Four UA students named Goldwater Scholars

 

 

All four UA 2011 Goldwater Scholar applicants received the prestigious academic award this year, a record held by such schools as Princeton, Arizona State, the University of Minnesota and the University of Washington, according to a UA news release.

Paige Dexter, Jessica Duke, Mitchell Hughes and Matthew Kelley, all in the College of Arts and Sciences, were named along with 275 other students nationwide to receive the scholarship of up to $7,500, which will cover tuition, fees, books and room and board.

Gary Sloan, a professor of biological sciences and coordinator of prestige scholarships and awards, said having all four applicants receive the award both reflects well on the Arts and Sciences department and the University as a whole.

“We are all very excited,” Sloan said. “This is the first time in UA history that all four of our nominees have been selected to receive the award. We did have three out of four selected in 2007, 2008 and 2009, which we thought was fantastic, but having all four selected this year was very gratifying.”

Sloan said potential Goldwater applicants must not only be academically successful, but must also possess a tireless work ethic.

“Sophomores can apply and, if successful, will receive two years of support,” Sloan said. “Juniors can apply and receive one year of support. Successful applicants must have outstanding academic records. They typically are in the top 10 percent of their class, but the most important criterion is a strong record of achievement in research by the time that they apply.”

The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education program was designed in 1986 to both honor Sen. Barry M. Goldwater and promote academic excellence in science, engineering and mathematics, according to the foundation’s website.

Paige Dexter, a junior majoring in biology and a 2011 Goldwater Scholar, said that, in order to be considered for the award, students must prove their worth through a series of essay-based applications.

“Each university is only allowed to nominate four potential Goldwater Scholars per year,” Dexter said. “Because of this, undergraduates must first compete at the university level by submitting an application packet including short essays about activities, honors and research projects, as well as recommendation letters from professors to the UA selection committee. If the UA committee chooses a student to compete at the national level, he or she must then submit a similar application to the Goldwater website.”

Dexter said she hopes to earn a Ph.D. and have a career in the field of biomedical research. She said her dreams of owning her own laboratory and studying human disease seem more attainable after receiving such an elite award.

“Receiving this award is a great honor,” Dexter said. “In a way, it's an affirmation that in my future, hard work and dedication will continue to allow me to achieve my goals.”

Matthew Kelley, another 2011 Goldwater Scholar and junior majoring in chemistry, said the more involved potential applicants are in research programs, the more likely they are to be honored with the award.

“I work for Professor David Dixon in the chemistry department, and I have used computational methods to study group VI transition metal oxide catalysts for their potential in being used in hydrolysis reactions (a process for hydrogen fuel cells) and oxidative dehydration and dehydrogenation reactions,” Kelley said.

Wherever Kelley’s career takes him, he said he hopes it involves research.

“I hope to attend graduate school and study physical or computational chemistry,” he said. “I hope to then research in industry or research and teach at a university in an area relating to materials science and its applications in information technology.”

As a Goldwater scholar and junior majoring in physics and mathematics, Mitchell Hughes said he has been aware of certain scholarships and research opportunities since high school.

“I have been fascinated with the sciences for as long as I can remember, and I knew by the time that I entered high school that I wanted to focus my career on nuclear and particle physics,” Hughes said. “I was very much an academic, so I was peripherally aware of some of the prestigious awards, like the Goldwater, that existed at higher levels.”

Since his freshman year, Hughes has been conducting research with Andreas Piepke in the physics department. A German minor, Hughes has also studied abroad in Germany. He credits these experiences with making him eligible for the Goldwater scholarship.

“Trying to justify an award while conveying humility always proves difficult for me, but in short, I believe that I was selected for the uniqueness of my qualifications, the fundamental nature of my research and the passion for my field that I attempted to convey both directly, through the application essay, and indirectly, as evidenced by my transcript, other awards and extensive research experience both here at UA and in Germany last summer,” he said.

Jessica Duke, a junior majoring in chemistry and the fourth UA Goldwater scholar, said she hopes her degree translates into a career researching issues pertaining to the environment or energy. She said the Goldwater scholarship puts her even closer to realizing that goal.

“I hope the Goldwater scholarship will give me a better chance of being accepted to highly-ranked graduate schools, which should in turn help me along my career path,” Duke said.

 

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