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Three rising senior undergraduate Barrett ladies in STEM majors are the recipients of the highly prestigious Goldwater Scholarship. Lily Whitler, Maeve Kennedy and Madeleine Howell are among only 496 college students nationwide to receive the most prestigious scholarship given to students pursuing majors in natural science, engineering and mathematics in America.
“I feel so excited and honored to have been named a Goldwater Scholar,” Kennedy said. “I have found a passion for research during my undergrad, and feel that the scholarship will be a significant factor towards pursuing a research career. This scholarship will provide me with support to make future contributions to research in medicine.”
Kennedy, who is pursuing degree in chemical engineering with a minor in Mandarin, said she decided to apply for the Goldwater Scholarship because she personally knew past Goldwater scholars and looked up to them as role models of excellence in research.
Goldwater is considered the most prestigious scholarship for students in STEM because the expectation of the scholars is to advance research, and Kennedy just knew it was in line with her goals.
Howell, who is majoring in chemistry and minoring in mathematics and materials science and engineering, was encouraged to apply for the Goldwater by her research advisor, Dr.Barbara Smith.
“The scholarship appealed to me because it emphasizes research experience and academic performance and is geared towards applicants who intend to pursue a PhD in a STEM field,” Howell said.
Whitler, who is double majoring in physics and mathematics, heard about the Goldwater during her sophomore year through an announcement from the Office of National Scholarship Advisement (ONSA) and was encouraged to apply for it then, but she decided to wait a year and gain some more research experience first.
“It's a huge honor to receive it,” Whitler said. “It is also a big financial help to my family. I am the oldest of three children and both of my sisters are either in college or will be in college in the next two years, so the monetary award helps my family pay for all of our educations.”
Whitler found the mission statement of the Goldwater scholarship to "identify and support college sophomores and juniors who show exceptional promise of becoming this Nation’s next generation of research leaders in natural sciences, mathematics, and engineering" enticing since she wanted to pursue research as a career.
“Obviously, it's very prestigious and competitive, and honestly, I sort of viewed it as a personal challenge to myself,” Whitler said. “I wanted to know if I could actually get this award.”
ASU students who wish to apply for the Goldwater scholarship must essentially go through two rounds of selection. First, since each institute is allowed to nominate only four candidates for the scholarship, students must meet with Kyle Mox from the Office of National Scholarship Advisement and be selected as one of ASU’s four candidates. The deadline for this application is around October, and students will need to submit their resume and course transcript, and answer several short questions about their recommenders and research. They hear whether they made it into the group of four nominees in December, after which Mox helps each of the nominees polish their application, which includes a research essay, before submitting them in January. The nominees hear back from Goldwater in April.
“I plan to pursue an MD-PhD in biomedical engineering,” Kennedy said about her future goals. “I would like to continue working in the field of regenerative medicine and creating solutions to restore the structure and function of damaged tissues. I feel that having both an MD and PhD would bring the research process full circle, connecting basic science research to its translation in patients. The Goldwater Scholarship recognizes me as someone who has a strong commitment to research, and this designation will significantly help me when applying to graduate school.”
She is currently an undergraduate researcher in Mayo Clinic’s Center for Regenerative Medicine in the Head and Neck Regenerative Medicine Laboratory. This research aims to engineer an implantable 3D porous substrate to induce tissue regeneration in the larynx, restore function, and eliminate the need for immunosuppression. Kennedy’s role is to use electrospinning techniques to create a fibrous scaffold that when combined with a rigid, 3D printed implant will serve as the site for tissue regeneration in the airway.
“This research will restore the ability to speak, breathe, and swallow for patients with laryngeal cancer, voice disorders, and laryngeal trauma,” Kennedy said. “Regenerative medicine is a very exciting field with unlimited applications and has the potential to drastically change the future of medicine.”
Howell has plans to pursue a PhD in chemical biology.
“I plan to purse an academic research career developing technologies to aid in the characterization of biological systems,” she said. “The application process for this scholarship has really helped me to define my research and career goals and has given me a path towards my next steps. The financial support from this scholarship will give me the freedom to continue doing research throughout my senior year.”
Whitler aims to get a PhD in astrophysics.
“Long-term, I hope to have a career in research,” she said, “and receiving the Goldwater Scholarship has helped in a couple of ways. It's a fairly competitive award, so the application process was a very good experience for me, especially as I start thinking about applying for graduate school and other scholarships. Also, it's a great financial help as I finish my undergraduate degree. I will be able to focus on research for my final year instead of working an unrelated job to pay for my tuition, books, rent, and other things.”
Congratulations to these inspiring Barrett women in STEM majors!
Story by Ranjani Venkatakrishnan, a Barrett Honors College student majoring in journalism