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Allen School’s Parker Ruth named a 2020 Goldwater Scholar

Allen School senior Parker Ruth is one of three students from the University of Washington to be named a winner as part of the 2020 Goldwater Scholarship competition sponsored by the Barry Goldwater Scholarship & Excellence in Education Foundation. The scholarship program is one of the oldest and most prestigious in the nation focused on supporting exceptional undergraduates who aim to pursue research careers in the natural sciences, mathematics, and engineering fields.

Ruth, who is majoring in computer engineering and bioengineering, plans to pursue a Ph.D. in computer science and apply computing tools to transform health care through novel hardware and software. He is a part of the university’s interdisciplinary honors program and an undergraduate researcher in the Ubicomp Lab advised by professor Shwetak Patel. Throughout his academic career, Ruth has been exploring the application of computing tools to improve the quality and accessibility of health care. 

“Parker’s maturity and ability to work effectively in a research setting is simply extraordinary for such a young student. He is an undergraduate that is already showing the maturity of a graduate student in terms of unpacking a problem, diving deep into a research question, and executing high quality research studies,” said Patel. “On top of that, he is a very well-rounded student. When we have visitors come to the lab, they don’t even realize he is an undergraduate student. They just assume he is just one of the Ph.D. students given his spectacular research knowledge.”

That research involves developing new sensing and signal processing techniques for screening and diagnosing diseases using commodity and mobile technologies. Ruth has worked on a variety of projects in the lab, including the development of tools related to cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis and physical activity monitoring — to name only a few. 

“In one example, Parker helped develop a robust mobile phone tool that uses the camera/flash and the phone’s gyroscope to estimate the pulse transit time to access cardiovascular risk,” Patel said. “He has also been working on an osteoporosis screening tool using sensors on a phone.”

Barry Lutz, a professor in the Department of Bioengineering, worked with Ruth on a multi-disciplinary team project creating rapid tests for HIV drug resistance. It didn’t take long for him to be impressed with Ruth’s capability, intellectual maturity, professionalism and balance of confidence and modesty.

“Parker is a top student, scientific leader, sophisticated researcher, and a kind and humble human being,” Lutz said. “He has all of the ‘typical’ star accomplishments in academics, research, and service; but in each area Parker stands out from other accomplished students due to his uncharacteristic intellectual strength.”

Ruth, who was homeschooled before attending the UW, credits his mother for instilling his drive to learn and experiment.

“My mom transformed our household into a place of experiential and self-driven learning,” he said. “At the core of my mom’s educational philosophy was a priority on imparting a love of learning; as a result, I was raised seeing learning far more like a recreation than an occupation.”

Previously, Ruth’s work on noninvasive continuous blood pressure monitoring earned him a Mary Gates Research Scholarship and a Levinson Emerging Scholars Award. He also received a Washington Research Foundation Fellowship for his contributions to OsteoApp.  

In 2018, three Allen School students were recognized in the Goldwater Scholars competition, including Ruth’s sister, Kimberly, Nelson Liu and Andrew Luo. 

Read the Goldwater Foundation’s press release here, full list of 2020 scholarship winners here, and a related UW News story here.

Congratulations on this outstanding achievement, Parker!