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Luke Arend '18 Receives Goldwater Scholarship

Luke Arend '18 Receives Goldwater Scholarship

Luke Arend ’18, a philosophy and physics double major, was awarded the Barry Goldwater Scholarship for outstanding undergraduate students in the sciences.

When it was time for Luke Arend ’18 to decide which college to attend, the Arden Hills, Minnesota, resident didn’t have to look far. Besides proximity and family connections—his brother, Daniel Arend ’12, is also a Royal—Arend chose Bethel for its strong physics and engineering program.

Three years later, Arend is a physics and philosophy double major, receives a music scholarship for piano performance, and this spring, he became Bethel University’s second recipient of the Barry Goldwater Scholarship, the premier undergraduate award for students pursuing careers in mathematics, sciences, and engineering. Nearly 1,300 students were nominated and only 240 scholars were selected this year.

Professor of Psychology Adam Johnson encouraged Arend to apply for the scholarship. For the required research statement, he wrote about the work he did at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, the summer after his sophomore year. Arend studied the way fish can gather information from their surroundings by the way they move.

“I thought it was interesting from an engineering perspective, but also from an epistemological perspective—how a fish can tell us how we know things,” Arend says. “That’s what so fascinating to me about science. By studying these specific areas and coming to all kinds of conclusions, we can make general conclusions for how we know all sorts of things. That’s really compelling and exciting to me.”

When Arend began his studies at Bethel, he planned to graduate and become an engineer, but a first-year class with Johnson introduced him to the world of research. In addition to his time at Johns Hopkins, Arend spent the summer after his freshman year working in Professor of Physics Nathan Lindquist’s lab.

Arend has also done independent research with Johnson for the last few years and in January 2017, joined Johnson’s lab group doing neuroscience research at Bethel. “I had a great experience in Dr. Lindquist’s lab and a great experience in a graduate lab at Johns Hopkins,” Arend says. “Now I have the experience of coming back and training other students and having a lab dynamic. I really enjoy that part of science.”

“Luke’s research interests have become deeper and more abstract over the last three years,” says Johnson. “As Luke has learned more sophisticated computational approaches to learning, he’s begun to step back and ask critical philosophical questions about the difference between piles of data and knowledge. The ability to marry deep understanding of scientific methodology and experimental data with subtle conceptual distinctions is what moves science forward. Luke is beginning to cross the threshold and enter the discussions where scientific breakthroughs happen.”

While Johnson and Arend’s three lab partners are conducting research at Boston University this summer, Arend is across the Charles River at MIT in the Center for Brains, Minds, and Machines working on computational models of visual attention. The researchers at MIT study attention by applying Deep Neural Networks—a computer science technique using algorithms to cluster and sort information.

This model teaches computers to look at a scene and pick out the most important information in the same way humans do, Arend explains. “When you look at a sensory scene, not everything in that scene is equally important to you,” he says. “Our eyes are drawn to faces and texts. We’re interested in teaching machines to do this as well.”

Learn more about Bethel’s Department of Physics and Engineering.