UGA students, Rodrigo Tapia is enthralled with research and has received plaudits for his work in chemistry labs on campus, where he investigated synthesis and anti-cancer applications of nanotechnology.

Rodrigo, a senior from Ellijay majoring in chemistry and mathematics and minoring in Japanese, also has a passion for the study of nuclear security and the discipline of nuclear forensics, the collection and analysis of radioactive materials that provides data to the United States government needed to identify those responsible for the proliferation of those materials.

With a Boren Scholarship in hand, Rodrigo will travel to Fukuoka, Japan, where he will take courses in Japanese language and culture, applied chemistry, and research. Given its history of nuclear events – ranging from the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World II to the more recent Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster – Japan is uniquely positioned for the kind of nuclear research Rodrigo seeks.

What Rodrigo learns during his Boren experience will mesh nicely with a previous internship he served – under the auspices of the Department of Homeland Security and the Domestic Nuclear Detection Organization – at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, one of the nation’s premier facilities for science applied to national security.

“The idea of doing the science I have grown to love while making a difference for my country and perhaps the world is riveting, like living out two dreams at once,” he says.

At the conclusion of his Boren year, Rodrigo plans to pursue a doctoral degree in chemistry, at which time he’ll apply for the Nuclear Forensics Graduate Fellowship Program, which “feeds” its scholars into Department of Energy and Department of Defense labs or other federal agencies.

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