A Northern Arizona University undergraduate student from Gilbert is one of only 60 students nationwide named to USA Today’s All-USA College Academic Team program.

Robert Buscaglia, a junior biochemistry and math major in NAU’s Honors Program, was named to the program’s Third Team and is being recognized for his outstanding intellectual achievement and leadership. Students’ names were published in today’s issue of USA Today.

Buscaglia, who was profiled in Inside NAU last May, was singled out for being a published co-author of multiple manuscripts on molecular biophysics and part of a team of scholars involved in landmark genetic cancer research at NAU.

More than 600 full-time students from colleges and universities across the United States were nominated for the honor and a panel of judges selected 20 students each for the First, Second and Third Teams. Criteria include grades, academic rigor, leadership, activities and most important, the student’s essay describing his or her most outstanding intellectual endeavor while in college.

“It’s unbelievable,” said Buscaglia, who credits his NAU professors and the one-on-one interaction he’s had with them for his success. “That’s something I don’t think I would have gotten at other universities. You really feel like part of a community when your professors make the time for you. That’s the quality of NAU that I think makes it No. 1 in Arizona. Being here is why I’ve been able to accomplish so much.”

This is the first time an NAU student has been named to the team, and the ranking places Buscaglia among some of the nation’s top college and university students.

“Robert is clearly one of the best students I’ve ever encountered in 25 years of teaching,” said NAU chemistry professor Ed Lewis, who nominated Buscaglia for the award. “He’s representative of the kinds of students we have here. He’s the best of the best, but we have a lot of good students.

“Being named as one of the top 60 students in the nation is good for Robert, it’s good for my lab and it’s also good for NAU to have that kind of success.”

In November, NAU President John Haeger wrote a letter recommending Buscaglia for the USA Today honor. “For someone his age, Robert could easily have isolated himself from the campus community to focus solely on his studies,” he wrote. “Yet he has extended his commitments beyond the classroom to contribute to significant and groundbreaking cancer research that is turning heads in the scientific world…Given his talents and perseverance, Robert could very well be someone who helps write scientific history in the field of molecular biophysics.”

Only two other Arizona students were recognized by USA Today. Arizona State University senior Taylor Jackson, a biology and society major from Hattiesburg, Miss., was also named to the Third Team. Elizabeth Dreeland, an ASU literature and history graduate student from Corona, Ariz., was one of 20 students receiving honorable mention.

Criteria for the All-USA College Academic Team were developed in consultation with USA Today’seducation co-sponsors: the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges, the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, the American Council on Education and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education.

A panel of educators, chosen in cooperation with co-sponsors, selected the winners.